Investigatory Powers Bill #IPBill

I celebrate by 500th post on my blog with a letter to my MP to decry the actions of Government and its intention to force the #IPBill through Parliament. I would urge anyone that cares about their privacy (not just what websites you visit!) to write to their MP asking them to challenge the Investigatory Powers Bill when it is debated in Parliament on the 14th March 2016. It has taken the Home Office just six weeks to publish two drafts of the IPBill and set a date for its debate – is that really enough time to properly understand the implications of this bill?

Know this – the most recent draft of the Bill grants the Police (any officer at any time!) to look up your Internet browsing history. Are you friends with a Police officer? Neighbours with one? (I am actually). Do you want them to know what websites you visit?

“Surveillance controls, and absolute surveillance controls absolutely.” — Page 1. Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control

Here is my letter.

Dear ​xxxx,

I write ​again ​to voice my serious concern at the intention to rush the Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The Home Office has been told to examine carefully the criticisms and recommendations of three Parliamentary committees. Less than three weeks since the release of the previous draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill is not enough time for a considered redrafting of the Bill and proves only that the Home Office has paid little attention to the criticisms made of the original Bill. The new Bill only has a few significant changes from the draft version and is a slap in the face for any democratic and free society.

The Bill reinforces the assumption of the security services (and seemingly Government) that everybody is a potential criminal. We are being forcefully relieved of the freedom to conduct our lives without scrutiny by an overbearing, overreaching state. The plan to monitor everybody’s Internet browsing history in order to catch a few criminals and terrorists amounts to bulk surveillance of an entire population and is a significant overreach of state powers – no other country in the world monitors and collects Internet browsing history to this extent and I am horrified that the UK wishes to be the first, under the auspices of increasing safety when no evidence can be provided to confirm this assertion.

The Bill is a huge step in the wrong direction away from democracy. It provides insufficient judicial oversight and assumes that the state and its actors are (and will continue to be) entirely trustworthy when it has been proven time and again that they are anything but. The Government’s purpose is to serve the citizens of this country and I am appalled at the continual battering ram of fear being used by the Government to drive through a piece of legislation that can be described as nothing but draconian.

“The premise [is] that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.” — Bruce Schneier, computer security and privacy specialist.

Who I talk to, when I talk to them, where I am, what time I’m awake at night, what websites I visit and when I visit them are all private matters that do not threaten national security and the availability of that information to the security services is useless – the Government is suggesting that only it, the security services and (now) Police should be the judge of that.

It concerns me greatly that the personal opinions of  a small number of individuals in positions of trust and the actions of just a few criminals are set to affect the private lives of tens of millions of innocent, law abiding people.

The social and democratic effects of implementing this digital Panopticon cannot be underestimated and I would urge you to consider the implications of allowing this Bill to pass through without a significant rewrite to properly address the failings highlighted by the three separate Parliamentary committees.

Yours sincerely

Lewis Roberts

PowerShell for DDNS (

I’ll just leave this here. I realise many would prefer alternatives to using scheduled tasks such as Windows services or built-in methods from more advanced routers (as I do) but I had a need to write PowerShell to run every hour and update a DynDNS domain if the current IP doesn’t match the DNS IP.

If you’re running this as a scheduled task, you must do it under the context of the same user that creates the credential file.PrtScr capture

Hope it’s useful for you.


Turn off Windows 10 OneDrive link in Explorer Sidebar

Quick couple of lines of PowerShell to turn off the OneDrive integration in Windows Explorer for those of us that use other providers and would like to recover the space taken by the OneDrive link.

Before: After:
onedrivebefore onedriveafter

As a full blown script with a little error checking.



-Oh, news from this week, I asked my (very dedicated) girlfriend of 7 years to marry me. She said yes. 🙂

Filtering objects from Azure Active Directory

Microsoft recently made Azure AD Connect generally available and in doing so introduced a method for filtering users based on their membership in a specific group. Unfortunately, this is considered a pilot mode for Azure AD Connect – this means that if you wish to permanently filter objects based on their group membership, you’ll forever be in pilot mode. Another caveat is that you cannot change this group easily. You would need to remove Azure AD Connect and re-install it to select a different group. Indeed if you upgraded from Azure Active Directory Sync Services as I did, this option is completely unavailable to you unless you’re willing to remove and re-install Azure AD Connect.

The reason, as far as I can ascertain, is that there is no attribute of a user object that looks like memberOf on which you can perform some logical decision with the Synchronization Rules Editor.

So how do we filter? There are three methods: Domain, OU and Attribute. In my getting started with Azure Active Directory Sync Services series earlier this year, I showed how to do both of these. The first, Domain, is the obvious one. If you want objects from a domain, you would attach to it during installation. The second, OU, is buried a little deeper inside miisclient.exe but it’s something I’ve demonstrated already in my getting started guide, so I’m not going to cover old ground. The third, Attribute, is what this post is about.

When I say user attribute, what do I mean? These:

Simply put, we’re able to filter objects that are to be synchronised with Azure AD using these attributes. I’m going to demonstrate how users can be filtered in the following steps and I’m also going to demonstrate a method of using PowerShell in conjunction with the attribute filtering rule to enable the use of group membership to identify who should get an Azure AD account – pseudo group filtering. Continue reading Filtering objects from Azure Active Directory

Integrating SimpleSAMLphp with ADFS 2012R2

In my previous two posts, I’ve discussed two solutions for using Azure Active Directory authentication from a bespoke PHP web application.

In the first post I essentially re-wrote an article that originally was written on the Azure website which unfortunately no longer seems valid (EDIT 07/2016: Has since been completely removed!). The solution written there used SimpleSAMLphp and libraries written by Microsoft to implement WS-Federation for authenticating custom PHP applications with Azure AD. My first post clears up some issues and demonstrates a more logical method of configuring SimpleSAMLphp on IIS.

