DefinIT

Avoid SSO Admin lockout – a.k.a. your first task after installing vSphere SSO

Security-Guard_thumb.pngIn my post yesterday (vexpert.me/hS) I talked about how to recover from an expired default SSO administrator password – this prompted a discussion on twitter with Anthony Spiteri (@anthonyspiteri) and Grant Orchard (@grantorchard) about the defaults for expiration and how to mitigate the risk.

The first solution is to modify the password expiration policy for SSO. I’m not advocating this necessarily – I think that expiring passwords ensure that you change them regularly and increase the overall security of your SSO solution. However, I can envisage situations (similar to mine) when the SSO administrator account is not used for a long time and expired – that causes headaches.

To modify the SSO password policy log onto the vSphere Web Client as the SSO admin (admin@system-domain for 5.1 or administrator@vsphere.local 5.5) and select Administration, then Sign-On and Discovery > Configuration. Select the Policies tab – you should see the default config:

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Click edit and set the password policy as required. This only applies to SSO users (i.e. those in the System-Domain or vSphere.local domains). To set the password to never expire in 5.1, set the Maximum Lifetime to 0  – for vSphere 5.5 you need to set to 9999 (Thanks to Hywel for his comments). IF you chose to do that, I’d beef up the complexity of your password policy to include upper, lower, numeric and special characters and increase the length from 8 to 13.

Similarly, you can edit the lockout policy which by default will lock you out if it has 3 failed attempts within 24 days. It will lock you out for 15 minutes. Setting the lockout time to 0 forces a manual unlock by an SSO admin.

The second option seems preferable to me (and Anthony and Grant) – that is to add some AD users or groups to the SSO administrators group. To do this, again log in as an SSO admin and select Administration, then Access > SSO Users and Groups, then the Groups tab. Select “__Administrators__” and click on the add principals button below. Select your AD domain from in the Identity Source field and search for your required user or group. Add them and click OK. Now those users, or group members have the ability to log on and reset or unlock the SSO admin account. AD accounts are obviously subject to your AD password policy, but can be reset independently of SSO and therefore don’t require you to use some command-line kung-fu to unlock.

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