Role Based Access Control. Often part of a MAC (Mandatory Access Control) system, but can be present on a system where root still retains absolute power. Terminology varies widely with specific implementations, but there will be some set of defined privileges or authorizations that can be assigned to certain users or processes. For example, SCO OSR5 defines an authorization for backup (from the docs):
backup allows a user to perform backup subsystem administration; backup has the following default secondary authorizations: create_backup allows a user to create backups queryspace allows a user to use the df command restore allows a user to restore from backups
More modern systems take this much farther. For example, Solaris 10 has privileges such that you could enforce logging of everything root does and (in theory, anyway) shut off the ability to change that. It is that last part that the flaw in most such systems: you aren't going to put root into a one way trap you can't get out of, but if you don't, anyone who has root access can undo your restrictions. In some extremely paranoid systems, there are such limitations and only a specific group of people can change them (visualize the two keys supposedly necessary to launch nuclear weapons).
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence