HP OpenVMS Guide to System Security > Chapter 7 Managing System Access

Assigning Appropriate Accounts to Users

  Table of Contents



The type of system access a user holds largely depends on his or her need for system resources and your site's security requirements. This section describes the types of user accounts that are available on OpenVMS systems and explains why one type of account may be preferable to another. For a step-by-step description of adding user accounts, refer to the HP OpenVMS System Manager's Manual.

Types of System Accounts

There are two major types of accounts:

  • Interactive accounts have access to system software. Usually, such an account is considered an individual account.

  • Limited-access accounts provide controlled login to the system and, in some cases, controlled access to user software. Limited-access accounts ensure that the system and process login command procedures, as well as any command procedures they call, are executed.

    There are two types of limited accounts: captive and restricted. Guest, proxy, and automatic login accounts are forms of captive and restricted accounts.

    DECwindows software does not currently support captive or restricted logins in the traditional sense. Once a user is logged in and creates a DECterm window, however, the traditional environment of a captive or restricted account applies.

Both interactive and limited-access accounts can be privileged accounts, and can be externally authenticated, as “Privileged Accounts” describes.

The following table shows the kind of account to create based on the task a user performs:

If Users Need to... Create This Type of Account...

Perform work of a general nature, such as program development or text editing


Perform routine computer tasks requiring limited activities


Run batch operations during unsupervised periods


Run applications programs with confidential information


Use network applications like MAIL


Access resources on your system from a remote system (in a limited manner)

Captive or restricted

Use network proxy accounts


Use authentication systems like smart cards


Use accounts created as part of a layered product installation


Perform privileged operations

Interactive, restricted, or captive

Access resources from a remote system without a password


Automatically log in to an application terminal

Captive or restricted

Log in at the OpenVMS login prompt using their external user IDs and passwords

Externally authenticated

You may develop one or more templates that work for many of your users. However, do not oversimplify the process of account creation to the point that you simply apply a template. The danger in relying solely on templates is that you might overlook special considerations that apply to individual users, thereby forfeiting important controls that only you can exercise.

Examine templates regularly to be sure they are valid and reflect the way you want your operations to proceed. Templates become obsolete rapidly.

Interactive Account Example

Example 7-1 “Creating a Typical Interactive User Account” shows how to create an interactive user account with moderate restrictions, typical of an account at a commercial site where security is a concern and the average user has limited access.

Example 7-1 Creating a Typical Interactive User Account

_UAF> /FLAGS=(GENPWD) /PWDMINIMUM=6 -                      [2]
_UAF> /EXPIRATION=15-JUNE-2003/PWDLIFETIME=90 -            [3]
identifier for value:[000231,000010] added to RIGHTSLIST.DAT

Notice the following:

  1. Only one password is required.

  2. The password has a minimum length of 6 characters.

  3. The user's password is valid for 90 days, a much longer lifetime than the manager's password shown in Example 6-1 “Sample Security Administrator's Account”.

  4. The user is allowed access during the week and on Saturdays.

  5. During those six days, the user has access during a 15-hour period.

Limited-Account Example

Example 7-2 “Creating a Limited-Access Account” shows how to create an applications production account where the user is highly restricted. This account is designed to perform two functions: list the grades at State University, and produce mailings to each student's home.

In the example, any value not specified defaults to the value provided by the default record in SYSUAF.DAT.

Example 7-2 Creating a Limited-Access Account

_UAF> /PASSWORD=GROBWACH/UIC=[777,031] -                         [2]                         
/OWNER="Campus Admin"/ACCOUNT=ADMIN -                      
_UAF> /NONETWORK/NOREMOTE/NODIALUP -                             [4]

user record successfully added
identifier for value:[000777,000031] added to RIGHTSLIST.DAT

Notice the following:

  1. Account users do not see the normal system welcome message. The account may not receive mail. It is restricted to running under control of its login command procedure and the default command interpreter (DCL).

  2. The user who initiates the login must specify the password, GROBWACH. (Most likely only the security administrator will change the password.)

  3. When the job is run through a local login, it is restricted to the hours of 8 a.m. through 5:59 p.m., Monday through Friday. (Notice that only batch and local logins are allowed, and batch mode does not have time restrictions.)

  4. The job may not be run over dialup lines or as a remote job. The account also denies network access.

  5. The process runs under the control of a special login command procedure (GRADES.COM), which presumably provides the operator with a menu of functions.

  6. The process is restricted to the commands defined in the CLI table GRADES_TABLES.

Privileged Accounts

Privileges determine the functions users are authorized to perform on the system. Any account with privileges beyond TMPMBX and NETMBX is considered privileged. Such an account can be interactive, restricted, or captive.

