[lug] root password

Evelyn Mitchell efm at tummy.com
Wed Aug 2 12:55:18 MDT 2006

I've been following this discussion about passwords with some interest.
Passwords are legacy technology :)

I blogged about the alternatives to passwords:

  tummy.com uses SSH keys, not passwords for remote and administrative
  access. One of the most sensitive times for security is during a change
  in personnel. Passwords are impossible to revoke out of someone's head,
  while an SSH key is easily removed. Additionally, SSH key authentication
  with ssh-agent is not vulnerable to trojaned intermediate systems
  sniffing passwords.

  We recommend our clients also use SSH for all remote access. Further, we
  recommend that "telnet" and "rlogin" and other similar un-encrypted
  access mechanisms be completely disabled. SSH is easy to set up and
  maintain on Linux, and provides a small performance increase on the
  transmission speed. Wherever practical, we also recommend POP and IMAP in
  particular be SSL encrypted, and (to a slightly lesser extent) SMTP. 

This post http://www.tummy.com/journals/entries/efm_20041212_160934
contains a description of a variety of security policies and practices to consider.

Hope this helps.

Evelyn Mitchell

* On 2006-08-02 12:17 Rob Nagler <nagler at bivio.biz> wrote:
> Bear Giles writes:
> > root access, the "somebody reset the root password on a shared 
> > machine..." approach doesn't work well in practice.
> This is our standard mode of operating.  We don't use sudo.  We've
> never had a external or internal security problem.
> sudo removes one level of password security, and introduces many more
> passwords that have root access.  It's less secure, but more
> convenient.
> If you have high turnover of people who have root access, slow down
> the process of giving out the root password.  We have a formal
> ceremony giving people the root password(s).  This happens when we're
> very sure the person is going to stay, and s/he has the necessary
> skills and attitude to handle root access.
> Anybody who leaves our company is still under non-disclosure, and more
> importantly, they have been vetted (after our three month period) to
> not be someone who will go postal.  This gives us breathing room on
> changing the root password at our convenience.  Yes, there may be the
> rare situation where you need to change the root password immediately,
> but then you will also need to change a lot of other passwords, too,
> including verifying there are no hidden ssh authorized_key entries or
> other trojan horses lying around.
> Rob
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Regards,                    tummy.com, ltd 
Evelyn Mitchell             Linux Consulting since 1995
efm at tummy.com               Senior System and Network Administrators

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