[CentOS] Passwords apparently stopped working.

James B. Byrne byrnejb at harte-lyne.ca
Tue Jan 3 15:30:38 UTC 2012

I encountered a couple of strange events with respect to
password authentication this morning. Two of our staff
were unable to login onto several systems using their
usual passwords.  Both users had last logged in on these
hosts using their accounts and passwords on Friday past.

The two accounts could not log on to any of the servers
for which they had access and the message log on each
showed that access was denied for a failed password.  The
systems involved were running either CentOS-4.9 or
CentOS-5.7.  So, the effect was uniform across multiple
hardware and software platforms.  I also checked these
accounts against our warm backup machine and encountered
the same problems for both.

I verified that the passwords being used were correct for
the accounts.  I also verified that neither of passwords
had been reset in some months and there were no expiry
dates set for the accounts.

I would accept the coincidence of both forgetting their
passwords except for the fact that each had kept a record
of their password in their wallets and I was able to
confirm those values against our records as well.

Resetting both the passwords to their current values using
the passwd utility on each system corrected the problem
insofar as the users were concerned.  However, I am
somewhat perplexed as to the reason for their passwords to
stop working in the first place. Is anyone here aware of
any reason why this might happen?

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James B. Byrne                mailto:ByrneJB at Harte-Lyne.ca
Harte & Lyne Limited          http://www.harte-lyne.ca
9 Brockley Drive              vox: +1 905 561 1241
Hamilton, Ontario             fax: +1 905 561 0757
Canada  L8E 3C3

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