Because abuse of privileged accounts can result in serious losses, consider imposing special controls on accounts with the most powerful privileges as follows:

  • Limit access to the account. For example, you can prohibit dialup or network access with the /NODIALUP or /NONETWORK qualifier to discourage outsiders from attempting break-ins from remote locations.

  • Impose security alarms to detect use of the privileges pertaining to file protection: BYPASS, SYSPRV, READALL, and GRPPRV. For information about setting up and monitoring security alarms, see Chapter 9 “Security Auditing”.

For all but the SYSTEM account, also add the following restrictions:

  • Use the /PRIMEDAYS and /NOACCESS qualifiers to restrict the time of day or days of the week that logins can be performed. Select periods of time that can be monitored for appropriate use.

  • Disable the account when not in use with the AUTHORIZE qualifier /FLAGS=DISUSER.

  • Use a captive login command procedure for additional validation. Captive login command procedures are described in “Captive Accounts”.

Naturally, you need to set controls on the SYSTEM account. The most secure practice is to disable it for all but batch access and perform system management through individual privileged user accounts, which provide accountability.

Special-Purpose Privileged Captive Accounts

Because the safety of a captive account depends on the integrity of its command procedures, it is unadvisable to set up privileged captive accounts for untrusted users. However, there are some situations that require privilege, and it is safer to perform specific sensitive functions through captive privileged accounts than through general purpose privileged accounts. For example, users who perform backup operations require the READALL privilege. By making the account that performs backups captive, you can ensure that the procedures are carried out according to your system's backup policy.

See “Captive Accounts” for guidelines for setting up captive accounts.

Interactive Accounts

Interactive accounts are very common in environments with low to moderate security requirements. They are well suited to work of a general nature, such as program development or text editing. The HP OpenVMS System Manager's Manual explains the procedure for setting up this type of account. “Interactive Account Example” provides an example.

Captive Accounts

A captive account limits the activities of the user and, when properly administered, denies the user access to the DCL command level. You can set up the account to limit the user to running under the complete control of a specific program or the captive login command procedure.

The primary feature of the captive account is its login command procedure. This type of account ensures that the system login command procedure (SYLOGIN.COM) and the process login command procedure (specified by the /LGICMD qualifier in SYSUAF.DAT), as well as any command procedures they call, are executed. A user cannot specify any of the qualifiers shown in Table 7-2 “Login Qualifiers Not Allowed by Captive Accounts” to modify the captive command procedures when logging in.

Once logged in to a captive account, a user cannot escape to the DCL command level through the Ctrl/Y sequence, the SPAWN command, or the INQUIRE command. Because the DISCTLY flag in the UAF record is turned on, any use of Ctrl/Y fails. If unhandled errors or attempted interrupts occur, a system error message is generated, and the session is logged out. Unless the SPAWN command carries the /TRUSTED qualifier, it is ineffective within a captive account. SPAWN is also disabled from MAIL and the DEC Text Processing Utility (DECTPU) (as a built-in procedure). The INQUIRE command is also disabled to prevent the possible execution of user-specified lexical functions.

Table 7-2 Login Qualifiers Not Allowed by Captive Accounts

Qualifier Description


Specifies the name of an alternate command language interpreter


Overrides the default login command procedure


Disables execution of the default login command procedure


Requests an alternate default disk


Specifies the name of an alternate CLI table


Setting Up Captive Accounts

You define a captive account with AUTHORIZE by including the following qualifier when creating the account:


A captive account also requires the qualifiers described in Table 7-3 “Qualifiers Required to Define Captive Accounts”.

Table 7-3 Qualifiers Required to Define Captive Accounts

Qualifier Action


Identifies the captive account login command procedure and overrides the default login command procedure (LOGIN.COM in the user's default directory).


Assigns a unique UIC group. Use the following form of the AUTHORIZE command SHOW to verify the uniqueness of the UIC group:

SHOW [groupuic,*]

By keeping the account in a separate group, you can ensure that the captive account users can access only world-accessible files and files owned by the captive account. It ensures that the account is not a member of the system group (that is, has a group value less than or equal to 108, unless modified by the system parameter MAXSYSGROUP).


Sets up the password. With a captive account, either require no password, or lock the password so that only the security administrator can change it.

Locked passwords are generally preferable to open captive accounts (those with no password). If you assign a locked password, give that password to all users of the captive account.


Sets the subprocess limit to 0, thus preventing the user from spawning out of the account. (Verify that the system parameter PQL_MPRCLM---the minimum subprocess limit---is set to 0.)


In addition to the required settings, you may want to specify additional characteristics for the account:

  • You may want to disable the welcome announcement and electronic mail for the captive account. This is done by setting the DISWELCOME, DISMAIL, and DISNEWMAIL login flags.

  • You may want to allow only interactive use of the account from a local terminal. Include the qualifiers /NODIALUP, /NOREMOTE, /NOBATCH, and /NONETWORK when establishing the account.

