Disable SSH Root Logins on RHEL

For one reason or another RHEL does not disallow incoming ssh connections as root. This is, of course a glaring security problem which should be addressed for all systems that allow ssh connections to be made from any but the most restricted networks.

The best practice, of course, would be to make the initial ssh connection as an unprivileged user and then use the “su” command to promote yourself to root. This way, even if an attacker managed to get into the system, it would be as an unprivileged user and they would not able to do much harm. Allowing incoming ssh connections at root leaves you much more exposed to attack. Granted your root password is still protecting you, but it becomes your only layer of defense.

Ok, so how do we disallow incoming ssh connections as root on our RHEL box?

First, edit “/etc/ssh/sshd_config”

Find the section of the file that looks like this:

# Authentication:
#LoginGraceTime 2m
#PermitRootLogin yes
#StrictModes yes
#MaxAuthTries 6

Change this line:
#PermitRootLogin yes

To this:
PermitRootLogin no

Restart sshd:
/sbin/service sshd restart

Arkansas Woman Blames Heat On Daylight Savings Time

UPDATE: The item depicted and quoted below was indeed a letter to the editor of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 16 April 2007, but Snopes tells us:

“It was not intended to be taken literally, as its author, Connie M, Meskimen is a Little Rock lawyer known for penning sarcastic letters with tongue planted firmly in cheek.”

Looks like you got us Connie! Apparently the fact that the paper published it caused quite an outrage amongst its readers. Well, at least this explains why the letter was written fairly well. Still, I shudder at the thought of how many neo-conservatives ignoramuses down there must have read it (or tried to read it) and found themselves agreeing, in whole with its premise. Thanks to Murphy for pointing out the Snopes article.

Pople are constantly finding new levels of idiocy, but this Arkansas woman who blames Daylight Savings Time for the hot weather demonstrates a truly stupefying lack of intellect! Connie M. Meskimen is apparently convinced that the hot weather she has been experiencing lately is caused by the fact that Daylight Savings time started about a month early this year. Then, as if this vacuous assertion was not enough, she goes on to surmise that the legislation responsible for moving Daylight Savings ahead on the calendar was a ploy by the “liberal congress” to “make us believe that global warming is a real threat”.

Telling Connie that she needs to check her facts seems mind-numbingly obvious! Aside from her needing to realize that Congress, no matter how liberal, can’t alter the rotation of the Earth, she needs to remember that it was the Republicans that passed this ridiculous legislation!

Anyhow, here is the article:

Prank Letter

Prank Letter

Hat Tip: Courtney for the great find!

If you can’t read the image for some reason, here is the text:

Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Daylight exacerbates warming

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two.

This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know Daylight Savings time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

Hot Springs

Fly Your Motorcycle To Work

With my miserable 49 mile commute to work every day, I’ve been constantly wishing I had a way to turn my drive into a flight. The Moller Skycar has, of course had me dreaming since I first saw it, but its been vaporware so long that I have all but given up. Furthermore, there is now evidence that the company might be scamming investors, and with a price tag of$500,000 to $1,000,000, I can’t imagine buying one even if they hit showrooms tomorrow.

The Super Sky Cycle made by Butterfly Gyroplane, might just be the ticket though. It can take off and land in just a few feet, making it handy for flying to places that don’t have an airport. It can fly at a top speed of 100 MPH, meaning I could get to work much much faster than the 1 + hour it takes me now. An for the best part, you can fold up the rotors once you land and drive it in motorcycle mode to your final destination! I have to wonder if it will fit into a standard parking space.

My days of driving to work aren’t quite over though… I will still have to save my pennies if I’m going to pony up the $37,195.00 to buy one. Still, the Super Sky Cycle is the most promising alternative to driving I’ve been able to find so far.

Hat Tip: Roderick for the pointer!

Orwellian Demands After VA Tech Shooting

Now that America is coming to terms with the fact that they can’t get their pound of flesh from the VA Tech Campus Police and President, they have set their sights on mental health professionals as a group to blame for last week’s shootings.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. writes: “As predicted, the media is now making some very generalized and meaningless connections between Cho’s hospitalization 16 months ago in 2005, and his actions on Monday.” The media in their undying need to sensationalize just keeps spoon feeding the public’s need to blame and retrospectively criticize everything surrounding last Monday’s shooting.

The implication, of course, is that since Seung-Hui Cho had undergone a psychological evaluation in 2005 and subsequently ordered to seek outpatient treatment, campus psychologists should have somehow been able to magically predict his shooting rampage. I actually heard a VA Tech student on NPR news say “They knew he had a mental illness so it seems like this could have been prevented somehow if someone had just done something.” Amazing! Never have I heard a comment of less value!

