13.5. NIS Server Security

NIS used to have a major security flaw: it left your password file readable by virtually anyone in the entire Internet, which made for quite a number of possible intruders. As long as an intruder knew your NIS domain name and the address of your server, he could simply send it a request for the passwd.byname map and instantly receive all your system's encrypted passwords. With a fast password-cracking program like crack and a good dictionary, guessing at least a few of your users' passwords is rarely a problem.

This is what the securenets option is all about. It simply restricts access to your NIS server to certain hosts, based on their IP addresses or network numbers. The latest version of ypserv implements this feature in two ways. The first relies on a special configuration file called /etc/ypserv.securenets and the second conveniently uses the /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny files we already encountered in Chapter 12.[1] Thus, to restrict access to hosts from within the Brewery, their network manager would add the following line to hosts.allow :

ypserv: 172.16.2.

This would let all hosts from IP network access the NIS server. To shut out all other hosts, a corresponding entry in hosts.deny would have to read:

ypserv: ALL

IP numbers are not the only way you can specify hosts or networks in hosts.allow and hosts.deny. Please refer to the hosts_access(5) manual page on your system for details. However, be warned that you cannot use host or domain names for the ypserv entry. If you specify a hostname, the server tries to resolve this hostname—but the resolver in turn calls ypserv, and you fall into an endless loop.

To configure securenets security using the /etc/ypserv.securenets method, you need to create its configuration file, /etc/ypserv.securenets. This configuration file is simple in structure. Each line describes a host or network of hosts that will be allowed access to the server. Any address not described by an entry in this file will be refused access. A line beginning with a # will be treated as a comment. Example 13-1 shows what a simple /etc/ypserv.securenets would look like:

Example 13-1. Sample ypserv.securenets File

# allow connections from local host -- necessary
# same as
# allow connections from any host on the Virtual Brewery network

The first entry on each line is the netmask to use for the entry, with host being treated as a special keyword meaning “netmask” The second entry on each line is the IP address to which to apply the netmask.

A third option is to use the secure portmapper instead of the securenets option in ypserv. The secure portmapper (portmap-5.0) uses the hosts.allow scheme as well, but offers this for all RPC servers, not just ypserv.[2] However, you should not use both the securenets option and the secure portmapper at the same time, because of the overhead this authorization incurs.



To enable use of the /etc/hosts.allow method, you may have to recompile the server. Please read the instructions in the README included in the distribution.


The secure portmapper is available via anonymous FTP from ftp.win.tue.nl below the /pub/security/ directory.