This blog contains experience gained over the years of implementing (and de-implementing) large scale IT applications/software.

Capture HTTP POST Using Simple Python Script

In this post I show a simple and quick way to capture a basic HTTP POST using Python to provide a basic HTTP Web Server with cgi capability in just a few lines of code and in most cases, it is executable on almost any Python capable server.

Why I Used This Code

I used this successfully to test an interface which wasn’t particularly clear exactly what data it was going to POST to a target web server.
Usually a developer could use real developer tools to do this analysis, however, the server doing the POST is POSTing to another server, and both servers sit behind firewalls. It was far quicker to create something simple that could be executed direct on the server.

What Does the Code Do?

The code simply creates a HTTP web server on the server on which it is executed.
The web server serves the content that exists in the directory structures from the current working directory and below.
The web server is also able to execute CGI scripts written in Python and stored in the cgi-bin subdirectory.

The Code

import sys, os, cgi, cgitb

# Enable easy error reporting output. 

# Create a custom log output to print to stdout and a log file. 
class CustomLogger(object): 
   def __init__(self): 
      self.terminal = sys.stdout 
      self.log = open("logfile.log", "a")

   def write(self, message): 

   def flush(self): 

# Swap stdout for our custom log class. 
sys.stdout = CustomLogger() 
sys.stderr = sys.stdout

# Call the standard CGI test. 


Deploying the Code

To install the code, we need to create a new temporary directory on our host server, I used ssh to do this:

mkdir -p /tmp/dmg/cgi-bin

Put the code into the file called in the cgi-bin directory:

cd /tmp/dmg/cgi-bin

[insert code then press shift-ZZ]

chmod 755

Still on an ssh session, switch back to the dmg directory and execute the Python CGI handler to listen on port 8080:

cd /tmp/dmg

python -m CGIHTTPServer 8080

Call your HTTP tool to POST to the address:

If the tool returns output, then you will see the output on your ssh session screen.
The output response from the CGI script is also stored in the /tmp/dmg/logfile.log file.

To quit/end the HTTP web server, simply press CTRL+C multiple times until you are returned to the command prompt.

The output will look like:

Content-type: text/html

Current Working Directory:

Command Line Arguments:
['/tmp/dmg/cgi-bin/', '']

Form Contents:
parameter: <type 'instance'>
MiniFieldStorage('parameter', 'test')

Shell Environment:

You will see the POST content in the “Form Contents” section of the output.
The values of fields are pre-fixed with “MiniFieldStorage“.

Also included in the output, is the execution environment which contains the environment variables that contain CGI related variables and their respective values such as HTTP_METHOD.

A Test Form

You can also deploy a simple form in order to test the CGI capability manually from a web browser (although this was not required in my case).
The form is simple HTML that POSTs two text input fields to our CGI script:

<div style="text-align: center;">
<h1>Test Form</h1>
<form action="/cgi-bin/" method="POST">
f1 : <input style="text-align: center;" name="f1" type="text" />
f2 : <input style="text-align: center;" name="f2" type="text" />
<input type="submit" value="Submit" />

The form should be saved to a new file called index.html in the /tmp/dmg directory.
You can then manually access the test web server using http://<your-server>:8080 and you will see the form.
Enter two values into the form and click submit, to see the output from your CGI script.

Generate HMAC for Azure Storage from KSH

Generating an Azure HMAC Signature for calling Azure Storage Services from KSH

While custom writing an Azure Storage Service blob deletion script, I experienced a problem using the OpenSSL method for generating an HMAC.

For those not familiar with Azure Storage Services (or even signature based authentication) the act of sending a signature as part of an HTTP request serves to prove to the target server that you are in possession of the secret key and that you also would like to perform a specific operation.

The shared key (that you have been given out-of-band) is used to sign the HTTP call. This is so the target server can then perform the same signing operation at its end, and if the signature it obtains matches the one you’ve sent, then it trusts and permits you to perform the specific HTTP operation you’ve requested.

See here for more details:

In my example, the operation is a simple BLOB deletion from an Azure Storage Account, but that is irrelevant to this particular post.
The HMAC generation routine is the same no matter what HTTP operation you wish to perform.

Based on searching in Google, the following OpenSSL method seems popular and able to provide a method of generating an HMAC:

l_input=”your HTTP operation to be signed”
l_key=”your big long Azure storage account key”
l_key_decoded=”$(echo -n “${l_key}”|base64 -d)”
l_hmac=”$(echo -n “${l_input}”|openssl dgst -sha256 -hmac “${l_key_decoded}” -binary | base64)”

The above works, with KSH, most of the time.
There have been one or two occasions when for no apparent reason, an incorrect HMAC is generated.
It’s possible that this stems from the character set interpretation e.g. UTF-8 and/or some strangeness in the way the KSH interpreter works with specific characters. I really wasn’t able to investigate deep enough with the time I had.

Instead of the above, I decided to take a leaf out of the Blobxfer utility team’s book and use a Python based solution instead.
Browsing the Blobxfer source in GitHub, I isolated the specific Python routine that was used to provide the HMAC.
Putting this routine into KSH makes it look like the following:

l_hmac=”$(cat <<EOF | python –
import sys
import hmac
import hashlib
import base64

def _encode_base64(data):
encoded = base64.b64encode(data)
return encoded

def _decode_base64_to_bytes(data):
return base64.b64decode(data)

def _sign_string(key, string_to_sign):
key = _decode_base64_to_bytes(key.encode(‘utf-8’))
string_to_sign = string_to_sign.encode(‘utf-8’)
signed_hmac_sha256 = hmac.HMAC(key, string_to_sign, hashlib.sha256)
digest = signed_hmac_sha256.digest()
encoded_digest = _encode_base64(digest)
return encoded_digest

data = “””${l_input}”””
key = “${l_key}”
print (_sign_string(key,data))

I’m using a combination of HERE document and KSH in-line sub-shell execution to call python and pass in the stdin containing the python code to be executed.
KSH is responsible for embedding the required variables into the Python code, such as l_input and l_key.

So far, this routine has proved successful 100% of the time.