Google Authenticator – How to Backup for Moving to a New Device

Recently I’ve had to start using two factor authentication (2FA), both for my AWS account and Bitcoin wallets. It seemed like there were two main options for apps to run this, Google Authenticator and Authy. Initially Authy looked like a good bet, it could sync across multiple devices, including smart watches, but it turns out this convenience means the security is weakened – to the point that Coinbase advised users not to use it! Google Authenticator goes the other way, it is extremely secure, but if you lose/reset your device the settings, and potentially access to your accounts are lost.

The only way to avoid this situation is to make a backup of your access codes at the time you add them to Authenticator. You can either do this by writing down the seed key, or taking a screenshot of the QR code. It is not advisable to keep these backups with your phone or readily accessible on an online computer, as this is one of the keys to your account. I prefer to print off a couple of copies, write – with a pen, which account the QR code is for and file them away separately. I also keep another copy on an encrypted memory stick. If you are using 2FA to access an online account and have not backed up your access codes – you should do it now!!!

When you get a new device, or wipe your existing device, it is just a case of re-scanning the QR code into Google Authenticator from your backup. You can test your backups by scanning them into Authenticator again, either on your existing device or a separate one – they will give the same six digit code as the original. To test that nothing was linked to my iPhone I also installed Authenticator on my old iPhone and was able to log into my AWS account – AWS is ideal for testing 2FA, as you can create a dummy account with 2FA enabled, without running the risk of losing access to your main account.

Saved by the Backup

In my last post I explained about my back up routine for WordPress, I wasn’t planning on testing it out so soon, but it has just saved my bacon! The plan was to spend an hour or so tweaking the blog to make it faster, by using the WP Super Cache plug in and Amazon Cloud Front, however something went badly wrong! The alarm bells should have started to ring when I noticed that most tutorials about using Amazon Cloud Front with WordPress referred to W3 Total Cache, however I preferred the look of WP Super Cache and fancied a challenge…

I was loosely following this guide, but somehow managed to take my website offline, probably by sending requests into a DNS blackhole. The problem was this meant I couldn’t get back onto my website to turn the caching off again. At this point I would also like to add that I couldn’t test this phase on my development server, as Cloud Front needed to pull data from the blog, which meant deploying on the live site.

I could still SSH into the server, so used the WP Super Cache uninstall instructions for “if all else fails and your site is broken”. However that didn’t help. At this point I was getting a little bit more panicked, but was very glad of my new backup strategy and that I’d had the foresight to make a backup just before I’d started fiddling with the blog. I feared the worst, that I would have to reinstall WordPress again from scratch and reload my data, reading this troubleshooting guide confirmed my fears.

Reinstalling WordPress isn’t the end of the world, I have done it a number of times, but for some reason I have been having a lot of permission issues on my web server, maybe I had taken security a bit too far. This meant that I couldn’t get my FTP client to upload my backup data. I ended up revisiting the AWS WordPress installation guide and also this blog post to find the correct settings and set them via SSL. At least I’ve had a lot of command line practice this evening!

Even with the permissions fixed, I couldn’t use the restore tool on Updraftplus (possibly due to restrictions I have added on AWS?), but was able to upload the data via FTP and got the blog up and running again. I still haven’t got the caching/CDN set up, but I think I’l take the easy route now and hopefully not need to test my backups again.

WordPress Backups Using UpdraftPlus and Amazon S3

I had a bit of a disaster the other day – I went to link to a blog post from a few months ago and it wasn’t there! I remember writing it, and knew it had posted, because I remembered some of the comments from when it appeared on my Facebook profile. I then remembered that there had been some funny goings on with the WordPress Mac app, I’d had a duplicate post and deleted it manually. However now it seems like the duplicate had also been deleted.

Of course it was at this point I realised that my latest backup was a couple of months before the post and I couldn’t recover it from anywhere. I was particularly annoyed at myself because I have a thorough backup routine for my Macs and especially my photography work, yet virtually nothing for my blog. However, it was the kick up the backside I needed to sort out a decent backup routine for my blog!

Given that I was the weak link when it came to backing up my log I wanted something automatic, that would run regularly and email me when it had completed. As with most things WordPress, there seemed to be loads of plugins available, most of them paid services. In my research I’d read good things about UpdraftPlus, so was pleased to find their free option, which is more than powerful enough for a small blog like mine.

To see if it UpdraftPlus lived up to the hype, I downloaded it onto my WordPress development environment (Chassis running on my iMac) and had a play. Looking at the list of remote storage services Amazon S3 was the obvious choice, as I already use Amazon Web Services to host my blog. Knowing the basics of cyber security, I only wanted UpdraftPlus to have minimal access to AWS, I had got myself lost in a maze of IAM, S3 buckets, users, groups and permissions. I was on the right track but this post on the UpdraftPlus blog, told me exactly what I needed to do. The IAM Policy Simulator on AWS was also a huge help in making sure my policies were both written and applied correctly. I went for the maximum security option, which also gave me a chance to delve into the workings of S3, setting up rules to archive then delete the data after periods of time.

Once deployed and tested on my development environment, it only took a matter of minutes to get working on my live blog, giving me regular, automated backups. Now the only task left to do is do rewrite the post that got lost…

A trip to the pub

This is my first go at making a video, so I thought I’d break myself in gently with a time lapse. Capturing the images was easy, I set the GoPro camera to take a photo every second, stuck it on the windscreen and drove to the pub (via the scenic route)! Winter in Warwickshire isn’t the most glamorous, or exciting of locations, but I got a new toy for Christmas and I wanted to use it!

The real challenge started when I got back from the pub with 2,500 images on the memory card, I had three options when it came to software, so I tried them all:

  • Lightroom – My photo editing software of choice, well within my comfort zone, I could import, back up and add my metadata to the images with two clicks, then process one image and sync settings to the rest. What I couldn’t do without adding plug ins, was compile them to a video at 30 frames per second, this is something I need to investigate further.
  • GoPro CineForm Studio – I’m always a bit vary with bundled software, but after a few teething problems (importing a folder full of images works, importing 2000 individual images doesn’t) I was able to get it to stitch the images together and edit the resulting video file, which I didn’t find too intuitive.
  • iMovie – Apple always seem to say how god Macs are for creative projects such as video, so their software was worth a look, although seemingly, to get the still images into iMovie they had to be imported to iPhoto. This integration is great, but only if you plan on using both, having said that iPhoto saved my bacon when I accidentally formatted the micro SD card in my camera, meaning I didn’t lose the first picture I took with the GoPro. Using iMovie I wasn’t able to stitch the images together faster than 10fps, with 30fps being what I needed, so I gave up on it for creating time lapses, but when it comes to working with multiple video files iMove seems to be the best application I have available, although I’ll need to upgrade it to export in 1080p high resolution.

In the end I used Lightroom to process the images and crop them to the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, then GoPro CineForm studio to combine them into a time lapse then compress them to upload to YouTube. I can see video and especially time lapses being a big thing for me in 2013, it’s certainly got my creative juices flowing, so watch this space.

The Best Camera…

Is the one that’s with you.

Not only is it a book/website by Chase Jarvis, one of my favourite photographers, it is a great way of thinking!

As part of his project Chase and his team have created an iPhone app, which makes post processing and sharing phones from the iPhone really easy, combining two of my passions.

Most of my images taken with my phone are posted on my Twitter feed, but can also be found on my part of the Best Camera website.

One of my favourite arty shots, taken with my iPhone, at the Trafford Centre, I love the simplicity of the black and white conversion:

Fountain iPhone photo

Fountain iPhone photo