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24.6.3 Permission for using kill

There are restrictions that prevent you from using kill to send signals to any random process. These are intended to prevent antisocial behavior such as arbitrarily killing off processes belonging to another user. In typical use, kill is used to pass signals between parent, child, and sibling processes, and in these situations you normally do have permission to send signals. The only common exception is when you run a setuid program in a child process; if the program changes its real UID as well as its effective UID, you may not have permission to send a signal. The su program does this.

Whether a process has permission to send a signal to another process is determined by the user IDs of the two processes. This concept is discussed in detail in Process Persona.

Generally, for a process to be able to send a signal to another process, either the sending process must belong to a privileged user (like ‘root’), or the real or effective user ID of the sending process must match the real or effective user ID of the receiving process. If the receiving process has changed its effective user ID from the set-user-ID mode bit on its process image file, then the owner of the process image file is used in place of its current effective user ID. In some implementations, a parent process might be able to send signals to a child process even if the user ID’s don’t match, and other implementations might enforce other restrictions.

The SIGCONT signal is a special case. It can be sent if the sender is part of the same session as the receiver, regardless of user IDs.

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