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EDX Linux Foundation Ch11:Local Security Principle section 4~5

Section 4: Working with passwords

How Passwords are Stored

On modern systems, passwords are actually stored in an encrypted format in a secondary file named /etc/shadow. Only those with root access can modify/read this file.

Password Encryption

Most Linux distributions rely on a modern password encryption algorithm called SHA-512 (Secure Hashing Algorithm 512 bits), developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to encrypt passwords.


echo -n test | sha512sum

Good Password Practices

IT professionals follow several good practices for securing the data and the password of every user.

1.Password aging

Password aging is a method to ensure that users get prompts that remind them to create a new password after a specific period. This can ensure that passwords, if cracked, will only be usable for a limited amount of time. This feature is implemented using chage, which configures the password expiry information for a user.


Another method is to force users to set strong passwords using Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM). PAM can be configured to automatically verify that a password created or modified using the passwd utility is sufficiently strong. PAM configuration is implemented using a library called, which can also be replaced by for more options.

3.John the ripper

One can also install password cracking programs, such as John The Ripper, to secure the password file and detect weak password entries. It is recommended that written authorization be obtained before installing such tools on any system that you do not own.

Seciton 5: Securing the Boot Process and Hardware

Requiring Boot Loader Passwords

You can secure the boot process with a secure password to prevent someone from bypassing the user authentication step.

GRUB version 1(older version)

you can invoke grub-md5-crypt which will prompt you for a password and then encrypt as shown on the adjoining screen.

You then must edit /boot/grub/grub.conf by adding the following line below the timeout entry:

password --md5 $1$Wnvo.1$qz781HRVG4jUnJXmdSCZ30

You can also force passwords for only certain boot choices rather than all.

GRUB version 2(older version)

For the now more common GRUB version 2 things are more complicated, and you have more flexibility and can do things like use user-specific passwords, which can be their normal login password. Also you never edit the configuration file, /boot/grub/grub.cfg, directly, rather you edit system configuration files in /etc/grub.d and then run update-grub. One explanation of this can be found at


Hardware Vulnerability

When hardware is physically accessible, security can be compromised by:

  1. Key logging: Recording the real time activity of a computer user including the keys they press. The captured data can either be stored locally or transmitted to remote machines
  2. Network sniffing: Capturing and viewing the network packet level data on your network
  3. Booting with a live or rescue disk
  4. Remounting and modifying disk content

The guidelines of security are:

  1. Lock down workstations and servers
  2. Protect your network links such that it cannot be accessed by people you do not trust
  3. Protect your keyboards where passwords are entered to ensure the keyboards cannot be tampered with
  4. Ensure a password protects the BIOS in such a way that the system cannot be booted with a live or rescue DVD or USB key