Another day another phishing attack

By Greg Wendt • June 24, 2014

A single compromised website hosted 862 PHP scripts. Think about that for a minute – 1 server, with 862 scripts. These scripts targeted banking, webmail, PhotoBucket and many online dating sites. The attackers utilized the dating sites to eventually request money from the users. The time and energy invested in this attack is stunning. More information on the attack here.

From a PeopleSoft customer perspective, phishing attacks can be a daily event. Sophistication and success of these attacks varies greatly. End user training and support only goes so far in defense of the organization. Costs of remediation continue to soar. All it takes is one slip – one click – one password.

Compromised ERP solutions cost organizations time, money and lost credibility with constituents.

Is your organization going to continue to risk all of that on a single user id and password?

The attackers have all the time in the world, but you do not… The time is now for implementing Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to help mitigate these attacks.

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Security, Tips and Techniques

How to Prevent Student Grade Hacking in PeopleSoft

By Larry Grey • June 17, 2013

Larry just posted a YouTube video that describes how our ERP Firewall product’s 2-Factor Authentication feature can help prevent students from hacking into PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and changing grades. The video contains specifics on how 2-Factor Authentication works.

Larry created the YouTube video based on what was reported recently at Purdue University where students are facing felony charges for hacking into secure systems and changing grades (we don’t know whether the Purdue incident involved PeopleSoft).

Apparently, hacking to change grades is not uncommon:

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Security, Tips and Techniques

Increasing System Availability with PeopleSoft

By Larry Grey • July 24, 2009

System Availability. This is a very important topic, that has received a lot of attention, especially in the area of handling system failover, redundancy, and disaster recovery. This is obviously and important topic, but for most organizations, represents the smallest fraction of system outages with their PeopleSoft applications. It is the planned outages where an organization needs to kick people off the system to perform system administration functions that represents the majority of downtime for most PeopleSoft environments, and the one area that we will discuss in more detail in this blog entry.

System Maintenance and Downtime

In a PeopleSoft environment, there are 3 main drivers that drive planned outages:

  • Minimizing online access during normal batch windows.
  • Performing system administration functions, such as backups
  • Applying PeopleSoft maintenance or performing a PeopleSoft upgrade

The real goal of the outage is to ensure that end-users are not accessing parts of the system that are being affected by the processing, maintenance, or upgrade.

It’s just the way it’s done…

Because your PeopleSoft application is architected and managed as a single entity, most organizations need to block access to the whole PeopleSoft application regardless of what pieces they are administering. Quite often this is accomplished by having a web server that services the general population, and a different one that services the people performing the administration. When the system is unavailable to the general population, that web server is simply brought down.

So, how do I reduce Downtime?

Well, you’re never going to be able to eliminate the need to have an outage. You’re probably also not going even have a dramatic impact on the amount of time you need to restrict access for your batch windows, backups, or upgrades without spending a lot of money on hardware or additional resources.

But don’t despair. The way to look at this problem is not at the overall system level, but by breaking it up into the different areas that you wish to manage separately. For example, instead of bringing the whole system down because you are performing maintenance on Purchasing (see the following notification), just block access to the Purchasing entities, while allowing access to other functions, such as expense entry, to occur.

The following page is an example of how an administrator might bring parts of a PeopleSoft application down while leaving the rest up.

There are 3 steps to the process:

  • Identify and group together the parts of the system you want to manage together
  • Provide a user interface where administrators can block or grant access to those parts of the system
  • Provide a means where those pages look to the rules to either block or grant access

Implementation Options

Because we recently released our ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft, we quickly recognized that all 3 of these steps are already part of the feature set provided by the product. This means that after a 1-hour installation, our customers can start managing system access in this manner. Instead of describing that here, I’ll simply provide you the link to watch the demonstration for yourself.

If you’re not in the market to purchase an application that automatically accomplishes this and are willing to do a bit of coding yourself, there are other options available to you as well. Probably the best option is to implement generic firewall product on your web server. There are several out there, including open source application firewalls (like ModSecurity.) Because the component name is part of the URL, you can have the firewall see if the page falls under the list to be blocked and whether the user is an administrator and allow or deny the request based on that.


Finally, because users need to be able to plan around these outages (especially when the whole system is brought down for any type of maintenance), it’s also important to be able to notify users ahead of time. Although email is the most common method used today, email just doesn’t cut it most of the time (especially with all the spam people are receiving nowadays). We’re seeing a lot of folks using social networking tools, such as blogging and twitter to do this. Here are a couple of items that we recently found:

  • Here’s a blog post notifying users of a planned PeopleSoft Financials outage.
  • Here’s a tweet that notifies users of an outage due to year end processing.

Both of these techniques allow people to set up an RSS feed to tell them when there’s something new to look at (which may work well if your users are RSS feed savvy). Two other techniques are to update the portal home page and/or the PeopleSoft signon page to display a message.

