umask

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In computing, umask is a command that determines the settings of a mask that controls how file permissions are set for newly created files. It also may refer to a function that sets the mask, or it may refer to the mask itself, which is formally known as the file mode creation mask. The mask is a grouping of bits, each of which restricts how its corresponding permission is set for newly created files. The bits in the mask may be changed by invoking the umask command.

In UNIX, each file has a set of attributes which control who can read, write or execute it. When a program creates a file, it requests that the file permissions be set to an initial setting. The mask restricts permission settings. If the mask has a bit set to "1", it means the corresponding initial file permission will be disabled. A bit set to "0" in the mask means that the corresponding permission will be determined by the program and the system. In other words, the mask acts as a last-stage filter that strips away permissions as a file is created; each bit that is set to a "1" strips away its corresponding permission. Permissions may be changed later by users and programs using chmod.

Each program (technically called a process) has its own mask. Each process is able to change the settings of its own mask using a function call. When the process is a shell, the mask is set with the umask command. When a shell or process, launches a new process, the child process inherits the mask from its parent process. Generally, the mask only affects file permissions during the creation of new files and has no effect when file permissions are changed in existing files, however, in some specific cases it can help determine permissions when file permissions are changed in existing files using the chmod command.

The mask is stored as a group of bits. It may be represented as binary, octal, or symbolic notation. The umask command allows the mask to be set using as octal (e.g., 0754) or symbolic (e.g., u=wrx,g=rx,o=r) notation. (see octal and symbolic notation).

The umask command is used with Unix-like operating systems and the umask function is defined in the POSIX.1 specification.

History[edit]

The mask, the umask command, and the umask function were not part of the original implementation of UNIX. The operating system evolved in a relatively small computer center environment where security was not an issue. It eventually grew to serve hundreds of users from different organizations. At first, developers made creation modes for key files more restrictive, especially for cases of actual security breaches, but this was not a general solution. The mask and the umask command were introduced around 1978 between the sixth edition and the eighth edition of the operating system, so it could allow sites, groups, and individuals to choose their own defaults.[1] The mask has since been implemented in most, if not all, of the contemporary implementations of UNIX-like operating systems.

Shell command[edit]

In a shell, the mask is set by using the umask command. The syntax of the command is:[2]

umask [-S ] [maskExpression]

(the items within the [brackets] are optional)

Displaying the current mask[edit]

If the umask command is invoked without any arguments, it will display the current mask. The output will be in either octal or symbolic notation depending on the operating system,[3] Invoking umask with the -S argument (i.e., umask -S) will force it to display using symbolic notation. For example:

$ umask         # display current value (as octal)
0022
$ umask -S      # display current value symbolically
u=rwx,g=rx,o=rx

Setting the mask using octal notation[edit]

If the umask command is invoked with an octal argument, it will directly set the bits of the mask to that argument:

$ umask 0077        # set the mask to 0077
$ umask             # display the mask (in octal)
0077
$ umask -S          # display the mask symbolically
u=rwx,g=,o=

If fewer than 4 digits are entered, leading zeros are assumed. An error will result if the argument is not a valid octal number or if it has more than 4 digits.[4]

Octal codes[edit]

Octal digit in
umask command
Permissions the mask will
prohibit from being set during file creation
0 any permission may be set
1 setting of execute permission is prohibited
2 setting of write permission is prohibited
3 setting of write and execute permission is prohibited
4 setting of read permission is prohibited
5 setting of read and execute permission is prohibited
6 setting of read and write permission is prohibited
7 all permissions are prohibited from being set

Setting the mask using symbolic notation[edit]

When umask is invoked using symbolic notation, it will modify or set the flags as specified by the maskExpression with the syntax :

[user-class-letters] operator permission-symbols

Multiple maskExpressions are separated by commas.

A space terminates the maskExpression (s).

  • The permissions are applied to different user classes:
Letter Class Description
u user the owner
g group users who are members of the file's group
o others users who are not the owner of the file or members of the group
a all all three of the above, the same as ugo. (The default if no user-class-letters are specified in the maskExpression.)
  • The operator specifies how the permission modes of the mask should be adjusted.
Operator Effect on the mask
+ permissions specified are enabled, permissions that are not specified are unchanged.
- permissions specified are prohibited from being enabled, permissions that are not specified are unchanged.
= permissions specified are enabled, permissions that are not specified are prohibited from being enabled.
  • The permission-symbols indicate which file permission settings are to be allowed or prohibited by the mask
Symbol Name Description
r read read a file or list a directory's contents
w write write to a file or directory
x execute execute a file or recurse a directory tree
X special execute See File permissions.
s setuid/gid See File permissions.
t sticky See File permissions.

