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Data Destruction Done Right!
eXcelisys Builds Monitoring Tool to Track & Audit Disk-Wiping Process
When banks, insurance companies, and health-care systems get the urge to purge, they call Archive Data Solutions. With a home base in Westerville, Ohio, Archive Data Solutions dispatches techs nationwide to wipe sensitive data from decommissioned hard drives and SSDs when they reach end-of-life.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Andy Haenszel of Archive Data Solutions, “but it can be overwhelming.” Haenszel said the issue is the sheer number of drives a company may have coming offline from servers and workstations, combined with the increasing capacities of those drives, making it a laborious process. Haenszel said many IT teams simply don’t have time to deal with it — plus, having an independent, third-party firm wipe the data helps with compliance.
How Does Data-Wiping Work?
To sanitize data, Archive Data Solutions uses a popular disk-wipe software program that runs on Linux. The software makes multiple passes over each disk, overwriting the data with zeros and ones until the “prior state,” or echo, can no longer be recovered.
Think of it like removing graffiti. If you wash it off the wall, remnants remain faintly readable underneath. A better solution is to “paint” over the wall until the graffiti is undecipherable. That’s essentially what data-sanitization software does.
The Quest for a Better Wipe
For years, Haenszel has been trying to make peace with the imperfect, off-the-shelf data-wiping software. “It functions very well for the average user trying to wipe a couple of drives at a time, but to use it at scale was just painful.” The problem was a lack of feedback, and lack of an end-to-end audit process.
Haenszel said Archive Data Solutions needed a better way to track every drive that entered the wiping process, view the progress along the way, and have a clear audit trail of the results. As Haenszel pointed out, many issues that can derail the process are out of their control — such as an onsite power failure, an OS that hangs, or a drive with power connectors that are bent. “If 100 drives were hooked up to wipe and the entire system went down for one of those reasons, we were not able to see eXactly where each drive stopped in the process.” The only option was to be safe and start the hours-long wiping process over again on every disk in the job. A wipe cycle can easily take 16 hours, so these “do-over” errors added up.
“I’m going to send someone halfway across the country and I don’t know what I’m walking into,” said Haenszel. “If I can’t track eXactly what’s going on in every drive in that system and have to repeat drives to be sure, I lose days and the project might not be profitable any longer.”
Seeking a data sanitization tool to help monitor the process, Haenszel contacted eXcelisys. He eXplained his pain points to web app developer Michael Suhrbier, who utilized the LEMP stack (Linux, NginX, MySQL & PHP) to create a wipe-monitoring tool. The stand-alone system runs on a Linux machine, isolating each drive in a job. When the drives are plugged in and the wiping starts, the monitoring tool displays the drives, models and serial numbers in the job, along with a color-coded process bar for each one.
Techs use the color coding to make a quick, accurate assessment of the destruction in process. Red indicates the process has been terminated, yellow indicates there is an issue needing attention, and green means all is well, the disk-wiping has completed successfully. “Michael’s framework allows me to see which need to be reprocessed and which finished,” said Haenszel. “Having full, 360-degree visibility is a night and day improvement over the software’s out-of-the-box functionality.”
- Remote monitoring. With the new data sanitization tool, techs can monitor a job off-site from a laptop or phone. When the project started, Haenszel was not even thinking about remote tracking. “It’s a nice add,” he said, “because it allows us to stay out of our customer’s way as much as possible. We can leave the site and return back hours later when it’s time to swap out the next round of drives.”
- Certificate of Destruction. Once the cycle has finished, the tech can click one button to generate a PDF “Certificate of Destruction” that lists the serial numbers of the drives destroyed in that job. The PDF can then be filed away for compliance.
Wiping out the Competition
The new data-wipe monitoring tool helps Archive Data Solutions complete jobs efficiently and accurately. Now, when a job finishes, the tech knows eXactly what happened with each disk and can even perform a cross-check audit of serial numbers in the run to ensure accuracy. Haenszel said the monitoring and auditing tool helps Archive Data Solutions outshine the competition because of the transparency and peace-of-mind it offers clients in knowing the job will get done right. “It definitely makes us stand out among the competition.”
Likewise, Haenszel thinks eXcelisys stands out among the competition. Before hiring eXcelisys, Haenszel worked with a couple other developers who “failed miserably” in figuring out a way to build a monitoring tool. Then, he remembered eXcelisys. Since 2008, Archive Data Solutions has used eXcelisy for FileMaker support. “I thought, ‘Hey, the FileMaker community is quirky and they tend to know Linux.’ ” A phone call later and the job was under way. “You guys have been really great,” he said. “eXcelisys took this four steps past what I would have even asked about.”
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Hello Everyone, We’re giving away four Blue Feather mugs as a thank you to the people helping us test CloudContainer. To be eligible, register for a CloudContainer account here and connect your CloudContainer to the storage provider of your choice (such as Amazon S3, Backblaze, Wasabi, etc.) by generating an API key and secret key …
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We have tested all our products and are happy to confirm that they all work fine with the new version, only iOS versions of our plug-ins need to be updated for the new iOS App SDK. Now we are preparing our performance lab to test FileMaker 19 performance and compare it to the previous versions.
Read more details in our latest article and let us know what you would like us to include in our performance test.
The article also explains what we consider being the three most valuable new features of FileMaker 19 and why.
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Say you’ve got two fields, both number fields, and you want to use them as flag fields, to be set to either 0 or 1. But they should always be opposite from each other. Changing one field should change the other and vice versa.
At first, that seems simple. You just need to make each field an auto-enter referencing the other field, right? Nope. That doesn’t work. FileMaker’s calculation engine does not like that sort of circular references. Field A changes so Field B changes so Field A changes, etc. Nothing terrible will happen, it just won’t work.
I played around with a couple ideas and the one that works is this:
Let ( [ f1 = Flags::Flag1 Final ;
f2 = Flags::Flag2 Final ] ;
If ( $$f2.active ; not f2 & Let ( $$f2.active = “” ; “” ) ;
Let ( $$f1.active = True ; f1 ) ) )
Let ( [ f1 = Flags::Flag1 Final ;
f2 = Flags::Flag2 Final ] ;
If ( $$f1.active ; not f1 & Let ( $$f1.active = “” ; “” ) ;
Let ( $$f2.active = True ; f2 ) ) )
You may wonder what the heck is going on here!
In short, two things. The field is checking to see if it’s the one that was edited, then editing itself based on that knowledge and then handling the $$variable that communicates that.
If [the other field was edited] then change this value to the opposite of that field and clean up the variable.
If [this field was edited] set the variable so the other field knows it’s being edited, and just set the field to itself.
Using Let() to define (and clean up) $$variables inside a calculation is not common, but is powerful and handy in certain situations.
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Thorsen has provided support for the selective enrollment processes for over 10 years. Of particular relevance is our recent development of an algorithm to leverage CPS purchased IPSCII selection silo. When the current vendor was unable to produce the needed functionality to display this year’s selection results, we partnered with CPS to sync data from the current system and display it to parents and administrators via a web portal linked to the current School Mint system. We delivered that solution over the course of 8 weeks resulting in on-time, on-budget delivery.
