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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Extending Password Policy To UNIX and Linux

Posted September 21, 2011    Peter McCalister

Our friends and colleagues at the Linux Foundation have been hit by a “brute force attack” and many of their sites have been taken down until the security breach is fully controlled.

The good news here? The Linux kernel and the projects’ source codes haven’t been affected. The bad news? As noted by desktoplinux.com, “Username, password, email address, and “other information” provided by users registered with the sites may have been stolen.” As a Linux user and big fan of the Linux Foundation, my personal information is likely included in the compromised set. And on a personal basis, the fix is easy–a new, strong password that’s unique to that site.

What about on a corporate level? When a breach like this occurs, say at a BeyondTrust customer with a large deployment of Linux & UNIX systems, what’s the best practice for IT admins?
I wrote a couple months back about password management and how it is the weakest link in enterprise security. There have been many studies done that show password complexity and a regular cycle of password changes improves the daunting prospect of maintaining security. This is a best practice employed in most enterprise IT organizations and a key component of compliance with regulations and standards like Sarbanes-Oxley.

Password policy is easily managed in Active Directory for Windows systems. But what about Linux and UNIX systems–as highlighted by the breach at Linux.com?

We’ve noted before that centralizing on a single directory is a security best practice, and we have a free and open source solution that enables extending password policy to Linux and UNIX systems–fulfilling best practice requirements. PowerBroker Identity Service – Open Edition is a free download for over 200 Linux and UNIX platforms and enables administrators to join machines to Active Directory and require users to login with their directory credentials. The entire process takes less than five minutes–download, install, join. The password policies that you set in your Windows environment are then extended to users on these machines.

And when a security breach occurs like the one noted above? Administrators can push out a password change requirement or trust their strong password policy to keep systems secure across the enterprise, no matter what operating system they are using.

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Additional articles

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The tip of the IRS data breach – and it IS an iceberg

Posted May 27, 2015    Morey Haber

The IRS has been warned for decades about their security best practices. And now, at least 100,000 Americans have had their records compromised. How? The IRS uses a service called “Get Transcript”.

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Tales from the Datacenter: Vulnerability Management Nightmares

Posted May 27, 2015    Dave Shackleford

Vulnerability scanning, threat management, risk analysis, patching, and configuration management are some of the major activities usually associated with vulnerability management, and none of these are new…so why are we failing so badly at many of them?

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Don’t Create a Different sudoers File for Each System

Posted May 20, 2015    Randy Franklin Smith

What if you have multiple Linux and/or Unix systems? Sudo management can become onerous and unwieldy if you try to manage a different sudoers file on each system. The good news is that sudo supports multiple systems.