Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-features (8 mails)

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[openFATE 314778] Use polkit for YaST privilege management
Feature changed by: Lukas Ocilka (locilka)
Feature #314778, revision 10
Title: Use polkit for YaST privilege management

- openSUSE Distribution: Evaluation by engineering manager
+ openSUSE Distribution: New
Requester: Desirable

Requested by: Dainius Masiliunas (greatemerald)
Partner organization:

At the moment of writing, YaST relies on having root privileges through
a graphical sudo in order to view and carry out most tasks. However,
there is no reason why simply displaying those tasks should be
restricted like that. YaST should always be started with user
privileges, and only ask for additional privileges when they are truly
needed - when the selected tasks should be carried out.
This can be achieved by using polkit. It also brings a lot of other

- Discussion of the idea on the mailing list (url:
- Feature in Bugzilla (url:
+ - Tracking at Trello (Internal) (url:

Use Case:
Users who do not have access to the root password currently also do not
have access to a lot of functionality that does not actually require
the password, such as searching for package information.
Users that do administrative tasks are also subjecting the system to
possible security risks by running YaST with full root privileges.
Using polkit would increase security and prevent potential user

Business case (Partner benefit): Using polkit, the graphical interface of YaST would
always be run as a normal user. That means that code that should not
have elevated privileges - like GUI - would not run with them.
More could be done without needing to enter the root password - package
information query, printer setup, device information overview,
reviewing network configuration options etc.
In a restrictive environment, the system administrator could set
certain tasks to be available for use by regular users, or to allow
certain tasks to be run by certain users only.
The authentication screen would provide more information about what
tasks are about to be carried out for increased security. For instance,
if a custom YaST module requests permission to modify the partition
table, while it claims to only set up the date and time, it would be
clear to the user that the module is either fraudulent or is
In order to not have to authenticate after every single change a module
wishes to do, a global queue for the changes could be created (like
what is shown by the /etc/sysconfig editor once its changes are to be
applied). Once the global "apply" button is pressed, the user would be
informed of what actions will be carried out and what privileges will
be given to carry them out. Then, once the user confirms that by
supplying a password, all the changes are applied.

#1: Hardy Heroin (jsnel) (2013-03-09 19:45:07)
This is also one of Linus Torvalds' main objection with openSUSE, see
for instance this article about it:
Would be great if trivial tasks in openSUSE no longer require root.

#2: Jiří Suchomel (jsuchome) (2013-07-08 14:36:39)
This would require some major change in YaST architecture, that would
be able to divide part that can be run by any user from the part run by
privileged user only. There were some attempts already (e.g. Gloves
project), but none was finished.

#3: Dainius Masiliunas (greatemerald) (2013-08-12 18:35:51) (reply to
Really? It seems to me that it would just need a few privilege-awareness
changes. Instead of presuming that each module runs as root, you
instead queue up the changes that the module wants to do to the system,
then pressing the Finish button asks for the password and applies the
changes. The workflow stays pretty much the same, because that's
already what most YaST modules do as it is. The only thing that is
missing is a way to integrate the queue with polkit, and review the
actions that each module wishes to take (so that it wouldn't always
require a password when one is not needed, and would ask only for the
necessary amount of privileges they need).
Even without the extensive review, it would already be an improvement
over what we have now, since at least the GUI would always run as the
user, and not root, for added security and theme consistency with the

openSUSE Feature:

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