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Please join Skeleton Key's FileMaker STL meetup, January 23, 2018, 6pm (CT). Colleague, Jeremy Upton, will present: "Alexa, ask FileMaker...". SK is Skeleton Key. SK is host to FileMaker STL Hey Siri. Hey Google. Hey Alexa...the holiday season was explosive with its ads for voice command devices. Wouldn't it be cool if you could say something like "Hey Alexa, ask FileMaker how many contacts live in the state of Texas?", and have the results of your FileMaker database said back to you? We think so too! And that's why we are excited to have Skeleton Key's very own Jeremy Upton lead the meetup topic this month.
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Welcome to the fourth and final part of the FileMaker iOS App SDK series. In the final part of the series I will take you through building and compiling the iOS App. If you haven't yet read through parts 1, 2 and 3; now would be a good time to go take a look.
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[ Edit: 3/16/2016 - With the help of some other people, we have been able to recover, or recreate some of the original images from original thread. ]
Security is always a big topic when it involves data, or people, or possessions. Recently, over on the FileMaker Community, there was a very beneficial discussion regarding security. Unfortunately, that discussion was the victim of a necessary action...and was deleted. It was deleted, because the discussion was tied to a video that, as was determined throughout the thread, was not beneficial to the overall community of FileMaker users and developers. When that video was removed, the discussion vanished with it.
This post is specifically targeted at recompiling that discussion, because at it's core represents an important message that is necessary to convey and support. That is, creating ersatz security systems can introduce security vulnerabilities. In my experience, I have only seen 1 (one) approach that increased security while adding a 2nd factor of authentication. And it was complicated and not easily set up...and in the end, comes with it's own set of drawbacks.
One of the main things I took from the below discussion ( and it's a long discussion!! ), is this: What is the point of attempting to add a layer of security that does NOT increase security?! If the approach does not INCREASE security, why would you market the approach as a security technique?! The answer to that is the reason why the video that launched the discussion was deleted.
While I had much internal debate about the best way to republish the info from this discussion, in the end I decided ( with much input from others ), that just posting the discussion in it's entirety was the best thing. And in doing so, know I have, as do those that gave their input, nothing but respect for all those involved in the discussion. So that is what follows. One very important note: the discussion is one of learning. And I truly believe that no one involved in the discussion came out looking 'bad'. One could say, 'well yeah Josh, you didn't end up being wrong in the thread, so you don't care'. I assure you, I have been wrong in MANY discussions. In fact, I had a similar discussion with Wim Decorte in another thread several months before this one. As I researched, and tested...I learned not only was I wrong, I learned I NEEDED to change something in my development. Without any further introduction, here is the thread:
Original Discussion Thread from Community.FileMaker.com, a Video with an interview with well-respected developer Taylor Sharpe:
Date: August 12, 2015 at 5:42 PM ( Date of Original Video Post )
Title: Free Video>>> Two-Factor Authentication w/ Taylor Sharp
November 27, 2015 at 8:20 PM by Taylor Sharpe
Thank you for your interest in this video. It is an additional tool to the suite of FileMaker Security tools to help improve security. This video shows you how to enhance an already implemented security plan to make it even better by adding hardware verification. This tool has minimal impact on staff and uses tools currently available in FileMaker 14. This video shows how to use hardware verification as the 2nd factor authentication similar to how Google and Apple currently implement it. This tool makes use of the current security standard of verifying hardware with Persistent ID as well as FileMaker tools including a start up script and email or text messaging notifications.
Additional advice: In conjunction with two factor authentication, you should make sure you already are following the FileMaker security guidelines. Security is one of the cornerstones of a good solution and you should make use of least privileges necessary for users, appropriate password guidelines, consideration of external authentication services such as Active Directory and Open Directory, client-server SSL encryption with 3rd party authentication, Encryption at Rest, backups (yes, that too is a part of security), and physical security.
Caution: This 2nd factor authentication is only designed to work in conjunction with the other FileMaker security tools to enhance security and you should not rely solely on this as a single factor of authentication because it is only a hardware verification. Security is a constantly changing field. If you follow FileMaker’s Security Guidelines, you will have a robust and secure server. Additional security tools like this should be considered, as well as documentation of security controls in a security plan. There are additional tools available such as token passing, plugins with higher level encryption, biometrics, etc., that go beyond what is included with FileMaker that may have merit. At a minimum, you should evaluate your server’s security with some type of review or audit on an annual basis.
I wish you all the best and encourage you to make sure an appropriate amount of time is allocated to security when you are developing your solutions. DEMO FILE: Can be found at <sample file> ( link removed ). It is UU encoded, but ready to go with full access for Admin user account and no password. Feel free to make use of the sample file to copy scripts or layouts as you may need. Appropriate credit would be appreciated. Thanks.
November 28, 2015 at 7:50 AM by Wim Decorte
To be very clear: it is NOT true 2-factor authentication since it relies on the user already been authenticated and allowed into the solution before the 2nd factor comes into play...
November 28, 2015 at 2:16 PM by Taylor Sharpe
It might be a bit of splitting hairs, but not inaccurate. You are in FileMaker in-so-much as you are logged in and being processed by a start up script for further validation. But a regular user can't escape the script. The way to meet Wim's definition of Two Factor authentication is to have some other program perform that two factor authentication prior to FileMaker's credentials or FileMaker add this security feature and it reside outside of FileMaker scripting and before getting logged in (boy that would be nice, FileMaker, Inc.!). The assumption I was working with is that people are limited to FileMaker tools and you cannot avail yourself of those tools without being inside of a FileMaker solution to run the 2nd factor script. This means things like turning auto abort off. And it is a security improvement over single factor authentication, but it is not invulnerable. For example, someone with Full Access will be able to enable the script debugger and this is a reason to be very limited on who has Full Access and make sure those passwords are strong.
Tim Dietrich's FM Authenticator and others have done similar Two Factor authentications with FileMaker, but they all use a startup script like this one and are therefore subject to the vulnerability Wim points out. Just keep in mind that this can be an improvement to security assuming you have fully implemented the FileMaker security guidelines already and this is an ADDITIONAL tool, not an exclusive one. For example, it would be a bad idea to use this 2nd Factor authentication and tell people that they only have to use User ID's, but no passwords.
Thank you for the comment Wim. It is good that we all understand how security works and where its weak points are.
November 28, 2015 at 6:28 PM by Wim Decorte
I don't think it is splitting hairs; it's about calling things what they are. We certainly don't want people going around saying that FM does support 2FA when it does not. I'd hate to be part of a security audit where someone proclaimed that FM does 2FA based on this or a similar approach...
As to the level of security: while a user can not escape out of a script by simply pressing ESC, there are ways to stop scripts so relying on a scripted security system does not usually enhance security but rather introduces potential vulnerabilities.
