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Earlier versions of Android have at run-as executable with the setuid flag set so it runs as root, but more recent versions do away with that. What changed? How can the shell user effect a user change?

I've taken a quick look at the source but my linux coding skills are pretty weak.

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Which changed was that runas instead of switching to root user it runs with the SETUID and SETGID capabilities which are based on the executable files extended attributes. Those can be set with the setcap command.

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