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8. Network servers

Most network servers should not invoke subprocesses of any kind. For security reasons, their path should be minimal.

An important exception is all the services that allow logging in to the system from network. This section describes what is the environment in these cases. If the command is executed in the remote machine with rsh it gets different path than if it is executed with ssh. Similarly, logging in with rlogin, Telnet or ssh is different.

8.1 inetd

Most network servers do not have process of their own waiting for requests all the time. This work is delegated to an Internet super server called inetd. Inetd listens for all the defined network ports and starts the appropriate server when there is an incoming request. This behaviour is defined in /etc/inetd.conf.

inetd is started from system startup scripts. It inherits just path of init process. It does not modify it and all the servers started from inetd has init path. An example of such a server is imapd, the server of IMAP post office protocol.

Other examples of inetd processes are telnetd, rlogind, talkd, ftp, popd, many http servers and so on.

Often usage of inetd is still complicated by using a separate tcpd program to start the real server. It is a program that makes additional security checks before starting the real application. It does not affect the path (not verified).

8.2 rsh

rsh daemon sets the path from _PATH_DEFPATH (/usr/include/paths.h) that is the same path that login program uses for normal users. Root will get the same path than the normal user.

Actually, rshd executes the command it gets with the command line:

shell -c command-line

and shell is not a login shell. It is desirable that all the shells mentioned in /etc/passwd support -c option to give on the command line.

8.3 rlogin

Rlogin is invokes login to make the real login procedure. If you login with rlogin, you get the same path than in login. Most other ways to log in to a Linux computer do not use login. Note the difference with rsh.

The login command actually used is

login -p -h host-name user-name

-p preserves the environment except the variables HOME, PATH, SHELL, TERM, MAIL and LOGNAME. -h tells the remote host name for logging.

8.4 telnet

Telnet is similar than rlogin. It uses the login program and the command line to invoke it in a similar way.

8.5 ssh

ssh has a path setting of it's own. It has a fixed path where it adds the directory where ssh is. Often this means that /usr/bin is in the path twice:


The path does not contain /usr/X11/bin and shell invoked by ssh command is not a login shell. Thus

ssh remotehost xterm

never works and anything in /etc/profile or /etc/csh.cshrc can change this. You must always use explicit path /usr/bin/X11/xterm.

ssh searches environment variables of form VAR=VALUE from file /etc/environment. Unfortunately this causes some problems with XFree86.

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