November 29, 2015 at 2:47 AM by Taylor Sharpe
<Post deleted by Taylor Sharpe>
November 29, 2015 at 7:38 AM by Wim Decorte
Very disappointed in this reaction. Since when is a difference in opinion "inappropriate and unprofessional"? And I do not appreciate the insinuation that I am not a professional or worthy of working for Soliant Consulting, nowhere in my replies did I ever attack your integrity or the company you work for.
If 2FA is a requirement then I would suggest using technologies that do have full & native 2FA: like logging into the OS through 2FA and then use EA for access to the FM application.
I do withdraw from this conversation, not because I'm being told to by you, but because once a respectful debate over differing opinions is not welcome, then I do have nothing further to contribute.
November 29, 2015 at 7:12 PM by Josh Ormond
I am very surprised at this response, having seen the response before it was deleted.
The problem that Wim is pointing out is a real issue. We can call something 2FA, but if the person is IN the file after the first factor, for compliance reasons and technical reasons, it really is not 2 Factor Authentication. Because the 1st factor allowed them in, and you can't from there stop them from accessing the file. Simply put, one can easily stop the script from running and add their device as an approved device and access everything in the file. I don't see how that is increasing the security of the file. It only gives a false sense of security. Which leads to larger problems. This file, having never seen it before, took me no more than 15 secs to authorize myself to access the file from any device I want, using nothing more than the tools provided in the file. I only need one-factor to get in now...anytime I login.
If one where to promote their solution as a compliant solution using 2FA, they could be opening themselves to hefty fines. As Wim said, if 2FA is required, you need something that prevents you from getting into the file with 2 factors.
Though I do like Tony White's response to this discussion in another place: Maybe we should call it "1+1 Factor Authentication".
November 29, 2015 at 7:58 PM by Tony White
Thanks Joshua Ormond for the shout out. Here is the twitter perma-link to the thread.
I implement security that uses the built in tools and at the same time am open minded to creative ways of adding to security...as long as they successfully address defined use cases. Know the rules and know when you can extend them...
On a separate thread I proposed the idea of a security contest with a monetary price. https://community.filemaker.com/message/517290#517290
Interesting topic. Lots of considerations to factor in when coming up with best practices.
November 29, 2015 at 8:22 PM by Taylor Sharpe
Joshua, I deleted my own response and not FileMaker because I was offended by Wim and the way I worded the response was not professional. My bad and apologies to Wim.
I think there can still be a good discussion. Two Factor means that two methods are being used for authentication. Providing additional requirements on what makes another factor a real factor or not does not make it not another Factor even if it is not as robust as other possibilities. Wim does bring up a point about why it is not as robust as other 2nd factor authentication implementations because the 2nd factor is done within the solution and not before you are in the solution.
The solution I provide in the video uses the tools available from FileMaker. Within the constraints that FileMaker scripting tools provide us, it is a good security control. That is not to say going outside of FileMaker's tools or asking FileMaker to build a second factor authentication into the application would not be better, but those are not tools readily available to most of the users here. The solution provided improves security and it is a second factor of authenticating even though Wim correctly points out the 2nd factor is done within the solution.
The point I am making is that implementing this 2nd factor authentication, even with its limitations, is better than not implementing it.
There are a lot of OS level two factor authentication solutions including not only User ID/password, but tokens, or VPNs that would be required before you would have access to the FileMaker solution. They may be worth some discussion here too. But those are beyond what is trying to be addressed in this type of solution.
November 29, 2015 at 9:40 PM by Josh Ormond
I get the attempt. The concern I have with it is, it required only 1 factor for me to be in the solution and using it. If I didn't provide an email, it let me use the file anyway. Without ever requiring factor 2.
In Tim's solution for what he also called 2FA, at least the user was left in a low-level account. But even with that, I could edit and hack the file to pieces. Simply because I could get in.
Authentication itself is the process of deciding if someone has authorization for access. Two factor authentication is at it's core really supposed to happen before the person gets in the file. FileMaker doesn't provide a second access control for logging in. Though I do wish they did. It should be a feature request.
For reasons exactly like this, the data is at risk once the person is in the file. Even worse, for something that is script driven, I can stop the script from running and there is no trace that I even logged into the file.
I'm not hear to add fuel to an argument. Simply to voice a warning that for even a fairly new user, the approach can be easily circumvented...and when it comes to compliance, users/owners/database admins, need to know that. I would hate to see someone get hit with fines because they assumed an add-on security method was "safe". For compliance, there are other ways to secure the file and the data. Security 'add-ons' typically don't add any security. Just another layer of steps to get in. I say this simply because I have see too many solutions that owners thought were 'safe'...to which I was in reading them sensitive data while they were still explaining how to login the 'right way'.
And I'm glad to hear why you deleted the post. Both yourself and Wim are worthy of greater respect.
November 29, 2015 at 11:00 PM by Taylor Sharpe
Josh... I gave you a file with Admin and no password. This is a completely OPEN Admin with Full Access and no password. Of course you got in. You would not have gotten in with one where it automatically logged you in with Admin and Full Access. So you would not have gotten past the first factor, let alone the 2nd.
This database was left open as a development tool. Hacking it is as simple as opening it up because it defaults to the Admin with no password. You did not hack into it and your comments to this effect are not helpful to people reading this discussion. It implies you have some ability to defeat this solution when properly implemented and you have not provided any information to show that you have those skills, making me doubt that you can. But I will be glad to provide you a hosted solution properly implemented and be glad to give you a shot at it.
OK, that aside, Tim's solution did get you in with a low level User Account instead of whatever account you are in. The reason I went the way I did was because this is supposed to make things easy on staff instead of dealing with multiple logins and multiple passwords. The goal was to improve security while making it easier on the staff. This solution adds significant security with very minimal impact on staff. No it is not a perfect solution, and no control in a database ever is and you are should have many controls in a secure system. Most security plans identify hundreds of controls in every solution. You have to have multiple layers of control from least privileges to encryption. This 2nd Factor is NOT a sole security tool. It is used to enhance security with minimal impact and be easy to implement with the tools FileMaker provides.
This control as a 2nd Factor authentication is not perfect and is designed to work in coordination with other security controls. If you know about security plans, you know that most controls have some weaknesses. But you do not dismiss a control that is generally effective because where one control may not stop an intruder, another one will and it is the combined effectiveness of controls that makes the security. Removal of an imperfect control can weaken a security plan and removal of controls has to evaluate whether their imperfection is beneficial compared to not being there at all.
I still stand behind this being a simple solution that enhances security with minimal effort and using tools already provided by FileMaker. I challenge that those of you dismissing such a simple control that benefits security are lacking in good security judgement unless you are providing some improved alternative.
November 29, 2015 at 11:19 PM by Josh Ormond
I am not dismissing it completely. If some choose to use it, that is part of their own risk assessment. I do challenge the name. Primarily because I can prevent the 2nd factor from ever firing, very very easily.
