Managing groups overview
By the end of this article you should be able to answer the following questions:
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$ id donald
$ groups donald
$ groupadd sales
$ groupdel sales
$ usermod -aG sales donald
$ gpasswd -d donald sales
$ usermod -g sales donald
$ su – donald
$ newgrp sales
$ exit # this just exits the group but not the terminal session.
$ groupmod -n retail sales
$ gpasswd -A donald sales
$ gpasswd -a goofy sales
Types of Groups
When you create a new user account, then a group (of the same) is also automatically created and the new user is automatically assigned to that group. This group is referred to as the primary group. Therefore when we create a user called “donald” (using the useradd command), a group called “donald” is then created automatically, and the new user “donald” is automatically assigned to the new “donald” group.
The main reason for this because all files and folders created on a Linux machine must be owned by both a user and a group. This is why a user’s primary group is so important, when a user create’s a new file (or folder) then that user’s primary group automatically assumes group ownership of that item. That’s why a user must belong to exactly one primary group. A user’s primary group is also known as a private-group (since only that user is a member of that group).
However users can also be added to other groups as well, and these additional groups are referred to as supplementary groups.
Having supplementary groups is useful. For example you can end up with lots of user accounts. One of things you will want to do is organize all these user accounts into various groups. For example you may have a several users who work in your company’s sales department in which case you want to create a group called “sales” and add each user to that group.
You can use the
id to view what primary and supplementary groups a user belongs to. For example, for a user called “donald”, we do:
$ id donald uid=1001(donald) gid=1001(donald) groups=1001(donald),1002(sales),1003(disney)
Here we can see that donald’s primary group is “donald”, and this user also belongs to 2 supplementary groups, “sales” and “disney”. You can also view this info using the
$ groups donald donald : donald sales disney
Note: By default, the first group in the list is the primary group.
/etc/group is the main file that stores all the information about all primary and supplementary groups that exist on the machine:
$ cat /etc/group root:x:0: bin:x:1: daemon:x:2: sys:x:3: adm:x:4: wheel:x:8:vagrant,mickey . . ...etc.
A new entry is added to this file each time a new primary or supplementary group is created. There are three fields per entry, they are, group name, group password, group id, and a comma seperated list of all the users that belong to the group (except for the group’s primary user). For more info about this file, see:
$ man 5 group
Creating and Deleting groups
Primary groups are created automatically when we create a new user. Therefore in practice, we usually need to only create supplementary groups. To create a new group, we use the groupadd command:
$ groupadd sales $ grep sales /etc/group sales:x:1006:
Similarly to delete a group we do:
$ groupdel sales $ grep sales /etc/group $
Add user to a group
To add a user to a (supplementary) group, you use the usermod command:
$ usermod --help Usage: usermod [options] LOGIN Options: -c, --comment COMMENT new value of the GECOS field -d, --home HOME_DIR new home directory for the user account -e, --expiredate EXPIRE_DATE set account expiration date to EXPIRE_DATE -f, --inactive INACTIVE set password inactive after expiration to INACTIVE -g, --gid GROUP force use GROUP as new primary group -G, --groups GROUPS new list of supplementary GROUPS -a, --append append the user to the supplemental GROUPS mentioned by the -G option without removing him/her from other groups -h, --help display this help message and exit -l, --login NEW_LOGIN new value of the login name -L, --lock lock the user account -m, --move-home move contents of the home directory to the new location (use only with -d) -o, --non-unique allow using duplicate (non-unique) UID -p, --password PASSWORD use encrypted password for the new password -R, --root CHROOT_DIR directory to chroot into -s, --shell SHELL new login shell for the user account -u, --uid UID new UID for the user account -U, --unlock unlock the user account -Z, --selinux-user SEUSER new SELinux user mapping for the user account
For example to add the user “donald” to the “sales” group, we do:
$ usermod -aG sales donald
Now we use “id” commmand to confirm that donald is now a member of that group:
$ id donald uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales)
Note: the group id (gid) field shows what the primary group is, whereas the group fields shows an array of all groups (primary and supplementary groups) that the user belongs to.
However to remove a user from a group, you can use the usermod command again, bit it’s more fiddly, isntead it’s easier to remove a user from a group suing the gpassswd command:
$ gpasswd -d goofy disney Removing user goofy from group disney
We’ll cover more about the gpasswd command later.
