sudo, sudoedit - execute a command as another user


sudo -h | -K | -k | -L | -V

sudo -v [-AknS] [-p prompt]

sudo -l[l] [-AknS] [-g groupname|#gid] [-p prompt] [-U username] [-u username|#uid] [command]

sudo [-AbEHnPS] [-C fd] [-g groupname|#gid] [-p prompt] [-r role] [-t type] [-u username|#uid] [VAR=value] [-i | -s] [command]

sudoedit [-AnS] [-C fd] [-g groupname|#gid] [-p prompt] [-u username|#uid] file ...


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 and the group vector is initialized based on the group file (unless the -P option was specified). If the invoking user is root or if the target user is the same as the invoking user, no password is required. Otherwise, sudo requires that users authenticate themselves with a password by default (NOTE: in the default configuration this is the root password, not the user’s 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 (

minutes unless overridden in sudoers).

When invoked as sudoedit, the -e option (described below), is implied.

sudo determines who is an authorized user by consulting the file /etc/sudoers. By running sudo with the -v option, 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

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 in the sudoers file (defaults to

). Note that the mail will not be sent if an unauthorized user tries to run sudo with the -l or -v option. This allows users to determine for themselves whether or not they are allowed to use sudo.

If sudo is run by root and the

environment variable is set, sudo will use this value to determine who the actual user is. This can be used by a user to log commands through sudo even when a root shell has been invoked. It also allows the -e option to remain useful even when being run via a sudo-run script or program. Note however, that the sudoers lookup is still done for root, not the user specified by

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 configure time or via the sudoers file.


sudo accepts the following command line options:
-A Normally, if sudo requires a password, it will read it from the current terminal. If the -A (askpass) option is specified, a (possibly graphical) helper program is executed to read the user’s password and output the password to the standard output. If the
environment variable is set, it specifies the path to the helper program. Otherwise, the value specified by the askpass option in sudoers(5) is used.
-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 process.
-C fd Normally, sudo will close all open file descriptors other than standard input, standard output and standard error. The -C (close from) option allows the user to specify a starting point above the standard error (file descriptor three). Values less than three are not permitted. This option is only available if the administrator has enabled the closefrom_override option in sudoers(5).
-E The -E (preserve environment) option will override the env_reset option in sudoers(5)). It is only available when either the matching command has the
tag or the setenv option is set in sudoers(5).
-e The -e (edit) option indicates that, instead of running a command, the user wishes to edit one or more files. In lieu of a command, the string sudoedit is used when consulting the sudoers file. If the user is authorized by sudoers the following steps are taken:
1. Temporary copies are made of the files to be edited with the owner set to the invoking user.
2. The editor specified by the
environment variables is run to edit the temporary files. If none of
are set, the first program listed in the editor sudoers variable is used.
3. If they have been modified, the temporary files are copied back to their original location and the temporary versions are removed.

If the specified file does not exist, it will be created. Note that unlike most commands run by sudo, the editor is run with the invoking user’s environment unmodified. If, for some reason, sudo is unable to update a file with its edited version, the user will receive a warning and the edited copy will remain in a temporary file.

-g group Normally, sudo sets the primary group to the one specified by the passwd database for the user the command is being run as (by default, root). The -g (group) option causes sudo to run the specified command with the primary group set to group. To specify a gid instead of a group name, use #gid. When running commands as a gid, many shells require that the ’#’ be escaped with a backslash (’\’). If no -u option is specified, the command will be run as the invoking user (not root). In either case, the primary group will be set to group.
-H The -H (HOME) option sets the
environment variable to the homedir of the target user (root by default) as specified in passwd(5). By default, sudo does not modify
(see set_home and always_set_home in sudoers(5)).
-h The -h (help) option causes sudo to print a usage message and exit.
-i [command] The -i (simulate initial login) option runs the shell specified in the passwd(5) entry of the target user as a login shell. This means that login-specific resource files such as
will be read by the shell. If a command is specified, it is passed to the shell for execution. Otherwise, an interactive shell is executed. sudo attempts to change to that user’s home directory before running the shell. It also initializes the environment, leaving DISPLAY and TERM unchanged, setting HOME, SHELL, USER, LOGNAME, and PATH, as well as the contents of /etc/environment on Linux and AIX systems. All other environment variables are removed.
-K The -K (sure kill) option is like -k except that it removes the user’s timestamp entirely and may not be used in conjunction with a command or other option. This option does not require a password.
-k When used by itself, 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.

