8 Tips for Using Sudo Effectively and Securely in Unbutu Server

Using the sudo command can be like walking through a minefield if you’re not careful.

Understanding its capabilities and implications is essential for anyone responsible for administering a Ubuntu server.

Here are eight tips to guide you through using sudo both effectively and securely.

1. Limit Exposure to Root Access

 Instead of logging in as the root user for general tasks, use sudo to execute specific commands that require superuser privileges.

This minimises the chance of making unintended, system-altering mistakes.

2. Make Use of Audit Trails

sudo logs every command you execute.

These logs act as an audit trail that can be invaluable for troubleshooting, security audits, and breach investigations.

Make it a regular practice to check the sudo logs, usually located in /var/log/auth.log. Regular monitoring can help you spot unauthorised or suspicious activity quickly.

3. Leverage Command Whitelisting

With sudo, you can specify which commands a user can run as the root user.

This granular control enhances security by limiting what each user can do.

You can set these permissions in the /etc/sudoers file.

Take the time to configure the /etc/sudoers file. Specify which commands individual users are permitted to execute with sudo, enhancing security through granular control.

4. Time-based Sudo Rights

The sudo command elevates your privileges for a limited time, usually 15 minutes.

After that, you’ll need to re-enter your password.

This feature enhances security by limiting the window in which elevated privileges can be abused.

Be mindful of this time window (usually 15 minutes) and log out or lock your terminal if you step away, to minimize security risks.

5. Enter Your Password Wisely

After issuing a sudo command, you’ll generally need to enter your password.

This is not just a formality but a vital security measure to ensure that the person using sudo is authorised to do so.

When entering your password after a sudo command, be aware of your surroundings. Ensure no one can shoulder-surf to steal your password and gain unauthorized access.

6. Keep an Eye on Timeout Settings

While the 15 minute timeout may be convenient – if you walk away from your session, someone else could potentially execute sudo commands without needing the password.

You can manually reset it by running sudo -k.

This immediately revokes sudo permissions and requires a password for the next sudo command.

7. Session Recording and Monitoring

For heightened scrutiny, some sudo configurations allow you to record the terminal session, capturing both the commands and their output. This feature can be critical for post-incident reviews and should be considered in environments that require rigorous security measures.

If your environment demands rigorous security, consider enabling advanced sudo configurations that record terminal sessions.

Consult your organisation’s security policies and guidelines before implementing this feature.

8. Use Sudo Sparingly

Use sudo only when necessary to minimize potential risks.

It might be tempting to prefix every command with sudo for ease, but remember that each time you do so, you’re opening a window of opportunity for something to go wrong.

Before running any command with sudo, ask yourself if it truly requires elevated permissions. The more judicious you are with using sudo, the less you expose your system to potential risks.