In this short guide, you will learn how to fix the Su: Authentication Failure in Linux. With this error, you will also encounter the Permission denied message when trying to carry out any installation with
sudo permission. In Linux, there are different types of users, and sudo or the root user is one of such users but a user with the full permission to execute any command in Linux. Sudo means superuser do. The superuser account is the account with unrestricted permissions and privileges. Take a look at the following related posts on How to Create Symbolic Links in Linux, How to Install Terraform on Linux, How to install Apache Tomcat on Ubuntu, and How to fix “Failed to open session in VirtualBox to install Windows 11 Image”
From the screenshot below, we’re are trying to switch user (
su) to the root account so we can execute any command without a password prompt. Secondly, since the
su command failed, we also tried to become root by running the
sudo -i command but we encountered the
Permission denied prompt. Thirdly, we tried to run the installation of the
aptitude command using the usual
sudo apt install aptitude command, we still faced the
Permission denied prompt.
One of the things to note in Linux, su, and sudo commands fails with an authentication failure and “Permission denied” since the root account is blocked by default in Ubuntu, and the root account doesn’t have a password that’s why whenever we try to execute any command we’re prompted for a password. For best practice, it is not recommended to grant sudo permission to every user as doing so may pose danger to your system.
Let’s get the issue fixed! Before fixing this, we will first look at the cause of the problem.
Cause of the problem:
This problem usually occurs when you change the ownership of
root to an ordinary
user or you have mistakenly granted both the owner, the group and others the full permission to read, write and execute (rwxrwxrwx) to the
/usr/bin directory by running
sudo chmod 777 /usr/bin/ or by granting the owner and the group the same permission to read and write (
chmod 770 /usr/bin) to the
/usr/bin directory with sudo power. By default the Root account in Linux OS doesn’t have password as mentioned earlier. So any attempt to alter the standard settings of the core filesystem will automatically disable all access to the sudo or root account until it is recovered.
With the incident described above, whenever you try to execute any of the following commands:
$sudo chown root /usr/bin and
chmod 4755 /usr/bin/sudo or any task that requires the superuser or root privileges to be executed, you will encounter the above error-, and even the
chmod: changing permissions of '/usr/bin/sudo': operation not permitted error as well.
Step 1: Restart your PC. Boot into Ubuntu Recovery Console, and press and hold the SHIFT key while booting. It will take you to the grub loader page as shown in the screenshot below.
Sometimes getting into the grub loader menu using the SHIFT key could be a little bit tricky mostly when you’re running your Ubuntu on VirtualBox or VMWare. So you need to start pressing the shift key immediately the VirtualBox screen displays.
Step 2: Select and enter Advanced options for Ubuntu, from there select the kernel named as recovery mode as shown in the screenshot below:
Step 3: Select root – by dropping to the root shell prompt as shown in the screenshot
Step 4: Now the file system is read-only. Remount to Read-Write by running the command below:
# mount -o remount,rw /
Now we need to mount –all
Mounting all requires us to change the ownership for sudo. To do so run the below command:
# chown root:root /usr/bin/sudo
Grant permission for sudo by running:
# chmod 4755 /usr/bin/sudo
Now, the deal is done and Sudo should be back by now. Let’s restart the PC by running the below command.
# shutdown -r now
The summary of all the commands ran above is shown in the screenshot below. Note: you’re to go with the “
Press Enter for Maintenance prompt“
After restarting our PC, we have the
Sudo back and we can run the
sudo-i command as well as run the aptitude command installation without the
su: Authentication Failure error prompt as shown in the screenshot below.
That’s all..! I hope you found this blog post helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment session.