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SU(1) NetBSD General Commands Manual SU(1)
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su -- substitute user identity
su [-dfKlm] [-c login-class] [login[:group] [shell arguments]]
su [-dfKlm] [-c login-class] [:group [shell arguments]]
su allows one user to become another user login without logging out and
in as the new user. If a group is specified and login is a member of
group, then the group is changed to group rather than to login's primary
group. If login is omitted and group is provided (form two above), then
login is assumed to be the current username.
When executed by a user, the login user's password is requested. When
using Kerberos, the password for login (or for ``login.root'', if no
login is provided) is requested, and su switches to that user and group
ID after obtaining a Kerberos ticket granting ticket. A shell is then
executed, and any additional shell arguments after the login name are
passed to the shell. su will resort to the local password file to find
the password for login if there is a Kerberos error. If su is executed
by root, no password is requested and a shell with the appropriate user
ID is executed; no additional Kerberos tickets are obtained.
Alternatively, if the user enters the password "s/key", authentication
will use the S/Key one-time password system as described in skey(1).
S/Key is a Trademark of Bellcore.
By default, the environment is unmodified with the exception of LOGNAME,
USER, HOME, SHELL, and SU_FROM. HOME and SHELL are set to the target
login's default values. LOGNAME and USER are set to the target login,
unless the target login has a user ID of 0, in which case they are unmod-
ified. SU_FROM is set to the caller's login. The invoked shell is the
target login's. With the exception of SU_FROM this is the traditional
behavior of su.
The options are as follows:
-c Specify a login class. You may only override the default class
if you're already root. See login.conf(5) for details.
-d Same as -l, but does not change the current directory.
-f If the invoked shell is csh(1), this option prevents it from
reading the ``.cshrc'' file. If the invoked shell is sh(1), or
ksh(1), this option unsets ENV, thus preventing the shell from
executing the startup file pointed to by this variable.
-K Do not attempt to use Kerberos to authenticate the user.
-l Simulate a full login. The environment is discarded except for
HOME, SHELL, PATH, TERM, LOGNAME, USER, and SU_FROM. HOME,
SHELL, and SU_FROM are modified as above. LOGNAME and USER are
set to the target login. PATH is set to the path specified in
the /etc/login.conf file (or to the default of
``/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/pkg/bin:/usr/local/bin'' ). TERM is
imported from your current environment. The invoked shell is the
target login's, and su will change directory to the target
login's home directory. The utmp(5), wtmp(5), and lastlogin(5)
databases are not updated.
- Same as -l.
-m Leave the environment unmodified. The invoked shell is your
login shell, and no directory changes are made. As a security
precaution, if the target user's shell is a non-standard shell
(as defined by getusershell(3)) and the caller's real uid is non-
zero, su will fail.
The -l and -m options are mutually exclusive; the last one specified
overrides any previous ones.
Only users in group ``wheel'' (normally gid 0), as listed in /etc/group,
can su to ``root'', unless group wheel does not exist or has no members.
(If you do not want anybody to be able to su to ``root'', make ``root''
the only member of group ``wheel'', which is the default.)
For sites with very large user populations, group ``wheel'' can contain
the names of other groups that will be considered authorized to su to
By default (unless the prompt is reset by a startup file) the super-user
prompt is set to ``#'' to remind one of its awesome power.
Changing required group
For the pam(8) version of su the name of the required group can be
changed by setting gname in pam.conf(5):
auth requisite pam_group.so no_warn group=gname root_only fail_safe
For the non pam(8) version of su the same can be achieved by compiling
with SU_GROUP set to the desired group name.
Supplying own password
su can be configured so that users in a particular group can supply
their own password to become ``root''. For the pam(8) version of su
this can be done by adding a line to pam.conf(5) such as:
auth sufficient pam_group.so no_warn group=gname root_only authenticate
where gname is the name of the desired group. For the non pam(8) ver-
sion of su the same can be achieved by compiling with SU_ROOTAUTH set
to the desired group name.
This option is not available with the pam(8) version of su. For the
non pam(8) version of su, if SU_INDIRECT_GROUP is defined, the SU_GROUP
and SU_ROOTAUTH groups are treated as indirect groups. The group mem-
bers of those two groups are treated as groups themselves.
su returns the exit status of the executed subshell, or 1 if any error
occurred while switching privileges.
Environment variables used by su:
HOME Default home directory of real user ID unless modified as specified
The user ID is always the effective ID (the target user ID) after
an su unless the user ID is 0 (root).
PATH Default search path of real user ID unless modified as specified
TERM Provides terminal type which may be retained for the substituted
USER The user ID is always the effective ID (the target user ID) after
an su unless the user ID is 0 (root).
To become user username and use the same environment as in original
To become user username and use environment as if full login would be
su -l username
When a -c option is included after the login name it is not a su option,
because any arguments after the login are passed to the shell. (See
csh(1), ksh(1) or sh(1) for details.) To execute arbitrary command with
privileges of user username, execute:
su username -c "command args"
csh(1), kinit(1), login(1), sh(1), skey(1), setusercontext(3), group(5),
login.conf(5), passwd(5), environ(7), kerberos(8)
A su command existed in Version 5 AT&T UNIX (and probably earlier).
NetBSD 7.0 November 20, 2012 NetBSD 7.0