Systemd-homed is Coming to a Linux Distribution Near You

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A major change in how Linux home directories are managed is on its way.

For decades the Linux home directories and user accounts have been managed in the same fashion. The /etc/passwd file included usernames, user IDs, and home directory locations, while the /etc/shadow file contained user password hashes. Those two files worked in conjunction to make user logins and home directories possible.

That might soon be changing, thanks to systemd-homed.

Lennart Poettering is the main developer behind the widely-adopted systemd Linux initialization system. Although much maligned initially, systemd eventually became the de facto standard for the majority of Linux distributions.

Poettering has been at work on something special for user home management.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing systemd-homed.

Instead of using the traditional means of user/home management, systemd-homed will collect all configuration data for each component and store the information (username, group membership, password hashes, and any other relevant information) in a JSON file. On top of that, the home directories will be linked as a LUKS encrypted container, with encryption coupled with the user login. The biggest plus of this system is that as soon as a user logs in, the home directory is decrypted. Once a user logs out, the home directory is automatically encrypted.
Although this has been in development for some time, it looks like systemd-homed will officially become a reality with the release of systemd 245. That release doesn’t mean all systemd-based distributions will automatically adopt systemd-homed. However the idea of on-demand home directory encryption should appeal to most distributions and users.

Original announcement: https://linuxreviews.org/Systemd-Homed_Is_Merged_And_It_Will_Fundamentally_Change_Linux_Home_Directories

02/07/2020

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