Tag Archives: ships

SHIPS have set sail, part II

SHIPS as I wrote about in my last post is a system for rotating admin password developed by TrustedSec. It handles both Linux and Windows systems which is great. I read the documentation, I have yet to try it, but I just want to point out a few things that I noticed when reading it.

1. The initial installation of SHIPS is a number of manual steps

This is actually quite necessary as this also builds understanding of how SHIPS works, which is good. The downside of it is that it do take some time to get this up and running. On the other hand, it solves a problem which has bugged sysadmins for years so I can definitely live with it.

2. Dependencies

The required packages of Ruby are easily installed on most Linux distributions, but there is one thing that perhaps is missing a bit and that is the need to have a working PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). The reason for this is that SHIPS uses SSL when communicating between the client and the server, and the client needs to trust the server SSL certificate. Your company or organization should have a CA which can sign the SHIPS server SSL certificate for it to be trusted by your clients. If you dont have this, you will have a harder time setting up the clients. It is possible to work around this by trusting individual self-signed SSL certificates on individual clients, but it is not recommended. There is also an option to use curl (which is used by the Linux clients to communicate with the SHIPS server) with the insecure mode, thereby not validating the SHIPS server SSL cert. Do not use this, instead, if you plan to use SHIPS, make sure you have a PKI to support it to make it work smoother.

3. Idents

Idents are used for managing objects within SHIPS, such as validating which users that can login to SHIPS and retrieve and set passwords as well as managing authorized clients which can connect. Authentication idents can be /etc/shadow, SQLite (database) and finally external using the LDAP protocol for querying users and computers. When it comes to the actual clients, these are handled in arrays unless you using either LDAP or simply allowing any client to connect to SHIPS. If you do allow any client to connect without validating the clients name which is not recommended, it is a possible way to perform a DoS attack against the SHIPS server database. In an enterprise, most would probably go with the LDAP option and most enterprises rely on Active Directory. That does not mean that you are running LDAP. A Windows domain controller does not run LDAP unless you have installed it, it is not included per default when installing Active Directory Domain Services. So, you might have to actually install and configure LDAP in your environment first, and that takes some planning. It is not impossible by any means, but it is additional step that you should be aware of if you are to implement SHIPS using a LDAP as the ident store.

As a last not about idents, it is possible to develop your own ident and integrate it with SHIPS.


LDAP uses port 389 and one should remember that this is a clear text protocol. If you use LDAP as the ident store for managing the SHIPS interface, there is a possibility to sniff data between the SHIPS server and the LDAP server. This might not be a very big problem, but it is possible to use TLS with LDAP over port 636 which would have been better. This is something I would like to see added to SHIPS if it is doable. The authentication between the SHIPS administrators client and the SHIPS server is using SSL so it is protected, but not the LDAP request from SHIPS to the LDAP server.


I think SHIPS is a great solution, quite capable even though perhaps a bit tricky to get it up and running. Sysadmins who expect a simple installer will be disappointed, but as I stated in the beginning, the manual steps adds to ones understanding of how SHIPS really works, and that is very important. I will try to test this once I have everything set up to really support SHIPS, not just getting one with it. SHIPS looks like a quality tool and a great project and I want to test it in the best way I can. I will write about my experience on testing SHIPS later on.

SHIPS have set sail

I was most pleased when I saw the release of the SHIPS software from TrustedSec. The problem with managing local admin accounts could be a thing of the past with this tool, and the best thing about it, it is open source. The idea about SHIPS is rotating the local admin password with a random generated password. It is client and server based, so you have a server part which holds the passwords in encrypted form, as well as a client part which sets the actual password for local admin user on every box where you have the SHIPS client installed. It can be installed on laptops, desktops and servers, it does not really matter, as long as it is running Windows. The communication between the SHIPS server and client relies on HTTPS so nothing is transmitted or stored in clear text.

The most used solution today which is is a tool called AdmPWD does not support encryption in the version that is publicly available, passwords are stored in clear text in Active Directory. Not everyone can read that attribute but it would feel better knowing those passwords were indeed encrypted. With SHIPS, that problem is solved.

This looks like a great boost for everyone on a blue team as this has been and still is a real hassle. This will definitely make the life harder for any penetration tester. I cant wait to try this out. Thanks to TrustedSec for releasing this tool, awesome job, now I just wait for a Linux version!