Let's JAM!

Oh the importance of 3 letters...

I do a lot of things. Just ask anyone who knows me. They all know that I'm pretty knowledgable in just about any feild, situation, etc. Granted, there are things that I do not know about. I'll be the first to admit that. I do know enough to get by on lots of things though. I can repair cars (which I'm pretty good at, actually), do plumbing, electrical, carpentry, sys admining, antiquing, programming, and lots of other random stuff. My most recent problem, however, was with the sys admin part of my life.

For those of you who do not know, I manage servers for my father. He owns Confetti Antiques & Books. We are probably the most high-tech antique store in all of Utah. Here's a picture of the rack which runs all the servers:

The two big white things on the bottom are our battery backups. Enough to last us quite a while should there be a power outage. The next thing up is a SCSI drive array which is obviously not in use. Next is my NAS and next is the web server. The incident with which I'm going to be talking about deals with the top most server, the web server.

It runs Linux. Over the summer I set it up to use private keys and use a random password. I didn't even think about it again until about 2:00 PM today. You see, yesterday I was cleaning up the /root directory. From all of the random downloads for Wordpress, Drupal, Magento, etc., I had collected quite a few directories and files. I went through and deleted a bunch of files. I then continued to SSH into another box. When SSH'ing I got a warning similar to: "Your permissions on /root/.ssh/id_rsa are too open!" So I did the intellegent thing to do and did "chown 700 -R .ssh". You Linux guru's out there will see my mistake. chown is not what I wanted. At all. I wanted chmod. I didn't realize that until about 12:10 today. I thought about what I did yesterday and realized, "Oh crap! I messed up permissions!"

I went to the server, plugged in the keyboard and monitor. I tried the many different combinations of passwords as I could think of. I searched my laptops for any file I might have dumped the password into. No dice. This was one situation where Linux's good security was not fun to deal with! Naturally, I booted up into single user mode, reset the password, and rebooted. It all took less than 8 minutes (7 minutes and 43 seconds, to be exact). All because of 3 letters. "chown" compared to "chmod". Those 3 damn letters!

This brings me to the purpose of this post. Little things matter. Pay attention to the details! The details matter! 3 letters make it impossible to log in. 3 letters make all the difference in the world. The second thing I've learned from this is that actually writing these kinds of things down is a good idea. In fact, it's a *really* good idea! I have since written my new password down and it is stored in a location. That is as much information as you will get on that subject. So learn from my mistakes, as they're a lot less painful to you! Already made some mistakes? Let's hear them!