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A dead end and a way around

From a terminal window, I tried it out using an account I had set up during the device initialization:

# telnet
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.
NSLU2 login: tom
No directory, logging in with HOME=/
Cannot execute /dev/null: Permission denied
Connection closed by foreign host.

Close but no cigar. A telnet server was running and my username and password were accepted, but the account had the shell set to /dev/null. This told me that users set up with the web interface were valid Linux accounts, but only second-class citizens as far as access. This is a common practice for users who can use some services, but are not allowed to have an interactive login.

Attempting to login as root - a standard Linux account - failed because I didn't know the password and the obvious ones (admin, root, etc.) didn't work. It was time to come at the problem from a different angle.

Linksys documentation claimed that a disk initialized by the NSLU2 can only be used with the NSLU2, but I didn't believe it. A file system is a complicated piece of software and it wasn't likely that Linksys wrote a new one for this little box. Some write-ups indicated (and a Linksys spokesperson confirmed) that the filesystem was a Linux ext3 filesystem because of the partition type, but as far as I could tell, no one had tried mounting it.

Being too lazy to take my NSLU2 initialized disk downstairs to my Mandrake Linux system, I downloaded ext2 (a subset of ext3) drivers for my MacOs X iBook and plugged the disk into its USB port.

Tip! Tip: The Mac OS X ext2 drivers I used can be downloaded from the ext2 for Mac OS X SourceForge project. There is also a read-only ext2 driver for Windows NT/2000/XP that you can try here. It was used to create the screenshot shown in Figure 3.

Up popped two mounted filesystems: a large filesystem with all of my data files on it, and a small filesystem with several configuration files including my favorite, passwd.

The filesystem containing configuration files

Figure 3: The filesystem containing configuration files

As expected, the passwd file showed the user accounts I had created with a /dev/null for the shell. But there were two accounts that had a real shell: root and an interestingly named account - ourtelnetrescueuser, that looked like a back door account used for debugging or recovery purposes.

ftp:x:14:50:FTP User:/:

But in order to use these accounts, I would need to have their passwords. I started down the path of cracking the passwords before I came out of my stupor and realized all I had to do was edit the passwd file and replace the encrypted password with a known encrypted password from one of my other accounts! I could also just add a valid shell to one of my accounts, but for starters, decided to just put a new password in for root and leave the rest of the accounts alone.

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