is there a way to list or install security upgrades only using apt?

if I list upgrades with:

apt list --upgradable

can I also see without knowing packages and libraries which upgrades are relevant security upgrades.

and furthermore is there an option to only apply those by skipping any others, so the non-security-relevant upgrades would be prompted again next time I run apt upgrade?

  • 1
    so you have two questions, 1.print security updates, 2.update only selected packages, well I know that there are 6 links in sources.list and two of them are security related repo links, you can see which upgradable packages would be downloaded from each link by following command: sudo apt upgrade --no-upgrade --assume-no --print-uris
    – Brian SP2
    Sep 26 '17 at 6:57
  • 1
    but about second question, apparently you can choose a single package to be upgraded by the following command sudo apt upgrade --upgrade-only <package name> but this doesn't work for me, sorry
    – Brian SP2
    Sep 26 '17 at 6:58

apt can’t (yet) provide the information you’re after. aptitude can though, albeit somewhat confusingly:

aptitude search '~U ~ODebian' -F "%p %O"|awk '/Debian-Security/ {print $1}'

This searches all upgradable (~U) packages from official Debian repositories (~ODebian), and displays their package name (%p) and “origin” (%O). The latter actually displays the repository label, which is “Debian-Security:9/stable” for the Debian 9 security repositories. You end up with a list of upgradable package names from the security repositories.

There are a variety of ways to install only security upgrades, none of them ideal though.

  • aptitude’s text interface allows only security upgrades to be applied, simply by scrolling to the “Security Updates” header (which should be the first one) and hitting +.

  • You can feed the list of packages extracted above to apt to install the upgrades:

    aptitude search '~U ~ODebian' -F "%p %O" |
    awk '/Debian-Security/ {print $1}' |
    xargs apt-get install --only-upgrade

    This has the unfortunate side-effect of clearing the “automatically installed” marker on upgraded packages.

  • You can use unattended-upgrades, whose default action is to only apply security upgrades:

    unattended-upgrades -v

    If you don’t want upgrades to be installed automatically, you’ll need to disable unattended-upgrades’s daily cron job.

  • Aptitude's TUI doesn't seem to present security updates separately any more - as of a year ago or so on 16.04, and currently on 18.04. Anybody else seen that?
    – Greg Bell
    Oct 14 '19 at 3:14
  • @Greg it still does for me (on Debian 10), and I don’t see any change in Ubuntu which would affect that. Perhaps the security updates are applied automatically before you can see them in aptitude, e.g. by unattended-upgrades... Oct 14 '19 at 4:22
  • Nope, my unattended-upgrades is limited to just thunderbird, sshd, and firefox. What's weird is that aptitude search '~U' finds plenty. I can see it still working on aptitude 0.7.4 ; aptitude 0.8.10 is what Ubuntu 18.04 ships with. What version do you have?
    – Greg Bell
    Oct 15 '19 at 7:17
  • @Greg I have 0.8.11, and it shows security updates in their own section. The display is configurable, which might be the problem here — when you press G, what package grouping mechanism is shown? The default is task,status,section(subdirs,passthrough),section(topdir). Oct 15 '19 at 7:21
  • Same grouping mechanism here. And I've mv'd ~/.aptitude to make sure it wasn't something goofy I'd set.
    – Greg Bell
    Oct 16 '19 at 10:58

To display the security update you can use:

apt-get --just-print upgrade | grep -i security | awk '{print $2}' | awk '!seen[$0]++'

To apply only the security updates for 1 package:

apt-get install --only-upgrade pckg_name

To apply only the security updates from list:

list=$(apt-get --just-print upgrade | grep -i security | awk '{print $2}' | awk '!seen[$0]++')
apt-get install --only-upgrade $list

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