January 04, 2002, 12:00 AM — This week, I will discuss the so-called R-services that provide various
levels of interaction and command execution on a remote host. I will
then show how to disable these services to eliminate their potential
A Note on Security
All the R-services ("R" stands for "remote") are solid, convenient, and
reliable tools when used inside a closed local network, preferably
secured by a firewall. However, they easily turn into a dangerous
security loophole when used in a public, open network or a Web server.
Therefore, you should usually disable them on public Web servers.
The rlogin (remote login) utility enables a user to log automatically
into a remote machine without having to supply a username and a
password. Once you have logged in, rlogin provides a telnet-like
interface. For example, if you have two machines called "mac1"
and "mac2" that are connected to each other on the same network, you
can log into mac1 from mac2 using the following command:
The automatic login is enabled only for known usernames that have a
matching .rhosts entry; otherwise, the user will still be prompted for
a valid username and a password. To disable rlogin, remove or comment
out the rlogind (the rlogin server) entry from inetd.conf. In addition,
you should delete /etc/hosts.equiv and any .rhosts files from your
The rsh (remote shell) service allows execution of remote commands. The
rsh program runs on a client that connects to a remote host. rsh opens
a shell on the remote host in which the command executes. To disable
rsh, comment out the rshd entry in the inetd.conf file.
The rexec (remote execution) service offers remote command execution,
similar to rsh. The only difference is that the user must supply a
username and a password to execute a command using rexec. To disable
rexec, remove or comment out the rexecd entry from inetd.conf.
The rwho (remote who) service reports information on currently logged
users on a remote host. The information gained this way can be quite
dangerous if it reaches the hands of professional crackers. To disable
this service, comment out the rwhod entry in the inetd.conf file.