sudo(8) MAINTENANCE COMMANDS sudo(8)
sudo - execute a command as another user
sudo -V | -h | -l | -L | -v | -k | -K | -s | [ -H ] [-P ] [-S ] [ -b ] | [ -p prompt ] [
-c class|- ] [ -a auth_type ] [ -u username|#uid ] command
sudo allows a permitted user to execute a command as the superuser or another user, as
specified in the sudoers file. The real and effective uid and gid are set to match those
of the target user as specified in the passwd file (the group vector is also initialized
when the target user is not root). By default, sudo requires that users authenticate
themselves with a password (NOTE: by default this is the user's password, not the root
password). Once a user has been authenticated, a timestamp is updated and the user may
then use sudo without a password for a short period of time (5 minutes unless overridden
sudo determines who is an authorized user by consulting the file /etc/sudoers. By giving
sudo the -v flag a user can update the time stamp without running a command. The password
prompt itself will also time out if the user's password is not entered within 5 minutes
(unless overridden via sudoers).
If a user who is not listed in the sudoers file tries to run a command via sudo, mail is
sent to the proper authorities, as defined at configure time or the sudoers file (defaults
to root). Note that the mail will not be sent if an unauthorized user tries to run sudo
with the -l or -v flags. This allows users to determine for themselves whether or not
they are allowed to use sudo.
sudo can log both successful and unsuccessful attempts (as well as errors) to syslog(3), a
log file, or both. By default sudo will log via syslog(3) but this is changeable at con-
figure time or via the sudoers file.
sudo accepts the following command line options:
-V The -V (version) option causes sudo to print the version number and exit. If the
invoking user is already root the -V option will print out a list of the defaults sudo
was compiled with as well as the machine's local network addresses.
-l The -l (list) option will list out the allowed (and forbidden) commands for the user
on the current host.
-L The -L (list defaults) option will list out the parameters that may be set in a
Defaults line along with a short description for each. This option is useful in con-
junction with grep(1).
-h The -h (help) option causes sudo to print a usage message and exit.
-v If given the -v (validate) option, sudo will update the user's timestamp, prompting
for the user's password if necessary. This extends the sudo timeout for another 5
minutes (or whatever the timeout is set to in sudoers) but does not run a command.
-k The -k (kill) option to sudo invalidates the user's timestamp by setting the time on
it to the epoch. The next time sudo is run a password will be required. This option
does not require a password and was added to allow a user to revoke sudo permissions
from a .logout file.
-K The -K (sure kill) option to sudo removes the user's timestamp entirely. Likewise,
this option does not require a password.
-b The -b (background) option tells sudo to run the given command in the background.
Note that if you use the -b option you cannot use shell job control to manipulate the
-p The -p (prompt) option allows you to override the default password prompt and use a
custom one. If the password prompt contains the %u escape, %u will be replaced with
the user's login name. Similarly, %h will be replaced with the local hostname.
-c The -c (class) option causes sudo to run the specified command with resources limited
by the specified login class. The class argument can be either a class name as
defined in /etc/login.conf, or a single '-' character. Specifying a class of - indi-
cates that the command should be run restricted by the default login capabilities for
the user the command is run as. If the class argument specifies an existing user
class, the command must be run as root, or the sudo command must be run from a shell
that is already root. This option is only available on systems with BSD login classes
where sudo has been configured with the --with-logincap option.
-a The -a (authentication type) option causes sudo to use the specified authentication
type when validating the user, as allowed by /etc/login.conf. The system administra-
tor may specify a list of sudo-specific authentication methods by adding an "auth-
sudo" entry in /etc/login.conf. This option is only available on systems that support
BSD authentication where sudo has been configured with the --with-bsdauth option.
-u The -u (user) option causes sudo to run the specified command as a user other than
root. To specify a uid instead of a username, use #uid.
-s The -s (shell) option runs the shell specified by the SHELL environment variable if it
is set or the shell as specified in passwd(5).
-H The -H (HOME) option sets the HOME environment variable to the homedir of the target
user (root by default) as specified in passwd(5). By default, sudo does not modify
-P The -P (preserve group vector) option causes sudo to preserve the user's group vector
unaltered. By default, sudo will initialize the group vector to the list of groups
the target user is in. The real and effective group IDs, however, are still set to
match the target user.
-S The -S (stdin) option causes sudo to read the password from standard input instead of
the terminal device.
-- The -- flag indicates that sudo should stop processing command line arguments. It is
most useful in conjunction with the -s flag.
Upon successful execution of a program, the return value from sudo will simply be the
return value of the program that was executed.
