Destroying "only" your home directory (was Re: Newbie question on permissions)

Michael T. Richter ttmrichter at
Mon Apr 3 03:08:04 UTC 2006

On Sat, 2006-01-04 at 16:29 -0600, Matthew R. Dempsky wrote:

> > If someone writes a Linux virus (difficult) and you open it with an app 
> > running as root, or run it from a root terminal, it could destroy your 
> > entire system. Otherwise, the most it can destroy is your home.
> This is something that has always bugged me: privelege separation 
> between root and users is primarily desirable for system administrators 
> of multi-user machines, not single-user machines.
> The system files on my laptop aren't of that much importance to me.  
> Sure, it's an inconvenience to replace them, but that's no more 
> difficult than installing in the first place.
> The files in my $HOME directory are precisely the ones I'm most 
> concerned about losing due to malice.

I fear you're running into a clash of cultures here.  The whole UNIX
mindset is centred on multi-user systems.  Apparently the fact that
multi-user systems are the exception these days, not the norm, has
escaped them.

The UNIX (and better) styles of multi-user security are fine for things
like servers.  Indeed they're necessary.  For desktop machines, however,
as you so aptly pointed out, the UNIX way of doing things is exactly
ass-backwards.  The stuff that's semi-trivial to replace (re-install or
re-download) is protected at all costs and the stuff that's
irreplaceable is given no thought whatsoever.

If there were a decent backup application available a lot of this could
be ameliorated.  Sadly, however, the backup software that's out there
for UNIX and workalikes is about as user hostile as you can get.
Michael T. Richter
Email: ttmrichter at, mtr1966 at
MSN: ttmrichter at, mtr1966 at; YIM:
michael_richter_1966; AIM: YanJiahua1966; ICQ: 241960658; Jabber:
mtr1966 at

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not
either to save or to destroy slavery." --Abraham Lincoln
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