When used in conjunction with a command or an option that may require a password, the -k option will cause sudo to ignore the user’s timestamp file. As a result, sudo will prompt for a password (if one is required by sudoers) and will not update the user’s timestamp file.

-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 conjunction with grep(1).
-l[l] [command] If no command is specified, the -l (list) option will list the allowed (and forbidden) commands for the invoking user (or the user specified by the -U option) on the current host. If a command is specified and is permitted by sudoers, the fully-qualified path to the command is displayed along with any command line arguments. If command is specified but not allowed, sudo will exit with a status value of 1. If the -l option is specified with an l argument (i.e. -ll), or if -l is specified multiple times, a longer list format is used.
-n The -n (non-interactive) option prevents sudo from prompting the user for a password. If a password is required for the command to run, sudo will display an error messages and exit.
-P The -P (preserve group vector) option causes sudo to preserve the invoking 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.
-p prompt The -p (prompt) option allows you to override the default password prompt and use a custom one. The following percent (‘
’) escapes are supported:
expanded to the local hostname including the domain name (on if the machine’s hostname is fully qualified or the fqdn sudoers option is set)
expanded to the local hostname without the domain name
expanded to the user whose password is being asked for (respects the rootpw, targetpw and runaspw flags in sudoers)
expanded to the login name of the user the command will be run as (defaults to root)
expanded to the invoking user’s login name
two consecutive
characters are collapsed into a single

The prompt specified by the -p option will override the system password prompt on systems that support PAM unless the passprompt_override flag is disabled in sudoers.

-r role The -r (role) option causes the new (SELinux) security context to have the role specified by role.
-S The -S (stdin) option causes sudo to read the password from the standard input instead of the terminal device.
-s [command] 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). If a command is specified, it is passed to the shell for execution. Otherwise, an interactive shell is executed.
-t type The -t (type) option causes the new (SELinux) security context to have the type specified by type. If no type is specified, the default type is derived from the specified role.
-U user The -U (other user) option is used in conjunction with the -l option to specify the user whose privileges should be listed. Only root or a user with sudo
on the current host may use this option.
-u user The -u (user) option causes sudo to run the specified command as a user other than root. To specify a uid instead of a user name, use #uid. When running commands as a uid, many shells require that the ’#’ be escaped with a backslash (’\’). Note that if the targetpw Defaults option is set (see sudoers(5)) it is not possible to run commands with a uid not listed in the password database.
-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.
-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
minutes (or whatever the timeout is set to in sudoers) but does not run a command.
-- The -- option indicates that sudo should stop processing command line arguments. It is most useful in conjunction with the -s option.
Environment variables to be set for the command may also be passed on the command line in the form of VAR=value, e.g. LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/pkg/lib. Variables passed on the command line are subject to the same restrictions as normal environment variables with one important exception. If the setenv option is set in sudoers, the command to be run has the

tag set or the command matched is
, the user may set variables that would overwise be forbidden. See sudoers(5) for more information.


Upon successful execution of a program, the exit status from sudo will simply be the exit status of the program that was executed.

Otherwise, sudo quits with an exit value of 1 if there is a configuration/permission problem 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

an error is printed on stderr. (If the directory does not exist or if it is not really a directory, 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
is on a machine that is currently unreachable.


sudo tries to be safe when executing external commands.

