File Ownership And File Permission in Linux

File permission in Linux associated with files and directories were designed to keep users from accessing other users’ private files and to protect important system files. The nine bits assigned to each file for permissions define the access that you and others have to your file. Permission bits for a regular file appear as -rwxrwxrwx. Those bits are used to define who can read, write, or execute the file according to your file permission in linux.

Of the nine-bit permissions, the first three bits apply to the owner’s permission, the next three apply to the group assigned to the file, and the last three apply to all others. The r stands for read, the w stands for write, and the x stands for execute permissions. If a dash appears instead of the letter, it means that permission is turned off for that associated read, write, or execute bit.

Because files and directories are different types of elements, read, write, and execute permissions on files and directories mean different things.

For Files

Permission 				File
Read 					View what’s in the file.
Write 					Change the file’s content, rename it, or delete it.
Execute					Run the file as a program.

For Directories

Permission				Directory 			
Read 					See what files and subdirectories it contains.
Write 					Add files or subdirectories to the directory. Remove files or directories from the directory.
Execute					Change to the directory as the current directory, search through the directory, or execute a program from the directory. 
					Access file meta data (file size,time stamps, and so on) of files in that directory.

you can see the permission for any file or directory by typing the ls -ld command.

Changing permissions with chmod command (numbers)

If you own a file, you can use the chmod command to change the file permission in linux on it as you please. In one method of doing this, each permission (read, write, and execute) is assigned a number — r=4, w=2, and x=1 — and you use each set’s total number to establish the permission. For example, to make permissions wide open for yourself as owner, you would set the first number to 7 (4+2+1), and then you would give the group and others read-only permission by setting both the second and third numbers to 4 (4+0+0), so that the final number is 744. Any combination of permissions can result from 0 (no permission) through 7 (full permission).

Here are some examples of how to change permission on a file (named file) and what the resulting permission would be:

The following chmod command results in this permission: rwxrwxrwx
# chmod 777 file
The following chmod command results in this permission: rwxr-xr-x
# chmod 755 file
The following chmod command results in this permission: rw-r--r--
# chmod 644 file 
The following chmod command results in this permission: ---------
# chmod 000 file 

The chmod command also can be used recursively. For example, say you wanted to give an entire directory structure 755 permission (rwxr-xr-x), starting at the $HOME/myapps directory. To do that, you could use the -R option, as follows:

$ chmod -R 755 $HOME/myapps

All files and directories below, and including, the myapps directory in your home directory will have 755 permissions set. Because the numbers approach to setting permission changes all permission bits at once, it’s more common to use letters to recursively change permission bits over a large set of files.

Changing permissions with chmod command(letters)

You can also turn file permission in linux on and off using plus (+) and minus (–) signs, respectively, along with letters to indicate what changes and for whom. Using letters, for each file you can change permission for the user (u), group (g), other (o), and all users (a). What you would change includes the read (r), write (w), and execute (x) bits. For example, start with a file that has all permissions open (rwxrwxrwx). Run the following chmod commands using minus sign options.

The resulting permissions are shown to the right of each command:

The following chmod command results in this permission: r-xr-xr-x
chmod a-w file
The following chmod command results in this permission: rwxrwxrw
chmod o-x file
The following chmod command results in this permission: rwx------
chmod go-rwx file

Likewise, the following examples start with all permissions closed (———).

The plus sign is used with chmod to turn permissions on:

The following chmod command results in this permission: rw——-

$ chmod u+rw files
The following chmod command results in this permission: --x--x--x
$ chmod a+x files
The following chmod command results in this permission: r-xr-x---
$ chmod ug+rx files

Using letters to change permission recursively with chmod generally works better than using numbers because you can change bits selectively, instead of changing all permission bits at once. For example, say that you want to remove write permission for “other” without changing any other permission bits on a set of files and directories. You could do the following:

$ chmod -R o-w $HOME/myapps

This example recursively removes write permissions for “other” on any files and directories below the myapps directory. If you had used numbers such as 644, execute permission would be turned off for directories; using 755, execute permission would be turned on for regular files. Using o-w, only one bit is turned off and all other bits are left alone.

Setting default file permission in linux with umask

When you create a file as a regular user, it’s given permission rw-rw-r– by default. A directory is given the permission rwxrwxr-x. For the root user, file and directory permission are rw-r–r– and rwxr-xr-x, respectively. These default values are determined by the value of umask. Type umask to see what your umask value is. For example:

$ umask

If you ignore the leading zero for the moment, the umask value masks what is considered to be fully opened permissions for a file 666 or a directory 777. The umask value of 002 results in permission for a directory of 755 (rwxrwxr-x). That same umask results in a file permission of 644 (rw-rw-r–). (Execute permissions are off by default for regular files.) To temporarily change your umask value, run the umask command. Then try creating some files and directories to see how the umask value affects how permissions are set.

For example:

$ umask 777 ; touch file01 ; mkdir dir01 ; ls -ld file01 dir01
d---------. 2 telco telco 4096 Dec 19 11:03 dir01
----------. 1 telco telco 0 Dec 19 11:02 file01
$ umask 000 ; touch file02 ; mkdir dir02 ; ls -ld file02 dir02
drwxrwxrwx. 2 telco telco 4096 Dec 19 11:00 dir01/
-rw-rw-rw-. 1 telco telco 0 Dec 19 10:59 file01
$ umask 022 ; touch file03 ; mkdir dir03 ; ls -ld file03 dir03
drwxr-xr-x. 2 telco telco 4096 Dec 19 11:07 dir03
-rw-r--r--. 1 telco telco 0 Dec 19 11:07 file03

If you want to permanently change your umask value, add a umask command to the .bashrc file in your home directory (near the end of that file). The next time you open a shell, your umask will be set to whatever value you chose.

Changing file ownership in Linux

As a regular user, you cannot change ownership of a file or directory to have them belong to another user. You can change ownership as the root user. For example, say you created a file called memo.txt, while you were root user, in the user telco’s home directory.

Here’s how you could change it to be owned by telco:

# chown telco /home/telco/memo.txt
# ls -l /home/telco/memo.txt
-rw-r--r--. 1 telco root 0 Dec 19 11:23 /home/telco/memo.txt
Notice that the chown command changed the user to telco but left the group as root.
To change both user and group to telco, you could type the following instead:
# chown telco:telco /home/telco/memo.txt
# ls -l /home/telco/memo.txt
-rw-r--r--. 1 telco telco 0 Dec 19 11:23 /home/telco/memo.txt

The chown command can be use recursively as well. Using the recursive option (-R) is helpful if you need to change a whole directory structure to ownership by a particular user. For example, if you inserted a USB drive, which is mounted on the /media/usb directory, and wanted to give full ownership of the contents of that drive to the user telco, you could type the following:

# chown -R telco:telco /media/usb

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