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Intro to Linux Pluggable Authentication Modules

Oct 21, 2010, 17:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Yvo Van Doorn)


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"Every time you log into a Linux system, you're using the Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM) behind the scenes. PAM simplifies Linux authentication, and makes it possible for Linux systems to easily switch from local file authentication to directory based authentication in just a few steps. If you haven't thought about PAM and the role it plays on the system, let's take a look at what it is and what it does.

"Actually, PAM is about more than logging into the system itself. Applications can use the PAM libraries to share authentication — so users can use a single username and password for many applications. The rationale behind PAM is to separate authentication from granting privileges. It should be up to the application how to handle granting an authenticated user privileges, but authentication can be handled separately.

"A simple way of looking at this. Imagine going to an all-ages show at a local club. At the door, the bouncer checks ID and tickets. If you've got a valid ticket and ID that shows you're over 21, you get a green wristband. If you've got a valid ticket and an ID that shows you're under 21, you get a red wristband. Once in the club, it's up to the bartender to grant privileges to buy alcohol (or not), and the club staff to grant seating privileges or direct you to the floor for general admission."

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