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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.

Why Do You SUDO The Way You Do?

Posted March 21, 2011    Peter McCalister

In the land of Unix and Linux systems administration, nothing seems to elicit such polar love and hate as does the use of SUDO for root rights elevation.

Pro SUDO: The single biggest cry for support of SUDO tends to be “it’s Free!” or “it came with my OS”.  We have discussed SUDO at length in previous blogs, so I won’t repeat ground covered here.  Suffice it to say that SUDO has been in use since “around 1980″, when it was developed by Bob Coggeshal and Cliff Spencer and made available as opensource software.  Currently it is actively developed and maintained by Todd Miller and distributed under a BSD style license.  The second biggest cry for support is “but it passed my last audit.”

Con SUDO: The amount of effort required for configuration and maintenance, especially since SUDO requires separate sudoers files on each server instead of centralizing policy management and reporting.  Nothing is truly free when it comes to freeware. Periodic review of sudoer files alone can be so time consuming as to potentially miss an audit or inhibit other more pressing priorities.  Yes, you can create a “Master Sudoers” file but once it is copied to a server it could be edited independently. It is also very difficult to map master entitlement reports to actual SUDO commands across the extended enterprise especially in a changing environment. And finally as Google just discovered, whenever you have an opensource solution the possibility of malware injection escalates significantly.

Ultimately, you will need to decide whether or not good is good enough long term and uncover what the true cost or “free” is to your organization…  so, why do you SUDO the way you do?  Once this is done and you would like more information on How Secure is Your SUDO the give us a call.

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