Section: Linux Programmer's Manual (7)
credentials - process identifiers
Process ID (PID)
Each process has a unique nonnegative integer identifier
that is assigned when the process is created using
A process can obtain its PID using
A PID is represented using the type
PIDs are used in a range of system calls to identify the process
affected by the call, for example:
A process's PID is preserved across an
Parent process ID (PPID)
A process's parent process ID identifies the process that created
this process using
A process can obtain its PPID using
A PPID is represented using the type
A process's PPID is preserved across an
Process group ID and session ID
Each process has a session ID and a process group ID,
both represented using the type
A process can obtain its session ID using
and its process group ID using
A child created by
inherits its parent's session ID and process group ID.
A process's session ID and process group ID are preserved across an
Sessions and process groups are abstractions devised to support shell
A process group (sometimes called a "job") is a collection of
processes that share the same process group ID;
the shell creates a new process group for the process(es) used
to execute single command or pipeline (e.g., the two processes
created to execute the command "ls | wc" are placed in the
same process group).
A process's group membership can be set using
The process whose process ID is the same as its process group ID is the
process group leader for that group.
A session is a collection of processes that share the same session ID.
All of the members of a process group also have the same session ID
(i.e., all of the members of a process group always belong to the
same session, so that sessions and process groups form a strict
two-level hierarchy of processes.)
A new session is created when a process calls
which creates a new session whose session ID is the same
as the PID of the process that called
The creator of the session is called the session leader.
All of the processes in a session share a
The controlling terminal is established when the session leader
first opens a terminal (unless the
flag is specified when calling
A terminal may be the controlling terminal of at most one session.
At most one of the jobs in a session may be the
other jobs in the session are
Only the foreground job may read from the terminal;
when a process in the background attempts to read from the terminal,
its process group is sent a
signal, which suspends the job.
flag has been set for the terminal (see
then only the foreground job may write to the terminal;
writes from background job cause a
signal to be generated, which suspends the job.
When terminal keys that generate a signal (such as the
key, normally control-C)
are pressed, the signal is sent to the processes in the foreground job.
Various system calls and library functions
may operate on all members of a process group,
See also the discussion of the
User and group identifiers
Each process has various associated user and group IDs.
These IDs are integers, respectively represented using the types
On Linux, each process has the following user and group identifiers:
Real user ID and real group ID.
These IDs determine who owns the process.
A process can obtain its real user (group) ID using
Effective user ID and effective group ID.
These IDs are used by the kernel to determine the permissions
that the process will have when accessing shared resources such
as message queues, shared memory, and semaphores.
On most UNIX systems, these IDs also determine the
permissions when accessing files.
However, Linux uses the filesystem IDs described below
for this task.
A process can obtain its effective user (group) ID using
Saved set-user-ID and saved set-group-ID.
These IDs are used in set-user-ID and set-group-ID programs to save
a copy of the corresponding effective IDs that were set when
the program was executed (see
A set-user-ID program can assume and drop privileges by
switching its effective user ID back and forth between the values
in its real user ID and saved set-user-ID.
This switching is done via calls to
A set-group-ID program performs the analogous tasks using
A process can obtain its saved set-user-ID (set-group-ID) using
Filesystem user ID and filesystem group ID (Linux-specific).
These IDs, in conjunction with the supplementary group IDs described
below, are used to determine permissions for accessing files; see
Whenever a process's effective user (group) ID is changed,
the kernel also automatically changes the filesystem user (group) ID
to the same value.
Consequently, the filesystem IDs normally have the same values
as the corresponding effective ID, and the semantics for file-permission
checks are thus the same on Linux as on other UNIX systems.
The filesystem IDs can be made to differ from the effective IDs
Supplementary group IDs.
This is a set of additional group IDs that are used for permission
checks when accessing files and other shared resources.
On Linux kernels before 2.6.4,
a process can be a member of up to 32 supplementary groups;
since kernel 2.6.4,
a process can be a member of up to 65536 supplementary groups.
can be used to determine the number of supplementary groups
of which a process may be a member.
A process can obtain its set of supplementary group IDs using
A child process created by
inherits copies of its parent's user and groups IDs.
a process's real user and group ID and supplementary
group IDs are preserved;
the effective and saved set IDs may be changed, as described in
Aside from the purposes noted above,
a process's user IDs are also employed in a number of other contexts:
when determining the permissions for sending signals (see
when determining the permissions for setting
process-scheduling parameters (nice value, real time
scheduling policy and priority, CPU affinity, I/O priority) using
when checking resource limits (see
when checking the limit on the number of inotify instances
that the process may create (see
Modifying process user and group IDs
Subject to rules described in the relevant manual pages,
a process can use the following APIs to modify its user and group IDs:
- setuid(2) (setgid(2))
Modify the process's real (and possibly effective and saved-set)
user (group) IDs.
- seteuid(2) (setegid(2))
Modify the process's effective user (group) ID.
- setfsuid(2) (setfsgid(2))
Modify the process's filesystem user (group) ID.
- setreuid(2) (setregid(2))
Modify the process's real and effective (and possibly saved-set)
user (group) IDs.
- setresuid(2) (setresgid(2))
Modify the process's real, effective, and saved-set user (group) IDs.
Modify the process's supplementary group list.
Any changes to a process's effective user (group) ID
are automatically carried over to the process's
filesystem user (group) ID.
Changes to a process's effective user or group ID can also affect the
process "dumpable" attribute, as described in
Changes to process user and group IDs can affect the capabilities
of the process, as described in
Process IDs, parent process IDs, process group IDs, and session IDs
are specified in POSIX.1.
The real, effective, and saved set user and groups IDs,
and the supplementary group IDs, are specified in POSIX.1.
The filesystem user and group IDs are a Linux extension.
Various fields in the
file show the process credentials described above.
for further information.
The POSIX threads specification requires that
credentials are shared by all of the threads in a process.
However, at the kernel level, Linux maintains separate user and group
credentials for each thread.
The NPTL threading implementation does some work to ensure
that any change to user or group credentials
(e.g., calls to
is carried through to all of the POSIX threads in a process.
for further details.
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