I am aware of how you set up the file, and it's intent. I will assure you my test was thorough. I have tested several of these types of security measure. In some cases businesses decided to continue to use it. It was simply a user "trust" mechanism. In the meantime, we secured the file by other means. Some left it as is. Some abandoned it completely. That would be the owner's decision to make.
I will also step of of the conversation. I think there is just a core difference in the thought about what increasing security means. Which is at the heart of the matter. I hope for the best for you.
November 30, 2015 at 8:50 AM by Wim Decorte
Taylor Sharpe wrote: “I challenge that those of you dismissing such a simple control that benefits security are lacking in good security judgement unless you are providing some improved alternative.”
An improved alternative was already mentioned earlier: do the multi-factor authentication upstream from FileMaker.
These security implementations are never done in a vacuum and all angles should be considered, not just how the behaviour can be mimicked in FM. The first thing to be open about with the customer is that FM does not do native multi-form authentication.
So the alternatives are:
- discuss with the client how 2FA can be done before the solution gets launched and how it can be combined with things like External Authentication for the FM solution. This keeps all authentication strictly at the FM security level and does not add any vulnerabilities.
- discuss the security risks of the FM scripted approaches to mimic 2FA and if those are acceptable given the risk appetite of the client and the compliance requirements.
If neither are acceptable to the client then FM is probably not the right platform for the solution.
November 30, 2015 at 9:38 AM by Taylor Sharpe
Josh, I don't think really do understand. But I am more than willing to eat crow if I have misspoken and certainly willing to learn. So I have hosted the file on my development server at <link removed>. Please let me know when you are able to get in and how you did it.
Thank you, Wim. I concur with you that an "upstream" approach can be a good one to implement two factor authentication. And most everyone has some type of upstream security even if it is as basic as a User ID and password to get into a computer, but many companies do a lot more such as some form of 2 factor authentication, VPN connection, tokens, etc. I also agree with you Wim, that FM does not have native multi-form authentication at the application level. But that is something us developers can't control, and something I would encourage FileMaker Inc. to consider in future versions. It would be a nice security improvement tool.
However, within the tool set available to FM development, the 2 Factor authentication described above works and improves security, and will have a smaller hurdle to implement than most of the suggestions you have made. My goal was to keep things simple with the tools available inside of FM to improve security, and I have met that challenge within those criteria.
November 30, 2015 at 9:41 AM by David Zachary
I’ve been watching this thread with interest and a degree of amusement. My post may not have any substantive benefit to the thread, but it makes me feel good.
It reminds me of when Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment hearings. During an interview he was asked "was it sex?" and straight faced he replied "it all depends on what your definition of 'is' is". This thread has gotten to that point - what is the definition of 2FA? Clearly there are different opinions.
Having both parts of a 2FA system inside of a FileMaker solution, while technically 2 factors, is like having an alarm system on your house to compliment the door lock. You feel secure but somebody fast enough with enough skill can still break in and grab something valuable quickly. You've got 2 security measures but still got robbed. The better solution is to have an electrified fence and a moat around your house - everything of value is protected by measures not directly connected to the house. FileMaker security should be the final line of defense, not the first and not the only. Calling a system that has both factors inside of the target database as supporting 2FA is dodgy unless all parties are using the same definition of what 2FA is - while you say its 2FA, any client that has to follow government or corporate-defined 2FA specifications will likely disagree.
I'm not going to repeat what others have said (too much), but FileMaker does not natively support a 2FA system. You have to do it elsewhere. If your data requires that level of security, you need to look at supplementing the security infrastructure outside of FileMaker, long before an intruder gets to the FileMaker-level.
Thankfully Stephen Blackwell isn't on here much anymore. He would have probably had a stroke by now. His views on custom-developed security methods are well documented.
Back to watching from the sidelines.
November 30, 2015 at 10:09 AM by Josh Ormond
I understand both the intent of what you are arguing for, and have in the past felt the same way. However, I think you misunderstand me.
FileMaker's own built-in security is in itself the strongest security you can get with FileMaker. By turning on EAR, securing the physical server, setting up proper privilege sets and users, and limiting the ability to edit/create/delete privilege sets, and by using Extended Privileges, and in many cases using EA...you are secure and safe with your data.
With that, without the user name and password, one can NOT get into a hosted file remotely. That is one of the great parts of FM security. And you know that part as well.
What I am saying...the average user can stop your second factor, very easily...so it does not enhance the security. I have seen so many poorly implemented security add-ons in FM. Because the developer or user was trying to imitate another security functionality. It looked like they were enforcing 2FA...but in reality not even one of the users actually ever completed the 2nd factor.
In essence, it feels like putting a second deadbolt on your door, but putting the lock handle ( normally inside ) on the OUTSIDE. It doesn't do anything, other than give some more strength to the door...so someone would have a more difficult time kicking in the door. But if someone already has the key for the other deadbolt...they simply spin the lock handle and walk in. Zero added security.
In this case I need to nothing other than stop the script from running. So with a log in, I can log in from ANY device. Not to mention there are serious problems with Get ( PersistentID ) on Windows, so it's simply not reliable.
November 30, 2015 at 10:19 AM by Taylor Sharpe
OK, Josh, this moves us forward some and thanks for the comments. How about this, what if I put a non-Full Access User account in that File. Are you able to defeat the 2nd factor? For example, I just added a "Josh" account with no password and it is set for the privilege set "Data Entry Only", but has no authorized devices.
Also, I'm interested in learning more about the problems with Get ( PersistentID ) on Windows.
November 30, 2015 at 10:32 AM by David Jondreau
“without the user name and password, one can NOT get into a hosted file remotely."
That is the whole point of 2FA. You can put all the locks on the doors you want, but if your user leaves the key under the mat, your file is compromised.
2FA is not some miracle security feature. It simply is a philosophy that to improve security, users should have 2 of 3 different things: something they know (username/pass); something they have (a specific cell phone); and/or something they are (a fingerprint). Yes, the line between some of these categories is blurry, but the point isn't to get involved in a semantic debate of whether a fingerprint is something you are or something you have. The point is to improve security.
I have not watched Taylor's video (I hate watching videos). But I have looked at the sample file, which in my opinion, doesn't do a great job at improving security since the only user account is full access. But it's a sample, for developers to look at, so it's not a real world scenario. And maybe there's more in the video.
Regardless, the point is the file already requires a username and password. Taylor is *already* doing the minimum of requiring one factor (something you know). He is adding on an additional "factor" of a device. Is the implementation effective? I'm not sure, but I certainly don't see where the criticism of the underlying principle is coming from.
November 30, 2015 at 10:46 AM by Josh Ormond
6 Months ago, I would have written the same thing you did. However, having seen a similar 2FA system implemented and relied on in a medical environment, unless there is something else involved does not meet some of the compliance standards.
