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LDAP System Administration by Gerald Carter

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Pluggable Authentication Modules

The concept of Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM) was first designed by Sun Microsystems’ SunSoft development group and is defined in the Open Software Foundations RFC 86.0. PAM provides a framework that allows vendors and administrators to customize the services used to authenticate users on a local computer system. For example, logging onto the console of a system may require stronger authentication than logging into a host across the network via ssh. Configuring systems to use different PAM modules (e.g., smart cards or passwords) for different services (e.g., login or ssh) allows administrators to implement as much or as little security as the systems require.

In practice, administrators are exposed to this framework through shared libraries that implement various security, accounting, or account management policies. On Linux and Solaris systems, you can list the installed PAM modules by examining the contents of /lib/security. The most commonly used module for normal lookups in the system list of accounts (including /etc/shadow) is the pam_unix.so library. Linux’s PAM implementation includes a drop-in replacement module named pam_pwdb.so, which relies on the generic interface to the Password Database library (http://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/libs/pam/modules.html).

PAM is a framework for authentication and authorization . Authentication is the process of proving you are who you say you are, while authorization is the process of determining ...

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