In my Arch Linux installation with Gnome 3.28, I recently noticed that I can enter with Nautilus in the private directory /root and see the files inside while Nautilus is started without root rights. In addition I can create directories everywhere in the filesystem as a non-root user when I start nautilus like this :

$ nautilus admin:///

How is it possible while Nautilus do not have the root rights ? For the moment, it's a very strange security hole for me...

  • Do you have a NFS share on your machine? What happens if you run the command ping admin?
    – dr_
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:02
  • No I haven't any NFS filesystem on my machine but when I run the ping admin command, I get this : 64 bytes from assistance.tech.numericable.fr ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=58 time=17.5 ms
    – holo
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:05
  • 1
    It should ask for either the root password or your own password, depending on your system’s setup; but it will use cached authentication tokens if they are available (again depending on setup). Have you tweaked pkexec & co.? Apr 27, 2018 at 13:07
  • No i haven't tweaked that but when I run pkexec it directly starts a root shell without asking me for any password...
    – holo
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:10
  • Did you check it really doesn't have root rights? Something like suid bit set?
    – Philippos
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


Linx/Unix working as it should. System root files are not invisible, but they should be off-limits for writing. And some files you can see, but not read (e.g. /etc/shadow).


My problem was caused by an insecure configuration of the sudo system. When I installed my Arch Linux system and to have the hability to execute commands without the root account, I added directly my username in the sudoers file like this :

martin ALL=(ALL) ALL

It worked very well with sudo but not at all with polkit. With this configuration, when I just typed pkexec in my shell, it opened a root shell without asking me for any password. But when Nautilus tries to access the /root directory, he execute the pkexec command. So that I could go in this directory without any password with my normal user account.

To correct the problem, I put my user in the wheel group and uncomment this line in the sudoers file

# %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

In conclusion, it's not a security breech in Nautilus but an insecure configuration I made...I'm sorry.


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