Penalty fees are typically based on the number records. I have seen customers get fees into the $10s of thousands of dollars as a result. That is the primary reason for the strong reaction. If a customer wants to use it, that's up to them. I'm not opposed to it, as long as the purpose is to simply increase security.
The reference to leaving the key out is a user thing. I am referencing the developer actions. The user behavior is a separate issue from file security.
November 30, 2015 at 10:49 AM by Josh Ormond
With the current setup, the data-entry account can't even fire the startup script. So even with an authorized device, one could not get in.
November 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM by Taylor Sharpe
Oh, you are right, Josh. I didn't give the Data Entry fmapp extended privilege set. I have fixed that now.
November 30, 2015 at 11:18 AM by Richard Carlton
Very interesting. Taylor, ideally you wouldn't spray the table of secure data on screen... but I guess
that makes the hack that much more interesting. LOL! I guess we have Taylor's 2nd authentication.
So the challenge now is to stop the script and get access to the file... or otherwise spoof it with Taylor's info.
Josh, if you know how to hack this... that would be alternately cool... and also scary to see. Its not immediately obvious to me how to stop the script engine.
I am genuinely curious how you do this.
I think for the point of the exercise... we should assume EAR is enabled... and so reading network traffic with a packet analyser won't work.
November 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM by Taylor Sharpe
Richard, yes, I didn't mean to mess that up for Josh, but it is fixed now so the Josh account can get in and I did it to confirm it works.
And, yes, EAR has been done, SSL 3rd party encryption is on, and using FileMaker Security (not AD/OD). Running on FMS 14.0.4 on a Mac OS X 10.11.1 Mac Pro Black Cylinder.
November 30, 2015 at 11:41 AM by Richard Carlton
Ok... well... let's make it fun. I'll put up $200 for anyone who can hack the file and get into it in a meaningful way. Read only access would be good enough... to be able to read another layout with data on it.
To Win, you must be able to do a screen share to demonstrate how you hacked the file... and I get to interview the winner. Then you get the $200 USD.
November 30, 2015 at 12:40 PM by Josh Ormond
Dangerous. You are going to owe me $200. Note, not only did I get in, I authorized myself for future log-ins, and altered other data. And if I wanted to be nasty, I can lock everyone out by hosing the PersistentID.
Did you want to see the Device Access also?
November 30, 2015 at 12:43 PM by Josh Ormond
Here are the approved devices also. Note in both of these screen shots, the Persistent ID isn't not even the one from my machine..it still lets me in.
November 30, 2015 at 12:53 PM by Wim Decorte
Ha, you beat me by about 10 minutes.
In case someone wants the data in excel...
November 30, 2015 at 1:31 PM by Taylor Sharpe
OK, good job Josh and Wim, in breaking the 2nd factor. I guess this means you got around the Allow User Abort Off, which I am not sure how that is done. Would you like to share with us how you did that step? I just want to learn more about this and kudos to both of you. Lets just make this a learning thing. Thanks.
November 30, 2015 at 1:41 PM by Wim Decorte
Working on that. But at the risk of sounding unduly snotty: this kind of info needs to be part of bigger message that is being worked on; so "not yet".
For now the focus point is on not trying to roll your own security using tables and scripts. Stick with the native FM features. Your first factor works like it should.
November 30, 2015 at 1:43 PM by Richard Carlton
I wouldn't say $200 if I didn't mean it. LOL. Hell, I frequently give cash away to presentations to make sure people are not sleeping. :-)
Please arrange to call me to discuss.
November 30, 2015 at 1:46 PM by Josh Ormond
Will you be at DevCon next year? Maybe we can show you in person. Definitely not something I would post in a public forum.
The main thing is that anything you allow me to do in the privilege set is the only thing that determines what I can and can not do. Scripts do not prevent anything. Obscurity does not prevent anything.
November 30, 2015 at 1:48 PM by Taylor Sharpe
wimdecorte wrote: “Working on that. But at the risk of sounding unduly snotty: this kind of info needs to be part of bigger message that is being worked on; so ‘not yet’.”
Take your time... I just want to learn and make sure others are learning too. Your input is appreciated.
November 30, 2015 at 1:50 PM by Richard Carlton
Frankly...this is an excellent conversation. I like it... as it allows for valuable knowledge sharing. Just telling people "don't do it"... isn't always the best way.
November 30, 2015 at 2:03 PM by Josh Ormond
This is a good, brief read. And also has a link to Stephen Blackwell's info on the FMPug site.
November 30, 2015 at 2:04 PM by Wim Decorte
Richard Carlton wrote: “Just telling people ‘don't do it’… isn't always the best way.”
Yep. The "why" has been covered many many times however. Steven Blackwell has talked about this at many devcons for instance.
November 30, 2015 at 2:18 PM by Taylor Sharpe
Yes, what was stumping me was I understood how Wim got in looking at tables. I didn't understand how Josh saw the actual layouts since he posted a picture of it.
Anyway, I've changed the Security "File Access" to require full access privileges to use references to this file. So that would fix that vulnerability and it is a good point to remind people about before moving a database into production.
And Wim reminds us that Mr. Blackwell shows us this technique at Devcon and he did this past summer too.
It does make you wonder if that should start to become a default setting on new files.
November 30, 2015 at 2:19 PM by Taylor Sharpe
oh, when I reposted it with the fix, I removed Josh and created Wim with no password.
November 30, 2015 at 2:25 PM by Richard Carlton
Yah...that security setting needs to be more prominent. I remember people doing this in the FM 5 and 6 days.
November 30, 2015 at 2:43 PM by Richard Carlton
Cash Payment Made $200 to Josh!!! I always make good on our contests.
November 30, 2015 at 3:33 PM by Wim Decorte
Richard Carlton wrote: “Yah...that security setting needs to be more prominent. I remember people doing this in the FM 5 and 6 days.”
Agreed. The whole security interface needs to become more intuitive and complete.
Note that closing this particular hole does not make the scripted 2nd factor safe though I'm traveling this week so I won't have to play with this anymore until the end of the week.
November 30, 2015 at 3:45 PM by David Jondreau
I can think of at least 3 ways in.
I'm not sure what Josh and Wim have been up to, but one was File Access.
The second I'm still playing around with and it may be similar to Josh.
The third is a much bigger deal.
November 30, 2015 at 5:48 PM by Richard Carlton
Yeah... the File Access Trust features should have been enabled. Thats low hanging fruit. The rest of these are more interesting. - RC
November 30, 2015 at 6:15 PM by Matt Petrowsky
What I've got to say is tangential to the immediate topic, but I've been wanting to say it for a while.
I've been stewing on this whole "ersatz" security thing for quite a while. While I will fully agree with advising the general developer population about not creating their own login system, there are times and places where it's warranted. In particular, if you are wanting to use FileMaker as a development tool for end-user solutions where you really don't want to deal with FileMaker's account limitations.
To that end. I'm posting a PDF I just created about the security model I use on systems where I DO create my own ersatz login system. Poke holes in it and tell me where you think it might fail. I think it's pretty robust - since it simply emulates the whole login system of most modern software.