In my second post, I showed a more elegant solution that did away with the Microsoft WS-Federation libraries and used only SimpleSAMLphp and SAML2 to authenticate a custom PHP application with Azure Active Directory. I also showed how you can configure an Azure application to pass through groups claims in the token.

In this third (and hopefully final) post, I’ll combine components of the two previous posts and demonstrate how you can use SimpleSAMLphp to integrate directly with ADFS 2012R2.


  • A working ADFS 2012R2 implementation.
    Apologies but this isn’t something I’ve blogged about yet (I will, soon). For now, there are plenty of fantastic articles on setting up ADFS out there but when you do it, make sure you’re setting up ADFS 2012R2 (It’s on Windows Server 2012R2 of course). Why am I telling you to set it up on Windows Server 2012R2? Simple, Alternate Login ID.
  • Access to a Linux box with an updated version of OpenSSL.
    OK, so strictly you don’t need a Linux box – it’s just easier if you have access to one. We need to generate a certificate and key for token signing purposes and fiddling with installations of OpenSSL on Windows isn’t something I want to document. Spin one up in Azure and bin it once you’re done with it!

Continue reading Integrating SimpleSAMLphp with ADFS 2012R2

Single Sign-on to Azure AD using SimpleSAMLphp

In my last mammoth post, I posted an update/re-write to an article originally written on the Azure website that used some libraries provided by Microsoft to enable custom PHP applications to sign-on to Azure AD using WS-Federation. In that post I described a method for installing and configuring SimpleSAMLphp to IIS that enables it to be used by any number of sites on the same server, all that’s required is to add a simple Virtual Directory to each site. If you want to configure SimpleSAMLphp on IIS, check that post out.

The intention with this post is to do away with Microsoft’s libraries altogether and use only SimpleSAMLphp in a more integrated way. The purpose is to avoid having to re-write a lot of functionality already provided by SimpleSAMLphp that’s likely to be missing from Microsoft’s libraries, and of course open up access to SimpleSAMLphp’s documented API.

I will assume you have configured SimpleSAMLphp already using the method documented in the last post. In order to proceed in this post, you also need to have configured an application within Azure Active Directory. Again, you can find instructions for that included in the previous post.

The largest difference with this post is, as I mentioned, better integration with SimpleSAMLphp – as such, there’s more configuration to complete within SimpleSAMLphp than there was in the previous post.

  • We’ll import federation data from our Azure application in to SimpleSAMLphp.
  • We’ll configure SimpleSAMLphp as a Service Provider.
  • We’ll create a little code to get us authenticating.

Continue reading Single Sign-on to Azure AD using SimpleSAMLphp

Single sign-on with Azure AD in PHP

So, what’s this massive post about? I recently read an article on the Azure website about using Azure AD authentication with bespoke PHP applications. While the article is quick and concise – it has a number of serious issues.

First and foremost, the end result is that the solution just doesn’t work. It obviously took the writer a good amount of time to write the code for the article (assuming he did that is) but despite that, it has suffered from bit rot and a lot of people have tried and failed to use the article as a learning tool.

I’d still suggest using the article as reference material – everything has its value at the end of the day but if you do actually want custom PHP applications with Azure AD authentication to work, that article won’t give you a working solution. I’ve re-written the article and explained a few more of the concepts and expanded on a few decision points that are useful to the reader while doing battle with the code and its bit rot.

As per the original article’s introduction:

This tutorial will show PHP developers how to leverage Azure Active Directory to enable single sign-on for your own custom PHP applications. You will learn how to:

  • Install and configure SimpleSAMLphp on to an IIS web server.
  • Obtain and edit the necessary sample code associated with the original article.
  • Create and configure a custom Azure application inside Azure AD.
  • Protect the application (err, page) using WS-Federation.
  • Demonstrate actual authentication with Azure AD as well as federated authentication with an on-premises domain via Azure AD.

Continue reading Single sign-on with Azure AD in PHP

Browser Extension Show External IP

Show External IP

I’ve recently written a very small browser extension for both Chrome and Firefox to allow you to see your external IP address with just a single click. No need to open a new tab or ask Google.

Chrome Version

If you’re running Chrome, you can get the extension from the Chrome Web Store. I’ve added a screenshot of the Chrome version below. The intention is that a single click shows you your current external IP address. It works with proxies too so if, like me, you switch between proxies frequently and still need to know your external IP address, this is the tool for you.

Chrome Show External IP Extension

Firefox Version

If you’re running Firefox, you can get that version from the Mozilla Add-on Site (AMO). I’ll admit, Firefox, is, for now, my preferred browser since Chrome keeps inexplicably crashing with no reason or usable information that might allow me to resolve it so the extension was first written for Firefox. I made a couple of changes to the logo/icon between writing the Firefox version and the Chrome version but the Firefox version will get the new icon in due course – I’m just waiting for first approval of the extension in AMO before I submit an update.

showextip (1)

Yes, there are plenty of other extensions out there that do the same thing but the purpose of this exercise was to both learn and give myself an extension that isn’t subject to author changes and the introduction of more “features” (or worse, adverts) that I simply don’t want or need.

I also tend to frequently swap between proxy servers I have running on my network that are attached to VPNs that offer me a number of egress points on the Internet and I’m always curious what my IP address is so a small extension that works in Firefox and Chrome for proxies and direct connections was a good learning opportunity.

There’s nothing mind bendingly difficult in creating the extensions but it’s not bad for knowing nothing about the Mozilla SDK High Level APIs less than 24 hours ago and after I’d done the Firefox extension, doing it in Chrome took just a couple of hours.

If you have feedback or comments, leave them below.


me, on scripting, trance and other subjects i enjoy