What is "Privilege Seperation" ?
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Thread: What is "Privilege Seperation" ?

  1. #1
    Hi mom!
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    What is "Privilege Seperation" ?

    Today, I figured out why I couldn't connect to a computer using SSH, like I used to do. The SSH Deamon wasn't running, so I tried to start it up again. It wouldn't, complaining about the lack of sshd user. Once I created that, sshd started again, and my problems were over.

    After I got sshd back up and running, I noticed that it was running as root, not as the user I had to create in order to get it running. Hows that? I asked around a bit, and figured out it had something to do with someting called "Privilege Seperation." Looking for that on google I found a bunch of links that said something about where it's used, but not what it is. Can someone give me some pointers?
    I wish to express my gratitude to the people of Italy. Thank you for inventing pizza.

  2. #2
    AO Security for Non-Geeks tonybradley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    It is a security measure to keep unprivileged and privileged processes separate. The following quote is from http://www.citi.umich.edu/u/provos/cybersecurity/

    Privilege Separation is a protection mechanism at the application level that separates the privileged code path from the unprivileged code path. An adversary interacts with the unprivileged part only; an exploitable programming error in the unprivileged code path does not lead to immediate privilege escalation.
    Hope that helps-

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    It's a hack that the OpenSSH team made when they discovered that they had a remotely exploitable vulnerability, and they somehow needed to fix it without revealing to would-be attackers which piece of the sizeable code it was in.

    So they made a fairly generic fix, and surrepticiously released it as a "feature". Subsequently when the bug came to light, people were initially told to simply turn this dormant feature on until a full patch was released (which fixed the bug, but in doing to gave the attackers enough information to exploit it)

    Clearly the likes of Microsoft with their closed-source software can surrepticiously fix security holes they hope no-one's spotted (assuming they find them first) and then pretend they never existed (unless they're rediscovered)

    This was the open source people trying to do their best at doing the same.

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