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Practical UNIX and Internet Security, 3rd Edition by Alan Schwartz, Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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Administrative Techniques for Conventional Passwords

If you’re a system administrator stuck using conventional Unix passwords, then you will find this section helpful. It describes a number of techniques that you can use to limit the danger of conventional passwords on your computer.

Assigning Passwords to Users

Getting users to pick good passwords can be very difficult. You can tell users horror stories and you can threaten them, but some users will always pick easy-to-guess passwords. Because a single user with a bad password can compromise the security of the entire system, some Unix administrators assign passwords to users directly rather than letting users choose their own.

To prevent users from changing their own passwords, all that you have to do is change the permissions on the /bin/passwd program that changes people’s passwords.[286] Making the program executable only by people in the staff group, for example, will still allow staff members to change their own passwords, but will prevent other people from doing so:

# chgrp staff /bin/passwd
# chmod 4750 /bin/passwd

Use this approach only if staff members are available 24 hours a day. Otherwise, if a user discovers that someone has been using her account, or if she accidentally discloses her password, the user is powerless to safeguard the account until she has contacted someone on staff.

Some versions of Unix may have an administrator command that will allow you to prevent selected users from changing their passwords.[287 ...

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