Linux uses the same permissions scheme as Unix. Each file and directory on your system is assigned access rights for the owner of the file, the members of a group of related users, and everybody else. Rights can be assigned to read a file, to write a file, and to execute a file (i.e., run the file as a program).
To see the permission settings for a file, we can use the ls command as follows:
[me@linuxbox me]$ ls -l some_file
-rw-rw-r-- 1 me me 1097374 Sep 26 18:48 some_file
We can determine a lot from examining the results of this command:
- The file “some_file” is owned by user “me”
- User “me” has the right to read and write this file
- The file is owned by the group “me”
- Members of the group “me” can also read and write this file
- Everybody else can read this file
Let’s try another example. We will look at the bash program which is located in the /bin directory:
[me@linuxbox me]$ ls -l /bin/bash
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 316848 Feb 27 2000 /bin/bash
Here we can see:
- The file “/bin/bash” is owned by user “root”
- The superuser has the right to read, write, and execute this file
- The file is owned by the group “root”
- Members of the group “root” can also read and execute this file
- Everybody else can read and execute this file
In the diagram below, we see how the first portion of the listing is interpreted. It consists of a character indicating the file type, followed by three sets of three characters that convey the reading, writing and execution permission for the owner, group, and everybody else.
The chmod command is used to change the permissions of a file or directory. To use it, you specify the desired permission settings and the file or files that you wish to modify. There are two ways to specify the permissions, but I am only going to teach one way.
It is easy to think of the permission settings as a series of bits (which is how the computer thinks about them). Here’s how it works:
rwx rwx rwx = 111 111 111 rw- rw- rw- = 110 110 110 rwx --- --- = 111 000 000 and so on... rwx = 111 in binary = 7 rw- = 110 in binary = 6 r-x = 101 in binary = 5 r-- = 100 in binary = 4
Now, if you represent each of the three sets of permissions (owner, group, and other) as a single digit, you have a pretty convenient way of expressing the possible permissions settings. For example, if we wanted to set some_file to have read and write permission for the owner, but wanted to keep the file private from others, we would:
[me@linuxbox me]$ chmod 600 some_file
Here is a table of numbers that covers all the common settings. The ones beginning with “7” are used with programs (since they enable execution) and the rest are for other kinds of files.
|777||(rwxrwxrwx) No restrictions on permissions. Anybody may do anything. Generally not a desirable setting.|
|755||(rwxr-xr-x) The file’s owner may read, write, and execute the file. All others may read and execute the file. This setting is common for programs that are used by all users.|
|700||(rwx——) The file’s owner may read, write, and execute the file. Nobody else has any rights. This setting is useful for programs that only the owner may use and must be kept private from others.|
|666||(rw-rw-rw-) All users may read and write the file.|
|644||(rw-r–r–) The owner may read and write a file, while all others may only read the file. A common setting for data files that everybody may read, but only the owner may change.|
|600||(rw——-) The owner may read and write a file. All others have no rights. A common setting for data files that the owner wants to keep private.|