It appears to be Unix tradition that a wheel group is created automatically, but Debian (and children, naturally) doesn't do so. Is there a rationale somewhere? Where else have you seen this tradition discarded?
Some unix systems allow only members of the
wheel group to use
su. Others allow anyone to use
su if they know the password of the target user. There are even systems where being in the
wheel group grants passwordless root access; Ubuntu does this, except that the group is called
sudo (and doesn't have id 0).
wheel is mostly a BSD thing. Linux is a mix of BSD and System V, and the various distributions have different default policies with respect to granting root access. Debian happens not to implement a wheel group by default; if you want to enable it, uncomment the
auth required pam_wheel.so line in
Because wheel is a tool of oppression! From
Why GNU 'su' does not support the 'wheel' group
(This section is by Richard Stallman.)
Sometimes a few of the users try to hold total power over all the rest. For example, in 1984, a few users at the MIT AI lab decided to seize power by changing the operator password on the Twenex system and keeping it secret from everyone else. (I was able to thwart this coup and give power back to the users by patching the kernel, but I wouldn't know how to do that in Unix.)
However, occasionally the rulers do tell someone. Under the usual `su' mechanism, once someone learns the root password who sympathizes with the ordinary users, he or she can tell the rest. The "wheel group" feature would make this impossible, and thus cement the power of the rulers.
I'm on the side of the masses, not that of the rulers. If you are used to supporting the bosses and sysadmins in whatever they do, you might find this idea strange at first.
See also the Debian Reference. Anyways, the
sudo group is built in so who needs