One technique we’ve added as a feature to our ERP Firewall is to display a notification inside the PeopleSoft application upon access to PeopleSoft. This provides the information in the context that a user would use it, and also makes it harder for users to ignore it because they have to look at it before they can move to the next step. Again, when you have a product that knows how use rules to manage the display of PeopleSoft pages, this feature became very easy for us to add.

Labels: Firewall, Products, Security

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Security Issues With PeopleSoft Production Refreshes

By Larry Grey • June 28, 2009

I helped some folks the other day with an issue that had the potential to be very serious for them; exposure of production data without someone needing to login to the production system. Not good.

The Problem

For testing purposes they have copies of their production PeopleSoft databases; one for Financials and one for HCM. These copies are refreshed regularly and there are scripts run against them to handle some cleaning/sanitizing of the production data, so that the database can be used for testing.

They have some people that they allow to login to these test environments with any account so that they can confirm the results of basic processes. The accounts don’t have default passwords, so this access was limited to the people that they authorized to do testing, but testers with access to these cloned environments could login as anyone.

One of the testers (we’ll call him Fred) was logged in to the Financials test environment as some other user (we’ll call her Sally) to test some process that would normally be initiated by Sally in the production system.

While doing this testing, Fred wanted to enter his timesheet data so he clicked on a link to go to the production HCM system for time entry. Much to his surprise, he was logged in to HCM as Sally! So Fred goes back to the test Financials environment, logs in as a different user, clicks the link into production HCM and sure enough he is logged in as that user in production HCM. To Fred’s credit, Fred alerted the PeopleSoft support team there instead of snooping around in HCM.

How did that happen?

The problem comes from the fact that the production environments were configured to trust each other for PeopleSoft Single Signon, but the node names and node passwords were not changed as part of the environment cloning logic.

So when Fred signed on to the cloned Financials environment, the PS_TOKEN cookies generated are identical to what the production environment would generate (the details of PS_TOKEN cookie are documented in PeopleBooks, but the node name and node password are the important pieces here).

How could this be prevented?

There are several different ways of preventing this from happening. Let’s take the pragmatic ones first.

1) Change the node password as part of the refresh script.

This is the easiest, most expedient thing to do. It is the absolute minimum way to solve this problem.

Although this solves the security problem, it introduces a headache for security auditors because the app server logs in the production environment will be full of warnings about failed logins from bad node passwords. That means that testers accessing production while logged in to the test environment will be indistinguishable from someone trying to break in by generating their own PS_TOKEN cookies.

It’s not nice to annoy your security auditors by purposely creating log entries that look like break-in attempts, but are actually OK 🙂

2) Change the node name.

Changing the node name when you clone environments will also solve the problem (because then the production environments will no longer trust the cloned nodes since they don’t recognize the new names). This also solves the log problem mentioned in the previous item.

Changing the node name can have an impact on Integration Broker testing, but that just means that your integration test scripts need to be aware of this. Not a huge drawback in my opinion.

3) Use distinct passwords for each account in the test environment.

This is easy enough to do, it’s mainly a question of distributing the passwords to the testers so that they can get in and do their jobs. Depending on your organization, this may or may not be easy.

4) Don’t provide passwords to the testers, but allow them to reset them on demand.

Similar to the previous item, but gets around the distribution issue by making it an after the fact auditing issue. If Fred requests the CEO’s password in the test system, it’s very easy to audit for that and force Fred to explain why he felt that was necessary.

Computer security is typically focused on preventing people from doing things, but in some cases this model of auditing and disciplining after the fact may be OK.

This model reminds me of when we took our dog to a dog trainer a long time ago that recommended leaving a steak or something else on the kitchen counter for the dog to find. This was in conjunction with hiding around the corner so that at the moment the dog put his paws up to grab the steak, you would jump out and impress upon the dog that it wouldn’t be wise to do that again. A real-time security audit if you will 🙂

What are some of the less pragmatic options?

5) Have a new version of PeopleTools that can detect when a database is copied, and automatically scrub key information like node passwords, GUID, etc.

The implementation of this would be platform specific, but do-able. It would complicate things like having a hot database backup server though. I’m sure those sorts of issues could be addressed though.

6) Embed additional information beyond just node name and node password (like database name) in the PS_TOKEN cookie.

One issue that I can think of with this is that older PeopleTools versions would not be able to interoperate with this, but it could be a flag on the node definition as to whether interoperability with earlier versions of PeopleTools is required. If interoperability was required, then the existing PS_TOKEN format would be used, otherwise the newer format would be used.

Why didn’t they know about this?

PeopleSoft Single Signon is documented in PeopleBooks, but there aren’t any great writeups out there on the implications of it when cloning a PeopleSoft environment.

There are lots of writeups out there on “How to Clone a PeopleSoft Environment”, and some discuss the importance of getting the node configuration correct, but they typically come at from the perspective of just making sure the environment works; not the security implications of it.

PeopleSoft Single Signon is well documented in PeopleBooks, but it just doesn’t seem to jump out at people when thinking about cloning. I will give a shout-out here to Brent Martin of ERP Associates. Brent’s writeup on cloning a PeopleSoft database is the only one out there that I could find that mentions this issue at all.

