Cleaning up the users and locking down the shells in /etc/passwd

Colin Watson cjwatson at
Tue Sep 27 08:28:19 UTC 2011

On Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 03:05:58PM -0700, Matt Alexander wrote:
> On Sat, Sep 24, 2011 at 9:48 AM, Colin Watson <cjwatson at> wrote:
> > For almost everything, and certainly for the overwhelming majority of
> > new entries, we do exactly as you say.  However, I (as base-passwd
> > maintainer) will not remove entries from the global static list unless
> > there is a very compelling reason to do so beyond cleaning up cruft;
> > packages are entitled to assume that they are present without declaring
> > any particular dependency and there's no reasonable way to know what
> > removing such entries would break.
> I end up modifying the passwd/group files on my computers for auditing
> purposes and to ensure that the only accounts on the system are required
> accounts.  Removing cruft seems like a perfectly valid reason.  In 10 years
> will Ubuntu still have a uucp user and a news user and an irc user?  Seems
> silly.  Let's clean things up and keep it to just the accounts that must be
> there.  We can then easily fix packages that wrongly assumed that their
> particular user would be always be there.

I'm afraid this is backwards.  If you want to go and hunt down packages
that rely on those global static users and get their maintainers
(preferably in Debian) to work on a migration to dynamically-allocated
system users, perhaps after that it would be worth removing the global
static users.  Until then, they need to stay where they are.


Colin Watson                                       [cjwatson at]

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