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I am trying to login to Debian 9 machine with root username, locally and through ssh.  It logs in with any invalid password.  I want to access the machine with the correct password only.  Why does an invalid password for the root account work?  How do I fix it so correct password entry is required, locally and through ssh?

For ssh I allowed only the root user.  Interestingly, when I change UsePAM to no, it works with correct root password.

ssh debug result:

OpenSSH_7.9p1 Debian-1, OpenSSL 1.1.1  11 Sep 2018
debug1: Reading configuration data /etc/ssh/ssh_config
debug1: /etc/ssh/ssh_config line 19: Applying options for *
debug1: Connecting to 192.168.56.101 [192.168.56.101] port 22.
debug1: Connection established.
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_rsa type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_rsa-cert type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_dsa type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_dsa-cert type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_ecdsa type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_ecdsa-cert type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_ed25519 type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_ed25519-cert type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_xmss type -1
debug1: identity file /root/.ssh/id_xmss-cert type -1
debug1: Local version string SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_7.9p1 Debian-1
debug1: Remote protocol version 2.0, remote software version OpenSSH_7.4p1 Debian-10+deb9u4
debug1: match: OpenSSH_7.4p1 Debian-10+deb9u4 pat OpenSSH_7.0*,OpenSSH_7.1*,OpenSSH_7.2*,OpenSSH_7.3*,OpenSSH_7.4*,OpenSSH_7.5*,OpenSSH_7.6*,OpenSSH_7.7* compat 0x04000002
debug1: Authenticating to localhost:22 as 'root'
debug1: SSH2_MSG_KEXINIT sent
debug1: SSH2_MSG_KEXINIT received
debug1: kex: algorithm: curve25519-sha256
debug1: kex: host key algorithm: ecdsa-sha2-nistp256
debug1: kex: server->client cipher: chacha20-poly1305@openssh.com MAC: <implicit> compression: none
debug1: kex: client->server cipher: chacha20-poly1305@openssh.com MAC: <implicit> compression: none
debug1: expecting SSH2_MSG_KEX_ECDH_REPLY
debug1: Server host key: ecdsa-sha2-nistp256 SHA256:>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
debug1: Host 'localhost' is known and matches the ECDSA host key.
debug1: Found key in /root/.ssh/known_hosts:3
debug1: rekey after 134217728 blocks
debug1: SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS sent
debug1: expecting SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS
debug1: SSH2_MSG_NEWKEYS received
debug1: rekey after 134217728 blocks
debug1: Will attempt key: /root/.ssh/id_rsa 
debug1: Will attempt key: /root/.ssh/id_dsa 
debug1: Will attempt key: /root/.ssh/id_ecdsa 
debug1: Will attempt key: /root/.ssh/id_ed25519 
debug1: Will attempt key: /root/.ssh/id_xmss 
debug1: SSH2_MSG_EXT_INFO received
debug1: kex_input_ext_info: server-sig-algs=<ssh-ed25519,ssh-rsa,ssh-dss,ecdsa-sha2-nistp256,ecdsa-sha2-nistp384,ecdsa-sha2-nistp521>
debug1: SSH2_MSG_SERVICE_ACCEPT received
debug1: Authentications that can continue: publickey,password
debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_dsa
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_ecdsa
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_ed25519
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_xmss
debug1: Next authentication method: password
debug1: Authentication succeeded (password).
Authenticated to localhost ([localhost]:22).
debug1: channel 0: new [client-session]
debug1: Requesting no-more-sessions@openssh.com
debug1: Entering interactive session.
debug1: pledge: network
debug1: client_input_global_request: rtype hostkeys-00@openssh.com want_reply 0
debug1: Sending environment.
debug1: Sending env LANG = en_US.UTF-8
debug1: client_input_channel_req: channel 0 rtype exit-status reply 0
debug1: client_input_channel_req: channel 0 rtype eow@openssh.com reply 0
debug1: channel 0: free: client-session, nchannels 1
debug1: fd 2 clearing O_NONBLOCK
Connection to localhost closed.
Transferred: sent 2356, received 6188 bytes, in 7.3 seconds
Bytes per second: sent 321.4, received 844.0
debug1: Exit status 0
  • Please supply the debugging information for ssh -vvv root@yourhost when you are able to log in as root with any invalid password... – RubberStamp Nov 26 '18 at 0:10
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    Look at your misconfigured pam files. – Ipor Sircer Nov 26 '18 at 0:14
  • thanks, I have added debug result in the attached. @IporSircer you mean that for local login and what file I should look in pam.d folder? – ARH Nov 26 '18 at 0:31
  • Do you have HostbasedAuthentication yes set in sshd_config ... along with /.rhosts set? ... and this is locahost to localhost, yes? So, basically an apparent privilege escalation, most likely due to misconfiguration... – RubberStamp Nov 26 '18 at 1:02
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    I think Ipor Sircer meant the PAM configuration files: /etc/pam.d/sshd and any /etc/pam.d/common-* files included by it. I agree with him: it clearly looks like a PAM configuration error. – telcoM Nov 26 '18 at 7:27
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I solved it. PAM contains different files and one of the files common-auth was mis-configured. There was deny status on any invalid login, so I changed it and the problem solved.

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