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chkstat utility and permissions files in SUSE (/etc/permissions.local, .easy and .secure)


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In SuSE you have 3 security levels, which determine what permissions.* file is applied to the filesystem:
easy, secure and paranoid. So you have permissions.easy , and permissions.paranoid files under /etc. You can set the security level via YAST -> Security and Users -> Security Settings

You can also edit the corresponding permissions.* file.

The permissions of the more than 200,000 files included in a SUSE distribution are carefully chosen. A system administrator who installs additional software or other files should take great care when doing so, especially when setting the permission bits.

To minimize damage from incorrect permissions a SLES includes so called  4 permissions files:

all in the directory /etc. The purpose of these files is to define special permissions, such as world-writable directories or, for files, the setuser ID bit (programs with the setuser ID bit set do not run with the permissions of the user that has launched it, but with the permissions of the file owner, in most cases root).

An administrator can use the file /etc/permissions.local to add his own permissions of specific files, directories, and devices depending on the local security settings which overwrite specified in other files.

The local security setting (easy, secure, or paranoid) can be configured iether via YAST or in /etc/sysconfig/security.

#/usr/sbin/suexec2 root:root 4755

# setuid bit on Xorg is only needed if no display manager, ie startx

 #/usr/bin/Xorg root:root 4711

# /etc/permissions.local
# Description: Roman Drahtmueller , 2001
# This file is used by SuSEconfig and chkstat to check or set the modes
# and ownerships of files and directories in the installation.
# In particular, this file will not be touched during an upgrade of the
# SuSE Linux installation. It is designed to be a placeholder for local
# additions by the administrator of the system to reflect filemodes
# of locally installed packages (usually under /opt/local or /usr/local).
# Format:
#  . 
# Please see the file /etc/permissions for general usage hints of the
# /etc/permissions* files.
# Keep in mind that this file (/etc/permissions.local) is being used by
# default by SuSEconfig, the shell script that is used by yast and yast2
# after package installation and configuration changes to make the changes
# effective for the respective packages (eg generating the "real"
# configuration files).
# Always check if there are no conflicts between your \"local\" changes here
# and the settings in the other permissions files by calling
# \"SuSEconfig\" as root!
# Please remember that logfiles might be modified by the logfile
# rotation facilities (e.g. logrotate) so local settings might
# be overridden.
# example:
#/usr/local/bin/mtr         root.root       4755
/var/spool/clientmqueue      smmsp:smmsp     770

chkstat - Tool to check and set file permissions

The program /usr/bin/chkstat is a tool to check and set file permissions. Multiple permissions files can be given on the commandline. If the permission files contain multiple entries for a single file, the last entry found will be used.

chkstat [--set|-set] [--noheader] [[--examine file ]...] [[--files filelist ]...] [[--root directory ]...] permission-file ...


The command

chkstat -set /etc/permissions.local

will parse the file /etc/permissions.local and set the access mode and the user- and group memberships each file listed. The format for the input file is


and wildcards are not supported for the filepath. Lines starting with ’#’ and empty lines are treated as comments.

SUSE Linux includes a utility called chkstat (not the most imaginative name) that checks, and optionally corrects, the ownerships and permissions of key files in the filesystem. As such, it can be used as a low-grade system hardening tool or perhaps for intrusion detection, if an intruder has left permissions deliberately lax. chkstat reads one or more permissions files to find out what files to check, and what the ownership and permissions are supposed to be. The system ships with several permissions files, described in

File in /etc



A really basic set of permissions. File modes that differ from the settings in this file should be considered broken, not merely insecure.


A fairly lax set of permissions for use on standalone single-user systems.

A more secure set of permissions for use on multiuser or networked systems. To quote from the comments in the file itself: "The primary target of this configuration is to make the basic things such as changing passwords, the basic networking programs as well as some of the all-day work programs properly function for the unprivileged user."


A very secure set of permissions. This file is similar to but has all the set-user-id and set-group-id bits cleared. These settings will prove inconvenient for ordinary users and are probably best reserved for servers or firewalls which do not support ordinary user log-ins.


This file provides a place for administrators to add entries for locally installed programs; for example those in /opt or /usr/local.


Entries in these files have the syntax:

filename  owner:group  mode


For example, here are a few lines from /etc/

/usr/bin/passwd                       root:shadow       4755
/usr/bin/crontab                      root:trusted      4750
/etc/fstab                            root:root          644
/var/spool/fax/archive                fax:uucp           700


The file permissions (mode) are written in octal. The 4000 bit is the set-user-id bit; the bottom three digits correspond to the usual rwxrwxrwx permissions on the file.

Comparing with permissions.paranoid, you can see that (for example) in the paranoid settings the passwd command does not run set-uid to root:

/usr/bin/passwd                       root:shadow       0755


This means that nonroot users would not be able to change their passwords.

To run chkstat against the file (for example), just supply the file name as an argument. On my test system, the command:

# chkstat /etc/


produces no outputthe system passes with flying colors (whatever that means). Running chkstat against permissions.paranoid, however, produces a long list of warnings, mostly about config files that are readable by nonroot users, or about programs that have the set-user-id bit on.

Running chkstat with the --set option tells it to fix the problem automatically. Let's try making one of the permissions deliberately too lax, and re-run the program. The line numbers in this listing are for reference; they are not part of the input or output.

1 # chmod 666 /etc/fstab
2 # chkstat /etc/
3 Checking permissions and ownerships - using the permissions files
4         /etc/
5 /etc/fstab should be root:root 0644. (wrong permissions 0666)
6 # chkstat --set /etc/
7 Checking permissions and ownerships - using the permissions files
8         /etc/
9 setting /etc/fstab to root:root 0644. (wrong permissions 0666)
10 # ls -l /etc/fstab
11 -rw-rr--  1 root root 670 Oct 11 09:35 /etc/fstab


At line 1, I deliberately changed the permissions on /etc/fstab. At lines 25, I ran chkstat and it duly reported the problem. At lines 69, I ran chkstat again with the --set flag and at lines 10 and 11 verified that chkstat had indeed corrected the permissions problem.

It's time to tie all this up with the File Permissions setting in the YaST security module you've seen in this lab. The setting made within YaST sets a line in the file /etc/sysconfig/security; for example if I set the file permissions to "Easy," I will see a line in /etc/sysconfig/security like this:



This line says to run chkstat with the files permissions.easy and permissions.local as parameters.

The chkstat program is run by SuSEconfig, the script that YaST runs whenever it commits a configuration change. This means that the file permissions are checked pretty well every time you change something in YaST.

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Last modified: March 12, 2019