Please review and send feedback. I can start another thread, but I see that the people who are here now will see this and provide me with feedback.
The biggest argument I have against the "FileMaker security only" proponents is that just because you can get into a FileMaker file does not mean you can do whatever you want within the file - especially, if you know how to limit the risk exposure. I make the analogy that if I can go to your web site and see some stuff then it's no different than opening a FileMaker file and being able to see some stuff. Moving from one level of access to another always boils down to one line of code somewhere. I look at FileMaker the same way. I can let you into my file, but I won't let you do or see anything I don't want you to.
Check out the attached PDF and tell me what you think.
November 30, 2015 at 6:46 PM by Taylor Sharpe
Good read, Matt. I've just been through it once and it seems very thorough. I'll have to chew on it a bit to see if I can think of other things.
While sticking with FileMaker security is the safest and easiest, I know there are some times when we need something different. While this seems very foreign to FM, it actually is rather common in SQL engines to have stored User ID's and hashed passwords and maintain privilege sets, etc. One real benefit of FileMaker is how strong and simple their built in security is integrated into a solution and how much harder it is to do in other systems where security isn't built in.
Thanks for the PDF, Matt, and I'll be doing some more reading on it.
November 30, 2015 at 8:46 PM by Josh Ormond
Lots of good stuff there Matt. There are probably a few ( very few ) developers in the community that I think could execute something that is very secure. But I have only ever seen 1 such system as of yet, and it was way outside of normal thought. And unfortunately, from a developer that is not longer active anywhere and their email is defunct. When I had seen the file 6 years ago or so, I was too much of a newbie to know exactly what I was looking at.
The issue, even for the best of developers, that I see is...in 6 months, you have changed your approach for things slightly. It requires a complete rework ( or reminder ) of your security settings to ensure you don't open a hole. With any restriction that is imposed via script, it can be completely circumvented and data viewed/stored outside of the database. It's clearly something that is on the mind of any developer of any platform. But all one needs is the privilege set to allow the user to view data.
I definitely see a great need for a more robust security scheme. I would like to see native 2FA in FileMaker. That is at the top of my list. Outside of that, FM security and Extended Privileges, and External Authentication have served me for almost everything I've needed.
November 30, 2015 at 9:57 PM by Wim Decorte
Matt Petrowsky wrote: “The biggest argument I have against the "FileMaker security only" proponents is that just because you can get into a FileMaker file does not mean you can do whatever you want within the file - especially, if you know how to limit the risk exposure.”
In that "knowing" lies the conundrum, right? To loosely quote Mark Twain: "It is not what you don't know that hurts you, it is what you know that isn't so".
I think the overall discussion would be much easier if more people acknowledge that scripting your own security solution introduces more risk potential, not less. Risk can be mitigated but it relies on a very solid understanding of the behaviour of FM on all levels, not just the security level. Every new and changed FM feature behaviour bears the risk of blasting a hole in the ersatz model.
That acknowledgment is what I do not find enough in these discussions. There is a long-standing myth that pretty much any ersatz security model is just as secure or even more secure than the native security features. And that is simply not so. As this thread has proven.
I am on the road right now so I have not had a chance to review your document. Will do so and then return to this thread.
November 30, 2015 at 11:04 PM by David Jondreau
I have some warnings to give, but am not going to post publicly. I'm trying to send a private message, but it's not going through. I'll try again after posting this...
Taylor, you've made some changes to the server since this afternoon. That's the first step.
To answer the original challenge:
The easiest answer is simply to use ExecuteSQL() in the data viewer. Using one statement to grab the table schema, and another to grab all the values. Even with the custom dialog, the data will show up on hover.
https://community.filemaker.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/105-9612- 19278/Screen+Shot+2015-11-30+at+1.51.48+PM.png <image lost>
November 30, 2015 at 11:59 PM by Matt Petrowsky
Wim Decorte said: “if more people acknowledge that scripting your own security solution introduces more risk potential, not less. Risk can be mitigated but it relies on a very solid understanding of the behaviour of FM on all levels, not just the security level. Every new and changed FM feature behaviour bears the risk of blasting a hole in the ersatz model.”
Exactly my point in providing the information I did in the PDF link. I look forward to your feedback on it!
December 1, 2015 at 12:23 AM by Taylor Sharpe
David Jondreau wrote: “Taylor, you've made some changes to the server since this afternoon. That's the first step.”
To answer the original challenge:
The easiest answer is simply to use ExecuteSQL() in the data viewer. Using one statement to grab the table schema, and another to grab all the values. Even with the custom dialog, the data will show up on hover.
https://community.filemaker.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/105-9602- 19267/Screen+Shot+2015-11-30+at+1.51.48+PM.png <image lost>
The only change I made was with the easy way you can use a TO in another solution to see data in the original solution if you have the same User ID/password and that had already been provided. So all we did was change the File Access security so you can't add a table from another solution without Full Access.
David... good example of how ExecuteSQL can be used to view things in the data viewer and it does give you access to schema. That lets you read data, but doesn't let you change it and not sure how this would be used to stop the Persistent ID verification. But clearly that is something that in the security world you don't want done.
I guess this is why Tim Dietrich's system had an intermediary user ID log in for the Persistent ID verification and that User ID had very limited table access and only to verify the Persistent ID and connect with a User and their Email. You would be in the solution as Wim notes, but not at your normal User ID access level. And upon verification, have a re-login with your normal User credentials. And that would be a better solution.
Thanks for the thoughtful input.
December 1, 2015 at 1:03 AM by David Jondreau
Hmmm...You've made other changes to your server. Not to that file per se...but I'll save that for a private message.
Point is I can see all the data that user has access to. I can't change it. But I can easily view any data. And that took less than a minute.
There are other points about how to change data that I'll put in a private message as well.
December 1, 2015 at 2:51 AM by David Jondreau
And here's my entry...
December 1, 2015 at 9:06 AM by Taylor Sharpe
Impressive David to see the Persistent ID script hack. I'm more interested in this hack than the File Access one since I already knew about it. But you got through with File Access turned off. Kudos.
December 1, 2015 at 9:12 AM by Josh Ormond
Any time the privilege set allows the user to be able to edit the data, any of the external APIs will allow the user to edit the data.
Even with this item fixed, the user can still view the data and extract it. The strongest security in FM is FM's own privilege sets. As the conversation with Matt and Wim brings out, there are ways to MOSTLY secure the file. However, one needs to be aware of the risk and then decided through a risk assessment if it's worth it to take on that risk by using an ersatz model.
It's difficult to claim that an ersatz model "increases" security. Because there are too many variables in a solution to claim that. If it's a workflow you want to include, that's one thing. Touting it as a security model, well, that makes me uneasy.
December 1, 2015 at 5:26 PM by Taylor Sharpe
December 4, 2015 at 12:18 AM by Josh Ormond
I read a very funny post today. Truth, but funny. http://fmforums.com/topic/98626-password-to-continue-script/#comment-448504
Here is the part of the post that touched me funny.
