As you can see in Table 3-2, default read access is provided to the nobody class by all tables except the passwd table. NIS+ tables give the nobody class read access because many applications that need to access NIS+ tables run as unauthenticated clients. However, if this were also done for the passwd table, it would expose the encrypted passwd column to unauthenticated clients.
The configuration shown in Table 3-2 is the default set of access rights for NIS-compatible domains. NIS-compatible domains must give the nobody class read access to the passwd column because NIS clients are unauthenticated and would otherwise be unable to access their passwd column. Therefore, in an NIS-compatible domain, even though passwords are encrypted, they are vulnerable to decoding. They would be much more secure if they were not readable by anyone except their owner.
Standard NIS+ domains (not NIS-compatible) provide that extra level of security. The default configuration (provided by nissetup) uses a column-based scheme to hide the passwd column from unauthenticated users, while still providing access to the rest of the passwd table. At the table level, no unauthenticated principals have read access. At the column level, they have read access to every column except the passwd column.
How does an entry owner get access to the passwd column? Entry owners have both read and modify access to their own entries. They obtain read access by being a member of the world class. (Remember that at the table level, the world class has read rights.) They obtain modify access by explicit assignment at the column level.
Keep in mind that table owners and entry owners are rarely and not necessarily the same NIS+ principals. Thus, table-level read access for the owner does not imply read access for the owner of any particular entry.
As mentioned earlier, this is the default setup from the Solaris 2.3 release forward. For a more complete explanation and discussion of table-, entry-, and column level-security, see Solaris Naming Administration Guide.