A careful examination of the /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow files reveal that the passwords stored are hashed using some form of hashing function.

A quick Google search reveals that by default, the passwords are encrypted using DES. If an entry begins with $, then it indicates that some other hashing function was used.

For example, some entries on my Ubuntu machine begin with $6$...

What do the various numbers represent?


The full list is in man 3 crypt (web version):

          ID  | Method
          1   | MD5
          2a  | Blowfish (on some Linux distributions)
          5   | SHA-256 (since glibc 2.7)
          6   | SHA-512 (since glibc 2.7)

(Blowfish can be either $2$ or $2a$ according to Wikipedia Crypt (Unix).)

So $6$ means SHA-512.

Which one your system uses is governed by any options passed to the pam_unix PAM module.

The default on the latest version of Ubuntu is set in /etc/pam.d/common-password:

password        [success=1 default=ignore]      pam_unix.so obscure sha512

which means that next time you change your password, it will be hashed using SHA-512, assuming your account is local, rather than NIS/LDAP/Kerberos, etc.

See also:

  • A quick double check of my /etc/shadow shows 2 entries that start with $6$. – Nathan Osman Feb 26 '11 at 2:23
  • Note that SHA-256 and SHA-512 are part of the SHA-2 set of hash functions. – mattdm Feb 26 '11 at 2:33
  • 4
    Note that the crypt hashes based on SHA-2 are not plain SHA-2, which would be bad since plain SHA-2 is weak against dictionary attacks. The SHA-2 crypt schemes use the plain hashes as building block, but add a variable work-factor(to slow down dictionary attacks) and a salt. – CodesInChaos Jun 18 '12 at 18:39
  • In my Ubuntu machine, root's password has an exclamation mark symbol (!). Reading man shadow, it means that the password is locked, so you can't log in directly using unix password. It has to do with Ubuntu set root account disabled by default. – Akronix Dec 30 '16 at 11:07

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