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The /etc/group file contains the database that lists every group on your computer and its corresponding GID. Its format is similar to the format used by the /etc/passwd file. Here is an /etc/group file from RHEL 5.5:
# cat /etc/group root:x:0:root bin:x:1:root,bin,daemon daemon:x:2:root,bin,daemon sys:x:3:root,bin,adm adm:x:4:root,adm,daemon tty:x:5: disk:x:6:root lp:x:7:daemon,lp mem:x:8: kmem:x:9: wheel:x:10:root,joeadmin mail:x:12:mail news:x:13:news uucp:x:14:uucp man:x:15: games:x:20: gopher:x:30: dip:x:40: ftp:x:50: lock:x:54: nobody:x:99: users:x:100: nscd:x:28: floppy:x:19: vcsa:x:69: audio:x:63:gdm utmp:x:22: rpc:x:32: mailnull:x:47: smmsp:x:51: pcap:x:77: utempter:x:35: slocate:x:21: ntp:x:38: sshd:x:74: rpcuser:x:29: nfsnobody:x:4294967294: dbus:x:81: avahi:x:70: haldaemon:x:68: avahi-autoipd:x:101: distcache:x:94: apache:x:48: webalizer:x:67: squid:x:23: oprofile:x:16: xfs:x:43: gdm:x:42: sabayon:x:86: stapdev:x:102: stapusr:x:103: screen:x:84: joeadmin:x:324547: dba:x:5001:oracle oinstall:x:5002:oracle ovwebgrp:x:5003: opcgrp:x:78:
Here is a sample /etc/group like that defines the group wheel
Like /etc/passwd the /etc/group is an ASCII file. Each record appears on a single line and is the following format:
The group name
The group's "password". In modern Unixes this field is not used, but functionality is preserved creating a security hole. Every group can have administrator (typically the user for whom this group is primary), members and a password. See gpasswd. System administrator can use -A option to define group administrator(s) and -M option to define members and has all rights of group administrators and members.
Group passwords are an inherent security problem since more than one person is permitted to know the password. However, groups are a useful tool for permitting co-operation between different users.
newgrp command can be used to change the current primary group ID of the use during the current session. If the optional - flag is given, the user's environment will be reinitialized as though the user had logged in, otherwise the current environment, including current working directory, remains unchanged.
The group's GID
The list of the users who are in the group
The groups command displays group memberships for the user. The command format for the groups command is:
For example, to see which groups you are a member of, perform the command groups
To list the groups to which a specific user is a member, use the groupscommand with the user’s name, such as user5, as an argument.
Several groups are called system groups and are used for the partitioning file space on binary files, system files like drivers and so on. In Red Hat there are four such groups, although Red hat does not use group bin as a primary group for executables (but many installed on Red Hat commercial application do that)
bin:x:1:root,bin,daemon daemon:x:2:root,bin,daemon sys:x:3:root,bin,adm adm:x:4:root,adm,daemon
Generally Red Hat is using the idea of User Private Groups so the number of groups in initial install in much larger then in older Unixes like Solaris, AIX or HP-UX. For example, HP-UX /etc/group file is pretty minimalistic:
root::0:root other::1:root,hpdb bin::2:root,bin sys::3:root,uucp adm::4:root,adm daemon::5:root,daemon mail::6:root lp::7:root,lp tty::10: nuucp::11:nuucp users::20:root nogroup:*:-2: smbnull::101: cimsrvr::102: sshd::103: hpsmh::104: dba::500: oinstall::501:oracle tftp::105: log::333:
For Linux with kernel 2.6.3+ each user can belong to 64K groups. On Solaris each user can also belong to up to 15 additional groups, known as secondary groups.