For example:

umask u-w

Prohibit write permission to be enabled for the user. The rest of the flags in the mask are unchanged.

Example of multiple changes:

umask u-w,g=r,o+r

This would set the mask so that it would:

  1. prohibit the write permission from being set for the user, while leaving the rest of the flags unchanged;
  2. allow the read permission to be enabled for the group, while prohibiting write and execute permission for the group;
  3. allow the read permission to be enabled for others, while leaving the rest of the other flags unchanged.

Command line examples[edit]

Here are more examples of using the umask command to change the mask.

umask command issued How the mask will affect permissions of subsequently created files/directories
umask a+r allows read permission to be enabled for all user classes; the rest of the mask bits are unchanged
umask a-x prohibits enabling execute permission for all user classes; the rest of the mask bits are unchanged
umask a+rw allows read or write permission to be enabled for all user classes; the rest of the mask bits are unchanged
umask +rwx allows read, write or execute permission to be enabled for all user classes; (Note: On some UNIX platforms, this will restore the mask to a default.)
umask u=rw,go= allow read and write permission to be enabled for the owner, while prohibiting execute permission from being enabled for the owner; prohibit enabling any permissions for the group and others
umask u+w,go-w allow write permission to be enabled for the owner; prohibit write permission from being enabled for the group and others;
umask -S display the current umask in symbolic notation
umask 777 disallow read, write, and execute permission for all (probably not useful because even owner cannot read files created with this mask!)
umask 000 allow read, write, and execute permission for all (potential security risk)
umask 077 allow read, write, and execute permission for the file's owner, but prohibit read, write, and execute permission for everyone else
umask 113 allow read or write permission to be enabled for the owner and the group, but not execute permission; allow read permission to be enabled for others, but not write or execute permission
umask 0755 equivalent to u-rwx (4+2+1),go=w (4+1 & 4+1). (The 0 specifies that special modes may be enabled if allowed by the OS.)


Example showing effect of umask:

umask -S       # Show the (frequently initial) setting 
u=rwx,g=rx,o=rx

gcc hello.c      # compile and create executable file a.out
ls -l a.out 
-rwxr-xr-x  1 me  developer  6010 Jul 10 17:10 a.out
# the umask prohibited Write permission for Group and Others

ls  > listOfMyFiles    # output file created by redirection  does not attempt to set eXecute
ls -l listOfMyFiles
-rw-r--r--  1 me  developer  6010 Jul 10 17:14 listOfMyFiles
# the umask prohibited Write permission for Group and Others
############################################
umask u-w  # remove user write permission from umask

umask -S
u=rx,g=rx,o=rx
ls > protectedListOfFiles
ls -l protectedListOfFiles
-r--r--r--  1 me  developer  6010 Jul 10 17:15 protectedListOfFiles 
rm listOfMyFiles
override r--r--r-- me/developer for protectedListOfFiles?
# warning that  protectedListOfFiles is not writable, answering Y will remove the file

############################################
umask g-r,o-r  # removed group read and other read from mask
umask -S
u=rx,g=x,o=x

ls > secretListOfFiles
ls -l secretListOfFiles
-r--------  1 me  developer  6010 Jul 10 17:16 secretListOfFiles

Function call[edit]

The mask may be set using a function call. The GNU functions are declared in sys/stat.h. The function is:[5]

mode_t umask (mode_t mask)

The umask function will set the mask of the current process to mask, and return the previous value of the mask.

Here is an example from GNU.org which shows how to read the mask without changing it permanently:

mode_t
read_umask (void) {
    mode_t mask = umask (0);
    umask (mask);
    return mask;
}

However, on GNU/Hurd systems it is better to use the getumask function if reading the mask value is the only requirement, because it is reentrant.

mode_t getumask (void)

Returns the current value of the mask for the current process. (Note: The getumask function is a GNU extension and is only available on GNU/Hurd systems.

