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back to article 'Kill yourself now' - Torvalds throws openSUSE security tantrum

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has issued a rare public spanking for openSUSE after falling foul of its security procedures. Torvalds has posted a rant on Google+ about his experience installing openSUSE on a MacBook Air. The installation requires the root password for many functions and he went to the Bugzilla thread to argue …

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WTF?

Hmm

"others may have real-world business related concerns for heightened security on their laptops"

So while you are logged in and want to add a printer the need for root will increase security?.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmm

I would have thought that you could grant or deny add printer as a right to the user in much the same way that you can on Windows or MacOS (AFAIK). I can certainly see how adding an unauthorised printer to print off a confidential document could be seen as a security breach.

Certainly every corporate environment I've worked in has only allowed specifically approved printers to be added.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Hmm

"I can certainly see how adding an unauthorised printer to print off a confidential document could be seen as a security breach."

If we're talking about SELinux, then sure I'll buy that. Might as well require root for a thumb drive too then.

...but we're not talking about SELinux are we?

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Pint

Re: Hmm

The cure for this would be.....

Durring the install process the installer will be pressed for an install choice.

HOME SCHOOL OR BUSINESS.

HOME users can install most device drivers with almost no supervisor needed.

SCHOOL will most likely need an admin nearby.

BUSINESS will need 100% admin support all the time for any install.

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FAIL

Re: Hmm

@Lars - "So while you are logged in and want to add a printer the need for root will increase security?"

Clearly, neither you nor Linus has any idea how YaST works on SUSE to control access to hardware and network services. You're not "logging in as root" in order to add a printer. You're being asked to give YaST a password to prove you have the correct administrative rights to carry out the function.

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Re: Re: Hmm

"You're not "logging in as root" in order to add a printer. You're being asked to give YaST a password to prove you have the correct administrative rights to carry out the function."

That may be all good and well, but by no means should it be the root password to do it. There should be a separate administrative level password for authorizing such things, that doesn't give the user full and complete unrestricted access to every level of the system.

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Re: Re: Re: Hmm

And, for that matter, since when has sudo and it's myriad possibilities for fine-grained access control over which bits can run with elevated privileges become poison? (There's lots of rants out there covering why sudo (configured to provide access to everything, often without demanding passwords) is bad,, but I've yet to hear of a credible reason for not using it sensibly configured.

(And, frankly, if you're going to send your own daughter off to school without the root password to her own laptop, you deserve all the support telephone calls you get. Didn't you teach her not to be an idiot, Linus?)

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Re: Re: Hmm (@ markjohnsoncardio)

> You're not "logging in as root" in order to add a printer. You're being asked to give YaST a password to prove you have the correct administrative rights to carry out the function.

Which means, in real terms, that you are logging in with admin rights. Possibly as root, even, depending on your settings. It's not just "giving YaSt a password". It is "allowing YaST to log in as root on your behalf". Funny how some GNU/Linux users have litterally no clue on how GNU/Linux works.

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Facepalm

Re: Re: Re: Hmm (@ markjohnsoncardio)

@ElReg!comments!Pierre - "Which means, in real terms, that you are logging in with admin rights. Possibly as root, even, depending on your settings. It's not just "giving YaSt a password". It is "allowing YaST to log in as root on your behalf". Funny how some GNU/Linux users have litterally no clue on how GNU/Linux works."

It's like trying to describe a Victoria's Secret catalog to a bunch of blind men. YaST is a config tool, it's not a separate log-in. It's no more of a separate log-in than using a tool in the Gnome Control Panel. If you had ever tried to use SUSE or Mandrake, you would know exactly what I'm referring to.

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Linux

Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmm (@ markjohnsoncardio)

Whatever, Linus is right (mostly).

IF you have a user who has physical control of a laptop and is allowed to take it outside specific guarded premises (which is usually the case)

THEN it makes sense for the default distro setup to allow users to connect to other wireless networks/ printers to use the bloody things without requiring root

ELSE you have a special case and should have an IT team that properly configures user permissions and groups for what you need

But I don't agree re changing the time. Users should be able to change their time zone freely but not the time itself.

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@AC2.0

I agree that these things should be possible without requiring root but I am not sure it makes sense for this to be the default state of the distribution.

I think your ELSE case is the correct default for a secure operating system - the THEN case is for something like Windows where there's greater compromise between security and convenience.

(Or is this distro supposed to be more like that? I don't actually know where it is positioned in the market.)