The following is an example of the Solaris /etc/group file:
root::0:root other::1: bin::2:root,bin,daemon sys::3:root,bin,sys,adm adm::4:root,adm,daemon uucp::5:root,uucp mail::6:root tty::7:root,adm lp::8:root,lp,adm nuucp::9:root,nuucp staff::10: daemon::12:root,daemon sysadmin::14: smmsp::25:smmsp nobody::60001: noaccess::60002: nogroup::65534:
In Solaris GID numbers 0 to 99, 60001, 60002 and 65534 are reserved for system group entries. User defined groups range from 100 to 60000. The maximum number of group members is set by the kernel parameter called ngroups_max. You can set this parameter in the /etc/system file to allow for a maximum of 32 groups. Not all applications will be able to reference group memberships greater than 16. NFS is a notable example.
Generally like with ports the lower the number the more powerful group is. Groups such as bin, adm, daemon and sys are often called System Groups. The most powerless groups is called nobody, nogroup and nfsnobody. User and group nobody typically do not own any files at all. It GID is usually the highest number supported by particular OS. It is often defined as negative number (meaning subtract 1 from max GID), for example
In is prudent to use the wheel group for the set of server system administrators, who can switch to root. It can be provided with additional powers using PAM. Typically only members of this group can su to root. See Wheel Group
The other potentially useful trick is to assign group for files that are often edited by sysadmins to wheel. In this case editing of system files (typically owned by group root in linux) can be done from sysadmin private account, without switching to root. There is a certain danger here as access control to those file now is spread amount members of wheel group, so using sudo is a better solution. Please note that using sudo entails the same problem; the only important difference is that sudo provides additional logs.
While you can edit /etc/groups directly via vi or other editor there are special commands that permit adding groups, deleting groups and modifying group membership in this file.
User ID and group ID differences
There are differences in the UIDs and GIDs used for the various users defined on the system by default. Table 11-1 lists UID differences. Table 11-2 lists the GID differences.
User Solaris UID:GID Red Hat UID:GID SUSE UID:GID Comment root 0:1 0:0 0:0 Superuser daemon 1:1 2:2 2:2 N/A bin 2:2 1:1 1:1 N/A sys 3:3 N/A N/A N/A adm 4:4 3:4 N/A Admin uucp 5:5 10:14 10:14 uucp admin nuucp 9:9 N/A N/A uucp admin smmsp 25:25 51:51 N/A SendMail Message Submission Program listen 37:4 N/A N/A Network admin lp 71:8 4:7 4:7 Line printer admin nobody 60001:60001 99:99 65534:65533 Nobody noaccess 60002:60002 N/A N/A No access user nobody4 65534:65534 N/A N/A SunOS™ 4.x Nobody sync N/A 5:0 N/A shutdown N/A 6:0 N/A halt N/A 7:0 N/A N/A 8:12 8:12 news N/A 9:13 9:13 operator N/A 11:0 N/A games N/A 12:100 12:100 gopher N/A 13:30 N/A man N/A N/A 13:62 Man pages viewer ftp N/A 14:50 40:49 FTP user squid N/A 23:23 31:65534 Squid proxy server pvm N/A 24:24 N/A Parallel processing pkg named N/A 25:25 44:44 at N/A N/A 25:25 