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setuid() - Unix, Linux System Call

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setuid - set user identity


#include <sys/types.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int setuid(uid_t uid);


setuid() sets the effective user ID of the current process. If the effective UID of the caller is root, the real UID and saved set-user-ID are also set.

Under Linux, setuid() is implemented like the POSIX version with the _POSIX_SAVED_IDS feature. This allows a set-user-ID (other than root) program to drop all of its user privileges, do some un-privileged work, and then re-engage the original effective user ID in a secure manner.

If the user is root or the program is set-user-ID-root, special care must be taken. The setuid() function checks the effective user ID of the caller and if it is the superuser, all process related user ID’s are set to uid. After this has occurred, it is impossible for the program to regain root privileges.

Thus, a set-user-ID-root program wishing to temporarily drop root privileges, assume the identity of a non-root user, and then regain root privileges afterwards cannot use setuid(). You can accomplish this with the (non-POSIX, BSD) call seteuid().


On success, zero is returned. On error, -1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately.


EAGAIN The uid does not match the current uid and uid brings process over it’s NPROC rlimit.
EPERM The user is not privileged (Linux: does not have the CAP_SETUID capability) and uid does not match the real UID or saved set-user-ID of the calling process.


SVr4, POSIX.1-2001. Not quite compatible with the 4.4BSD call, which sets all of the real, saved, and effective user IDs.


Linux has the concept of filesystem user ID, normally equal to the effective user ID. The setuid() call also sets the filesystem user ID of the current process. See setfsuid(2).

If uid is different from the old effective uid, the process will be forbidden from leaving core dumps.


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