I have a file "test" on an Ubuntu system owned by the root. The ls -l option is shown below.

$ ls -l test
-r--r----- 1 root abacus 373 Nov 12 19:19 test

I know that only the owner of a file can change its permission. But I want to know whether there is any way to read the contents of the file for an anonymous user.

  • You can look into sudo, setuid, and setgid to keep the ownership as root, but allow people to read it.
    – Jess
    Mar 26, 2013 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


No. As it is any anonymous reader can not read the files contents.

Right now the only people able to read the file are:

  • People with uid 0.
  • The owner. In this case the user called 'root', which is probably the same as the uid 0 user.
  • All people in the group 'abacus`. (Check /etc/groups to see who is in that group).

Then there is a category of people who are not in that group and who are not the owner. For these the file is set to unreadable. You can change that with chmod o+r test or with chmod +r test. (The latter sets it for all three in {user:group:other}).

All of this assume no additional ACLs (e.g. SElinux) are applied.


Yes, you can add o+r, meaning, others can read:

chmod o+r test

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