Otherwise, sudo quits with an exit value of 1 if there is a configuration/permission prob-
lem or if sudo cannot execute the given command. In the latter case the error string is
printed to stderr. If sudo cannot stat(2) one or more entries in the user's PATH an error
is printed on stderr. (If the directory does not exist or if it is not really a direc-
tory, the entry is ignored and no error is printed.) This should not happen under normal
circumstances. The most common reason for stat(2) to return "permission denied" is if you
are running an automounter and one of the directories in your PATH is on a machine that is
sudo tries to be safe when executing external commands. Variables that control how
dynamic loading and binding is done can be used to subvert the program that sudo runs. To
combat this the LD_*, _RLD_*, SHLIB_PATH (HP-UX only), and LIBPATH (AIX only) environment
variables are removed from the environment passed on to all commands executed. sudo will
also remove the IFS, ENV, BASH_ENV, KRB_CONF, KRBCONFDIR, KRBTKFILE, KRB5_CONFIG, LOCALDO-
MAIN, RES_OPTIONS, HOSTALIASES, NLSPATH, PATH_LOCALE, TERMINFO, TERMINFO_DIRS and TERMPATH
variables as they too can pose a threat. If the TERMCAP variable is set and is a path-
name, it too is ignored. Additionally, if the LC_* or LANGUAGE variables contain the / or
% characters, they are ignored. If sudo has been compiled with SecurID support, the
VAR_ACE, USR_ACE and DLC_ACE variables are cleared as well. The list of environment vari-
ables that sudo clears is contained in the output of sudo -V when run as root.
To prevent command spoofing, sudo checks "." and "" (both denoting current directory) last
when searching for a command in the user's PATH (if one or both are in the PATH). Note,
however, that the actual PATH environment variable is not modified and is passed unchanged
to the program that sudo executes.
For security reasons, if your OS supports shared libraries and does not disable user-
defined library search paths for setuid programs (most do), you should either use a linker
option that disables this behavior or link sudo statically.
sudo will check the ownership of its timestamp directory (/var/run/sudo by default) and
ignore the directory's contents if it is not owned by root and only writable by root. On
systems that allow non-root users to give away files via chown(2), if the timestamp direc-
tory is located in a directory writable by anyone (e.g.: /tmp), it is possible for a user
to create the timestamp directory before sudo is run. However, because sudo checks the
ownership and mode of the directory and its contents, the only damage that can be done is
to "hide" files by putting them in the timestamp dir. This is unlikely to happen since
once the timestamp dir is owned by root and inaccessible by any other user the user plac-
ing files there would be unable to get them back out. To get around this issue you can
use a directory that is not world-writable for the timestamps (/var/adm/sudo for instance)
or create /var/run/sudo with the appropriate owner (root) and permissions (0700) in the
system startup files.
sudo will not honor timestamps set far in the future. Timestamps with a date greater than
current_time + 2 * TIMEOUT will be ignored and sudo will log and complain. This is done
to keep a user from creating his/her own timestamp with a bogus date on systems that allow
users to give away files.
Please note that sudo will only log the command it explicitly runs. If a user runs a com-
mand such as sudo su or sudo sh, subsequent commands run from that shell will not be
logged, nor will sudo's access control affect them. The same is true for commands that
offer shell escapes (including most editors). Because of this, care must be taken when
giving users access to commands via sudo to verify that the command does not inadvertantly
give the user an effective root shell.
Note: the following examples assume suitable sudoers(5) entries.
To get a file listing of an unreadable directory:
% sudo ls /usr/local/protected
To list the home directory of user yazza on a machine where the filesystem holding ~yazza
is not exported as root:
% sudo -u yazza ls ~yazza
To edit the index.html file as user www:
% sudo -u www vi ~www/htdocs/index.html
To shutdown a machine:
% sudo shutdown -r +15 "quick reboot"
To make a usage listing of the directories in the /home partition. Note that this runs
the commands in a sub-shell to make the cd and file redirection work.
% sudo sh -c "cd /home ; du -s * | sort -rn > USAGE"
sudo utilizes the following environment variables:
PATH Set to a sane value if SECURE_PATH is set
SHELL Used to determine shell to run with -s option
USER Set to the target user (root unless the -u option
HOME In -s or -H mode (or if sudo was configured with
the --enable-shell-sets-home option), set to
homedir of the target user.
SUDO_PROMPT Used as the default password prompt
SUDO_COMMAND Set to the command run by sudo
SUDO_USER Set to the login of the user who invoked sudo
SUDO_UID Set to the uid of the user who invoked sudo
SUDO_GID Set to the gid of the user who invoked sudo
SUDO_PS1 If set, PS1 will be set to its value
/etc/sudoers List of who can run what
/var/run/sudo Directory containing timestamps
Many people have worked on sudo over the years; this version consists of code written pri-
See the HISTORY file in the sudo distribution or visit http://www.sudo.ws/sudo/his-
tory.html for a short history of sudo.
If you feel you have found a bug in sudo, please submit a bug report at
Sudo is provided ``AS IS'' and any express or implied warranties, including, but not lim-
ited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose
are disclaimed. See the LICENSE file distributed with sudo for complete details.
There is no easy way to prevent a user from gaining a root shell if that user has access
to commands allowing shell escapes.
If users have sudo ALL there is nothing to prevent them from creating their own program
that gives them a root shell regardless of any '!' elements in the user specification.
Running shell scripts via sudo can expose the same kernel bugs that make setuid shell
scripts unsafe on some operating systems (if your OS supports the /dev/fd/ directory,
setuid shell scripts are generally safe).
stat(2), login_cap(3), sudoers(5), passwd(5), visudo(8), grep(1), su(1).
3rd Berkeley Distribution 1.6.6 sudo(8)