The bottom line is that things were done correctly. When problems were seen, Cho was sent for a psychological evaluation an ordered to get followup treatment. To those who say he should have been removed from school or locked up, I ask one very simple question. What if he had not gone on a shooting rampage? How would your actions of denying him an education or his freedom be seen if he never actually did the horrible things he did?

The point here is that a lot of people suffer from mental illness. For every person who looses it and starts shooting, there are hundreds of thousands more who are just trying to get through life the best they can with their illness. They never hurt anyone. We have to ask ourselves if we want to be a society that demonizes and alienates people with mental illness or one that is sympathetic, inclusive and helpful to them.

I have to say that it seems like Americans are calling for some pretty Orwellian policy when they start demanding that people with mental illness be removed from society. I would go on to suggest that doing so would make them more dangerous. Let’s look at what we know about Seung-Hui Cho. He was an outcast who didn’t have friends and was picked on by other students. In effect, he had been alienated from his community and demonized because of his illness. This, of course, all within the informal social context of a University setting. What Americans are calling for is a much more dramatic and official form of this ostracism. I can’t help but think this would only serve to further alienate people, causing them to decline and crack all the more easily.

Rather than pointing fingers and making mal-informed, unreasonable, knee jerk demands, America needs to try to truly understand what pushes people over the edge if they want to prevent these shootings from happening in the future. Since every school shooter we have seen was a bullied outcast, I think its safe to say we have a model to work with. Rather than vilifying the mentally ill, we need to focus on what causes them to get sick to begin with. A strong, zero tolerance approach to bullying seems like a very good start!

Stop Armchair Quarterbacking the VA Tech Shootings!

Mere minuets had passes after the planes hit the World Trade Buildings and everyone was looking for someone to point the finger at. Now, with the VA Tech shootings people are asking probing questions about why the campus wasn’t locked down after the first two victims were shot. Can someone tell me how in the hell you are going to lock down a 2,600 acre campus with 30,000 people in it?

Everyone seems so quick to second guess the camps administration and police, suggesting that the community should have been told or the campus should have been closed down. What I don’t think these presumptuous pundants realize is that a shooter will always be able to find large groups of people on a college campus no matter how “locked down” it is. Had the administration canceled classes and somehow informed every student at VA Tech about the shooting, they would have all rushed to the nearest computer cluster and started emailing their friends. If they didn’t do that, they would have gathered in large groups to play hackie sack or some other group activity. The point is that people on college campuses tend to gather. When they don’t have classes, they tend to gather more. In all likelihood the shooter would have been able to find even larger groups of people to target had the campus been locked down.

I’m usually not one to stick up for the police, but in this case they did the right thing. When a person kills someone, they tend to run as fast and as far from the crime-scene as possible. The assertion that the shooter had probably left campus after the fist two shootings was reasonable and prudent. Ignoring the fact that it is logistically impossible to instantly notify 30,000 students of anything, closing down the campus would have most likely led to larger individual groups of students that could be more easily targeted. Americans really need to lose the habit of finger-wagging and blaming after something bad happens. The administration and police probably feel badly enough without having the whole country pontificating about what they should have done.

Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84

Of course most everyone has heard that Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday from complications surrounding a brain injury he received from a fall several weeks ago. It’s being well covered just about everywhere, so I won’t rehash all the articles that already exist. I would, however, like to pay tribute to the American author, so I will just write this.

Many consider him to be among the best authors that have ever lived, but even those who don’t feel so strongly are challenged to point to any who wrote in the genre of satire better than Vonnegut. Being a fan of satire, I count myself among those who treasure his work and find it to be among the best I have ever read. I will further honor him by not using semicolons.

Vonnegut writes:

First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are trans-vestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

Nile Crocodile Tears Off Veterinarian’s Arm

Taiwanese veterinarian Chang Po-yu had his forearm torn off by a crocodile on Wednesday at the Shaoshan Zoo in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung. The endangered, 17 year old Nile crocodile had been hit with a tranquilizer dart, but still not fully anesthetized when the zoo worker reached his arm through an iron rail to medicate it. I guess they tend to sit still a lot so it can be hard to tell if they are really knocked out or not.

Chang was rushed to the hospital while the rest of the team pondered how to recover the severed limb so that it could be re-attached. They finally settled on a plan and “shot two bullets at the crocodile’s neck,” causing it to release the bloody arm. It is not clear exactly what kind of bullets were used, however, because the giant crocodile “was unharmed as we didn’t find any bullet holes on its hide”. Zoo workers suspect that the animal was “just shocked”. Maybe they were using BB’s.

Chang had his forearm reattached Today and is now recovering from the surgery. They’re pretty grisly, but more photos can be seen here if that’s your thing.