Labels: 2009, Audit, Security, Sysadmin

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Issues with Dynamic Roles in PeopleSoft

By Larry Grey • April 26, 2009

We wrote awhile back about a customization that can be done to limit a user’s roles dynamically at a signon time, but wanted to point out an issue with it that came up recently during some customer discussions on our ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft product. The essence of the customization revolved around creating extra tables for storing the “real” list of roles for a user separately so that the PeopleTools tables that stores the roles for a user can be modified at signon time. The way that PeopleTools is delivered there is one table that is both the “master” list of roles for a user and the “current” list of roles for the user’s session. A little bird told me that this may get addressed in future PeopleTools versions (let’s hope for PeopleTools 8.50!), but for now the modification that we outlined in the previous blog entry is the only way to accomplish this. So what’s the problem? Now consider the scenario where your CFO logs in from a public kiosk at a conference somewhere to enter her expense report. You have implemented the customization to limit her roles to just those that would allow her to enter expenses and not be able to do things like pull up your P&L reports when she logs in this way. What happens when some other process runs (batch, workflow, etc.) and checks to see who is in the high level finance roles? It won’t find your CFO. Not good. And the answer? One answer is to do a thorough search of all of the application code for role queries, references to PSROLEUSER, use of the IsUserInRole() PeopleCode function and modify those to use the customized “role master” table that the previous blog entry outlined. Another answer is to wait for PeopleTools to support the notion of “session level” roles. Another solution is to use some sort application level firewalling solution. Of course, we’re partial to our own application firewall for PeopleSoft, but there are other ways of achieving this as well. Labels: , ,

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Tips and Techniques

LDAP Query Syntax Tips

By Larry Grey • September 22, 2008

I’ve had a few conversations recently about the strangeness of LDAP query syntax so I thought a post some useful information and links here. You might not have had the need to know anything about LDAP query syntax as part of working with PeopleSoft though. PeopleSoft’s delivered LDAP integration does a good job of providing some rich functionality (authenticating users, caching profiles, role memberships, etc.) without forcing you to deal with LDAP query syntax.

LDAP Queries generated by PeopleTools

For example, in the PeopleSoft Authentication Map page ( PeopleTools -> Security -> Directory -> Authentication Map ) you can select which attribute in the directory (such as sAMAccountName) should be used for looking up the user trying to log in. Under the covers, the following LDAP query string is generated (if chrisheller is trying to login):


That’s a pretty simple example though. Looking up the group membership in order to do PeopleSoft role assignment for a user shows slightly more complex LDAP queries.

  • Novell’s eDirectory wants (&(objectclass=groupOfNames)(uniquemember=chrisheller))
  • Active Directory wants (&(objectclass=group)(member=chrisheller))
  • Oracle and Netscape want (&(objectclass=groupOfUniqueNames)(uniquemember=chrisheller))

These get generated for you automatically in the delivered PeopleCode. There are some other more complicated examples, but those get the basics across.

LDAP Query Syntax

Instead of having the queries written in a form similar to how you might speak, (attribute1=value1)&(attribute2=value2), the operator (‘&’ for AND, ‘!’ for NOT, ‘|’ for OR) gets pulled to the front and the whole thing wrapped in parentheses. A good reference is Microsoft’s page on MSDN for search filter syntax, which even includes how do things like bitwise comparisons in LDAP queries. Another good article is Unlocking the LDAP Search Filter which has some good explanations to go along with the syntax.

Another good way to get familiar with some of the possibilities for LDAP queries is to look at other examples that have been posted on the internet. JiJiTechnologies has a nice list of some example LDAP search queries. For example, here is a query that returns users that do not have a manager in the directory.


and here is a query that returns accounts that will expire in a certain amount of time (see below for more on generating datetime values for LDAP queries)

(&(objectCategory=person)(objectClass=user)(!sAMAccountType=805306370)(!accountExpires=0) (!accountExpires=9223372036854775807)(!accountExpires<=currentTime)(accountExpires<=givenTime))

What can I do with a custom LDAP query?

Well, you might want to do some custom LDAP processing yourself from PeopleCode. Maybe you want to audit the manager entry in the LDAP directory with what is stored within your PeopleSoft HCM database. You might generate LDAP queries like the following to check on a one-by-one basis


(or you might dump the employee/manager attributes from the directory in bulk instead).

Maybe you want to the delivered LDAP authentication to only login users that won’t have their account expire in the next day. You could change the delivered PeopleCode in FUNCLIB_LDAP.LDAPAUTH.FieldDefault to include that check as part of the LDAP query used (note that this is a customization; there is not a place for you to add this without customizing).

As part of our Desktop Single Signon for PeopleSoft product, we also provide the ability to use attributes in an LDAP directory as part of the process of mapping a network login to a PeopleSoft account. In the LDAP configuration there are “prepend” and “append” hooks in place to be able to modify the LDAP query that our code generates.

The feature was originally added because of a PeopleSoft customer that only wanted Single Signon to apply to users that were required to login with a Smartcard. If the user’s account wasn’t setup to require a Smartcard to login, then they wanted Single Signon to not establish their PeopleSoft session, and instead leave them at the PeopleSoft login page.

