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5.8.6. Keeping Your Password Secure

On an administrative level, you should never grant access to the user grant table to any non-administrative accounts.

When you run a client program to connect to the MySQL server, it is inadvisable to specify your password in a way that exposes it to discovery by other users. The methods you can use to specify your password when you run client programs are listed here, along with an assessment of the risks of each method:

  • Use a -pyour_pass or --password=your_pass option on the command line. For example:

    shell> mysql -u francis -pfrank db_name

    This is convenient but insecure, because your password becomes visible to system status programs such as ps that may be invoked by other users to display command lines. MySQL clients typically overwrite the command-line password argument with zeros during their initialization sequence. However, there is still a brief interval during which the value is visible. On some systems this strategy is ineffective, anyway, and the password remains visible to ps. (SystemV Unix systems and perhaps others are subject to this problem.)

  • Use the -p or --password option with no password value specified. In this case, the client program solicits the password from the terminal:

    shell> mysql -u francis -p db_name
    Enter password: ********

    The ‘*’ characters indicate where you enter your password. The password is not displayed as you enter it.

    It is more secure to enter your password this way than to specify it on the command line because it is not visible to other users. However, this method of entering a password is suitable only for programs that you run interactively. If you want to invoke a client from a script that runs non-interactively, there is no opportunity to enter the password from the terminal. On some systems, you may even find that the first line of your script is read and interpreted (incorrectly) as your password.

  • Store your password in an option file. For example, on Unix you can list your password in the [client] section of the .my.cnf file in your home directory:


    If you store your password in .my.cnf, the file should not be accessible to anyone but yourself. To ensure this, set the file access mode to 400 or 600. For example:

    shell> chmod 600 .my.cnf

    Section 4.3.2, “Using Option Files”, discusses option files in more detail.

  • Store your password in the MYSQL_PWD environment variable. This method of specifying your MySQL password must be considered extremely insecure and should not be used. Some versions of ps include an option to display the environment of running processes. If you set MYSQL_PWD, your password is exposed to any other user who runs ps. Even on systems without such a version of ps, it is unwise to assume that there are no other methods by which users can examine process environments. See Appendix F, Environment Variables.

All in all, the safest methods are to have the client program prompt for the password or to specify the password in a properly protected option file.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire