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Accidental Shutdowns/Reboot Blunders

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Accidental reboot is a serious blunder, especially if you rebooted production box in the middle of the day. This is one of CLM (career limiting moves) for any administrator.  Typically his happens with remote sessions when the administrator opens a shell to one box, then open one to another box. Then became distracted, after which returns to the wrong terminal window and send the wrong command to the wrong machine. Nobody is perfect.

The rule before issuing any reboot command should be classic "Stop. Think. Click". You also can redefine reboot to provide a warning with the name of the box and pause.

Stop. Think. Click

Such script are usually called molly-guard. Originally used of the plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on an IBM 4341 mainframe after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) tripped it twice in one day. Later generalized to covers over stop/reset switches on disk drives and networking equipment.

Ubuntu has a shell script called molly-guard which guards against accidental shutdowns-reboots


       molly-guard - guard against accidental shutdowns/reboots


       shutdown [-hV] [--molly-guard-do-nothing] [-- script_options]

       halt [-hV] [--molly-guard-do-nothing] [-- script_options]

       reboot [-hV] [--molly-guard-do-nothing] [-- script_options]

       poweroff [-hV] [--molly-guard-do-nothing] [-- script_options]


       molly-guard attempts to prevent you from accidentally shutting down or
       rebooting machines. It does this by injecting a couple of checks before
       the existing commands: halt, reboot, shutdown, and poweroff. This
       happens via scripts with the same names in /usr/sbin, so it only works
       if you have /usr/sbin before /sbin in your PATH!

       Before molly-guard invokes the real command, all scripts in
       /etc/molly-guard/run.d/ have to run and exit successfully; else, it
       aborts the command.  run-parts(1) is used to process the directory.

       molly-guard passes any script_options to the scripts, and also
       populates the environment with the following variables:

       ·   MOLLYGUARD_CMD - the actual command invoked by the user.

       ·   MOLLYGUARD_DO_NOTHING - set to 1 if this is a demo-run.

       ·   MOLLYGUARD_SETTINGS - the path to a shell script snippet which
           scripts can source to obtain settings.

       molly-guard prints the contents of /etc/molly-guard/messages.d/COMMAND
       or /etc/molly-guard/messages.d/default to the console, if either
       exists. This is due to /etc/molly-guard/run.d/10-print-message.


       molly-guard was primarily designed to shield SSH connections. This
       functionality (which should arguably be provided by the openssh-server
       package) is implemented in /etc/molly-guard/run.d/30-query-hostname.

       This script first tests whether the command is being executed from a
       tty which has been created by sshd. It also checks whether the variable
       SSH_CONNECTION is defined. If any of these tests are successful, test
       script queries the user for the machine´s hostname, which should be
       sufficient to prevent the user from doing something by accident.

       You can pass the --pretend-ssh script option to molly-guard to pretend
       that those tests succeeds. Alternatively, setting ALWAYS_QUERY_HOSTNAME
       in /etc/molly-guard/rc causes the script to always query.

       The following situations are still UNGUARDED. If you can think of ways
       to protect against those, please let me know!

       ·   running sudo within screen or screen within sudo; sudo eats the
           SSH_CONNECTION variable, and screen creates a new pty.

       ·   executing those command in a remote terminal window, that is a
           XTerm started on a remote machine but displaying on the local X

       You have been warned. You can use the --molly-guard-do-nothing switch
       to prevent anything from happening, e.g.  halt


           Cause molly-guard to print the command which would be executed,
           after processing all scripts, instead of executing it.

       -h, --help
           Display usage information.

       -V, --version
           Display version information.


       shutdown(8), halt(1), reboot(8), poweroff(8).


       molly-guard is copyright by martin f. krafft. Andrew Ruthven came up
       with the idea of using the scripts directory and submitted a patch,
       which I modified a bit.

       This manual page was written by martin f. krafft <>.

       Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
       under the terms of the Artistic License 2.0


       Copyright © 2008 martin f. krafft

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Old News ;-)

[Oct 05, 2018] Due to a configuration change I wasn't privy to, the software I was responsible for rebooted all the 911 operators servers at once

Oct 05, 2018 |

ardwin 5 years ago (9 children)

Due to a configuration change I wasn't privy to, the software I was responsible for rebooted all the 911 operators servers at once.
cobra10101010 5 years ago (1 child)
Oh God..that is scary in true sense..hope everything was okay
ardwin 5 years ago (0 children)
I quickly learned that the 911 operators, are trained to do their jobs without any kind of computer support. It made me feel better.
reebzor 5 years ago (1 child)
I did this too!

edit: except I was the one that deployed the software that rebooted the machines

vocatus 5 years ago (0 children)
Hey, maybe you should go apologize to ardwin. I bet he was pissed.

[Jun 16, 2010] Prevent Accidental Shutdown/Reboot in Ubuntu

Jan 15, 2010 | Linux Today


Re: Solution looking for a problem
> How exactly does someone "accidentally" issue a shutdown or reboot command? ... Failing that highly likely scenario, this is someone shopping around a solution for a problem that doesn't really exist. Give me a break.