If you want, you can view the “group” file to see who are members of a given group:
$ grep sales /etc/group
If you want to remove a user from all supplementary groups then you do:
$ id donald uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales),1007(sales1) $ usermod -G "" donald $ id donald uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald)
Setting primary group
When a user creates a file, it automatically gets a group ownership assigned to it. This is usually the user’s private group. That’s because by default the private group is also the user’s primary group. However if you want to change that, e.g. change it to the “sales” group then you can use the “-g” option. For example let’s change the donald user’s primary group to “sales”:
$ ls -l /home/donald total 0 -rw-rw-r--. 1 donald donald 0 Apr 9 21:18 testfile $ id donald uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales) $ usermod -g sales donald $ id donald uid=1005(donald) gid=1006(sales) groups=1006(sales) $ ls -l /home/donald total 0 -rw-rw-r--. 1 donald sales 0 Apr 9 21:18 testfile
Notice that any files that were previously owned by the donald private group (since they were created by the “donald” user) have automatically switched to the new primary group!!!
Note, changing the primary group using usermod is persitent, where is using the newgrp command isn’t persistent. We’ll cover newgrp next.
temporary change primary group
Sometime you may want to change your primary group temporarily. This can be done using the newgrp command:
[donald@localhost ~]$ id uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales) context=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 [donald@localhost ~]$ newgrp sales [donald@localhost ~]$ id uid=1005(donald) gid=1006(sales) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales) context=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 [donald@localhost ~]$ exit exit [donald@localhost ~]$ id uid=1005(donald) gid=1005(donald) groups=1005(donald),1006(sales) context=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
The newgrp is kind of similar to the way the su command works, but instead it is for switching groups. This means that when you use this command, you actually go inside another nested bash shell, with your new primary group. So when you “exit”, in effect this resets your primary group to it’s default. Therefore you can think of the primary group as which group “your logged into”.
Rename a group
To rename a group, you need use the
$ groupmod --help Usage: groupmod [options] GROUP Options: -g, --gid GID change the group ID to GID -h, --help display this help message and exit -n, --new-name NEW_GROUP change the name to NEW_GROUP -o, --non-unique allow to use a duplicate (non-unique) GID -p, --password PASSWORD change the password to this (encrypted) PASSWORD -R, --root CHROOT_DIR directory to chroot into
For example if we have a group called “sales” and we want to change it’s name to “retail”, then we do:
$ groupmod -n retail sales
All users that belonged to the “sales” group will now belong to the “retail” group instead.
Setup group administrators
You can set up users as group admins for a given group. Group-admins are users who can add/remove members from a group. This is done using the gpasswd command:
$ gpasswd --help Usage: gpasswd [option] GROUP Options: -a, --add USER add USER to GROUP -d, --delete USER remove USER from GROUP -h, --help display this help message and exit -Q, --root CHROOT_DIR directory to chroot into -r, --delete-password remove the GROUP's password -R, --restrict restrict access to GROUP to its members -M, --members USER,... set the list of members of GROUP -A, --administrators ADMIN,... set the list of administrators for GROUP Except for the -A and -M options, the options cannot be combined.
Let’s say we have a group called ‘disney’, so to view a list of members for this group, we can do:
$ cat /etc/group | grep disney disney:x:1005:donald,minnie $ cat /etc/gshadow | grep disney disney:!::donald,minnie
Now let’s say we want to make the user “mickey” a group administrator for the disney group, then we do:
$ gpasswd -A mickey disney
Note, only the root user can use the “A” option when running this command.
Now ‘let’s chekc that this has worked:
$ cat /etc/group | grep disney disney:x:1005:donald,minnie $ cat /etc/gshadow | grep disney disney:!:mickey:donald,minnie $ id mickey uid=1003(mickey) gid=1004(mickey) groups=1004(mickey)
As you can see, the user mickey, isn’t a member of the group, but his is a group administrator for this group. The group administrator can then add/remove new members to the group:
$ su - mickey [mickey@puppetmaster ~]$ gpasswd -a goofy disney Adding user goofy to group disney
Next we can confirm that this has worked like this:
$ cat /etc/group | grep disney disney:x:1005:donald,minnie,goofy $ cat /etc/gshadow | grep disney disney:!:mickey:donald,minnie,goofy