The attribute in Active Directory that contains the needed information is called userAccountControl. Unfortunately, this attribute is actually a bitfield, so we have to apply the bitwise operators that I mentioned above. In the Single Signon configuration they added a prepend value of (&(userAccountControl:1.2.840.113556.1.4.803=262144) and the append value of ) (that’s a single parentheses to close off the query).

At runtime, the generated LDAP query would have been (sAMAccountName=chrisheller), but with the prepend and append values added in, the query becomes (&(userAccountControl:1.2.840.113556.1.4.803=262144)(sAMAccountName=chrisheller)).

In case you haven’t memorized the MSDN documentation link from above yet (it’ll be on the midterm), the “:1.2.840.113556.1.4.803” part is the bitwise AND operator, which we are applying to the userAccountControl attribute. The 262144 is the decimal value for the “Smart card required for login” setting (also known as ADS_UF_SMARTCARD_REQUIRED). Here is a good list of the various different bitvalues that can be in the userAccountControl field.

So now when the LDAP query runs as part of the Single Signon user mapping, if the user’s account does not mandate Smartcard login, then the LDAP query will not return a match, which means that the user will not be automatically logged in to PeopleSoft.

Converting date/time values between Active Directory and PeopleCode

I have some PeopleCode written for this, but it’s getting late so I’ll save that for another post. If you’re interested in it, leave a comment. For now, I’ll just leave it as saying that this writeup on Active Directory’s Integer8 attributes by Richard Mueller was extremely helpful in coming with it.

(update : here is a post that provides the PeopleCode for handling all of the datetime conversions between ActiveDirectory format and PeopleCode datetime variables).

Labels: 2008, LDAP, Security

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PeopleSoft telephony two factor authentication

By Larry Grey • July 7, 2008

(update : check out demo 4 in the Flash demo for our ERP Firewall to see some additional real world examples of multi-factor authentication for PeopleSoft)

At the end of the previous blog entry on PeopleSoft telephony integration, we were able to initiate telephone calls from within PeopleCode to an end user and prompt them to enter a PIN code so that we could authenticate them. We could even see in the logs whether the user typed the correct PIN on their phone or not.

What we didn’t cover was how we can figure out in PeopleCode whether the user typed the correct PIN or not. If we can’t do that, then there’s not much point to the whole exercise, eh? 🙂

To make a long story less long, you can’t (easily) find out the answer with just PeopleCode. There are a couple of reasons for this. One was hinted at yesterday; the Asterisk Manager API call origination only allows you to get the call going. Once the call has been successfully initiated, then the call origination reports success. Even if the user does not answer the phone, the call itself was successfully originated.

If you want to find out what happened, then you have to use another part of the Asterisk Manager API, the events API. That allows you to listen to various events happening within Asterisk. So after we originate the call, there will be a series of events triggered (Dial events, Hangup events, Callerid events, etc.) that we can use.

The good news is that the Asterisk-Java library that we’re using has great support for the events API. There are Java classes for all of the different events that occur within the Asterisk server. For example, here’s someone else’s sample Java code of catching the Dial event and using that for screenpops.

In order to register which events that you are interested in though, the Asterisk-Java library require you to implement a Java interface called ManagerEventListener. Implementing interfaces is no big deal when you’re writing Java code; it’s just a list of methods that you have to provide the actual code for. However PeopleCode can’t implement Java interfaces, so we’re going to need to write some Java code ourselves.

In order to make this work, I needed to create two separate Java classes. The first one is called PSoftLoginManager. In addition to implementing the ManagerEventListener interface, I moved the PeopleCode logic for doing the call origination into this class as well.

The other class that I needed to create is called PSoftLoginEvent and it extends the delivered UserEvent class. The Authenticate command that we are using in Asterisk does not actually create any events for us to listen to. However, Asterisk supports the notion of user defined events, so we can use that. At the moment the PSoftLoginEvent includes the PeopleSoft user ID and whether the login attempt was successful or not.

The Java code wasn’t too bad. 100+ lines or so, but let’s look at how the PeopleCode looks now first. All of the variable declarations at the top stay the same, but the rest of the code is now just

Local JavaObject &loginMgr = CreateJavaObject("com.greysparling.asterisk.PSoftLoginManager", &host, &user, &pswd);
Local JavaObject &loginEvt = &loginMgr.challengeUser(&userID, &phone, &pinCode, &channel, &context, &exten);
If &loginEvt.isSuccess() Then
Warning ("Successfully validated user " | &userID);
Warning ("Off with " | &userID | "'s head!");

We create our PSoftLoginManager object with the Asterisk server information, and then call challengeUser to initiate the call and get the result back. Instead of having challengeUser return a binary result of success or not, I return the actual PSoftLoginEvent object itself which can be queried for success or failure. That keeps things easy later if we need to expose any additional data back from the Asterisk side.