I haven't checked out the actual package in question, but based on the fact that (according to the posted output) it notes the connection is via SSH and asks for a hostname, I would say the author of the article did not articulate well what the purpose of the package is. The purpose appears to be to avoid shutting down the *wrong* computer when connecting remotely.

I've never had that problem, but more than once I've shut down the local computer when I intended to shut down a remote computer. I think after the second time (after I stopped swearing!) I created aliases for halt and reboot that first query with a message like: Really halt {hostname} [yn]?


Re: Solution looking for a problem
Re: How exactly does someone "accidentally" issue a shutdown or reboot command?

I've done it while I was distracted, open a shell to one box, then open one to another box. Go to lunch. Forget which shell you are using and send the wrong command to the wrong machine. Nobody is perfect.

[Jun 14, 2010] IT Resource Center forums - greatest blunders

Michael Steele

    When I was first starting out I worked for a Telecom as an 'Application Administrator' and I sat in a small room with a half a dozen other admins and together we took calls from users as their calls escalated up from tier I support. We were tier II in a three tier organization.

    A month earlier someone from tier I confused a production server with a test server and rebooted it in the middle of the day. These servers were remotely connected over a large distance so it can be confusing. Care is needed before rebooting.

    The tier I culprit took a great deal of abuse for this mistake and soon became a victim of several jokes. An outage had been caused in a high availability environment which meant management, interviews, reports; It went on and on and was pretty brutal.

    And I was just as brutal as anyone.

    Their entire organization soon became victimize by everyone from our organization. The abuse traveled right up the management tree and all participated.

    It was hilarious, for us.

    Until I did the same thing a month later.

    There is nothing more humbling then 2000 people all knowing who you are for the wrong reason and I have never longed for anonymity more.

    Now I alway do a 'uname' or 'hostname' before a reboot, even when I'm right in front of it.

[Jun 9, 2010] horror - University of Cambridge Computing Service - Unix Support

(3) At the same institution, we were running a system software that had a serious bug where if anyone had logged out ungracefully, the system wouldn't let any more users onto the system and users who were logged on couldn't execute any new commands. (The newest release of the software later on did fix this bug.) I had to reboot the machine to restore the system to a sane state. I did a wall <<EOF We need to shutdown blah blah... EOF and then shutdown. Well, I should've waited since at the precise moment, one of our users was doing a once-a-year massive conversion of our financial data (talk about bad luck). I had shutdown in the middle of a very long disk write and thus, data was lost. We did recover that data and life went on.

Moral: make damn sure that *no one* is doing anything on your system before you reboot, even if other users are vociferously clamoring for you to reboot.

My 10 UNIX Command Line Mistakes by Vivek Gite

with 90 comments

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. -- Albert Einstein.

Here are a few mistakes that I made while working at UNIX prompt. Some mistakes caused me a good amount of downtime. Most of these mistakes are from my early days as a UNIX admin.

... ... ...

Rebooted Solaris Box

On Linux killall command kill processes by name (killall httpd). On Solaris it kill all active processes. As root I killed all process, this was our main Oracle db box:
killall process-name

Selected Comments


Rebooted the wrong box

While adding alias to main network interface I ended up changing the main IP address, the system froze right away and I had to call for a reboot

Instead of appending text to Apache config file, I overwritten it's contents

Firewall lockdown while changing the ssh port

Wrongfully run a script contained recursive chmod and chown as root on / caused me a downtime of about 12 hours and a complete re-install

Some mistakes are really silly, and when they happen, you don't believe your self you did that, but every mistake, regardless of it's silliness, should be a learned lesson.

If you did a trivial mistake, you should not just overlook it, you have to think of the reasons that made you did it, like: you didn't have much sleep or your mind was confused about personal life or …..etc.

I like Einstein's quote, you really have to do mistakes to learn.

[May 21, 2009] Accidental shutdown

Re: Accidental shutdown

by Todd A. Jacobson 2009-05-21T20:46:53+00:00.

On Thu, May 21, 2009 at 12:31:47AM +0100, Bhasker C V wrote:

> I can rename and shell wrap the binaries poweroff/shutdown/reboot but
> that would not be a clean method and I am sure there should be much
> better way than that.

Nope. You could disable the reboot command in your sudoers file, but that isn't going to prevent you from rebooting the wrong machine if you really make an effort.

You might also consider editing sudoers to change the sudo password prompt to include the hostname of the box you're on, so that you're less likely to issue commands to the wrong box if you're paying attention.

However, the real problem here is that you're assuming Linux should protect you from yourself. It won't; part of being a power user is not running privileged commands without exercising due care. With power comes responsibility!

As has been said before: "*nix is user friendly. It's just picky about who its friends are!"

"Oh, look: rocks!"
-- Doctor Who, "Destiny of the Daleks"

by Scott Giffordon 2009-05-21T20:51:53+00:00.

Bhasker C V writes:

> Is there a method to prevent accidental powerdown of a linux box ? or atleast alert ?

If you get in the habit of running "shutdown -r +1" instead of "reboot", it will warn users for 1 minute before shutting down the server. That should give you enough time to run "shutdown -c" to cancel the shutdown if you realize it's on the wrong machine.

Hope this helps,

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