I am working on a script that will help the sysadmins on our team monitor what's going on in other terminals by other logged in users.

One thing I'm stuck on right now is how to view what commands have been typed. I realize that the history doesn't get saved until the user exits or types history -a, but there has to be a way to view what's currently in the history, even if it's stored in memory somewhere.

Is it possibly saved somewhere in /proc/${pid_of_users_bash}? I tried to type a command echoing a unique string (EG: echo "foobarbaz", then greping for foobarbaz through any flat files within the associated /proc/PID directory, but no luck.

If anyone has a solution that doesn't involve setting thePROMPT_COMMAND or setting the histappend (like these), that would be greatly appreciated.

  • @Christopher That's what happens on one of the systems I'm using. I'm promptly unsetting PROMPT_COMMAND when logging in there. It also messes with set -x which I have turned on by default...
    – Kusalananda
    Oct 2, 2017 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Bash does not provide information you want. I think you want avoid setting COMMAND_PROMPT and histappend because users may easily overwrites them. But users may completely disable storing commands to history when they set HISTCONTROL="ignorespace" and insert a space before each command. So users that are not willing to be monitored cannot be reliably monitored via bash history.

Ad hoc monitoring a single session can be done over strace. Search for the PID of the user's bash and then call strace -p <bash-pid> 2>&1 |grep "read(0,". The you can see all characters typed by user - including typos and editing commands.

Most of linux distribution provides auditd package. It monitors and audits system components so administrator may get information about system activities in past. A PAM module pam_tty_audit cooperates with auditd and enables or disables TTY activity auditing. I guess you do not need to reinvent wheel and use the pam_tty_audit.

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