There are two distinct ways to deal with environment variables. By default, the env_reset sudoers option is enabled. This causes commands to be executed with a minimal environment containing

in addition to variables from the invoking process permitted by the env_check and env_keep sudoers options. There is effectively a whitelist for environment variables.

If, however, the env_reset option is disabled in sudoers, any variables not explicitly denied by the env_check and env_delete options are inherited from the invoking process. In this case, env_check and env_delete behave like a blacklist. Since it is not possible to blacklist all potentially dangerous environment variables, use of the default env_reset behavior is encouraged.

In all cases, environment variables with a value beginning with

are removed as they could be interpreted as bash functions. The list of environment variables that sudo allows or denies is contained in the output of
sudo -V
when run as root.

Note that the dynamic linker on most operating systems will remove variables that can control dynamic linking from the environment of setuid executables, including sudo. Depending on the operating system this may include

, and others. These type of variables are removed from the environment before sudo even begins execution and, as such, it is not possible for sudo to preserve them.

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

environment variable is not modified and is passed unchanged to the program that sudo executes.

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 or if it is writable by a user other than root. On systems that allow non-root users to give away files via chown(2), if the timestamp directory 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 placing 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 *

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 normally only log the command it explicitly runs. If a user runs a command such as

sudo su
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 inadvertently give the user an effective root shell. For more information, please see the
section in sudoers(5).


sudo utilizes the following environment variables:
Default editor to use in -e (sudoedit) mode if neither
is set
In -s or -H mode (or if sudo was configured with the --enable-shell-sets-home option), set to homedir of the target user
Set to a sane value if the secure_path sudoers option is set.
Used to determine shell to run with
Specifies the path to a helper program used to read the password if no terminal is available or if the
option is specified.
Set to the command run by sudo
Default editor to use in -e (sudoedit) mode
Set to the group ID of the user who invoked sudo
Used as the default password prompt
If set,
will be set to its value for the program being run
Set to the user ID of the user who invoked sudo
Set to the login of the user who invoked sudo
Set to the target user (root unless the -u option is specified)
Default editor to use in -e (sudoedit) mode if
is not set


/etc/sudoers List of who can run what
/var/run/sudo Directory containing timestamps
/etc/environment Initial environment for -i mode on Linux and AIX


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 yaz on a machine where the file system holding ~yaz is not exported as root:

 $ sudo -u yaz ls ~yaz

To edit the index.html file as user www:

 $ sudo -u www vi ~www/htdocs/index.html

To view system logs only accessible to root and users in the adm group:

 $ sudo -g adm view /var/log/syslog

To run an editor as jim with a different primary group:

 $ sudo -u jim -g audio vi ~jim/sound.txt

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

and file redirection work.

 $ sudo sh -c "cd /home ; du -s * | sort -rn > USAGE"


grep(1), su(1), stat(2), passwd(5), sudoers(5), visudo(8)


Many people have worked on sudo over the years; this version consists of code written primarily by:

        Todd C. Miller

See the HISTORY file in the sudo distribution or visit for a short history of sudo.


There is no easy way to prevent a user from gaining a root shell if that user is allowed to run arbitrary commands via sudo. Also, many programs (such as editors) allow the user to run commands via shell escapes, thus avoiding sudo’s checks. However, on most systems it is possible to prevent shell escapes with sudo’s noexec functionality. See the sudoers(5) manual for details.

It is not meaningful to run the

command directly via sudo, e.g.,

 $ sudo cd /usr/local/protected

since when the command exits the parent process (your shell) will still be the same. Please see the EXAMPLES section for more information.

If users have sudo

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 has a /dev/fd/ directory, setuid shell scripts are generally safe).


If you feel you have found a bug in sudo, please submit a bug report at


Limited free support is available via the sudo-users mailing list, see to subscribe or search the archives.


sudo is provided ‘‘AS IS’’ and any express or implied warranties, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are disclaimed. See the LICENSE file distributed with sudo or for complete details.

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