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Ru
Coat

"we're not talking about SELinux are we?"

Well, we are only one 'su' away.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmm (@ markjohnsoncardio)

> If you had ever tried to use SUSE or Mandrake, you would know exactly what I'm referring to.

I know exactly what you are referring to. "log in" just doesn't mean what you think it means. For example on this machine I am at the moment concurrently logged is as 3 different "users": my main account, root (because I was fiddling with stuf earlier and forgot to exit the su in thaty console) and a user account I use for side projects (with different settings). All in the same X session. I am also looged in as the FTP user but that's in another virtual console, as there is no need for a graphical display for this and I can just type ctrl-alt-F2 whenever I want to check the logs of the FTP server.

That question is only tangential to the problem anyway.

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FAIL

Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

..not yet.

Security has always been a strong point of Unix/Linux and indiscriminately connecting to a WLAN could actually be very dangerous in some locations. Think "man-in-the-middle". Connecting printers is potentially also dangerous.

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Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

I see your point about WLANs, though I think that might be crossing the security vs convenience line a bit. Think of the businessman on the road who needs to connect to the hotel's wireless. He's not able to do his job unless the admins have equipped him with the root password, which means he's capable of far more damage than a man-in-the-middle attack.

As for printers, I can't concieve of a realistic situation where connecting to a printer is dangerous. In the few unrealistic scenarios I can think of Linux wouldn't be vulnerable in any case since it doesn't typically allow autoruns (though it can be forced to).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

When connecting to a printer, it is just plain stupid requiring a root password. As far as problems in connecting to a wireless network, just requiring a root password to connect is not going to prevent many problems. The security of the network is a problem of the network security people, not necessarily the computer just trying to connect to the network. If the problem is a virus/trojan that causes the pc to connect to any/specific wireless network, the pc is already compromised. I think that Torvalds is correct in his criticism

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

> Think of the businessman on the road who needs to connect to the hotel's wireless. He's not able to do his job unless the admins have equipped him with the root password

openSuSE has 2 different methods of setting up networks.

The first one is the traditional method that requires root access. This is the default setting when you install.

The second is using NetworkManager. This one allows users to connect to networks without needing the root password.

As for printers, there is a setting that tells openSuSE to automatically detect, install and configure any printer plugged into a USB port.

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Boffin

Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

I can think of at least one realistic scenario that is potentially dangerous, especially if you recall that you need to go through the same steps to add a networked printer. It involves the perp tricking the user into adding a networked printer that is physically located in the lair of the criminals.

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Re: Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

Not exactly true. The default in NetworkManager is the require the root password for new networks. In fact it may even prompt you for the root password each time you log in. 12.1 also had a bug whereby it would not accept the password the first time you type it and prompt you for it a second time.

Another bug would prevent NetworkManager from connecting to any wireless network and require you to log out and back in if the last time you shut down Firefox or Chrome were not closed first and then opened as soon as you logged back into the machine.

I cant complain about Linus having a problem with the current insanity that is OpenSuse. If his experience is anything like mine,the root password issue might have been just the straw that broke the camels back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

Of course he is a moron, He had a perfectly good version of BSD pre-installed on his daughters Mac Air.

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Devil

Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

A true plug and play system would never need user interaction to install software thus not needing any user interaction for passwords at all.

Blame usb vendors.

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Re: Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

But most printers in schools and business are network printers, not USB.

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Re: Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

(Part 1 of 2 due to 2,000 char limit)

As for wireless or any network default settings of a Linux distro, the basic firewall settings should work something like speech software training: user randomly goes to a handful of personal favorite sites. The firewall would do reputation checks. The user would either accept the firewall suggestions or manually override one by one, not blanket.

Then, as inbound connections happen, the user would selectively allow or selectively deny page connections, cookies, clear gifs, 1-pixels/crawlers/other crap, and then build an interactive firewall tool far easier than anything to date seen in a Linux distro.

The firewall tool suite would include multiple tool choices and include Intrusion Detection Systems, and some pattern-matching tools so that users can apply system-wide or guest-user restrictions.

As to printers being not too dangerous, what about those with USB and other media ports? IF system security is by default too low, then simply plugging in a media card/stick/device might cause limited or pervasive damage, possibly not detected until one or more things go wonky/bonkers.

