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Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2020 16:13:05 -0400
From: Eli Schwartz <>
Subject: Re: Debian FEATURE: /home/loser is with permissions
 755, default umask 0022

On 10/12/20 3:41 PM, Solar Designer wrote:
> Hi,
> A problem with Georgi's message that started this thread, besides its
> overall tone, is that it singled out Debian.  In my experience, most
> Unix-like distributions use insecure defaults like this.
> On Thu, Oct 08, 2020 at 08:07:10AM +1100, Brian May wrote:
>> Jeremy Stanley <> writes:
>>> As a long-time Debian user myself, I agree that this default is
>>> showing its age, and can represent a risk for operators who overlook
>>> it.
>> Yes, I agree the default should be changed.
> I also think the defaults should be changed, and not only on Debian.
> Special cases like serving web pages do not justify insecure default
> home directory permissions - rather, they're reasons to provide extra
> setup instructions in web server packages, etc.

This seems like a fairly solvable problem.

By default, Arch Linux's login.defs umask is 077, so home directories
created by useradd cannot be read at all by other users. (It is then
overridden by /etc/profile to 022.)

>> Just note that there is a reasonable amount of software install
>> instructions that assume umask is 022 and will install software with
>> unusable permissions if it is not.
> This is indeed a problem.  When building software manually (not
> packaged) and wanting to install it on a system globally (e.g., in
> /usr/local), a workaround is to use "(umask 022; make install)" - that
> is, temporarily relax the umask to 022 just for that one command by
> running it in a subshell.
> RPM typically invokes "umask 022" for all(?) package build scripts,
> including the %install section, which lets it build proper packages even
> when run on a system with umask 077 even when the packaged software's
> install scripts assume umask 022.
> I think package install scripts should learn not to assume umask, or at
> least not when installing software globally.  When installing to a
> subdirectory of the user's home directory, it makes sense to honor the
> user's umask, but those cases probably can't be recognized reliably.
> It's a pity that software will just assume it's to be installed globally
> (or with equivalent permissions), but the current reality is no better
> where things break arbitrarily (e.g., some files mode 644, some 600)
> when installing unprepared software with umask 077.

It depends how the software is installed, surely? Some things use
mkdir/cp, some use install (which defaults to 755).

Some build systems, like meson, have a core setting for the installation
umask, ignoring the process umask in favor of 022 by default or whatever
configuration option was passed.

> I think distros have to take the first step and change the default umask
> to 077.  Until enough distros do, software maintainers won't have the
> incentive to support that or won't even know about the problem.
> Alexander

Eli Schwartz
Arch Linux Bug Wrangler and Trusted User

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