recovery from stupid error

Judd Pickell pickell at
Thu Jul 14 18:28:53 CDT 2005


It is apparent in the responses above, that they get what you mean,
but you seem to be missing their point. I will attempt to show you by
presenting your own arguments:

1) A person (other than valid user) sits down at the computer and
enters recovery mode.
2) A person stumbles into a server room (other than a valid admin),
sits down at the computer and enters recovery mode.

First, we need to throw out the second example. I don't know of many
server rooms (atleast for operations bigger than a a few users) where
you have a machine with direct monitor and keyboard access to make
this possible. If you know how to operate the KVM setup you might get
to it, but if your servers are automatically that accessible, you are
just begging for someone to break your servers. (Not to mention that
your servers would need to be rebooted to access Grub to get to
recovery, which if they can do that from a KVM or direct access to the
server hardware, you are screwed).

But the first case makes sense, you wouldn't want someone to sit down
at your computer reboot it, and access root. However, you fail to miss
the most obvious point of your whole scenario. IF someone has managed
to get that much access without your knowledge, and their intents were
so malicious as to seek out to access root without your knowledge, a
password on the root access will not protect you.

Anyone who can sit down at a computer has all or most of these options
available to them:
1) they can set a boot password at bios, preventing you access period
to your computer.
2) They can insert a LiveCD (ie Knoppix) and access your entire drive
at their leisure, and without a root password.
3) They can enter a win98 floppy and reformat your HD for the hell of
it. No password needed.
4) If your boot options allow it (which generally these days they do)
they can throw in an install cd, reinstall Linux/windows/etc and lock
you out of your system. Again without needing root access.
5) They just grab the box, run, and you never see your computer again.

Options 1,3 and 5 completely prevent them from accessing your data,
and would put you in a very bad spot. Options 2 and 4 would provide
them access to your data without your knowledge and didn't require
root access, and worse they could lock you out of your own system.

So to put it bluntly, root only protects you while your machine is
already in its operational phase, and only prevents you from doing too
much harm via a connection to the machine (even X is just a connection
to the machine at it's techinical level).

I hope I have put into reality the false-reality you have about
accessing root. Anytime you allow someone else physical access to your
machine, you are just asking for root to be busted. If you really want
to prevent users from doing what has been described above is to not
give them access to the machine at all (yeah, like we ever have that
kind of option) or set them up with Dumb terminals that use all the
resources on a central server.

If you really don't want people messing with your system in a way that
you do  not want, please make sure you lock in a sturdy vault before
you leave the room. Otherwise, learn how to minimize the damage by
decentralizing where you keep information you deem important or

Judd Pickell

On 7/14/05, Brett Profitt <brett at> wrote:
> You are quite mistaken.  I am not making a point to favor security
> through obscurity at all, nor do I think that practice should be
> encouraged.  I again remind you of the correlation between physical
> locks and security measures.  There is a general opinion, unless I am in
> the minority, that blatantly advertising full access is in no way secure.
> Once again, the point, which I obviously have failed to make clean, is
> that this is an insecure default setting.  Ubuntu, being a "newbie
> friendly" installation, should take this into consideration, as many new
> users will not have the experience to know to change such a setting.
> Brett
> Jay R. Wren wrote:
> > On 7/14/05, Brett Profitt <brett at> wrote:
> >
> >>But how many people KNOW that as opposed to the number of people who
> >>might see "Recovery" and think "hrm...I wonder..."
> >>
> >
> >
> > Your point is now in favor of security through obscurity.  I didn't
> > think this was a generally accepted security practice.
> >
> > You can always reconfigure ubuntu to your liking post install.
> > --
> > Jay
> >
> --
> ubuntu-devel mailing list
> ubuntu-devel at

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