Batch daemon postgres N/A 26:26 26:26 PostgreSQL server mysql N/A 27:27 60:2 mySQL server ncsd N/A 28:28 N/A ncsd daemon mdom N/A N/A 28:28 Mailing list agent rpcuser N/A 29:29 N/A RPC service user wwwrun N/A N/A 30:8 WWW daemon Apache rpc N/A 32:32 N/A Portmapper™ RPC user amanda N/A 33:6 37:6 Amanada backup suite netdump N/A 34:34 104:104 netdump rpm N/A 37:37 N/A Package manager ntp N/A 38:38 74:65534 canna N/A 39:39 N/A Canna service users irc N/A N/A 39:65534 IRC daemon mailman N/A 41:41 72:67 GNU mailing list mgr gdm N/A 42:42 50:15 GNOME desktop xfs N/A 43:43 N/A X11 Font Server mailnull N/A 47:47 N/A apache N/A 48:48 N/A Apache wnn N/A 49:49 N/A Wnn input server ldap N/A 55:55 76:70 LDAP user vscan N/A N/A 65:103 Virus scanner webalizer N/A 67:67 N/A Webalizer pop N/A N/A 67:100 POP server haldaemon N/A 68:68 N/A HAL daemon vcsa N/A 69:69 N/A Virtual console memory owner snort N/A N/A 73:68 Snort network monitor sshd N/A 74:74 71:65 Privilege-separated SSH radvd N/A 75:75 N/A Router advertisement daemon cyrus N/A 76:12 96:12 Cyrus IMAP server pcap N/A 77:77 N/A Network monitor user fax N/A 78:78 N/A mgetty fax spool dbus N/A 81:81 N/A System message bus postfix N/A 89:89 51:51 Mail server quagga N/A 92:92 101:101 Quagga routing suite exim N/A 93:93 N/A Spam/virus pkg radiusd N/A 95:95 102:102 Radius user dovecot N/A 97:97 N/A IMAP/POP3 server ident N/A 98:98 N/A htt N/A 100:101 N/A IIIMF Htt stunnel N/A N/A 100:65534 SSL tunnel daemon dhcpd N/A N/A 103:65534 DHCP daemon nfsnobody N/A 65534:65534 N/A
User ID differences
Table 11-2 Group ID differences
Group Solaris Red Hat SUSE root 0 0 0 other 1 N/A N/A bin 2 1 1 sys 3 3 3 adm 4 4 N/A uucp 5 14 14 6 12 12 tty 7 5 5 lp 8 8 7 nuucp 9 N/A N/A staff 10 N/A N/A daemon 12 2 2 sysadmin 14 N/A N/A smmsp 25 N/A N/A nobody 60001 99 65533 noaccess 60002 N/A N/A nogroup 65534 N/A 65534 disk N/A 6 6 mem N/A 8 N/A www N/A N/A 8 kmem N/A 9 9 wheel N/A 10 10 news N/A 13 13 man N/A 15 N/A shadow N/A N/A 15 dialout N/A N/A 16 audio N/A N/A 17 floppy N/A 19 19 games N/A 20 40 cdrom N/A N/A 20 slocate N/A 21 N/A console N/A N/A 21 utmp N/A 22 22 squid N/A 23 N/A pvm N/A 24 N/A named N/A 25 44 at N/A N/A 25 postgres N/A 26 26 mysql N/A 27 N/A nscd N/A 28 N/A mdom N/A N/A 28 rpcuser N/A 29 N/A gopher N/A 30 N/A rpc N/A 32 N/A public N/A N/A 32 video N/A N/A 33 netdump N/A 34 N/A rpm N/A 37 N/A ntp N/A 38 N/A canna N/A 39 N/A dip N/A 40 N/A mailman N/A 41 67 xok N/A N/A 41 gdm N/A 42 N/A trusted N/A N/A 42 xfs N/A 43 N/A modem N/A N/A 43 mailnull N/A 47 N/A apache N/A 48 N/A wnn N/A 49 N/A ftp N/A 50 49 smmsp N/A 51 N/A lock N/A 54 N/A ldap N/A 55 70 maildrop N/A N/A 59 man N/A N/A 62 pkcs11 N/A N/A 64 sshd N/A N/A 65 webalizer N/A 67 N/A haldaemon N/A 68 N/A snort N/A N/A 68 vcsa N/A 69 N/A ntadmin N/A N/A 71 sshd N/A 74 N/A radvd N/A 75 N/A pcap N/A 77 N/A fax N/A 78 N/A dbus N/A 81 N/A postfix N/A 89 51 postdrop N/A 90 N/A quagga N/A 92 101 exim N/A 93 N/A radiusd N/A 95 102 dovecot N/A 97 N/A ident N/A 98 N/A users N/A 100 100 htt N/A 101 N/A quaggavt N/A 102 N/A vscan N/A N/A 103 dump N/A N/A 104 nfsnobody N/A 65534 N/A
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