  • Your application may have special requirements. You may need to impose additional AUTHORIZE qualifiers on the account, such as /NODIALUP, to restrict modes of operation. Consider imposing restrictions for the periods of the day and days of the week when the process can run.

  • You can define a special set of DCL tables by using the /CLITABLES qualifier, or you can emulate DCL through the use of a DCL command procedure. It is more efficient to define DCL tables than to resort to a DCL command procedure to emulate DCL. See the description of the Command Definition utility (CDU) in the HP OpenVMS System Management Utilities Reference Manual: A-L for help when defining the DCL tables. Be aware that the DCL tables defined by the /CLITABLES qualifier are not used in network jobs, such as those using the TASK object.

  • You can grant privileges, although you rarely need to grant any privilege other than TMPMBX to a captive account.

  • You can limit the disk quota for the captive account to the amount needed.

Guidelines for Captive Command Procedures

When writing captive command procedures for your site, be sure to observe the following guidelines:

  • Use the DCL command READ/PROMPT in command procedures. For example, to request the user to enter the date, enter the following command in the command procedure:

  • Avoid use of the INQUIRE command in a captive command procedure. It produces an error that, if unhandled by a previous ON declaration, results in deletion of the process.

  • When user input is required, never execute it directly. First compare it to what is expected, and screen for illegal characters such as apostrophe ('), at sign (@), dollar sign ($), quotation mark ("), ampersand (&), or hyphen (-).

  • Avoid any use of the construction "x, where x contains a string entered by the user. Never permit a restricted command procedure to attempt an evaluation of a symbol that the user enters. Use of lexical functions could break the command procedure.

  • Avoid executing a line in a captive command procedure that contains the characters @TT:.

  • Put Audit ACEs on the captive command procedure and its home directory to detect any modification of the file. See “Attaching a Security-Auditing ACE” for more information on Audit ACEs.

  • If the captive account user is allowed to create or perform other operations on files, make certain that write access to the login command procedure and its directory is denied. (The user does need execute access.)

    If the function of the command procedure requires text preparation, you may need to give users access to a text editor. Use caution, however. Editors such as TECO or DECTPU can be dangerous because users can manipulate files and exit from the editor to the DCL interface. When designing this environment, remember that most text editors are capable of reading and writing files (within the access rights of the account). Provide an editor that gives users the tools they require but does not allow them to escape from the captive environment.

Example 7-3 “Sample Captive Procedure for Privileged Accounts” and Example 7-4 “Sample Captive Command Procedure for Unprivileged Accounts” provide sample command procedures for privileged and unprivileged accounts.

Example 7-3 Sample Captive Procedure for Privileged Accounts

$ if f$mode() .nes. "INTERACTIVE" then $logout
$ term = f$logical("SYS$COMMAND")
$ if f$locate("_T", term) .eq. 0 then $goto allow
$ if f$locate("_OP",term) .ne. 0 then $logout
$ set control=(y,t)

Example 7-4 Sample Captive Command Procedure for Unprivileged Accounts

$ deassign sys$input
$ previous_sysinput == f$logical("SYS$INPUT")
$ on error then goto next_command
$ on control_y then goto next_command
$ set control=(y,t)
$ on error then goto next_command
$ on control_y then goto next_command
$ if previous_sysinput .nes. f$logical("SYS$INPUT") then deassign sys$input
$ read/end=next_command/prompt="$ " sys$command command
$ command == f$edit(command,"UPCASE,TRIM,COMPRESS")
$ if f$length(command) .eq. 0 then goto next_command
$ delete = "delete"$ delete/symbol/local/all
$ if f$locate("@",command) .ne. f$length(command) then goto illegal_command
$ if f$locate("=",command) .ne. f$length(command) then goto illegal_command
$ if f$locate("F$",command) .ne. f$length(command) then goto illegal_command
$ verb = f$element(0," ",command)
$ if verb .eqs. "LOGOUT" then goto do_logout
$ if verb .eqs. "HELP" then goto do_help
$ write sys$output "%CAPTIVE-W-IVVERB, unrecognized command \",verb,"\"
$ goto next_command
$ write sys$output "%CAPTIVE-W-ILLEGAL, bad characters in command line"
$ goto next_command
$ logout
$ goto next_command
$ define sys$input sys$command
$ help
$ goto next_command

Restricted Accounts

Certain limited-access accounts require a less restrictive environment than captive accounts. Accounts under which network objects run, for example, require temporary access to DCL. Such accounts must be set up as restricted accounts, not captive accounts. Restricted accounts are indistinguishable from regular accounts once the login sequence finishes. The purpose behind restricted accounts is to ensure a trusted login wherein SYLOGIN, LOGIN, and their descendants execute completely.

