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Novell has downplayed the significance of a NetWare 5.x bug which could result in an admin password being left in plain text on a server. Crackers, it says, would not be able to access the relevant file in the first place.

When a backup job is submitted, using SBCON (the replacement for SBACKUP), NetWare 5.x creates a file (with a .q extension) within sys:queues. This records the password of an administrator, who ran an NDS backup, in plain text.

An anonymous email received by The Register suggested that a knowledgeable user with a guest account could use a remote console tool (such as FreeCon) to connect to NetWare server. Once access to a server is obtained a cracker might be able to use ToolBox to copy the file containing passwords from the system volume.

Novell dispute the credibility of this attack scenario.

Brian Green, NetWare product marketing manager, said that before anyone could look at the file system they have to have a valid account on the server. Furthermore a guest user would not be able to access the relevant files, he said.

"In a real world scenario we feel that no-one would be exposed to this problem because authentication rights against a server and file rights to view the relevant file are needed," said Green.

That said, Novell still thinks the issue is important enough to develop a fix which involves making sure passwords are always stored in an encrypted form irrespective of file access rights.

Novell is testing this fix with the customer who first alerted it to the problem, an unnamed end user of UK reseller Salford Software, with the aim of developing a generally available patch. ®

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