On the Asterisk configuration side, we need a small change in order to trigger our login event.

exten = 7189,1,Answer()
exten = 7189,2,Playback(vm-intro)
exten = 7189,3,NoOp(Authenticating user ${PSFTUSERID})
exten = 7189,4,Authenticate(${PIN},j)
exten = 7189,5,NoOp(Successful login ${PSFTUSERID})
exten = 7189,6,UserEvent(PSoftLogin|userId: ${PSFTUSERID}|result: SUCCESS)
exten = 7189,7,Hangup()
exten = 7189,105,NoOp(Unsuccessful login ${PSFTUSERID})
exten = 7189,106,UserEvent(PSoftLogin|userId: ${PSFTUSERID}|result: FAILURE)
exten = 7189,107,Hangup()

The main difference is the use of the Asterisk UserEvent command. That takes the name of our login event as it’s first parameter. The additional parameters are the ones that we have defined for our event. The Asterisk-Java library will automatically map these extra parameters that we have defined into the appropriate setter calls on the Java PSoftLoginEvent object (e.g. userId maps to setUserId() ).

Now when we run the App Engine program, here’s what the Asterisk console looks like.

    -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:1] Answer("IAX2/123456789-2", "") in new stack
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:2] Playback("IAX2/123456789-2", "gs-demo-login") in new stack
-- Playing 'gs-demo-login' (language 'en')
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:3] NoOp("IAX2/123456789-2", "Authenticating user PTDMO") in new stack
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:4] Authenticate("IAX2/123456789-2", "4554|j") in new sta ck
-- Playing 'agent-pass' (language 'en')
-- Playing 'auth-thankyou' (language 'en')
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:5] NoOp("IAX2/123456789-2", "Successful login PTDMO") in new stack
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:6] UserEvent("IAX2/123456789-2", "PSoftLogin|userId: PTDMO|result: SUCCESS") in new stack
-- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:7] Hangup("IAX2/123456789-2", "") in new stack
== Spawn extension (challenge-psft-user, 7189, 7) exited non-zero on 'IAX2/123456789-2'
-- Hungup 'IAX2/123456789-2'

You can see the addition of the UserEvent here, plugged in with the name of our event, the PTDMO user and the result value of SUCCESS. Since this event is what our challengeUser function returns to PeopleCode, we can now properly do the two factor authentication from PeopleSoft.

Here’s the Java code for the PSoftLoginEvent class. The things that are worth noting is that it extends the org.asteriskjava.manager.event.UserEvent class, and that it has setters for the values that we want to receive. It appears as though you can only get strings from the Asterisk side, so I adopted the convention that result has to be the string SUCCESS for a successful login.

package com.greysparling.asterisk;

import org.asteriskjava.manager.event.UserEvent;

public class PSoftLoginEvent extends UserEvent {

private String userId;
private String result;

public PSoftLoginEvent(Object source) {

public String toString() {
return "PSoftLogin for " + getUserId() + " (" + result + "),"
+ super.toString();

public boolean isSuccess() {
return "SUCCESS".equals(result);

public void setResult(String result) {
this.result = result;

public String getUserId() {
return userId;

public void setUserId(String userId) {
this.userId = userId;

private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;


Here is the Java code for the PSoftLoginManager class. This is a little bit more complex, but not too bad. We implement the ManagerEventListener class so that the Asterisk-Java library knows we want to receive events. That means that we have to provide an “onManagerEvent” method.

Our implementation of onManagerEvent is pretty simplistic – we just check if the event is a PSoftLoginEvent, and whether the user ID in that event matches the one that we just sent. A more robust implementation would use some unique IDs for matching up the exact logins; not just check the user ID. We’d also want to check for other related events such as the user hanging up without even trying to enter the PIN code.

Another thing worth pointing out here is that in the Asterisk-Java library, event notifications come in on a different thread. PeopleCode only runs single threaded, but when you are calling Java from within PeopleCode, there may be multiple threads running from within the Java Virtual Machine.

In this demo implementation, we’re cheating a bit by just sleeping on the main thread while we wait for the login event to come back. It works just fine for our purposes here, but it’s definitely not production ready code. We’d probably also want to have some sort of a connection pool instead of logging in to the Asterisk server on every request.

package com.greysparling.asterisk;

import java.util.HashMap;

import org.asteriskjava.manager.AuthenticationFailedException;

import org.asteriskjava.manager.ManagerConnection;
import org.asteriskjava.manager.ManagerConnectionFactory;
import org.asteriskjava.manager.ManagerEventListener;
import org.asteriskjava.manager.TimeoutException;

import org.asteriskjava.manager.action.OriginateAction;
import org.asteriskjava.manager.event.ManagerEvent;
import org.asteriskjava.manager.response.ManagerResponse;

public class PSoftLoginManager implements ManagerEventListener {

private ManagerConnection connection;
private boolean keep_running = true;

private String userId;
private PSoftLoginEvent event;

static final String USERID = "PSFTUSERID";

static final String PIN = "PIN";

public PSoftLoginManager(String host, String user, String pswd) throws
AuthenticationFailedException, TimeoutException, IOException {