Define a restricted account with the Authorize utility by including the following qualifier when creating the account:


This flag ensures that the account is noted as restricted. A restricted account provides the same features as those listed for a captive account in “Captive Accounts” except that restricted accounts allow the user access to the DCL command level following the execution of the system and process login command procedures.

Sometimes it is appropriate to allow the user to enter the Ctrl/Y key sequence after the command procedure starts. For example:

  • You may want to provide users with a Ctrl/Y feature at points during the execution of the restricted login command procedure. Include ON CONTROL_Y commands in the procedure where you want to test for the Ctrl/Y features, as shown in Example 7-4 “Sample Captive Command Procedure for Unprivileged Accounts”.

  • You may have a restricted command procedure that ultimately turns control over to the user. For example, consider a SYLOGIN.COM command procedure that performs additional security validation; its execution should be guaranteed to ensure its effectiveness. However, once SYLOGIN.COM has done its job, control can be passed to the user. To do this, mark the account as restricted, and enter the DCL command SET CONTROL=Y when you are ready to release control to the user.

Automatic Login Accounts

To force individuals at specific terminals to log in to an application program, create a separate captive account for the application. Then set up automatic logins to the new account for the desired users using the System Management utility (SYSMAN).

Once you set up a terminal for automatic login, it can be used only for the designated account. This is most useful for applications terminals used by people who may be unfamiliar with computers.

The automatic login feature suppresses the user name prompt. All other login features (system password, primary and secondary passwords, and messages) function normally, if enabled.

Passwords are optional. If you want the account to be open to all users where the terminals are located, eliminate the password. When no password is required, the user has no data to enter at login. The operating system logs the terminal in automatically in response to the Break key or the Return key and immediately enters the application if the account is under the control of a captive login command procedure.

The automatic login file (ALF) lists the terminals and the users who are authorized to access the application account. However, automatic login accounts are potentially accessible from terminals and sources other than the terminals listed in the ALF file and, therefore, require protection, especially if they have no password. Use the following precautions:

  • Restrict network and dialup access, as appropriate, with the AUTHORIZE qualifiers /NODIALUP, /NONETWORK, and /NOREMOTE.

  • Set the AUTOLOGIN flag in the account's UAF record. This flag makes the account available only by autologin, batch, and network proxy.

Guest Accounts

Guest accounts are forms of captive or restricted accounts that allow multiple remote users access to resources on your system through a common account. For example, users across the network may need access to your system to report problems or to read corporate memos.

HP does not recommend the practice of setting up guest accounts. Guest accounts, however unprivileged, offer malicious users a chance to compromise your system security. Most needs for a guest account can be handled by special proxy login accounts, which should also be limited-access accounts.

If you still need a guest account, take the following steps to make the account secure:

  • Use an obscure password for the guest account. Change the password frequently. Never use easily guessed account name and password combinations such as GUEST/GUEST or USER/USER.

  • Maintain a list of people allowed to use the account. (Changing the password regularly helps you keep this list current.)

  • Set up the guest account in a separate UIC group. Make sure that the account is not a member of the system group.

  • Place the default login command procedure in the directory SYS$MANAGER by using the AUTHORIZE command MODIFY, as follows:

    MODIFY guest-account/LGICMD=SYS$MANAGER:filename.COM
  • Make the guest account restricted or captive by setting the AUTHORIZE qualifiers /FLAGS=RESTRICTED or /FLAGS=CAPTIVE, respectively.

  • If the guest account is set up as a restricted account, limit the number of subprocesses that the account can create to 0 using the AUTHORIZE qualifier /PRCLM=0. (Ensure that the system parameter PQL_MPRCLM is also set to 0.)

  • Assign the guest account only TMPMBX privilege.

  • To handle error conditions, include the following commands in the default login command procedure:

    SET ON
  • If the system has LOGOUT defined as a global symbol and points to a command procedure (enter the DCL command SHOW SYMBOL LOGOUT to confirm this), include the following DCL command in the default login command procedure for the account:


    This command eliminates the possibility that the user could break the restricted account at logout time by pressing Ctrl/Y.

  • To prevent outsiders from misusing your system resources through the submission of batch jobs under the guest account, include the AUTHORIZE qualifier /NOBATCH when you create the account.

  • Limit the disk quota for the guest account UIC to the amount needed.

  • Do not allow the DCL command INQUIRE to appear in any of the command procedures.

Proxy Accounts

Generally, proxy login accounts should be set up as restricted accounts. Proxy login accounts permit remote users to access a local account without specifying a password. “Example of a Proxy Account” describes proxy login accounts. Note that many recommendations are the same as those for restricted accounts.

Externally Authenticated Accounts

Externally authenticated accounts are those that are marked with the EXTAUTH flag in the user's SYSUAF record. This enables these users to log in at the OpenVMS login prompt using their external user IDs and passwords. See “Enabling External Authentication” for more information on external authentication.