When hardening a LINUX system what command line tools would you remove first in order to make an attackers life really difficult?

  • What is the system supposed to do? What sort of attacker? Security is pointless without defining these things. Jun 28 '18 at 0:36
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    Generally, any command line tool can be re-implemented by an attacker. Removing it does not slow them down. The only exception is for executables that are setuid, setgid, or setcap.
    – forest
    Jun 28 '18 at 2:51
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    That's the wrong approach. Don't remove commands from a complex system but start with a small system (like Alpine Linux) and whenever you add something to it ask yourself why this really needs to be on the system and how it could be abused - especially with powerful things like compilers, scripting languages, network tools etc which makes it easy for an attacker to add any functionality they need themselves. Apart from that, it is unclear what you have installed on your system so it is unclear what all can be removed. Jun 28 '18 at 3:09

Most of the native tools are necessary for system administration. There are very few that you could remove without being concerned that you'll need them one day.

You run a serious risk of extending outages or delaying projects when administrators are missing essential tools.

Instead, you should focus on:

  1. Making it difficult for an attacker to communicate with the system (network boundaries, packet inspection, removal of unnecessary services)

  2. Isolating hosts based on sensitivity of data (DMZs, network ACLs)

  3. Blocking inappropriate communication (HIPS, network IDS/IPS, local firewall/iptables)

  4. Preventing exploitation and limiting escalation (patching, app-specific hardening, least privilege users, chmod jails, sandboxing)


The first thing I would do, is to keep off any insecure Telnet/FTP/Rlogin/RSH or other analogous superannuated services.

There are various commands and files that can be captured from people when they are connected on the same network. The solvent of the problem would be the usage of services that implement protocols with SSL/TLS encryption (FTPS, OpenSSH, and others).

Example on a Debian/Ubuntu system:

~ $ sudo apt-get --purge remove nis yp-tools xinetd atftpd tftpd tftpd-hpa telnetd rsh-server rsh-redone-server

First? First I would remove compilers like gcc, g++, etc. No need for development tools on a prod system.

  • Who said it was a prod system?
    – symcbean
    Jun 27 '18 at 21:34
  • Many tools and commands recommend building from source rather than binary download
    – elsadek
    Jun 27 '18 at 21:44

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