ManagerConnectionFactory factory =
new ManagerConnectionFactory(host, user, pswd);

connection = factory.createManagerConnection();


public PSoftLoginEvent challengeUser(String userId, String phone,
String pinCode, String channel, String context, String exten)

throws InterruptedException, TimeoutException, IOException {

this.userId = userId;
this.event = null;

HashMap vars = new HashMap();

vars.put(USERID, userId);
vars.put(PIN, pinCode);

OriginateAction action = new OriginateAction();
action.setChannel(channel + "/" + phone);


action.setPriority(new Integer(1));

ManagerResponse response = connection.sendAction(action, 30000);


while (keep_running)

return this.event; // caller can check isSuccess()


public void onManagerEvent(ManagerEvent event) {
if (event instanceof PSoftLoginEvent) {

PSoftLoginEvent login_event = (PSoftLoginEvent)event;
System.out.println("Login event: " + login_event);

if (userId.equals(login_event.getUserId())) {
System.out.println("Matched user");
this.event = login_event;

else {
System.out.println("User was " + login_event.getUserId());
else {
System.out.println("Event: " + event);

public void stop() {
keep_running = false;


So there you have it. We’ve successfully made phone calls from within PeopleSoft, challenged user for a PIN code, and take action accordingly. Everything that we need for two factor authentication of PeopleSoft users, and our total cost is still under one dollar.

(updated with syntax highlighting)

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Tips and Techniques

PeopleSoft IVR Integration the easy way

By Larry Grey • July 6, 2008

Yesterday’s blog post on Java 5 and PeopleTools 8.49 (and my high hopes that it would have fixed something that been annoying me) didn’t have a happy ending. PeopleTools doesn’t (yet) take advantage of the some of the Java 5 features, so we have to stick with some workarounds for the time being. PeopleTools 8.49 using Java 5 does provide me another good new thing to work on though. The open source Asterisk-Java library requires Java 5 at a minimum, but with PeopleTools 8.49, that’s OK. What the library provides is a good Java level interface into the open source Asterisk telephony platform. There’s tons of material about Asterisk available, both online and printed books, so this blog post won’t go into too much background on it. If you want to follow along though, you can’t go wrong with the different downloadable Asterisk appliances out there (PBX in a Flash, AsteriskNOW, etc.). This blog post is actually sort of a lead-in for one of the sessions that I submitted for this year via Mix was called “Telephony Integration with PeopleSoft on the cheap“. I don’t know whether that session will actually make it in for OpenWorld (there are an astounding number of sessions that have been submitted via Mix), but it’s a good topic, so I thought I’d start blogging it. For this blog post, what we want to do is be able to initiate a phone call to the end user from PeopleSoft, prompt them for a PIN code, and take action in PeopleSoft depending on whether they were successful or not. We may want to do this as part of the initial signon process for two-factor authentication of your PeopleSoft users, or we might tie this in with some business logic (e.g. be really sure who is sending off a large wire transfer). For the business logic use case, we recommend that you utilize an application firewall to simplify the configuration and maintenance of it. Our own ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft product has a demonstration on our product page of doing 2-factor authentication using Instant Messaging technology (a similar technique to that used here). For testing, I always like to whip up an App Engine test program for playing around. Let’s take a look at our first attempt at the code, then we’ll look at the Asterisk configuration.
REM Connectivity to Asterisk server. ;
REM Assumes that &user has been granted access to Asterisk Manager API;
Local string &host = "";
Local string &user = "asterisk_user_id";
Local string &pswd = "asterisk_password";

REM Asterisk information for how we will be originating phone calls;
Local String &voip_provider_acct = "123456789</code><code>";
Local string &channel = "IAX2/" | </code><code>&voip_provider_acct</code><code>;
Local string &context = "challenge-psft-user";
Local string &exten = "7189";

REM The phone number that we will be calling;
REM This would normally come out of the user's profile;
Local string &phone = "15105551212";

REM The PeopleSoft userID of the person to call;
Local string &userID = "PTDMO";

REM This PIN could be autogenerated or stored in the DB;
Local string &pinCode = "4554";

REM ******** No more user variables below here *********** ;
Local string &base = "org.asteriskjava.manager.";
Local JavaObject &connectFactory = CreateJavaObject(&base | "ManagerConnectionFactory", &host, &user, &pswd);

Local JavaObject &connection = &connectFactory.createManagerConnection();

Local JavaObject &originateAction = CreateJavaObject(&base | "action.OriginateAction");
Local JavaObject &vars = CreateJavaObject("java.util.HashMap");
&vars.put("PIN", &pinCode);
&vars.put("PSFTUSERID", &userID);
&originateAction.setChannel(&channel | "/" | &phone);
&originateAction.setPriority(CreateJavaObject("java.lang.Integer", 1));

