I am using xscreensaver to lock my screen. When the screen is locked, any mouse movement brings up the login dialog. After a timeout, login fails with the message "authentication via PAM timed out"

The problem is that since nobody tried to log in (i.e. nobody typed password and confirmed with enter), this should not be considered a login attempt. And therefore should not be logged as such (should not be loged at all)

I often move the mouse just to make sure my screen is locked. Then, my auth log is flooded with useless logs which make the other, important information harder to see.

Is there any way to fix this ?

I am using xscreensaver 5.15-3 installed from a package in Debian Wheezy. I would be happy to recompile my package, if this problem could be fixed.


I have noticed, xscreensaver is using it's own pam configuration file: /etc/pam.d/xscreensaver. Is there perhaps a way to modify the pam file to fix this problem? Perhaps ignoring "login attempts" when the password is empty?

  • grep out/abbreviate the offending login fails when reading your log?
    – dg99
    Jun 26, 2014 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


If OP wants offical quote, Jamie Zawinski thinks PAM is the culprit to blame. He also includes a patch in that Debian bug report as well, treating timeout / empty password / pressing [ESC] as login cancellation and will supposedly ignore those attempts. That's likely what you want.

Additional info: the bug is still open right now.

  • This was exactly what came to mind; change the way the way events are recorded when the lock-screen login dialog does not receive any input. I would say it's a bug only in how the info is recorded to the log. Maybe they didn't want to write another event type? #lazy
    – 0xSheepdog
    Jul 29, 2014 at 18:23
  • 1
    @0xSheepdog Can be simply #lazy, can be an oversight, or can be security paranoia ("hey, somebody moved your computer's mouse!") -- Jamie makes highly debatable decision from time to time in name of security. Though that's just everybody's guess now. Jul 29, 2014 at 18:33

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