Linux provides users the ability to elevate or relax access permissions on any files where they are an owner. Of course, an administrator can make changes anywhere in the system, including creating users and groups, modifying them, and elevating or reducing any permissions for files.

Adding and Modifying Users and Groups

As an administrator, there are commands at your disposal to add, delete, or modify users and groups:

  • useradd creates a new user
  • groupadd creates a new group
  • usermod and groupmod can be used to modify users and groups
  • userdel and groupdel can be used to delete users and groups.

Modifying Owners and Permissions

Additionally, chown and chgrp allow the superuser/admin to change who owns the resource, file, or directory while chmod changes the read-write-execute permission levels. As an example, the following commands would allow an administrator to change the owner of a file named designs.doc to a new user named peter and then modify this file to have read, write, and execute permissions for the user, group, and others.

chown peter designs.doc
chmod 777 designs.doc or chmod u=rwx,g=rwx,o=rwx designs.doc

Note: We need to be the owner of the file or admin to use chmod.

Viewing and Modifying Permissions Outside of the Terminal

We can view and modify permissions in the file manager application on a Linux Ubuntu desktop as well. Just right-click on the file, select properties from the drop-down, and choose the permissions tab. All the users/groups and permissions are easily selected from the drop-down menus.

graphical view of file permissions



Use the groupadd command (with sudo) to create a new group called engineering. The password for sudo is ilovecc. Later we’ll associate a file with this group.


Let’s use the cat command to view the /etc/group file to verify that the engineering group has been created. It should be listed at the bottom!


Now let’s use the touch command to create a new file called engineering/keys.txt.


Now, use the chgrp command (with sudo) to make engineering the group owner of the engineering/keys.txt file.


Finally, use the ls -l engineering command to see the ownership of the engineering/keys.txt file. We should see that the engineering group now has ownership.

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