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2.2.6 Stale and Unnecessary Accounts (#6)

As discussed before, each account is a possible entry point into the system. Imagine, for a moment, that you realize your system has been compromised and you have to send a message to everyone to change their passwords immediately.

When a user no longer will be using the system, be sure to remove her account from the system.

A stale account's password will not be changed, thereby leaving a hole. If they have data that needs to be reassigned, disable their account by putting a "*" or "!!" in the ex-user's password field in the /etc/passwd file. This disables logging in via that account because no password encrypts into either of these values and shadow password-enabled code understands these sequences. Get things cleaned up as soon as possible. Make sure that no set-UID or set-GID programs or publicly readable or writable files containing confidential data remain owned by that account.


chmod 0 /home/someone
find / -user someone -ls

is a good start. Note that the user may have a mailbox, entries on mailing lists, files in the print spool directory, accounts in various applications, etc. that will need to be attended to.

Note that some of the services you removed (while correcting an earlier sin) have accounts in the /etc/passwd file. When you remove that service, make sure that the /etc/passwd account is also removed or disabled. Some of the notables are FTP, NFS, uucp, mail, gopher, and news. If you do not need them, get rid of them.

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