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Re: vulnerability in Linux Debian default boot configuration
From: bcollins () DEBIAN ORG (Ben Collins)
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2000 13:37:46 -0500

Just a quick comment. This was discussed (if you call a flame fest a
discussion) to a great extent on Debian's list. To sum up the discussion:

a) The boot floppies were changed after this for potato to make sure the
   user knows about the default setup (the MBR that allows booting from

b) The vast majority of systems do not require physical security in this
   manner, and the benefits for rescueing failed systems using this
   feature outweighs the downside of the "issue".

c) It is felt that an admin who is first of all smart enough to setup the
   BIOS and LILO to disable floppy booting, and is in dire need enough to
   want this, should also be intelligent enough to know that the MBR is
   part of the boot process, and thus they should expect to make changes
   there aswell.

d) Given that 99.9% of computer systems are setup to not disable floppy
   booting (forsaking the obviously biased percentage of people on this
   list who do have it disabled), that it is not a problem to also have
   this as the default.

e) Anyone who wants true physical security will use physical measures to
   assure it. This means locked cases, locked racks, removing the floppy
   alltogether. Thus the MBR plays a minor role in this type of security.

f) RTFM. The mbr program docs, and the LILO docs explain about the MBR and
   security concerns dealing with it. Even disabling the floppy does not
   assure physical security in a public manner (such as the machines that
   the original poster is using...eg. publically accesable terminals).


PS: I am not subscribed to BUGTRAQ at the moment, so please Cc questions.

/  Ben Collins  --  ...on that fantastic voyage...  --  Debian GNU/Linux   \
`     bcollins () debian org  --  bcollins () openldap org  --  bmc () visi net     '

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