Superuser

Superuser

On many computer operating systems, the superuser is a special user account used for system administration. Depending on the operating system, the actual name of this account might be: root, administrator or supervisor.

Normal work on such a system is done using ordinary user accounts, and because these do not have the ability to make system-wide changes any viruses and other malware - or simple user errors - do not have the ability to adversly affect a whole system. In organizations, administrative privileges are often reserved for authorized experienced individuals.

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Unix and Unix-like

In Unix-style computer operating systems, root is the conventional name of the user who has all rights or permissions (to all files and programs) in all modes (single- or multi-user). Alternative names include baron in BeOS and avatar on some Unix variants.[1] BSD often provides a toor (“root” backwards) account in addition to a root account.[2] Regardless of the name, the superuser always has user ID 0. The root user can do many things an ordinary user cannot, such as changing the ownership of files and binding to network ports numbered below 1024. The name "root" may have originated because root is the only user account with permission to modify the root directory of a Unix system and this directory was originally considered to be root's home directory.[3]

The first process bootstrapped in a Unix-like system, usually called init, runs with root privileges. It spawns all other processes directly or indirectly, which inherit their parents' privileges. Only a process running as root is allowed to change its user ID to that of another user; once it's done so, there is no way back. Doing so is sometimes called dropping root privileges and is often done as a security measure to limit the damage from possible contamination of the process. Another case is login and other programs that ask users for credentials and in case of successful authentication allow them to run programs with privileges of their accounts.

It is never good practice for anyone (including system administrators) to use root as their normal user account, since simple typographical errors in entering commands can cause major damage to the system. It is advisable to create a normal user account instead and then use the su command to switch when necessary. The sudo utility can also be used instead to allow a measure of graduated access.

Many operating systems, such as Mac OS X and some Linux distributions, allow administrator accounts which provide greater access while shielding the user from most of the pitfalls of full root access. In some cases, the root account is disabled by default, and must be specifically enabled. In a few systems, such as Plan 9, there is no superuser at all.

Software defects which allow a user to “gain root” (to execute with superuser privileges code supplied by that user) are a major computer security issue, and the fixing of such software is a major part of maintaining a secure system. One common way of gaining root is to cause a buffer overflow in a program already running with superuser privileges. This is often avoided in modern operating systems by running critical services, such as httpd, under a unique limited account.

Windows NT

In Windows NT and later systems derived from it (such as Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista/7), there must be at least one administrator account (Windows XP and earlier) or is able to elevate privileges to superuser (Windows Vista/7 via User Account Control)[4]. In Windows XP and earlier systems, there is a built-in administrator account that remains hidden when a user administrator-equivalent account exists[5]. This built-in administrator account is created with a blank password[6]. This poses security risks, so the built-in administrator account is disabled by default in Windows Vista and later systems due to the introduction of User Account Control (UAC)[7].

A Windows administrator account is not an exact analogue of the Unix root account - some privileges are assigned to the "Local System account". The purpose of the administrator account is to allow making system-wide changes to the computer (with the exception of privileges limited to Local System)[8].

The built-in administrator account and a user administrator account have the same level of privileges. The default user account created in Windows systems is an administrator account. Unlike Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows Vista/7 administrator accounts, administrator accounts in Windows systems without UAC do not insulate the system from most of the pitfalls of full root access. One of these pitfalls includes decreased resilience to malware infections. In Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional, and Windows Server 2003, administrator accounts can be insulated from more of the these pitfalls by changing the account from the administrator group to the power user group in the user account properties[9] but this solution is not as effective as using newer Windows systems with UAC.

In Windows Vista/7 administrator accounts, a prompt will appear to authenticate running a process with elevated privileges. No user credentials are required to authenticate the UAC prompt in administrator accounts but authenticating the UAC prompt requires entering the username and password of an administrator in standard user accounts. In Windows XP (and earlier systems) administrator accounts, authentication is not required to run a process with elevated privileges and this poses another security risk that lead to the development of UAC. Users can set a process to run with elevated privileges from standard accounts by setting the process to "run as administrator" or using the "runas" command and authenticating the prompt with credentials (username and password) of an administrator account. Much of the benefit of authenticating from a standard account is negated if the administrator account's credentials being used has a blank password (as in the built-in administrator account in Windows XP and earlier systems).

Novell NetWare

In Novell NetWare, the superuser was called "supervisor", later "admin".

Older personal systems

Many older operating systems on computers intended for personal and home use, including MS-DOS and Windows 9x, do not have the concept of multiple accounts and thus have no separate administrative account; anyone using the system has full privileges. The lack of this separation in these operating systems has been cited as one major source of their insecurity.[10]

See also

References

External links


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См. также в других словарях:

  • Superuser — Der Root Account oder Superuser ist das Benutzerkonto, das bei der Installation eines Betriebssystems angelegt werden muss und mit größtmöglichen Zugriffsrechten ausgestattet ist. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Unix 1.1 Mac OS X 1.2 Ubuntu 1.3 toor …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • superuser —    A special Unix privilege level, with unlimited access to all files, directories, and commands.    The system administrator must become the superuser to perform certain functions, such as creating new accounts, changing passwords, and other… …   Dictionary of networking

  • superuser — noun A user with complete access to the operating system and its configuration. Syn: root …   Wiktionary

  • Superuser — Systemadministrator; Admin (umgangssprachlich); Administrator; Operator; Systembetreuer; Sysop; Systemoperator; Sysadmin; Root User …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Superuser — vergl. root …   Acronyms

  • superuser — ● ►en n. m. ►ADMIN Version anglaise de superutilisateur …   Dictionnaire d'informatique francophone

  • Superuser — vergl. root …   Acronyms von A bis Z

  • superuser — n. account that has access to restricted activities; person who has an account with access to restricted activities (Computers) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • superuser — noun a computer system administrator …   English new terms dictionary

  • superuser — /ˈsupəjuzə/ (say soohpuhyoohzuh) noun Computers a person who has unrestricted access to all parts of a website, network, etc., as a system administrator …   Australian English dictionary


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