in Dornbirn, Austria

I just came back from the austrian linuxday. I really enjoyed it

In short: People and inspiration

I got stuck at several booths, especially the Ubuntu booth helped me to learn a lot. I always claimed I am doing a very good job in addressing the needs of normal desktop users with my security-enhancement ideas. But the needs of the people installing Ubuntu on simple user’s computers are very different. The trouble these people have to fix, the security holes the users created by not understanding the concepts are on an even more basic level.

One problem was so simple I first could not grasp it cause I thought to high-level. There seem to be a lot of users who turn to the next person at hand if they have problems with their computer and give them their root password in the hope this user will fix it. This story can end in three different ways:

  • The helping person is evil: Bad
  • The helping person is incompetent: Bad
  • The person is skilled and has good intentions: Good

2 out of 3 is not a good result.

Why think about buffer overflows if the problems out there are so much more basic…

I will tell you as soon as I have an answer to that. If you know the answer, please protect me from the headache I can see already coming and post a comment.

~ by thorstensick on November 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “ in Dornbirn, Austria”

  1. Thanks for praising our booth 🙂
    I was the 3rd guy, unfortunately to busy to talk to you. So there you go, some of my thoughts on this matter:

    Maybe the solution is along the lines of distributing the rights properly, like policykit does.
    How can an employee be sure to trust the admin?
    Most admins are able to read all company email. Is that a problem?
    If the user has all personal data encrypted, and therefore not accessible by the root account, privacy is not completely surrendered.
    The fedora project recently allowed users to install software from trusted sources without root password (but had to take that back, after lots of discussions).
    I think its time to leave behind that old paradigm that “one” root can do everything. If you hand over access to a trustful person to do admin work for you, you could change you password afterwards. If that trustful admin cannot read you private data, can only install trusted software, cannot fire up software that opens ports to the outside, cannot run rm -r * on / – etc, things would not be that bad. However, this will only be accepted, if access control does not get into your way or if the system can annouce to you that priviledge x or y is missing to perform some action. Currently, most linux users aren’t able to figure out themselves that i.e. access to the usb webcam is simply not working, because they don’t have membership in the video/plugdev/whatever groups. Why can’t this be announced, joeuser is accessing /dev/video0 ?

    • I fear you can not fix the “evil root” scenario properly. Everyone with access to the hardware can access a keylogger device…
      But you are right about restriction and I think “policykit” is the tool solving it.

      But at least I got some ideas about the “unskilled administrator” scenario. Will be writing an own post for that.

      dirk: if you are interested to brainstorm a bit, can you point me to a forum or wiki ?

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