Linux security.

Questions about the project and the distribution - obviously no support questions here please
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ddavid123
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Linux security.

Post by ddavid123 »

Would it be possible to change the Root login name from "root" to anything else? With a variable Root Login name, I believe security would be increased exponentially; especially as the name gets longer! If this were to be implemented, it would take entering both the root login name and password to run applications and processes with Root privileges. Encrypt the root home folder, and mask all Root processes from other users and processes running with lower permissions than root.

I know, this probably would not be used by the masses of users, but would be another notch in Mint's security belt. It could be done during installation, or anytime root is logged in. Currently, all that is needed for a process to go astray, is to give it root permissions by mistake or lax security sense. By requiring both a Root username and password, will give the user pause to think about what He/She is doing.

Also, we need a way of tracking which process spawned another process. In a modern Operating System, there could be many processes that was spawned by its "parent", but the parent process is no longer running. The user then has no way of tracking processes from beginning to end, and what other processes they themselves have spawned. For example, lets assume that a Linux user downloaded a proprietary game, and in the process, the game spawns another process, that has nothing to do with the function of the game! Lets assume that the process tracks keystrokes and website visits, and relays that data to its creator via encrypted internet transmission. If we could see all processes, and its origins and parent process, we could curtail much risk.

The aforementioned deals with what distribution developers can do to minimize risk. What follows is what users can do to do the same.

Proprietary drivers, and software may be very good, even excellent. But without full access to the source code, all of it (libraries and all) there is no guarantee that your system is safe! Even with all free software, the risk of virus and hacks is still more than 0%. But with full access of source code, the community gives the most complete security safeguard that is humanly possible! This is true for two simple reasons. First is because by the time a program is submitted and included in a distro, it has been tested by the program's developer, and associated community, and the distro's development team and community. So almost all bugs and security flaws have been fixed! And second, if a security flaw is discovered, with an open source ideology, independent developers can browse the code, find the errors, and submit patches upstream to the developer of the program. With closed source proprietary software, this is not possible, and we must take the word of the developer that the program is both free of programming bugs, and not malware itself. Anyone remember Bonzi Buddy! So my argument is to avoid propietary programs if only for security's sake.

Another step a Linux user can take to avoid possible security nightmares is to operate as regular user, and never as root! Root is only meant to be used (offline is preferable) to upgrade, configure, or fix the OS. To run the OS as root while online and installing untrusted (other than those in distro's repositories)software is inviting trouble!

I am curious what the Mint development team has to say about my first two proposals for new features in Mint 7.1 or 8, as well as what the community at large has to say about the last two! Go Go Mint 7!

emorrp1
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Re: Linux security.

Post by emorrp1 »

Note that I'm not actually on the "Mint development team" but I do have experience with linux mint, so hopefully I can answer your questions/issues. First the easiest one: the process spawning. I believe "System Monitor --> Processes --> View --> Dependencies" will give you what you're after.

As for the "root" issue, what you're describing is basically the sudoers system, which is used by mint (see https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RootSudo). This system prompts the user for their password when an admin action is requested (with explanatory text), which negates the issue of accidental root permissions, and should make the user pause to consider their actions. Of course the computer is not telepathic, so once you've supplied the password, it'll execute the action with impunity, there's no other way to tell if you really meant to do it (so is susceptible to social-engineering attacks). The root login is such a core linux technology that it'll almost certainly never be removed.

There is also another bit of info you're missing: All the permissions in linux come down to numbers. The login names are merely syntactic sugar, as names are easier for humans to remember than numbers. The root user for instance has an id of 0, the user created on install has an id 1000. You can view the numerical ids of file owners by running "ls -nl /home" in a terminal (it's the third column). Any user with a certain id has identical permissions as any other user with the same id, regardless of what username the installed system labels the id with. This is the main reason why I create a temporary user on install, then create a new one to use with a 5 digit id, so that my files cannot immediately be read by anyone else plugging my hard-drive into their debian-based (debian/ubuntu/mint etc.) linux install. Of course sudoers (which the initial user is to start with) can do what they like, provided they know how, so it just adds an extra level of security.
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Fred
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Re: Linux security.

Post by Fred »

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on the menu. Liberty is an armed lamb protesting the electoral outcome. A Republic negates the need for an armed protest.

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Re: Linux security.

Post by ebaut »

nice post :)

I`m confused.. in my opinion mint has no "root", but has "superuser"
when you install mint and create a user, this user automatically become superuser.
and you can use superuser mode whenever you want.
or this is wrong? :D

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Re: Linux security.

