There are three types of user accounts on a Unix/Linux system:
1. Root account:
This is also called superuser and would have complete and unfettered control of the system. A superuser can run any commands without any restriction. This user should be assumed as a system administrator.
2. System accounts:
System accounts are those needed for the operation of system-specific components for
example mail accounts and the sshd accounts. These accounts are usually needed for some specific function on your system, and any modifications to them could adversely affect the system.
3. User accounts:
User accounts provide interactive access to the system for users and groups of users. General users are typically assigned to these accounts and usually have limited access to critical system files and directories. linux supports a concept of Group Account which logically groups a number of accounts. Every account would be a part of any group account. Linux groups plays important role in handling file permissions and process management.
Managing Users and Groups:
There are three main user administration files:
1. /etc/passwd: Keeps user account and password information. This file holds the majority of information about
accounts on the Unix system.
2. /etc/shadow: Holds the encrypted password of the corresponding account. Not all the system support this file.
3. /etc/group: This file contains the group information for each account.
4. /etc/gshadow: This file contains secure group account information.
useradd Adds accounts to the system.
usermod Modifies account attributes.
userdel Deletes accounts from the system.
groupadd Adds groups to the system.
groupmod Modifies group attributes.
groupdel Removes groups from the system.
Create a Group
You would need to create groups before creating any account otherwise you would have to use existing groups at your system. You would have all the groups listed in /etc/groups file.
All the default groups would be system account specific groups and it is not recommended to use them for ordinary accounts.
The syntax to create a new group account:
groupadd [-g gid [-o]] [-r] [-f] groupname
-g GID The numerical value of the group’s ID.
-o This option permits to add group with non-unique GID
-r This flag instructs groupadd to add a system account
-f This option causes to just exit with success status if the specified group already exists.
With -g, if specified GID already exists, other (unique) GID is chosen
groupname Actaul group name to be created.
If you do not specify any parameter then system would use default values.
Following example would create techbuddies group with default values, which is very much acceptable for most of the administrators.
$ groupadd techbuddies
Modify a Group:
To modify a group, use the groupmod syntax:
$ groupmod -n new_modified_group_name old_group_name
To change the techbuddies_2 group name to techbuddies, type:
$ groupmod -n techbuddies techbuddies_2
Here is how you would change the financial GID to 545:
$ groupmod -g 545 techbuddies
Delete a Group:
To delete an existing group, all you need are the groupdel command and the group name. To delete the financial group, the command is:
$ groupdel techbuddies
This removes only the group, not any files associated with that group. The files are still accessible by their owners.
Create an Account in Linux
Let us see how to create a new account on your Linux/Unix system. Following is the syntax to create a user’s account:
useradd -d homedir -g groupname -m -s shell -u userid accountname
-d homedir Specifies home directory for the account.
-g groupname Specifies a group account for this account.
-m Creates the home directory if it doesn’t exist.
-s shell Specifies the default shell for this account.
-u userid You can specify a user id for this account.
accountname Actual account name to be created
If you do not specify any parameter then system would use default values. The useradd command modifies the /etc/passwd, /etc/shadow, and /etc/group files and creates a home directory.
$ useradd -d /home/user1 -g techbuddies -s /bin/ksh user1
Once an account is created you can set its password using the passwd command as follows:
$ passwd user1
Changing password for user user1.
Retype new password:
passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
Modify an Account:
The usermod command enables you to make changes to an existing account from the command line. It uses the samearguments as the useradd command, plus the -l argument, which allows you to change the account name.For example, to change the account name user1 to user2 and to change home directory accordingly, you wouldneed to issue following command:
$ usermod -d /home/user2 -m -l user1user2
Delete an Account:
The userdel command can be used to delete an existing user. This is a very dangerous command if not used withcaution. There is only one argument or option available for the command: .r, for removing the account’s home directory and mail file. For example, to remove account user2, you would need to issue following command:
$ userdel -r user2
If you want to keep her home directory for backup purposes, omit the -r option. You can remove the home directory as needed at a later time.