Kris M wrote: “Implementing a security feature using scripts and stored credentials is problematic. Its like whack-a-mole to cover all the potential threat vectors.”
We just posted a new update of DayBack with a sweet little enhancement to the Resources tab: you can now change the number of resource columns on the fly. This short movie shows how that works and how to download the update into your copy of the calendar.
If you’re new to DayBack, learn more [...]
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On 3rd December 2013 at SANTA CLARA, California Filemaker Inc. unveiled the next-generation platform for business productivity: FileMaker 13. The new software makes it even faster and easier than ever for teams to create gorgeous, tailored business solutions for iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac and the web that deliver significant productivity gains. This is a superb version of Filemaker till date which includes more than 50 additional features.
- New design features make it faster and easier to consistently create great-looking databases.
- New features for iOS make it faster to create solutions and easier to enter data on iPad and iPhone.
- New development features help you create more useful solutions more efficiently than ever.
- New security features ensure your organization's data is more secured.
- Faster database operation.
- Get support to inserting multimedia like sound, videos into container fields.
There are lots of additional features included in different sections which are described below section-wise:
Advanced Layout Management
Layout design enhancements: Redesigned New Layout/Report assistant Create layouts and reports that are optimized for the devices they'll be used on, with predefined screen dimensions, views, and themes for viewing on computer, iPhone, and iPad screens, or for printing in a variety of formats.
Undo/Redo Changes: Undo and redo changes to layouts even after you've saved the layout or previewed the layout in Browse mode.
- Page Breaks Control: Show or hide page breaks in Layout mode.
Enhanced options for managing styles and themes – Apply formatting styles to layout objects, parts, and backgrounds to promote a consistent look throughout your solutions. To manage theme FileMaker 13 provides options to create new theme, import theme from other files and save themes.
Advanced Layout Objects
In FileMaker 13 there are 2 advanced layout objects added e.g. Popover and Slide Controls.
Popover: Create popovers to allow you to work with fields and other objects without having to move to another layout/window. To know more about Popover take a look on following video.
Slide Control: Create multi-panel slide controls to allow you to group objects in separate slide panels. To know more about Slide Control take a look on following video:
To add different style to layout objects in FileMaker13 there are many styling features added as below:
Control object visibility: Hide or show layout objects by indicating whether an object is hidden or displayed depending on a specific condition or calculation.
Field Picker: Using the Field Picker dialog box drag the fields to the layout.
Object type selection: Use the drop-down list in the Appearance tab of the Inspector to select and style objects with multiple parts (such as portals or slide controls).
Shadows and padding: Apply shadows and padding to objects in the new Advanced Graphic area of the Inspector.
Improved object moving and resizing: Duplicating objects with “snap-to”,Resizing multiple objects and Dynamic guides etc.
Dynamic Naming to Tab Object: Can give tab name by providing a calculation.
BUILD IN FUNCTIONS
New Functions: There are lots of new build-in-functions added in FileMaker13 such as following:
Changed Functions: Few existing functions have been modified in FileMaker13 they are as following-
GetLayoutObjectAttribute() ["isFrontTabPanel" attribute changed to isFrontPanel and a new attribute added "isObjectHidden" ]
Get( TriggerCurrentTabPanel ) changed to Get( TriggerCurrentPanel )
Get( TriggerTargetTabPanel ) changed to Get(TriggerTargetPanel)
To make better scripting in FileMaker13 there are many enhancement done to the script editor as there is new option for check compatibility to Macintosh and Windows platform.
Few script steps enhanced for better usability as follows:
- Improvement to 'Show Custom Dialog': You can create a button label based on a calculation.
- Execute SQL script step compatibility: Compatible with FileMaker Server, WebDirect and CWP
New script steps
Few new script steps have been added in FileMaker13 they are:
Insert From Device
Open Manage Themes
Perform Script On Server
Set Script Animation
Upload To FileMaker Server
There are few new script triggers added they are:
OnGestureTap – Triggers a script to run when a tap gesture is received on a layout in FileMaker Go.
OnLayoutSizeChange – Triggers a script to run after a layout or window has changed size as a result of the following:
In FileMaker Go: Rotating the iOS device, hiding or showing the status toolbar, or when a window is first opened.
OR In FileMaker Pro and FileMaker WebDirect: Changing the size of a layout or window by user interaction, by script step, by hiding or showing the status toolbar or formatting bar via menu command, shortcut, or script step, or when a window is first opened.
1 script trigger has been changed that is:
OnTabSwitch is now OnPanelSwitch.
There are 2 ways to host the FileMaker database files first through Filemaker Server by upload files to FileMaker Server and another 1 is WebDirect which is a new and prominent feature in FileMaker13.
By using FileMaker WebDirect technology user can access layouts from FileMaker Pro databases in a web browser.
- Desktop style interaction: Use themes, styles, charts, menus, and more. Even drag and drop files into container fields.
- Live updates: Get instant access to changes in your data or solution no need to refresh your browser.
- Automated processes: Enable scripts, calculations and conditional formatting to validate data and streamline work flow.
If the IP of the hosted FileMaker server is 192.168.14.123 then the URL to open the WebDirect on browser will be: https://192.168.14.123/fmi/webd
Database Encryption feature has been included in FileMaker13 to Encrypt database files to protect them from unauthorized access while the files are being stored on disk, by requiring all database clients to open encrypted database files with an encryption password.
You can encrypt database files by using the Database Encryption feature of FileMaker Pro Advanced. Encryption protects FileMaker database files from unauthorized access while the files are being stored on disk. Temporary files that are created by encrypted files are also encrypted. You create an encryption password for the file, which protects the data if the file is copied or stolen. Users who do not enter the encryption password are not allowed access to the file. Encrypted files can be decrypted as needed.
Features not available in Filemaker 13
- Instant Web Publishing (IWP): FileMaker Pro no longer hosts database files via Instant Web Publishing.
- Exporting and saving records in Excel .xls format – FileMaker 13 no longer supports exporting or saving records in Excel 95-2004 Workbook (.xls) format.
- Support for inserting sound into container fields – Menu commands that support recording sound into container fields have been removed from FileMaker13 Pro.
To view the PPT presentation of this topic visit following link:
With best regards,
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- Advanced Layout Management
1) To create an iOS friendly layout for FMGo, the best practice is to minimize the amount of horizontal and vertical scrolling required to interact on your layout. To achieve the same, we should make a single layout for iPhone having size 320W X 255H and for iPad having size 768W X 673H (instead of making two layouts one for landscape and one for portrait) along with proper anchor locks which will stretch it properly to fit for both the landscape and portrait mode view.
2) We also need to take care of the proper anchor locks for the objects(fields,graphic, webviewer etc) placed on the layout so that the objects showing correctly in one view would not overlap with each other on the other view. The other benefit of this size layout is that we will not have to scroll in either direction to view all of the objects.
