Networking / Beginners

Controlling the Configuration

Controlling the configuration of a UNIX workstation is important for network security. Even stripped down and hardened, a UNIX workstation can be a powerful tool from which to launch attacks on the network or on other hosts. The configuration concerns will be addressed in two areas:

  • Installed packages or applications-Eliminating unneeded applications and keeping required ones properly patched is key to a defense-in-depth strategy.
  • Kernel-related issues-Because the kernel has root-level control over resources and processes, it is a critical part of the UNIX system to keep under configuration control.

Installed packages

It is important for an administrator to know what packages are installed. The "Operating Safely" section later in this tutorial discuses how to control which applications are running. Even if an application is not running or planned to run, its installation should still be limited or controlled. Attackers may seek to take over a workstation to use its resources. By stripping the available software packages down to a minimum, the workstation becomes a less valuable target to the attacker. Additionally, if the workstation is overtaken, the usefulness of it to the attacker is reduced.

Following are some typical packages that should not be installed unless they have a legitimate use:

  • Mail server-Sendmail (or an equivalent application) is commonly installed on UNIX systems. While the mail server may not be used by the average UNIX user, it is a useful tool to an attacker who has taken over control of the workstation.
  • Automatic update servers-If automatic update services are not being used, these services should not be installed. For example, on Red Hat systems, rhnsd is a daemon process that runs in the background and periodically polls the Red Hat Network to see if there are any queued actions available. If any actions are queued, they are run and the system is automaticly updated.
  • File-sharing services-On UNIX systems, smbd is a server daemon that provides file sharing and printing services to Windows clients. The server provides filespace and printer services to clients using the Server Message Block (SMB) or Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol. This is compatible with the LanManager protocol, and can service LanManager clients.
  • File transfer services-The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) service is a program that allows a user to transfer files to and from a remote network site. Attackers have been known to activate FTP capabilities to use systems for their personal file transfer.

On Linux, the command rpm -qai will list all installed rpm packages. This produces information on each package.

[Previous] [Contents] [Next]