What does the # character preceding the owner name mean?

For example:

me@server /dir/sub/sub-sub $ ll v* x*
-rwxrwxr-x   1 #owner   group          1176 Jun 25  2009 vfc.sh
-rw-r-----   1 #owner   group             6 Jun 22  2011 xx
-rwxrwxrwx   1 #owner   group           107 May 25  2010 xx.sh
-rw-r-----   1 #owner   group         10139 Jan  7  2013 xxx
  • 2
    The username starts with #
    – heemayl
    Jul 1 '16 at 18:26
  • 7
    Possibly someone thought they could comment out a user in /etc/passwd by putting a # in front of the username, but this just causes the username to change; any files owned by that user will now show as #username instead. Jul 1 '16 at 18:33
  • @jimmij: Or better yet, just show the output of ls -l. Jul 1 '16 at 18:38
  • 1
    Try getpw '#owner', and compare to getpw $USER Jul 1 '16 at 18:41
  • @KeithThompson Or, in this case, just stat xx (or another of the files).
    – user
    Jul 1 '16 at 21:04

It looks like that's actually the username. Try checking the passwd file, and you might find that somebody tried to comment out a line:

grep owner /etc/passwd

If you find that there is a line starting with #, then if there is another line which doesn't have it, you may want to remove the line with the #. Otherwise, you may just want to remove the #. That is, assuming that you don't actually want a user named #owner.

In most scripts, a # at the start of a line is considered to be a comment. That's not the case in /etc/passwd, and so, it is most likely to think that somebody meant to make a line a comment, which, if that worked, would act the same as removing it.

  • or grep ^#owner /etc/passwd or getent passwd \#owner
    – Jeff Schaller
    Jul 1 '16 at 19:26
  • Yes, that would be great to be specific. I was hoping, though, that he would see both the "commented" line, and the actual line. I think odds are good that somebody did that before making a copy, but just a guess.
    – DKing
    Jul 1 '16 at 20:41
  • What Unix variant doesn't support # to comment out lines in /etc/passwd? AFAIR at least Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, OSF/1 and SunOS do. Jul 2 '16 at 23:29

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