4.5. Available Network Services

While user access to administrative controls is an important issue for system administrators within an organization, keeping tabs on which network services are active is of paramount importance to anyone who administers and operates a Linux system.
Many services under Red Hat Enterprise Linux behave as network servers. If a network service is running on a machine, then a server application called a daemon is listening for connections on one or more network ports. Each of these servers should be treated as potential avenue of attack.

4.5.1. Risks To Services

Network services can pose many risks for Linux systems. Below is a list of some of the primary issues:
  • Denial of Service Attacks (DoS) — By flooding a service with requests, a denial of service attack can bring a system to a screeching halt as it tries to log and answer each request.
  • Script Vulnerability Attacks — If a server is using scripts to execute server-side actions, as Web servers commonly do, a cracker can mount an attack on improperly written scripts. These script vulnerability attacks can lead to a buffer overflow condition or allow the attacker to alter files on the system.
  • Buffer Overflow Attacks — Services which connect to ports numbered 0 through 1023 must run as an administrative user. If the application has an exploitable buffer overflow, an attacker could gain access to the system as the user running the daemon. Because exploitable buffer overflows exist, crackers use automated tools to identify systems with vulnerabilities, and once they have gained access, they use automated rootkits to maintain their access to the system.

Note

The threat of buffer overflow vulnerabilities is mitigated in Red Hat Enterprise Linux by ExecShield, an executable memory segmentation and protection technology supported by x86-compatible uni- and multi-processor kernels. ExecShield reduces the risk of buffer overflow by separating virtual memory into executable and non-executable segments. Any program code that tries to execute outside of the executable segment (such as malicious code injected from a buffer overflow exploit) triggers a segmentation fault and terminates.
Execshield also includes support for No eXecute (NX) technology on AMD64 platforms and eXecute Disable (XD) technology on Itanium and EM64T systems. These technologies work in conjunction with ExecShield to prevent malicious code from running in the executable portion of virtual memory with a granularity of 4kb of executable code, lowering the risk of attack from stealthy buffer overflow exploits.
For more information about ExecShield and NX or XD technologies, refer to the whitepaper entitled New Security Enhancements in Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.3, Update 3, available at the following URL:
To limit exposure to attacks over the network, all services that are unused should be turned off.