As for passwords to change the time, remember the days when right-clicking on an admin-controlled windows XP or W2K machine meant one could not even access the Calendar simply because the tiime-setting features and other Control Panel items were blocked? That alone was justification for drawing and quartering one or more ms project managers/programmers and made me blow gaskets multiple times over the years. Seems ms learned or had a change of heart, since then, or I've been using machines that have not been subject to so draconian a set of admin constraints.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Yeah, Mr Torvalds Should Not Be Called A Moron

Part 2 of 2:

As for connecting to WiFi and other nets, just being "visible" to one of those means some loss of privacy and some possible vector of tracking by outside parties. If one can seamlessly move from place to place and just ad hoc join a wireless net, and the machine's ID and other sublayers are not randomly changed with user security/privacy in mind, then Google and others will continue to offer products or make their own tools to hunt/suss/monitor users' movements.

For my laptop hardware, I tend to rip out the antennae and use an external one I can physically disconnect, in a hope to deny undetected ACTIVE intrusion attempts. I cannot easily stop passive sniffing, but I feel I have the moral and personal right to kneecap ANYone who tries to access my personal property after seeing a "Do not enter" sign. With laptops, phones, and other computers, it should be universally accepted that "YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT ENTRY". If you do, you BETTER have an iron-clad, judge-approved-case-by-case warrant. Otherwise you deserve to be kneecapped or finger chopped. I also feel I have the right -- if i choose to exercise it -- to honeypot and contaminate my machine such that any probing by outside parties will infect them. It would be like a woman (or male) inserting a hidden needle or razor to punish a rapist who manages to make forced insertion. Yes, there may be blood from and in both parties, but the assailant is ultimately the one deserving to be swiftly punished or neutered. PERIOD.

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Actually, installing wireless w/o root is hard to imagine for way too many a reason (incl changing the rooting tables). Changing date/time w/o root is very very very big NO NO. It can wreck havoc and please install ntp for that matter.

On a flip note:

I have some positive experience w/ Suse installing it on my father's laptop (a present to him) as it can w/ the laptop itself I didn't bother w/ Ubuntu (or God forbid Windows). He is a complete noob when it comes to computers - hard to play even a video on youtube and hates newly opened windows that ask questions. Yet, overall he manages to enjoy and use the laptop.

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My ubuntu laptop and lubuntu netbook connect fine to previously unknown wireless networks, which is what Linus bothered. Not installing the drivers.

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Anonymous Coward

Wirelss

Connecting to a wireless network should definitely not require root, it should require membership of a "wireless" group.

Similarly, for installing network printers and local printers or frankly anything else.

Unix isn't XP Home.

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Re: Wirelss

Exactly, SUSE might have some default settings where a new user did not have these rights which is pretty strange. Not that it was hard to set up for Linus. Switching from Fedora to SUSE does not seem to be easy for him.

On the other hand, such security measures are too drastic, does the installation require bios/grub passwords, encrypted hdd?

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Facepalm

Re: Wireless and XP Home

But.... I thought that we wanted people to use Desktop Linux in the home. Which means, that they should be able to do XP-Home-y things like connect to a friend's wireless, or print on a printer.

Since Linux has supposedly got the security thing right, it should be possible to use your laptop for useful stuff and yet not leave it open to being pwned.

So Mr Torvalds is right. The designers of the UI experience in OpenSuse haven't got out of their dorm-rooms and offices and thought about real consumer use of personal computers.

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Emo
Joke

He should totally write his own OS.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep

"He should totally write his own OS"

Yup.

The other question is "Why should I need to enable Javascript for gurglecom to read his post?"

I'm sure that Linus didn't envisage that kind of thing when he signed up for that account.

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Linux is just a kernel

You know that Linux is just the kernel and openSUSE is the OS? This is a detail the MSM doesn't get right very often.

I think it is good that Torvalds bothers to load other's distributions rather than roll one of his own. But he wouldn't have had this problem in the first place had he left MacOS X alone on the Air. He should spend more time with MacOS X. Without MacOS, Linux distributions and Microsoft would be out of ideas.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux is just a kernel

Yes and Mac OS is just BSD UNIX with apple-sauce on top.

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Trollface

@DK2

Perhaps he just fancied an upgrade

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Boffin

Re: Linux is just a kernel

"You know that Linux is just the kernel and openSUSE is the OS? "

No, I didn't, because it's not true. Linux is the OS, openSUSE is a suite of programs which run on top of the OS.

Linux consists of a kernel which, combined with device drivers, makes up an OS. openSUSE certainly includes a few extensions to the OS but the vast majority of it is just ordinary computer programs. An OS is a system which mediates access from such ordinary programs (like Bash or Firefox) to hardware.

