AUTH-9308 - Protect single user mode

(Authentication)

This information is provided as part of the Lynis community project. It is related to Lynis control AUTH-9308 and should be considered as-is and without guarantees. Any advice and commands should be tested before implementing them in production environments.

Description

Physical access to the machine can be used to load alternative software or a different operating system, during the boot phase. Configure a password in the boot loader to prevent this risk. This test applies to Linux based systems only.

How to solve

For emergency maintenance and password recovery, single user mode is used on Linux systems. In such an event, the system can run a limited set of commands, and has limited access to system resources. However, this is enough to reset a root password, or try mounting a previously failed file system mount.

While single user mode is great for system engineers to performance emergency maintenance activities, it can also be abused by evildoers with access to the system. For that reason single user mode should be as limited as possible. The more sensitive data, the higher the restricted access to this feature.

Single user mode on Linux is protected in different ways. It depends on which service manager. For distributions using systemd, have a look at the related targets like rescue, console-shell, and emergency.

Related files

  • /usr/lib/systemd/system/emergency.target
  • /usr/lib/systemd/system/rescue.target

Need more details?

Consider an upgrade to Lynis Enterprise to receive more guidance. The Enterprise version helps to you with daily health checks of your environment, learn in-depth system hardening, and resources to protect your systems better.

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Lynis is a technical security auditing tool for Unix flavors like Linux, macOS, AIX, Solaris, and *BSD. It is open source software and free to use. Typical usage include system hardening, compliance testing, and vulnerability scanning. The project has an active community, including development via GitHub.

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