Local JavaObject &originateResponse = &connection.sendAction(&originateAction, 30000);
Warning (&originateResponse.getResponse());
After setting up a bunch of variables that we’ll need, the code begins by connecting to the Manager API of our Asterisk server. We’ll need a user/password here that has appropriate access to the Manager API; there probably won’t be any in your default install of Asterisk so you’ll need to add one. This is not an end-user account though; it’s a service account that should be treated with the appropriate security. The other configuration note here is that the Manager API lets you limit access with an IP address range for each user, so in addition to having a strong password, you should limit the user to only be able to connect from your PeopleSoft servers. After that, the code creates a call origination object. The Asterisk Manager API allows us to originate a call between a channel and an extension that is the Asterisk dialplan. A channel can be a lot of things (different Voice over IP protocols, regular phone network, etc.). In this case, I’m using a IAX2 channel that I’ve previously defined in Asterisk to use a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) connection to the outside world. IAX2 is an Asterisk specific protocol similar to the more commonly known standard SIP (for example, both Oracle and BEA have SIP servers). The nice thing is that you don’t need to know too much about the channel details for experimentation purposes though. For example, for this test, I use a pay-by-the-drip VoIP provider called CallWithUs. There’s other providers out there (and we use some of those also), but CallWithUs have a nice web based provisioning system. Sign up through their webpage, send ’em some money, and you’re all set. You then supply the info that they give you to Asterisk, so when you ask Asterisk to make a call, it can send it along through CallWithUs, who then connect the call. If you’re using one of the Asterisk appliances, then you can probably get your first call happening in 30-60 minutes or so. The nice thing about doing it this way is that this can all be running on standard computer equipment. Everything that we’re doing is software based, and CallWithUs deal with the part of actually connecting to “real” phone system. As part of the channel definition for the Asterisk Manager API, we add the end-user’s phone numb er to our “dial string”, which Asterisk sends off to CallWithUs, who make the phone call to the end user. That’s one half of the call equation; my mobile phone is now ringing! Here’s what we see in the Asterisk console with the logging turned up.
  == Parsing '/etc/asterisk/manager.conf': Found
== Manager 'asterisk_user_id' logged on from
-- Call accepted by (format ulaw)
-- Format for call is ulaw
As soon as I answered the phone, then the Asterisk console shows
      > Channel IAX2/123456789-2 was answered.
If you’ll remember our original requirements, we needed some programmatic validation of a PIN code through the phone. The cool thing about Asterisk is that there are tons of built-in options for how you handle a call coming in. Here’s a snippet from the Asterisk configuration. This defines what Asterisk calls a “context” and what to do with a call into that context for extension 7189. The name of the context and the extension don’t really matter; we just need for our PeopleCode to match up with Asterisk has.
exten => 7189,1,Answer()
exten => 7189,2,Playback(gs-demo-login)
exten => 7189,3,NoOp(Authenticating user ${PSFTUSERID})
exten => 7189,4,Authenticate(${PIN},j)
exten => 7189,5,NoOp(Successful login ${PSFTUSERID})
exten => 7189,6,Hangup()
exten => 7189,105,NoOp(Unsuccessful login ${PSFTUSERID})
exten => 7189,106,Hangup()
One thing that may be a little confusing here is that we’re using Asterisk from two sides. One is our code that is calling the Asterisk Manager API that is initiating the call between my mobile phone and this context/extension definition within Asterisk. However, the Manager API is just initiating the call and then it’s done. The context/extension definition within Asterisk then says what to do with the call to this context/extension. Line 1 of the context/extension definition says to Answer the call. Line 2 plays a message that explains what is happening. On my mobile phone, I hear “This is the Grey Sparling demo login. “. Line 3 just logs what is happening on the Asterisk console. We use one of the variables that was set in the PeopleCode side so that we can match up calls with the PeopleSoft user accounts. Line 4 is a builtin Asterisk command to challenge the user to type in a PIN code. Here we’re using the PIN code that was set from the PeopleCode side. There are a series of voice prompts already delivered in Asterisk that get played as part of this as well as Asterisk “listening” for the DTMF tones from the buttons on the phone being pushed. You can roll your own handling of this within Asterisk (speech recognition anyone?), but the Authenticate command has a lot of built-in functionality for free so we make use of that. One strange thing worth mentioning here is the “j” parameter after the PIN code. That tells Asterisk to jump “+101” if the command fails (it continues on the next line if successful). It’s a bizarre form of GOTO (note that there are other ways of adding logic to Asterisk though). Then we log what happened on the console (depending on whether we get the right PIN code or not) and then hangup the phone. Here’s what the Asterisk console looks like with an invalid login.
    -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:1] Answer("IAX2/123456789-2", "") in new stack
 -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:2] Playback("IAX2/123456789-2", "gs-demo-login") in new stack
 --  Playing 'gs-demo-login' (language 'en')
== Manager 'asterisk_user_id' logged off from
 -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:3] NoOp("IAX2/123456789-2", "Authenticating user PTDMO") in new stack
 -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:4] Authenticate("IAX2/123456789-2", "4554|j") in new stack
 --  Playing 'agent-pass' (language 'en')
 --  Playing 'auth-incorrect' (language 'en')
 --  Playing 'auth-incorrect' (language 'en')
 -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:105] NoOp("IAX2/123456789-2", "Unsuccessful login PTDMO") in new stack
 -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:106] Hangup("IAX2/123456789-2", "") in new stack
== Spawn extension (challenge-psft-user, 7189, 106) exited non-zero on 'IAX2/123456789-2'
 -- Hungup 'IAX2/123456789-2'
We can see that in this instance I didn’t type in the PIN code correctly, so I wouldn’t have been granted access. Here’s the relevant bits from the Asterisk console of a successful login.
    --  Playing 'agent-pass' (language 'en')
  --  Playing 'auth-thankyou' (language 'en')
  -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:5] NoOp("IAX2/123456789-3", "Successful login PTDMO") in new stack
  -- Executing [7189@challenge-psft-user:6] Hangup("IAX2/123456789-3", "") in new stack
But how do we find that out within the PeopleCode side so that we can actually take action? That will have to wait until part 2 One final note here. I mentioned that CallWithUs is pay by the drip. One reason that is important is because the pay by the drip VoIP providers are typically more open to initiating multiple calls at once (since you’re not paying a flat fee), which is something that you’d need for doing this for authenticating users. Once you’re comfortable with doing this sort of thing, then you might want to get your own internal phone folks involved, but since this sort of thing is fairly uncommon at this point, you’ll probably be on your own for your initial experiments in this. The nice thing is that it’s fairly cheap though. For each call to my mobile phone that was initiated while testing this I paid US$0.0125. So you get 80 login attempts for a buck 🙂

