In my first post, I want to talk about the setup for the homelab. As an InfoSec consultant it is imperative to have some semblance of a homelab. It serves as a playground for all things you want to learn and go deep into.
My experience with setting up a homelab, has had its ups and down. Before moving to Australia my homelab was my beefed up MacBook Pro i7 – 16GB RAM and 1TB HD, it served me well for a long time. I could run a mini active directory environment, along with an attacker KALI or Parrot OS box. This was my attempt to manage the situation with my MacBook Pro and VMware Fusion. I always wished that once have a bit more room I will try to setup a dedicated lab.
So I am in the situation now where just where I just bought a dedicated system, which can serve my needs for a dedicated homelab. In this blog post I will go into a bit more detail about my setup. A homelab consists of 3 components:
- Hypervisor – Virtualization Technologies
Hardware is trickiest part of the homelab, the beefier the system the more flexibility you have in terms what you can do. For example with my MacBook pro I could only 3 VM’s at a time, I could only dedicate 512GB HD to the lab which means I could only hold 5-6 VM’s on my system. The hardware of the lab does not have to be new, in fact I recommend starting out with second hand or refurbished system.
I personally opted for a used Dell Precision Tower 7810, I was looking around on eBay for a used system when I saw a server which could suit my needs, luckily the seller was based near in my city, I called them up and went to check the sound level of the system. As I needed to keep the system in my home, I wanted to make sure the sound would be bearable, which it was not. So I asked the guys at the shop to show me something which would be less noisy, they said they had some workstation systems, I told them I needed 2 CPU’s and 128GB RAM min, they hooked me up. The system I ended up getting has the following specs:
- Dell Precision Tower 7810.
- 2 x Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2630 v3 @ 2.40GHz
- 128 GB RAM.
- 4 TB HD, 2TB is Normal Spinning type + 2TB SSD
Above screenshot provides some details about my homelab system, the second point I want to talk about about Virtualization. The barrier to entry for a homelab is not that high, any system can be repurposed and there are many virtualization technologies available which increase your options. We have the following choices:
- VMware Workstation ( On a PC – Paid License)
- VMware Fusion ( On a Mac – Paid License)
- Virtual Box ( Both Mac and PC – Free)
- Parallels ( Mac – Paid License)
- VMware ESXI ( dedicated system – Paid License)
- ProxMox ( dedicated system – Free)
In my opinion you get a lot of value out of Free systems like Virtual Box and Proxmox, but if you are an advanced user who needs more options available and things which work out of the box then VMware technologies are awesome. The biggest downside for VMware technologies is that they are pricey but licenses purchased once can be used for a long time, and right now is the best time to get them. Vexpert program is an option to get free licenses from VMware, if you are selected.
From the screenshot above this section, it is clear I use ESXI. The only thing I dont like about ESXI is their support for containers. Its just too complicated and there are no definitive guides available, in comparison LXC container support on Proxmox is amazing, just download the containers available from Turnkey and run them. On ESXI I opted to use rancher to run and manage containers which works like a dream, oh how much I love rancher. My favorite option in ESXI is by far the option to upload VM’s from my PC/MAC to ESXI directly or download ready OVA files and just upload and run on ESXI, Proxmox has no such options available.
The third and last point is software, Linux is easy and free so I wont spend much time on that. If you need prebuilt Linux system then Turnkey has a lot of options ready to run VM’s, which make it easy to just download the OVA file, upload and run on ESXI. For Microsoft Software there are some options available, as follows:
- modern.ie (can run a VM for 90 days)
- Windows Server Trials ( 180 days)
Software on windows can be installed and automated to an extent via Chocolatey, every Windows build I use needs to have some of the core tools I use everyday which are as follows:
- Google Chrome
- VS Code
- New Windows Terminal
- VMware Fusion/Workstation. ( if the installed system is not a VM)
The above list is not exhaustive as there are lot of tools needed for Reverse Engineering and Research Purposes which is topic for another blog post.
There is a lot more that can be said about the homelab, but for now I think these 3 subjects are good start.
Some other good resources for review are:
Scott Hansleman’s 2021-ultimate-developer-and-power-users-tool-list-for-windows
Kickass homelab by Jeff McJunkin