NIS+ Transition Guide

Understanding the Impact of NIS+ Security

Because NIS+ provides security that NIS did not, it requires more administrative work. It may also require more work from users who are not accustomed to performing chkey, keylogin, or keylogout procedures. Furthermore, the protection provided by NIS+ is not entirely secure. Given enough computing power and the right knowledge, the Diffie-Hellman public-key cryptography system can be broken.

Using Diffie-Hellman keys longer than 192 bits significantly increases NIS+ security. You might, however, experience a degradation in performance as the longer key length requires more time to authenticate.

Note -

Use nisauthconf to configure the type of Diffie-Hellman key. See nisauthconf(1M) for information about using longer keys.

In addition, the secret key stored with the key server process is not automatically removed when a credentialed nonroot user logs out unless that user logs out with keylogout(1). Security may be compromised even if the user logs out with keylogout(1) because the session keys may remain valid until they expire or are refreshed. (See keylogout(1) for more information.) Root's key, created by keylogin -r and stored in /etc/.rootkey, remains until the .rootkey file is explicitly removed. The superuser cannot use keylogout. Nevertheless, NIS+ is much more secure than NIS.

How NIS+ Security Affects Users

NIS+ security benefits users because it improves the reliability of the information they obtain from NIS+ and it protects their information from unauthorized access. However, NIS+ security requires users to learn about security and requires them to perform a few extra administrative steps.

Although NIS+ requires a network login, users are not required to perform an additional key login because the login command automatically gets the network keys for the client when the client has been correctly configured. Clients are correctly configured when their login password and their Secure RPC password are the same. The secret key for the user root is normally made available in the /etc/.rootkey file (with a possible security problem, as noted earlier). When the NIS+ user password and credential are changed with the passwd command, the credential information is automatically changed for the user.

However, if your site allows users to maintain passwords in their local /etc/passwd files in addition to their Secure RPC passwords, and if these passwords are different from the Secure RPC passwords, then users must run keylogin each time they run login. The reasons for this are explained in the Solaris Naming Administration Guide.

How NIS+ Security Affects Administrators

Because the Solaris operating environment includes the DES encryption mechanism for authentication, administrators who require secure operation do not need to purchase a separate encryption kit. However, administrators must train users how to use the passwd and the passwd -r commands, and when to use them.

Furthermore, setting up a secure NIS+ namespace is more complex than setting up a namespace without any security. The complexity comes not only from the extra steps required to set up the namespace, but from the job of creating and maintaining user and machine credentials for all NIS+ principals. Administrators have to remove obsolete credentials just as they remove inactive account information from the passwd and hosts tables. Also, when servers' public keys change, administrators have to update the keys throughout the namespace (using nisupdkeys). Administrators also have to add LOCAL credentials for users from other domains who want to remote login to this domain and have authenticated access to NIS+.

How NIS+ Security Affects Transition Planning

After you become familiar with the benefits and the administrative requirements of NIS+ security, you must decide whether to implement NIS+ security during or after the transition. It is recommended that you use full NIS+ security even if you operate some or all servers in a domain in NIS-compatibility mode. (All servers in a domain should have the same NIS-compatibility status.) However, this entails a heavy administrative burden. If you prefer a simpler approach, you could set up the NIS+ servers and namespace with NIS-compatible security, but decline to create credentials for NIS+ clients. Administrators and servers would still require credentials. The NIS+ clients would be relegated to the nobody class, along with the NIS clients. This reduces training and setup requirements, but it has the following drawbacks: