Using umask

    Date23 Jun 2000
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    The umask can be used to control the default file permission on newly-created files. The umask command controls the default file and directory creation mode for newly-created files and directories. It is recommended that you make root's umask 077, which will disable read, write, and execute permission for other users, unless explictly changed using chmod.

    The umask command can be used to determine the default file creation mode on your system. It is the octal complement of the desired file mode. If files are created without any regard to their permissions settings, a user could inadvertently give read or write permission to someone that should not have this permission.

    The umask for the creation of new executable files is calculated as follows:

      777 Default Permissions
     -022 Subtract umask value, for example
      755 Allowed Permissions

    So in this example we chose 022 as our umask. This shows us that new executables that are created are given mode 755, which means that the owner can read, write, and execute the binary, while members of the group to which the binary belongs, and all others, can only read and execute it.

    The umask for the creation of new text files is calculated as follows:

     666 Default Permissions
    -022 Subtract umask mask, for example
     644 Allowed Permissions

    This example shows us that given the default umask of 666, and subtracting our sample umask value of 022, new text files are created with mode 644, which states that the owner can read and write the file, while members of the group to which the file belongs, and everyone else can only read the new file. Typically umask settings include 022, 027, and 077, which is the most restrictive. Normally the umask is set in /etc/profile, so it applies to all users on the system. The file creation mask must be set while keeping in mind the purpose of the account. Permissions that are too restrictive may cause users to start sharing accounts or passwords, or otherwise compromise security. For example, you may have a line that looks like this:

      # Set the user's default umask
      umask 033

    Be sure to make root's umask to at least 022, which will disable write and execute permission for other users, unless explicitly changed using chmod(1).

    If you are using Red Hat Linux, and adhered to their user and group ID creation scheme (User Private Groups), it is only necessary to use 002 for a umask with normal users. This is due to the fact that the default configuration is one user per group.

    In addition to setting the user's default umask, you should be sure you are aware of the umask value that is set in startup scripts as well. Any files that are created during the boot process may be created with the default umask of 666 if it is not explictly specified.

    Additionally, any servers that are started at boot time, such as inetd(8), may inherit the umask at boot time, which in turn will be passed down to the services, and servers, that it controls.

    The umask value that the FTP server, spawned by inetd(8) uses, for example, can be easily overlooked, allowing the potential for too lenient permissions on files.

    In this specific example, the FTP server has command-line options for controlling umask values. Many do not, however. For this reason, you might consider creating a file that gets run at system boot time, before any others, that simply explictly sets the umask to a known value.

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