Default Passwords for World Wide Packets/Lightning Edge Equipment

Matthew Palmer mpalmer at
Thu Jan 7 01:54:22 UTC 2010

On Wed, Jan 06, 2010 at 08:41:14PM -0500, Joel Esler wrote:
> On Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 8:26 PM, Steven Bellovin <smb at> wrote:
> > On Jan 6, 2010, at 6:24 PM, Jeffrey I. Schiller wrote:
> > > An option I saw years ago (I forgot on whose equipment) was a default
> > > password which was a function of the equipment's serial number. So you
> > > had to have the algorithm and you needed the serial number which was not
> > > related to the MAC. So if you didn't have physical access, you were not
> > > in a good position to learn the password.
> > >
> > > I suspect this was a support nightmare for the vendor and I bet they
> > > went to a more standard (read: the same) factory password.
> > >
> > > At the end of the day, minimizing support costs for the vendor (not to
> > > mention likely annoyance for the customer) trumps providing "default"
> > > security for the folks who won't change the default password.
> >
> > The MyFi apparently does this.  According to
> >"The network password is printed right there on the bottom of the MiFi
> > itself."
> At least it's not "0000".
> But yes, my Mifi *had* the password on the bottom.

As long as the passwords are reasonably secure (ie not generated to a simple
pattern that can be easily brute forced) and they can be changed, I'd
consider that to be pretty reasonable security.  As has been mentioned in
this thread already, if someone's got physical access to your equipment
you're dead in the water, security wise, so having the device-specific
"factory" default password on the equipment is far more secure than having a
single factory default password, whilst being *far* more user friendly than
a hash-the-serial-number approach -- or even a "prompt for a password before
I'll do anything" (which, I agree, is the most secure, but is still not very

For the record, all of my personal networking gear has the admin credentials
(and whatever else I need to get into them, like IP addresses, etc) written
on it.  I don't trust myself to remember those over the years, and assuming
that anything else is going to be working when I *need* to get into them
seems awfully optimistic.

- Matt

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