what will be the most efficient way for multiple users (around 15) to be able to sudo to another user's account to run privileged commands?

so to make it clear, I have a main user called mainaccount that has sudo/root access, I also have 15 other users that need to be able to change or run commands su - mainaccount for managing a test environment.

how can I do this?

Edit: I am asking how is this done, so if user user1 wants to run a command as mainaccount (su - mainaccount) but without putting mainaccount's password, rather using their own password. I guess kind of like the wheel group, where you can add multiple users but this one just to be able to change or run commands as mainaccount

  • Are you asking how is it done? Or how do you make running it better? I guess I am confused by what you want clarified. Did you want people to just run individual commands? Or did you want to have them to run as many as they need without relogging in?
    – cripp
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:35
  • The su command stands for :switch user. To use the su command on a single command basis, enter: su user -c command To switch users so you can enter many commands enter: su user Replace user with mainaccount for the above example. I am posting this as a comment as I don't really know what your question was. But this at least helps you with your syntax.
    – cripp
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:38
  • Keep in mind that if mainaccount can become root (passwordlessly), then anyone who can become mainaccount can become root. That said, set up a group for the users, and in sudoers, set up a stanza saying "members of this group can sudo su - mainaccount."
    – DopeGhoti
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:41
  • I guess this is pretty close to what I want, I do want the main account to become root (which I've done that by adding it to the wheel group) but now, I want to put all the users, so they are able to run commands as the mainaccount how do I escpefically add the users so they can su - mainaccount? Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:46
  • I think that identity and non-repudiation is a big deal. The real use of sudo is to configure the execution of specific elevated commands to specific users and/or groups. If you engineer a method for users to first become another user before using sudo, you'll have a hard time learning or proving who did what. Why not focus on configuring sudo commands for a certain group, and put your users in that group? Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


That (and making back-ups) is pretty much the traditional use of the operator user and group...

Set up a group - eg. mainusers - and add the users allowed to "become" mainaccount

In /etc/sudoers add: %mainusers ALL = (root) su - mainaccount This will let members of mainusers become mainaccount by using su - mainaccount. By doing so as root, they don't need to give a password for the su-command. Alternative %mainusers ALL = (mainaccount) ALL lets members of mainusers to run any command as mainaccount.

Let mainaccount-user be member of the sudo-group (ie. may sudo to root and run commands as root). This will let any user first becomming mainaccount to then use sudoto become root.

That said, this sounds like a bad idea! It may be better to let mainaccount - and users belonging to mainusers who could become him - to only be allowed to run a limited number of privileged commands (perhaps only the commands in a dedicated directory), maybe as root. sudo can be used to set-up this too.

You may look at man sudoers -- and in the example sudoers-file in /usr/share/doc/sudo/examples/ -- for more inspiration. Look especially how they use alias and the operator-user/group in the example-file. Here "operators" may do daily maintenance work -- like shut-down the computer, kill processes, start/stop/add printers, mount CDROMs, and such things -- but far from everything root (and members of sudo-group) can do. This is a more appropriate set-up for allowing "trusted users" doing some day-to-day admin-work. If you're running several computers, it may also be a good idea to limit their privileges to only one or two computers (eg. groups of users have special rights on "their" computer, but not on the other computers).

So if I was you, I would think twice and perhaps rethink this - especially the number of users you intend to "promote". If you have to do this; I would suggest the operator-solution - put them in a group, and use sudo to give them a limited set of privileged commands they could run (as root) to fix day-to-day problems. But don't let them all be able to ascend to full root-status! If you really need someone with full root-privileges, then pick a couple among the dozen that you really trust and knows are knowledgeable, and add them to the sudo-group as full co-administrators... that would be a lot cleaner and easier to control than what you proposed.

  • agreed as a bad idea, it was a requirement and talked people off of this idea, thank you so much! Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 16:02

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