Password Protecting Grub in RHEL 6

19552780-illustration-of-cartoon-wormGrub, is the standard boot loader used by each and every Linux type operating system that I can think of. RHEL 6 uses what I guess we are now calling grub 1.o, since grub 2.0 has been released and in use by Fedora for the last few releases. You will also find that grub 2.0 has replaced grub 1.0 in RHEL 7. At some point I plan to explore grub 2 at lenght, but today is not that day (unless something strange happens before I go to bed tonight — you never know).


Anyway – I digress. Below is an excerpt from the current grub.conf that is in use by my EC2 RHEL 6.5 instance. I've made it really tiny to save space.

# grub.conf generated by anaconda
# Note that you do not have to rerun grub after making changes to this file
# NOTICE:  You do not have a /boot partition.  This means that
#          all kernel and initrd paths are relative to /, eg.
#          root (hd0)
#          kernel /boot/vmlinuz-version console=ttyS0 ro root=/dev/vda1
#          initrd /boot/initrd-[generic-]version.img


title Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server (2.6.32-431.17.1.el6.x86_64)
        root (hd0)
        kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-431.17.1.el6.x86_64 console=ttyS0 ro root=UUID=05e7b919-2577-40a7-91fb-1ccdede87fc4 rd_NO_LUKS  KEYBOARDTYPE=pc KEYTABLE=us LANG=en_US.UTF-8 xen_blkfront.sda_is_xvda=1 console=ttyS0,115200n8 console=tty0 rd_NO_MD SYSFONT=latarcyrheb-sun16 crashkernel=auto rd_NO_LVM rd_NO_DM rhgb quiet
        initrd /boot/initramfs-2.6.32-431.17.1.el6.x86_64.img

To configure a password to use for grub you need to use the grub-crypt command. as you can see in the example below, grub-crypt prompts you for your password, although you can also pass the password to grub-crypt in the inital command. Grub-crypt spits out your hashed and salted password.

[root@ip-172-31-22-45 ~]# grub-crypt
Retype password:

Now stick this password in your grub.conf using the format below.

password –encrypted $6$V0qkcD4b/CouCY/L$.7vrHd.X6MZWzzDxvXdQn3avPwv2rUX80XKuS.Hvh1YqR11ZyINZszvJ/e0qH6VcsFMAVWAPWXtugHHYTzYj90

You have a couple of options when inserting the password into the grub.conf. You can either stick this entry near the top of the file, which protects each and every boot image that you might be configured to use, or you can stick the entry directly into a particular stanza to protect a specific boot image. For example, if you are building your servers with the option to pxe-boot from grub, or wipe the disk from grub, you might want to protect these options with a password.

Also note that adding a password to grub does not keep an unauthorized user from being able to boot or reboot a server, rather what it does is protect the grub menu from being edited manually durring a reboot. This keeps nefarious users from being able to break the boot sequence and boot into single-user mode where they can compromise your system.


Related articles

RHEL6 – Restore Grub on MBR
RHEL6 – Mount: Could Not Find Any Free Loop Device