3) Sometimes, we need to make the layout big enough to hold all the objects, in this case we have to design the layout smartly we can make use of the side a block method to make the layout work both horizontally and vertically. We can even make use of tabs to place tab related objects on it thus limiting the layout to above size.Please have a look on to the below link to get a better idea of the side a block method:
4) Locking the zoom level is helpful on a list view to prevent horizontal scrolling and can be done by using “Set Zoom Level[Lock;100%]” step in the navigating script of the layout for that file. However a possible best practice would be to defer zoom levels to the user rather than setting them by script.
5) Make sure the size of button and the space between them are adequate so as user doesn’t accidentally click the button near the one that he is intended to click.
6) Make sure the size of the text are large enough to interact with the database from the iPhone and iPad.
7) Don’t forget to make your list views 4pt narrower so as to accommodate the indicator for the active record. Some other factors to take into consideration while designing the layout are:
FMGO ITEM INFORMATION
Toolbar 44 points high in Portrait mode on the iPhone / iPad
Toolbar 44 points high in Landscape mode on the iPad
Toolbar 34 points high in Landscape mode on the iPhone
Status Bar 20 points high in Portrait mode on the iPhone / iPad
Status Bar 20 points high in Landscape on the iPad
8) Sometimes, field height do restrict the bottom of character on iPad and iPhone such as “g”, “p” etc, we should take care of the same by increasing field height or doing the correct alignment for top, bottom or middle for that field.
9) “Allow User Abort[Off]” step should be set appropriately for the application so as to avoid users to interrupt scripts by double-tapping a scripted UI element. This lets user unintentionally stop scripts from executing, potentially interrupting
data processing scripts and potentially introducing data corruption.
10) We should use small images or native FileMaker contents to make the navigation to the layouts faster, we can even use the hidden tab control feature to hide objects contributing towards loading time for the layouts, and show them with the
click of a button when the user is intended to do so. Please have a look on to the below link to have better idea of the same:
11) Make use of a webviewer instead of field to make the content non-editable and scrollable in FileMaker Go. Please have a look on to the below link to have better idea of the same:
12) Finally it is always the best practice to test the layout for each aspect on the iPad and iPhone itself while doing the design.
Surya Kanta Mekap
Software Developer, Mindfire Solutions, India
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How I got a list with data from MySQL in less than 1 second with a SQL VIEW - from an awful 20-25 seconds when going through relationships between multiple tables from the MySQL database.
My Filemaker solution is integrated with a MySQL database that has been highly normalized for different reasons.
This means that a simple list with 4 different fields can easily contain info from 4 different tables, where a couple of the relationships might span 3 tables. This made the performance in FM really awful. In my case, this easily meant 20-25 seconds to pull out a list of 50-60 records from a total of 3000 records in the parental table.
Not really acceptable, and I had to find a solution to it.
These were the solutions I considered:
Update a shadow table in FileMaker each time the list was to be made, and perform the find on the shadow table. The shadow table would mainly contain the info the list needed, pulled from all the different MySQL tables.
But I wasn't sure about the performance, and I was afraid of not managing to get it implemented in all the scripts different places.
Make a Execute SQL query, parse the data and add it to the correct fields with loops, but this meant a lot of scripting in different places, and it got really complicated getting the right info into the right fields each time.
I also considered making some new relationships in FM, in the Anchor-Buoy style, but cluttering up my relationship graphs with even more things (it already contains more than 60 unique tables + some "duplicate" TOs), and probably only gain a little bit performance wise, really didn't seem too tempting.
Then I read about MySQL views. This can be looked upon as a saved SQL query, making it easy to get info from different tables into one view, filtered and sorted. I suppose it can also be likened a bit to a FM layout with a search and sort performed at entering the layout.
In the MySQL community, these views seem to be frown upon, and performance can apparently be really awful if a view is based on an other view.
But for Filemaker, MySQL views mean that the processing is already being taken care of in the MySQL server, so that FM does not have to get all the info from all the external tables, process through a bunch of relationships and then spit out the wanted result.
(Without really knowing how FM communicates with SQL databases, that means that views might also be a good idea to use if you only use a few fields in a table, especially if the table also contains big comment fields or the like. But I haven't really checked it out).
In my case, where all I needed was 4 fields from 4 different tables, but actually spanning a total of 6 tables (two intermediary tables as well), making a SQL VIEW seemed promising.
First, I needed to go into Manage External Data Sources, Edit Data Source, and check Filter by types "Views" by the bottom.
This means that views will be listed in the same way as a table from the SQL database.
In FIlemaker, I have made myself a sSQL table, where each new record has a field for a SQL statement with a comment field, a name field and a Excecute OK timestamp field attached. Plus buttons for the Execute SQl script and duplicate record on the layout.
(And a second SQL statement field, result field and Excecute button for SELECTing the result, or SELECT count(t.uniqueField) FROM viewName, to easily see the result).
This way, I could fiddle around with different VIEW statements until I got it right.
The main statement is
CREATE VIEW viewName AS
(And ALTER VIEW to make changes to the same view.)
The main thing to know, is that a view does not ahve any indexes itself. In native Filemaker tables, each record has a hidden unique key. In external ones, Filemaker thus needs you to specify a field, or a combination of fields, that will contain unique values for each record.
In my case, the following statement worked:
FROM tableWithUniqueRecords t
LEFT JOIN ... AND language_ID=y
While a where statement did not do the trick, returning a different number of records:
LEFT JOIN ...
There are many different JOINs, so make sure you get the right one for your solution.
In my database, there were some orphans here and there, both form my early stages of making a FM interface, and from an other program we had bought, that had contained some faulty SQL statements.
I thus had to spend quite a lot of time washing my data, but that was probably needed anyways.
For one of my views, I only needed to get one result from the child table. Just like when it might sometimes be OK to put a field from a child table on a parent layout instead of inside a portal, only showing one of the children.
For the views where this is necessary, all you have to do is to add the folowing statement to the bottom of the SQL statement:
GROUP BY t.unique_id
Then you ensure that the view will only have unique parent records.
I am sure many real developers already know about this, and hopefully have some more information on it.
But I didn't really find anything, and it just saved me so incredibly much development time.
Plus whooped my performance:
Finding a list with 50-60 records (from a total of about 3000 parental records) in the old way, took a whooping 20-25 seconds.
Changing the layout source and the fields on the layout to reflect the new ViewName table occurrence took me about 1 minute to change. Finding the list with 50-60 records now takes less than 1 second - or only 1/20 the time it used to!!!
So the performance in my solution really skyrocketed with the addition of a few views to the SQL database.
I would be really interested in getting some performance info on different types of views from real developers with big test databases and testing kits, but my main reason for writing this post, is to hopefully help someone else struggling with the same problems that I did.
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Throughout the process of developing a solution, testing each aspect of your file is vital. For me, the problem I always used to run into, was generating enough sample data to properly test my scripts, calculations and performance. Well, that was until I found Fake Name Generator.
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