Insecurity of Virtual Appliances and some thoughts on 7-zip compression

May 3, 2008

This week I looked for a Ubuntu server 8.04 LTS virtual appliance for Vmware – I found one here. But before I could start testing it I needed to extract the .7z file on my VMware server. The first thing I though was, why the hack 7-zip? Why not use bzip2, which is standard on Linux (beside the faster, but less compressing gzip)?

But I was shown wrong by the first entries at my google search – 7-zip has most of the time the better compression and is not much slower than bzip2. And there is even an open source command line tool on Linux, it is called p7zip. The only thing which prevents me from using it, is that it is not supported by tar so far, as soon that happens I will start using it.

But now to something security related. Almost every virtual appliance I download has openssh as sshd daemon installed. Am I the only guy who things this is a bad idea? The host keys are the same for all virtual appliances. So anyone who knows which virtual appliances I used to setup my server, can use this knowledge to perform a man in the middle attack and get my login name and password. This bad habit seems to occur by almost all virtual appliances I got my hands on. My solutions so far is following on Ubuntu and Debian Systems:

apt-get --purge remove openssh-server && apt-get install ssh

This way I’ve a clean config and new keys. (ssh is a meta package for openssh-client and openssh-server). So there is a easy work around but how many administrators will think about that? I think virtual appliances are made to ease the life of the administrators or to allow even non expert to provide a service based on the appliance. With this goal comes also the responsibility to make the system save by default.

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