If your lecturers told you otherwise, I'd suggest you ask for your tuition fees back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

Nope, its a Mach kernel with some FreeBSD userland stuff'n ting.

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PJI
Bronze badge
Alert

Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

"Yes and Mac OS is just BSD UNIX with apple-sauce on top."

Which is possibly why it is so good, a real UNIX and not some rehash by a load of variable quality "contributors".

I worked for a while with someone who claimed to have got a bug fix for the ext2 file systems accepted. I have had to correct and extend his code since then; I would not let him provide a fix to "Hallo World".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

Nope. If you're going to be pedantic, and you are, what you are talking about Robert is GNU/Linux, although all but the most ardent of Stallmanites drop the GNU part. Linux itself is merely a kernel. All the automagical stuff is handled by the GNU/other OSS projects bits and pieces, including such things as device drivers.

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Coat

Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

> I would not let him provide a fix to "Hallo World".

OK, I will then. It's "Hello World".

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Happy

Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

Nein! "Hallo Welt" ist richtig :)

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Angel

Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

you know that the only reason apple used bsd instead of gnu linux was because of the licensing? They would not have been able to resell linux but then can make more money from using bsd. It has nothing to do with security or stability.

I am so sick of people telling me that osx is so fucking awesome like it's the purest or pure OS's and apple designed it all because they are the bestest.

It's just a flashy interface and some programs on top of someone elses work.

To return to topic, I'm with Torvalds on this, the end user should not need to know the root password in a corporate environment. Not being able to print or join a network without root is indefensible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

"on top of someone elses work.", what the hell does that mean? That's what open source *is*. It's certainly more original than most Linux distributions in recent years you can come up with which are all rehashes of nothing but someone else's work.

Also, nearly every bit apple has taken that is open that they have done something with is available, still open, despite several licenses allowing them to close it.

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Bronze badge

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

No, it's messagetrans(territory.current,demos.helloworld)

:)

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

Same anonymous coward here, another thing that is worth pointing out is the GPL is also a legal nightmare for anyone involved in any proprietary software that they want at the OS level. Every day you have whiners who believe proprietary binary blobs for drivers and the like are in violation of the GPL because they are kernel modules or exist inside them therefore *somehow* derivative works of Linux. The BSD and some projects in LGPL are much more pleasant to integrate into a sold system when the parts used must be meshed with proprietary, it just leaves you with more flexibility.

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Vic
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

> whiners who believe proprietary binary blobs for drivers and the like are in violation of the GPL

The kernel sources come with a file named COPYING which explains why binary blobs - although unfortunate - are acceptable as kernel modules.

The biggest problem with the GPL is the number of self-appointed "experts" who don't appear to have actually read the thing. It's not nearly as difficult to use as many would have you believe :-(

Vic.

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Linux

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

I'll believe the GPL and licenses with conditions similar arent a legal/licensing nightmare when the Linux kernel gets ZFS and perhaps NDIS/project evil and nobody threatens to sue over it.. Maybe VLC in the Apple App Store would be good too.

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MCG
Trollface

Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

....and usable applications :)

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Vic
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

> when the Linux kernel gets ZFS

You do know that Sun *intended* ZFS to be GPL-incompatible, right?

> Maybe VLC in the Apple App Store would be good too

VLC could be in the App Store just as soon as Apple stop adding conditions to make their distribution GPL-incompatible.

I think you might be blaming the wrong people...

Vic.

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Devil

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Linux is just a kernel

Dude, its unreasonable to tell apple they must or even should freely provide what VLC was built with. It is their tool, and it is excessively whiny of gnutards to tell apple they have to pull it from their store. Also, the fact that ZFS was intended to be GPL compatible further illustrates my initial point that all but the most ridiculously liberal/minimal licenses dont integrate into the GPL well. If I were to fork the GPL license, and call it the Toggi3 Public License and replaced all instances of GPL with TPL, and that's all I did to it, whatever I released under it would be incompatible with the GPL.

The very wording of the *GPL* isnt compatible with the GPL. :p

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Linux

"Nightmare" licensing

The GPL only has problems co-existing with those companies that go out of their way to make problems. The situation with VLC is a perfect example of this. Apple doesn't need to be jerks about Free Software. They choose to be. They choose to give their customers only one means to install software and then to impose conditions at odds with Free Software.

The GPL is really only a problem with people that have a toddler's view of ownership.

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