Post by emorrp1 »

yes, the superuser/sudo is the default system, as you've described (though it's only the first user you create that has sudo powers automatically). However the root user is always there (its home folder is /root), it's just that mint doesn't expose that functionality by default, as it's almost never actually necessary (even a root terminal can be simulated using sudo su). Also, I believe it's the root user that you use in the recovery mode.
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ebaut
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Re: Linux security.

Post by ebaut »

emorrp1 wrote:yes, the superuser/sudo is the default system, as you've described...
great! :D

I think there is no really danger because when you type wrong password, system wait for about 3-4 seconds and tell you to try again.

so you need years to bruteforce password like gZSt83x_A :D

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Re: Linux security.

Post by emorrp1 »

ebaut wrote:so you need years to bruteforce password like gZSt83x_A :D
not any more, now I can just copy and paste :lol:
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ebaut
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Re: Linux security.

Post by ebaut »

emorrp1 wrote:
ebaut wrote:so you need years to bruteforce password like gZSt83x_A :D
not any more, now I can just copy and paste :lol:
damn! :mrgreen: don`t do this please!! :D

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DrHu
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Re: Linux security.

Post by DrHu »

ddavid123 wrote:Another step a Linux user can take to avoid possible security nightmares is to operate as regular user, and never as root! Root is only meant to be used (offline is preferable) to upgrade, configure, or fix the OS. To run the OS as root while online and installing untrusted (other than those in distro's repositories)software is inviting trouble
I agree with that, using root as the admin user
--and having a regular user (non-root) for most of the system/desktop use..
the only problem is the user and how they tend to operate..they will either use week password, blank passwords or my favorite faux-pas is no passwords (automatic logins). No doubt caused by long term window use, although Microsoft is belatedly trying to retrain their users away from the quick & messy way to the more logical UNIX/Linux way, separate admin functions form normal user use functions..

However a few Linux distributions have decided to offer an admin user (pseudo root), since they might not have all of root's permissions for system access as an easy way for users to administer their system
--add/remove software
--change desktop/video drivers etc..

Also Linux can do the equivalent of acl (access control lists), but really, the Linux method of simplified access control of ugw (user, group, world (everyone)) is more than adequate for most users in a home or even in a small department/business network..
http://www.suse.de/~agruen/acl/linux-acls/online/

For higher security, one can always go for more; selinux oer AppArmor as an example..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandatory_access_control
http://www.novell.com/linux/security/apparmor/

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Re: Linux security.

Post by emorrp1 »

DrHu wrote:the only problem is the user and how they tend to operate..they will either use week password, blank passwords or my favorite faux-pas is no passwords (automatic logins). No doubt caused by long term window use
Maybe so, but the advantage of a multi-user system is that even if they do this, they're only jeopardising their own user accounts, whatever they do will not affect anyone else, only the root user can do that.
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DrHu
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Re: Linux security.

Post by DrHu »

emorrp1 wrote:
DrHu wrote:the only problem is the user and how they tend to operate..they will either use week password, blank passwords or my favorite faux-pas is no passwords (automatic logins). No doubt caused by long term window use
Maybe so, but the advantage of a multi-user system is that even if they do this, they're only jeopardising their own user accounts, whatever they do will not affect anyone else, only the root user can do that.
Speaking non-technically here, and meaning only the normal user operations, because..

Actually that is the disadvantage of a multi-user system
--that one errant user could compromise security for the whole system, by providing a doorway (a way in..).
--I would also be guessing you are referring to windows or Apple OS9 systems before windows 2000/XP or OSX

This is the same problem/issue in regards to the Internet web sites (phishing, network sniffers and fake web pages, browser hijacking and so on), having untrustable insecure connections, wireless wifi connections with no, or poor encryption
--wired connections are less likely to be compromised due to the proximity of the connection signal to the wired path (th wire; usually Ethernet) between the client (computer) and the external connection (router) or network switch

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Re: Linux security.

Post by emorrp1 »

no - all unices offer this kind of user sandboxing. The only way an ordinary user can compromise the machine is by having sudo access, and by definition on a multi-user system, they are not the ordinary user, they are the administrator.
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nandemonai
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Re: Linux security.

Post by nandemonai »

In Mint 7 the root password is automatically set as your first users password. Not sure if this happened previously.

Edit:

Or why this choice was made in the first place come to think of it.
Linux Mint 7 64 Bit | Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E8500 @ 3.80GHz (OC) | 4GB Kingston RAM | Asus P5Q Delux Motherboard | Asus EN9800GT (NVIDIA) | WD 120GB / WD 720GB SATA2 HDDs

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