Unix permissions are actually a lot less confusing than you'd first think, & once you stop trying to read the whole line as one thing & instead think of it in groups, always in the pattern
1 3 3 3 it becomes easier to grasp.
In fact, Mac & some other unix derivatives use a
1 3 3 3 1 structure - more about that at the end of this post.
This explanation is as simple as it can be, whilst including all the relevant concepts...
Extracted from https://www.cs.swarthmore.edu/help/chmod.html
unix file permissions
File permissions allow you to grant or deny access to your files and directories. There are three types of permissions:
- r = read
- w = write
- x = execute
These permissions mean different things for files and directories.
- read - you can open and read the file, you can also copy it.
- write - you can modify the file
- execute - you can execute (run) the file if it is executable (like a program or a command)
- read - you can ls the directory and see the contents.
- write - you can make and remove files in that directory.
- execute - you can cd into that directory.
Use the ls -l command to see the file permissions for your files and directories. Here's an example:
$ ls -l
drwx------ jk users 4096 2008-10-24 11:30 cs21/
drwx------ jk users 4096 2007-10-01 12:24 mail/
drwxr-xr-x jk users 4096 2008-06-05 10:33 public/
-rw------- jk users 83623 2008-09-10 08:29 turing.pdf
-rw-r--r-- jk users 9134 2008-01-24 16:26 unix-by-example
The first column above is the file permissions (drwx------ or -rw-r--r--), the second is the owner of the files and directories (jk), and the third column is the group (users).
For the file permissions, the first letter is either a "d" or a "-", meaning it's a directory or a file. The next three characters (e.g., rwx) are the permissions for the owner of the file. Then comes the group permissions (e.g., everyone in the users group), and finally permissions for everyone else. Here are some examples:
* drwx------ : directory only accessible by owner
* drwxr-xr-x : directory anyone can access
* -rwxr-xr-x : file anyone can read and execute
* -rw-r----- : file only people in the group can read
To see what groups you are in, run the groups command.
changing permissions on a file/directory
Use the chmod (CHange MODe) to change the file permissions. The chmod command can use numbers:
- 4 - read
- 2 - write
- 1 - execute
The reason these aren’t 1,2,3 is because they need to add up to a unique number depending on what combination of them you use.
So, to give read and write permission:
read + write = 4 + 2 = 6
or execute and read permission:
execute + read = 1 + 4 = 5
Or just execute permission:
execute = 1
Or all permissions:
read + write + execute = 4 + 2 + 1 = 7
The chmod command takes three numbers for three permissions:
owner, group, all users (in that order)
The basic chmod command goes:
$ chmod ### directory/filename
So, if you wanted to give read access to all (-rw-r--r--):
$ chmod 644 filename
To make a file readable, writable, and executable by only you:
$ chmod 700 filename
To make a file readable and executable by you and your group, but only readable by everyone else:
$ chmod 554 filename
chmod can also use letters: u for user (owner), g for group, o for other, and a for all (u, g, and o). So you could do chmod g+r file to add read access for the group. For more information about chmod, see the man page (man chmod).
A note about that final character
On Mac OS X (and some other Unix derivatives), there's an additional character after the final set of permissions. It's usually a space, but may be a + or an @
A + indicates the file or directory has additional security information, such as an ACL.
An @ indicates the file or directory has extended attributes.
You can see see a file or directory's ACL by including the -e option when doing an ls (with the -l option), and extended attributes by including -@ (also with -l).
A discussion of ACLs and extended attributes is well beyond this answer, but more information about extended attributes can be found here and ACLs here (and of course Google will turn up more information than you want to know about them.)