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vulnerability in Linux Debian default boot configuration
From: beyssac () ENST FR (Pierre Beyssac)
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 11:39:37 +0100


The recent stable releases (at least 2.0, 2.1 and soon-to-be-released
2.2 -- Hamm, Slink and Potato) of the Debian Linux distributions
use a dangerous MBR in their default installation. Maybe this
applies to older releases as well but I haven't been able to check
these.

When the SHIFT key is pressed during the boot, the installed MBR
displays the string "1FA:" then waits for a keypress. It then boots
a floppy if the F key is pressed, bypassing any security measures.

This happens:
        - regardless of the BIOS configuration (even with floppy
          boot disabled and password-protected configuration).
        - regardless of Lilo (or other) configuration: this happens
          before Lilo is even started, so putting a password on
          Lilo is of no use.

Since this MBR is installed by default during the installation
(unless the user chooses to keep the previous MBR, which is not
the natural choice for an installation from scratch, and is not
the default choice anyway), many sites are probably vulnerable even
though they have taken the usual steps to prevent tampering with
the boot process.

Quick fix: use Lilo's MBR by putting "boot=/dev/hda" (or equivalent)
instead of "boot=/dev/hda1" in your Lilo configuration to install
a barebones MBR.

Thanks to Patrice PiƩtu <Patrice.Pietu () enst fr>, Thomas Quinot
<Thomas.Quinot () enst fr> and Samuel Tardieu <Samuel.Tardieu () enst fr>
for their help in tracking down the source of this problem and
finding a fix.

[ Note: this has been registered as Debian bug ID 56821, but has
  just been downgraded as a mere "wishlist" item, so clearly it is
  not given the attention it deserves. ]

--
Pierre Beyssac          pb () enst fr



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