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Firewall Product as Savior

By Larry Grey • April 11, 2008

We had an interesting situation with one of our customers recently where creative use of one of our products, the ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft, saved the customer from having to do an emergency PeopleTools upgrade. Needless to say, the drinks are on them at Collaborate. For those that aren’t familiar with our ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft product, it is a Web Application Firewall that has deep knowledge of PeopleSoft applications. It doesn’t just requests coming in as URL strings that someone can write regular expressions to process, it sees the request in the context of PeopleSoft. It knows what a PeopleSoft component is; it knows what a Web Profile is, it understands PeopleSoft security, etc. The problem that our customer hit was that when someone enters an invalid password logging in to PeopleSoft, PeopleTools would drop the portal and node name from the URL. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because most people are accessing the default portal in PeopleSoft (generally the EMPLOYEE portal). When you login to PeopleSoft and don’t specify a portal, you get the default portal. Makes perfect sense. However, when you also have a large number of customers accessing the CUSTOMER portal, then it gets more interesting. The customer end user attempts to login at . They enter a bad password by accident, and then they get redirected to along with the standard message saying that the username or password is incorrect. So they type in the correct password and get logged in. Except now they are pointed to the EMPLOYEE portal (because the CUSTOMER portal reference got removed). And not being an EMPLOYEE, they don’t have access to anything. Oops. Their session is valid, but the URL is pointing to somewhere where they get nothing. Turns out that this is fixed in a PeopleTools patch (8.48.13 for the 8.48 codeline, I’m not sure about other PeopleTools versions), but the customer was live with an earlier patch release in the 8.48 codeline and was concerned about dropping a new version of PeopleTools in. Since they have the ERP Firewall product already (they use it for restricting employees from using the customer facing / internet accessible web server and force them to go through web servers that are just for employee use) we decided to treat accessing the EMPLOYEE portal as a security condition that we want to detect. However, instead of doing something like blocking access, we calculate the proper CUSTOMER portal URL and silently redirect the user there. So we’re actually using a security tool to solve a usability problem. You might think that just replacing EMPLOYEE with CUSTOMER in the URL would be enough to solve the problem, but there were a few wrinkles which ended up making the ERP Firewall piece a really good fit. Part of the challenge was making sure that we kept all of the users correct context when redirecting. Most users would be coming through the portal home page, but some might be coming in from deep links into order history or from bookmarks, etc. So we couldn’t just have a single URL to redirect people to. The stickier problem was that the ERP Firewall needed to redirect differently based on whether the person was logged on or not. If the user was not logged in, and we redirected them to the CUSTOMER portal home page, PeopleTools viewed that as a login attempt, and gave the user the signon page. Normally PeopleTools handles this quite well; an attempt to hit a deep link in PeopleSoft when you’re not logged in gets you the signon page, and once you login, you go to that deep link that you originally requested. However, due to this bug, the CUSTOMER portal was getting dropped again, so it was necessary to append the cmd=login parameter that PeopleTools recognizes as a request for the login page. Of course, if the user is logged in already and you redirect them with a cmd=login link, then you just killed their session. The nice thing is that the ERP Firewall for PeopleSoft has the deep knowledge of PeopleSoft to make this trivial. It knows what a PeopleSoft portal is, it knows what PeopleSoft roles a user has, it knows whether they are logged in or not, and it knows how to properly generate and/or modify PeopleSoft URLs in a safe fashion. If you are interested in learning more about this product, here’s a link to the product page. In addition to providing an overview, you can watch an in-depth demo that shows exactly how it works and how you would configure it. Labels: , ,

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