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Unix Power Tools, 3rd Edition by Mike Loukides, Tim O'Reilly, Shelley Powers, Jerry Peek

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Chapter 3. Setting Up Your Unix Shell

What Happens When You Log In

When you first log in to a Unix system, the login program performs various security measures. These vary slightly from Unix variant to Unix variant, but they are largely the same.

First, login checks to see if you are not the root user and whether the file /etc/nologin exists (it is created by the shutdown command to indicate that the system is being brought down for maintenance). If both of these conditions are true, the login program prints the contents of that file to the terminal, and the login fails. If you are the root user, however, you will be allowed to log in.

Second, login checks to see if there are any special conditions on your login attempt (which may be defined in /etc/usertty or /etc/securetty), such as on which tty you're coming in. Linux systems do this, for example. Some systems (such as Darwin and other BSD-based systems) also check /etc/fbtab and may restrict your access to any devices listed in that file. These systems may also log failed login attempts to a file, such as /var/log/failedlogin, if it exists.

login may also record the time of login in the file /var/log/lastlog, make an entry in the file /var/run/utmp , showing that you are successfully logged in (it is removed once you log out), and append the utmp entry to the file /var/log/wtmp , showing that you logged in. This wtmp record will be updated on logout, showing the duration of your login session.

If the file .hushlogin exists ...

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