Disable SSH Access via Empty Passwords

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Description

Disallow SSH login with empty passwords. The default SSH configuration disables logins with empty passwords. The appropriate configuration is used if no value is set for PermitEmptyPasswords.

To explicitly disallow SSH login from accounts with empty passwords, add or correct the following line in

/etc/ssh/sshd_config:

PermitEmptyPasswords no

Any accounts with empty passwords should be disabled immediately, and PAM configuration should prevent users from being able to assign themselves empty passwords.

Rationale

Configuring this setting for the SSH daemon provides additional assurance that remote login via SSH will require a password, even in the event of misconfiguration elsewhere.

Remediation

Shell script

The following script can be run on the host to remediate the issue.

#!/bin/bash

# Remediation is applicable only in certain platforms
if [ ! -f /.dockerenv ] && [ ! -f /run/.containerenv ]; then

if [ -e "/etc/ssh/sshd_config" ] ; then
    
    LC_ALL=C sed -i "/^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s\+/Id" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
else
    touch "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
fi
# make sure file has newline at the end
sed -i -e '$a\' "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"

cp "/etc/ssh/sshd_config" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.bak"
# Insert at the beginning of the file
printf '%s\n' "PermitEmptyPasswords no" > "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
cat "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.bak" >> "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
# Clean up after ourselves.
rm "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.bak"

else
    >&2 echo 'Remediation is not applicable, nothing was done'
fi

Ansible playbook

The following playbook can be run with Ansible to remediate the issue.

- name: Disable SSH Access via Empty Passwords
  block:

  - name: Check for duplicate values
    lineinfile:
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s+
      state: absent
    check_mode: true
    changed_when: false
    register: dupes

  - name: Deduplicate values from /etc/ssh/sshd_config
    lineinfile:
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s+
      state: absent
    when: dupes.found is defined and dupes.found > 1

  - name: Insert correct line to /etc/ssh/sshd_config
    lineinfile:
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s+
      line: PermitEmptyPasswords no
      state: present
      insertbefore: BOF
      validate: /usr/sbin/sshd -t -f %s
  when: ansible_virtualization_type not in ["docker", "lxc", "openvz", "podman", "container"]
  tags:
  - CJIS-5.5.6
  - DISA-STIG-UBTU-20-010047
  - NIST-800-171-3.1.1
  - NIST-800-171-3.1.5
  - NIST-800-53-AC-17(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-6(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-7(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-7(b)
  - PCI-DSS-Req-2.2.4
  - PCI-DSSv4-2.2.6
  - high_severity
  - low_complexity
  - low_disruption
  - no_reboot_needed
  - restrict_strategy
  - sshd_disable_empty_passwords