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Perl for System Administration by David N. Blank-Edelman

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Preventing Suspicious Activities

The very last attribute of a night watchman that we will consider is an eye towards prevention. This is the voice that says “You know, you shouldn’t leave those fresh-baked pies on the window sill to cool.”

We’re going to conclude this chapter with an example that, when properly deployed, could positively impact a single machine, or an entire computing infrastructure. As a symbolic gesture to close this book, we’ll build our own module instead of showing you how to make use of other people’s.

The goal I have in mind is the prevention, or at least reduction, of bad passwords. Good security mechanisms have been thwarted by the selection of bad passwords since the dawn of time. Oog’s password to get back into the clan’s cave was probably “oog.” Nowadays, the situation is exacerbated by the widespread availability of sophisticated password cracking programs like John the Ripper by Solar Designer, L0phtCrack by Mudge and Weld Pond, and Alec Muffett’s Crack.

The only way to prevent the vulnerability in your systems these programs expose is to avoid bad passwords in the first place. You need to help your users choose and retain hard-to-crack passwords. One way to do this on Unix machines (though the code could easily be ported to NT or MacOS) is to use libcrack, also by Alec Muffett. In the process of writing Crack, Muffett did the system administration community a great service by taking some of the methods used in Crack and distilling them to a ...

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