Should the root account be disabled in Fedora 18?

In Linux and other UNIX-like computer operating systems, the root account is the administrator account. A user with root privileges can perform many tasks that a standard user account cannot. In current editions of Fedora 17, the idea of a disabled root account is a foreign one.

But come Fedora 18, the next stable release, the root account will be disabled by default. It is one of the many new features of Anaconda, the Fedora system installation program. That at least is what you see in the just released Fedora 18 Alpha.

In this screen shot, which from the main interface of Anaconda, you can see below the ROOT PASSWORD button, though not readily legible, a 4-word phrase that says, root account is disabled.
Fedora 18 Root Account

Clicking on the root account button in the previous image automatically enables it, provided you specify the password.
Fedora 18 Root Passwd

With the root account disabled, the user created during the installation process is assigned to the Administrators group by default. This, of course, gives this user all admin privileges.
Fedora 18 User Account

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The thing that I do not understand is, why is it even necessary to disable the root account? Is there any disadvantage to having a system with the traditional root account enabled? I cannot think of any reasonable one, can you?

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101 Comments

  1. Disabling root is just more security through obscurity. It doesn’t really make the system more secure — in fact by encouraging the proliferation of superuser accounts (via sudo) I would argue it makes the system marginally less secure. It’s an idea that sounds good at first but actually turns out to be one more complication in an already overly complex system. The real answer is better audit logging and, most importantly, changing the root password periodically (maybe even without advance warning). It is much more practical (and efficient) to keep track of password expiration and usage of one superuser account (root) across 100’s of machines machines than 20 or 30 on the same number, which is actually on the low side for the number of sysadmins who might need root privileges in many enterprise shops.

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