community

Getting started with sitecore: The 101-guide to the community

A few years back, back in the Sitecore 7.x days, I started to work with Sitecore. I originated from the SharePoint community (take note of the capital “P”!), where there are SO many active bloggers. I think this was caused by a bit of the history. “Back in the SharePoint 2007 days” all the SharePoint info we got, came from google, or from reflector, as the documentation wasn’t always “that well written”. It appeared that there were a few persons actively blogging about their findings and through the years, the amount of people actively blogging, writing cool code or helping each other out, exploded, but you had (and still have) to find your ways to find all the information.

I see the same pattern happening in Sitecore. A lot of great functionality, a great product, but not every feature is always documented. As everyone tries to get the most out of the platform, people are seeking the boundaries of the product and finding out how stuff works. A lot of people are looking for help, a lot of people are blogging, but it’s not always that evident to find the sources that you need. “Where is the community?” you might ask. And that’s exactly why I decided to write this blogpost.

A first free lesson: First lesson: SiteCore is written as Sitecore. Please take 
care of this, as most Sitecore community members are a bit sensitive to it ;).

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letsencrypt

Sitecore Security #4: Serve your site securely over https with Let’s Encrypt

In a previous blogpost about the Http Strict Transport Security I explained how to force connections to make use of https to encrypt connections. A lot of people think it’s expensive, hard to implement and slow. This blogpost shows off how you can get a free, secure certificate, get your Sitecore site up-and-running in no more than 5 minutes, just by using the Let’s Encrypt service. Source-code can be found here on Github.

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Sitecore Security #3: Prevent XSS using Content Security Policy

Clientside code is being used more and more on modern websites. Any kind of resources, for example Javascript, css, fonts, complete pages can be loaded dynamically into websites, from the current website or from an external domain. Attackers might be able to pull off an XSS attack by loading different kinds of data or scripts into your site which will run on your client’s browsers. These injections might happen on your own site, or in external services that you make use of (for example, disquss, or ads you are displaying). Applying a content security policy is one of the defenses against this kind of attack. This blogpost shows of scenarios that might happen (some of them tailored to Sitecore) and how the content security policy can help to prevent a successful attack from happening. As regular solutions provided on the internet do not supply the flexibility that a Sitecore solution (and CMS’ses in general) needs I decided to create a content manageable module and added that one to my SitecoreSecurity module.

This is not a write-up on the complete CSP specification, there are other great sources for that on the web, I included them at the end of the article.

The module will be available on the marketplace when it has passed quality control.
Sourcecode is available on: https://github.com/BasLijten/SitecoreSecurity

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Sitecore Security #2: Secure connections and how to force the browser to use the secure connection

Secure connections? Why would I even bother? It’s expensive, slow, complex and I’ve got a firewall anyway? On the SUGCON in Copenhagen I showed off how easy it is to intercept, modify and redirect unencrypted traffic and what can be done against this threat. This blogpost is all about why you should serve your website always and fully over HTTPS and how the browser can be forced to use this HTTPS connection. This blogpost will not show off how to configure HTTPS and will not tell about all the benefits of https. The technique to achieve this is bu adding a HSTS header for your domain, google recently announced that they will introduce this for the complete www.google.com domain as well!

 

Note: Some other great articles have been written about this subject, but I intentionally wrote this article to reach out the Sitecore (and SharePoint) community!

The configuration is included in the blogpost below, it will also be released as a XDT as part of a bigger security project

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googleanalytics

Realtime personalization monitoring with Sitecore and google analytics

Some of our bigger sites, which don’t run on Sitecore yet, use google analytics to realtime monitor events that happen on a website, think about forms that are submitted and personalizations that are shown to a specific user. Most of the time, external (javascript) tooling is used to inject those personalizations and an event needs to be implemented which will be send to google analytics to register that event. In Sitecore, we can implement those google analytics events by including a javascript in our razor views, but, how can we tell whether or not the component that was shown was part of a personalization flow? Was a custom datasource selected, was the completed component rendered as a personalization? This blogpost series learns you on how to determine what kind of personalizations where exposed to a user and how to tell external systems about those events. It turned out that a (beautiful) pattern can be used that Sitecore itself already introduced themselves a while ago.

All sourcecode can be found here on github

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Sitecore Security #1: How to replace the password hashing algorithm

Let’s face it: It’s a business nowadays to hack sites, retrieve personal information and sell them on the black markets, think of usernames, passwords, credit card details and-so-on. Often, this data is stolen using SQL injection attacks, which may be possible to your Sitecore site as well, thus, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As Sitecore ships with an old hashing algorithm to handle Sitecore users login, it’s time to replace the hashing algorithm as well. When having a fresh installation, this isn’t much of an issue, but for existing installations, you will face the challenge on upgrading your existing users, because the password hashing algorithm will be changed. This blogpost will show how to upgrade the hashing algorithm, describe those challenges, and tell you how to increase your Sitecore security.

Find the sources on https://github.com/BasLijten/SitecoreDefaultMembershipProvider for use on your own Sitecore environment!

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app insights banner

Improving the Sitecore logging and diagnostics Experience™ part 2: logging to Application Insights

In my previous blogpost I wrote on improving the Sitecore logs, which was a prerequisite for this blogpost, to send all that logging information to Application Insights. This blogpost will explain the steps on how to do this. Application Insights is a tool, hosted on Azure, which helps to get a 360-view on your application. It tracks application health, adoption metrics and crash data. With several interactive tools it’s possible to filter out, segment data and drill down into event instances for details. With a few clicks, it’s possible to view the whole logged call-stack of your application. In this blogpost, I will explain how to send your logs to Application Insights. The great thing is: The is not limited to your custom logs, but the full stack of logs, thus custom and Sitecore logs, will show up in this tool. This platform is not limited to Microsoft, there are a lot of SDK’s available for other technologies.

All source code can be found on my SitecoreDiagnostics repository on github.

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logbanner

Improving the Sitecore Logging and diagnostics experience™ part 1: expose more information using a new Logger

Lately, I have been working on improving he Sitecore Logging Experience™. Sitecore uses the log4net framework to handle all kinds of logs, but, with the standard configuration and implementation, we’re not making the most out of it.  Where Alex Shyba wrote some excellent posts on writing your logs to SQL to make the logs easier accessible, I am going to take the logging capabilities to the next level! In this blogpost I will describe why the out of the box Sitecore logging implementation should be improved, how to do this and eventually I’ll show how to modify the appenders to show some extra trace information. This is all a step-up to my next blogpost, I will explain how all the Sitecore logs can be send to application insights on azure to get even better insights in your application usage!

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301-redirect

Another look at URL redirects in Sitecore

Redirection of urls, it’s a very common action, it’s important to maintain your SEO-value when URL’s move around and to provide friendly, short URLs. The only thing that you have to do is to create a permanent or temporary redirect, right? There are some solutions which add redirect functionality to Sitecore, for example the great Url Rewrite module by Andy Cohen, which is based on the IIS Url Rewrite 2.0 module by Microsoft. But there are several scenario’s when you can solve several redirects in other parts of the infrastructure, or with other products. This may, for example, be the case in in larger companies, hosting multiple Sitecore instances with multiple sites, where configuring certain types of redirects in different parts of the infrastructure can prevent a lot of other configuration in those same layers, reduce complexity or prevent issues on the permissions to configure redirects.

This blogpost explains why we chose to handle redirects in different parts of our infrastructure, from a technical and a functional perspective.

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