How To Install and Configure Sudo

How To Install and Configure Sudo on RHEL/CentOS and Debian

Using a sudo user to access a server and execute commands at root level is a very common practice among Linux Systems Administrators. The use of a sudo user is often coupled by disabling direct root access to one's server in an effort to prevent unauthorized access.

In this tutorial, we will be covering the basic steps for disabling direct root access, creating a sudo user, and setting up the sudo group on RHEL/CentOS and Debian Linux systems.

Step 1: Installing sudo

Debian

apt-get install sudo -y

RHEL/CentOS

yum install sudo -y

Step 2: Adding the sudo user

A sudo user is a normal user account on a Linux or Unix machine.

RHEL/CentOS and Debian

adduser mynewusername

Step 3: Adding the new user to the wheel group (optional)

The wheel group is a user group which limits the number of people who are able to su to root. Adding your sudo user to the wheel group is entirely optional, but it is advisable.

Note: In Debian, the sudo group is often found instead of wheel. You can however manually add the wheel group using the groupadd command. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will use the sudo group for Debian.

The difference between wheel and sudo.

In CentOS and Debian, a user belonging to the wheel group can execute su and directly ascend to root. Meanwhile, a sudo user would have use the sudo su first. Essentially, there is no real difference except for the syntax used to become root, and users belonging to both groups can use the sudo command.

Debian

usermod -aG sudo mynewusername

RHEL/CentOS

usermod -aG wheel mynewusername

Step 4: Making sure your sudoers file is setup properly

It is important to ensure that sudoers file located in /etc/sudoers is setup properly in order to allow sudo users to effectively use the sudo command. In order to accomplish that, we will view the contents of /etc/sudoers and edit them where applicable.

RHEL/CentOS and Debian

vim /etc/sudoers

or

visudo

 

Note: The visudo command will open /etc/sudoers using the system's preferred text editor (usually vi or vim).

Start reviewing and editing below this line:

# Allow members of group sudo to execute any command

This section of /etc/sudoers often looks like this:

# Allow members of group sudo to execute any command

%sudo   ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

In some systems, you may not find %wheel instead of %sudo; in which case, this would be the line under which you would start modifying.

If the line starting with %sudo in Debian or %wheel in RHEL/CentOS is not commented out (prefixed by #), this means that sudo is already setup and is enabled. You can then move to the next step.

Step 5: Allowing a user that belongs to neither the wheel nor the sudo group to execute the sudo command

It is possible to allow a user that is in neither user groups to execute the sudo command by simply adding them to /etc/sudoers as follows:

anotherusername ALL=(ALL) ALL

Step 6: Restarting the SSHD Server

In order to apply the changes you made to /etc/sudoers, you need to restart the SSHD server as follows:

Debian

/etc/init.d/sshd restart

RHEL/CentOS 6

/etc/init.d/sshd restart

RHEL/CentOS 7

systemctl restart sshd.service

Step 7: Testing

After you have restarted the SSH server, log out and then log back in as your sudo user, then attempt to execute some testing commands as follows:

sudo uptime

sudo whoami

Any of the below commands will allow the sudo user to become root.

sudo su -

sudo -i

sudo -S

Notes:

  • The whoami command will return root when coupled with sudo.
  • You will be prompted to enter your user's password when executing the sudo command unless you explicitly instruct the system to not prompt sudo users for their passwords. Please note that is not a recommended practice.

Optional: allowing sudo without entering the user's password

As previously explained, this is not a recommended practice and is included in this tutorial for demonstration purposes only.

In order to allow your sudo user to execute the sudo command without being prompted for their password, suffix the access line in /etc/sudoers with NOPASSWD: ALL as follows:

%sudo   ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL   NOPASSWD: ALL

Note: You need to restart your SSHD server in order to apply the changes.

Step 8: Disable direct root access

Now that you have confirmed that you can use your sudo user without issues, it is time for the eighth and final step, disabling direct root access.

First, open /etc/ssh/sshd_config using your favorite text editor and find the line containing the following string. It may be prefixed with a # character.

PermitRootLogin

Regardless of the prefix or the value of the option in /etc/ssh/sshd_config, you need to change that line to the following:

PermitRootLogin no

Finally, restart your SSHD server.

Note: Do not forget to test your changes by attempting to SSH into your server as root. If you are unable to do so, this means that you have successfully completed all the necessary steps.

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