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In Unix, there is a file
/etc/shadow that contains (one-way)encrypted passwords of every user. The user can not see the contents of the file. This is to defend the password cracking programs.
To change the password, the user needs to use the command:
passwd command first asks you for your old password and encrypts your input and compares it against the value in the file
/etc/shadow. If it matches then it updates the password file
/etc/shadow with new content.
When you are not allowed to view the
/etc/shadow file, how can a program (
passwd) do the same when run by you?
This is where the idea of special permission called
setuid came into picture. A program file can be given
setuid permission such that the program becomes the user who owns the program file instead of the user who is running it.
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