Mask effect[edit]

The mask is applied whenever a file is created. If the mask has a bit set to "1", that means the corresponding file permission will always be disabled when files are subsequently created. A bit set to "0" in the mask means that the corresponding permission will be determined by the requesting process and the OS when files are subsequently created. In other words, the mask acts as a last-stage filter that strips away permissions as a file is created; each bit that is set to a "1" strips away that corresponding permission for the file.

Truth table[edit]

Here is the truth table for the masking logic. Each bit in the requesting process' file permission mode is operated on by the mask using this logic to yield the permission mode that is applied to the file as it is created. (p is a bit in the requested file permission mode of a process that is creating a file; q is a bit in the mask; r is the resulting bit in the created file's permission mode)

p q r
T T F
T F T
F T F
F F F

How the mask is applied[edit]

Programmatically, the mask is applied by the OS by first negating (complementing) the mask, and then performing a logical AND with the requested file mode. In the [probably] first UNIX manual to describe its function,[1] the manual says,

"the actual mode... of the newly-created file is the logical and of the given mode and the complement of the argument. Only the low-order 9 bits of the mask (the protection bits) participate. In other words, the mask shows [indicates] the bits to be turned off when files are created."

—UNIX Eighth Edition Manual, Bell Labs UNIX (manual), AT&T Laboratories
This shows how octal in the umask command appears in the mask and eventually affects a program's request for creating a file with, e.g., full (r, w, x) permissions.
Octal digit in
 umask command 
 Binary in 
the mask
 Negation 
of mask
Logical AND
 with "rwx" request[6] 
0 000 111 rwx
1 001 110 rw-
2 010 101 r-x
3 011 100 r--
4 100 011 -wx
5 101 010 -w-
6 110 001 --x
7 111 000 ---

Logic[edit]

The mask is applied using boolean logic known as material nonimplication or abjunction. It is represented in logic notation as:

C: (P&(~Q))

This says that the file's permission mode (C) is a result of a logical AND operation between the negation of the mask (Q), and the process' requested permission mode setting (P).

Exceptions[edit]

Note: Many operating systems do not allow a file to be created with execute permissions. In these environments, newly created files will always have execute permission disabled for all users.

The mask is generally only applied to functions that create a new file, however, there are exceptions. For example, when using UNIX and GNU versions of chmod to set the permissions of a file, and symbolic notation is used, and no user is specified, then the mask is applied to the requested permissions before they are applied to the file. For example:

$ umask 0000
$ chmod +rwx filename
$ ls -l filename
-rwxrwxrwx filename
$ umask 0022
$ chmod +rwx filename
$ ls -l filename
-rwxr-xr-x filename

Processes[edit]

Each process has its own mask, which is applied whenever the process creates a new file. When a shell, or any other process, spawns a new process, the child process inherits the mask from its parent process.[7] When the process is a shell, the mask is changed by the umask command. As with other processes, any process launched from the shell inherits that shell's mask.

Mount option[edit]

In the Linux kernel, the fat, hfs, hpfs, ntfs, and udf file system drivers support a umask mount option, which controls how the disk information is mapped to permissions. This is not the same as the per-process umask described above, although the permissions are calculated in a similar way. Some of these file system drivers also support separate umasks for files and directories, using mount options such as fmask.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "UNIX 8th Edition Manual, Bell Labs UNIX". Manual. AT&T Laboratories. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  2. ^ "AST UNIX MANUAL:umask(1)". Manual. AT&T Laboratories. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  3. ^ "umask", The Single UNIX Specification, Version 2: (manual), The Open Group, 1997, retrieved 2013-01-14 
  4. ^ Note: Some programming languages require a prefix symbol in front of octal notation such as the digit 0, or the letters o or q. The umask command does not use this type of prefix notation -- only the octal digits are used.
  5. ^ "14.9.7 Assigning File Permissions", The GNU C Library for glibc 2.17 (manual), Free Software Foundation, Inc., 3 January 2013, retrieved 2013-01-14 
  6. ^ Note: Operating systems usually will also strip off execute permissions on newly created files.
  7. ^ "umask(2)", Linux Programmer's Manual release 3.32 (manual), Linux man-pages project, 9 January 2008, retrieved 2013-01-01