Mountains Out of Security
Molehills"> Mountains Out of Security Molehills This particular alleged vulnerability was always less than it seemed: The Recovery Console is a very restrictive environment. You cant access the network; you cant run programs; contrary to what the original report asserted, you cant copy files to or from the hard disk. The only real news was that the exploit did uncover some behavior that was unexpected; if you run the Windows 2000 Recovery Console on Windows 2000 or the Windows XP Recovery Console on Windows XP, it will ask you for a password. Perhaps the Windows 2000 Recovery Console cant read the local Windows XP SAM (the user information database) and, as the point of the Recovery Console is to let you repair damaged systems, it lets you in.There are other things you can do to add some extra measure of protection to a machine to which an attacker may get physical access. If you set the BIOS password, the user will have to enter it before any operating system is booted. This method isnt foolproof; some BIOS have hard-coded backdoor passwords (see this page for a list and further discussion of BIOS passwords), and the password doesnt prevent someone from pulling the hard disk from the system. There are physical locks you can buy that make it harder to open the case, but I think we all know that the right tools can dispense with any lock in short order. So when considering the seriousness of an attack, its important to put it into perspective: What does this attack presume about access to the system? If it requires that the user have physical access, then the barn doors already open, and the horse is in the glue factory. Security Supersite Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
But any operating system is just as vulnerable. With any version of Linux or *BSD, I could boot off a floppy or CD and gain access to the contents of the hard disk. Solaris at least used to include a "single user mode" into which one could boot the system and access anything on the hard disk, including changing the passwords for normal boots.