BoKS and the epoch rollover

2010-08-20 00:00:00


The year 2038 is still a long time away, but we may already be feeling its effects!

As any Unix administrator will know Unix systems count their time and date in the amount of seconds passed since "Epoch" (01/01/1970). On 32-bit architectures this means that we're bound to "run out of time" on the 19th of January of 2038 because after that the Unix clock will roll-over from 1111111.11111111.1111111.11111110 to 10000000.00000000.00000000.00000000.

While you might not expect it, BoKS administrators may already be feeling the effects of the Year 2038 problem way ahead of time.

One commonly used trick for applicative user accounts is to set their "pswvalidtime" to a very large number. This means that the user account in question will never be bugged to change its password, which tends to keep application support people happy. The account will never be locked automatically because they forgot to change the password and thus their applications will not crash unexpectedly.

It's common to use the figure "9999" as this huge number for "pswvalidtime". This roughly corresponds to 27,3 years. Do the rough math: 2010,8 + 27,3 = 2038,1. Combine that with the "pswgracetime" setting and BINGO! The password validity for the user in question has now rolled over to some day in January of 1970! The odd thing is that the BoKS "lsbks" command will not show this fact, but instead translate the date to the relating date in 2038, which puts you off the track of the real problem.

So... If you happen to rely on huge "pswvalidtime" settings, you'd better tone it down a little bit. Thanks to the guys at FoxT for quickly pinpointing our "problem". It seems that there's a 9999-epidemic going round :)

EDIT: Thank you to Wilfrid for pointing out two small mistakes :) tags: , ,

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