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lshell is a shell coded in Python, that lets you restrict a user's environment to limited sets of commands, choose to enable/disable any command over SSH (e.g. SCP, SFTP, rsync, etc.), log user's commands, implement timing restriction, and more.
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lshell - limited shell

All this information (and more) is in the man file.


You have 3 options:

  • Use the present in the source tar.gz. It uses python distutils to install everything in the right place:

    1. Install from source

      # extract source
      tar xvfz lshell-{version}.tar.gz
      # on Linux:
      python install --no-compile --install-scripts=/usr/bin/
      # on *BSD:
      python install --no-compile --install-data=/usr/{pkg,local}/
    2. Install the rpm

      yum install lshell
      # or 
      rpm -Uvh lshell-x.x-x.noarch.rpm
    3. Install the .deb

      apt-get install lshell
      # or
      dpkg -i lshell-x.x-x.deb


lshell.conf presents a template configuration file. See etc/lshell.conf or man file for more information.

A [default] profile is available for all users using lshell. Nevertheless, you can create a [username] section or a [grp:groupname] section to customize users' preferences.

Order of priority when loading preferences is the following:

  1. User configuration
  2. Group configuration
  3. Default configuration

The primary goal of lshell, was to be able to create shell accounts with ssh access and restrict their environment to a couple a needed commands.

For example User 'foo' and user 'bar' both belong to the 'users' UNIX group:

  • User 'foo':

    • must be able to access /usr and /var but not /usr/local
    • user all command in his PATH but 'su'
    • has a warning counter set to 5
    • has his home path set to '/home/users'
  • User 'bar':

    • must be able to access /etc and /usr but not /usr/local
    • is allowed default commands plus 'ping' minus 'ls'
    • strictness is set to 1 (meaning he is not allowed to type an unknown command)

In this case, my configuration file will look something like this:

logpath         : /var/log/lshell/
loglevel        : 2

allowed         : ['ls','pwd']
forbidden       : [';', '&', '|'] 
warning_counter : 2
timer           : 0
path            : ['/etc', '/usr']
env_path        : ':/sbin:/usr/foo'
scp             : 1 # or 0
sftp            : 1 # or 0
overssh         : ['rsync','ls']
aliases         : {'ls':'ls --color=auto','ll':'ls -l'}

warning_counter : 5
overssh         : - ['ls']

allowed         : 'all' - ['su']
path            : ['/var', '/usr'] - ['/usr/local']
home_path       : '/home/users'

allowed         : + ['ping'] - ['ls'] 
path            : - ['/usr/local']
strict          : 1
scpforce        : '/home/bar/uploads/'


To launch lshell, just execute lshell specifying the location of your configuration file:

lshell --config /path/to/configuration/file

By default lshell will try to launch using /${CONFPATH}/lshell.conf unless specified otherwise (using --config), where ${CONFPATH} is :

  • "/etc/" for Linux
  • "/usr/{pkg,local}/etc/" for *BSD

In order to log a user, you will have to add him to the lshell group:

usermod -aG lshell username

Use case 1: /etc/passwd

In order to configure a user account to use lshell by default, you must:

  • On Linux:

    chsh -s /usr/bin/lshell user_name
  • On *BSD:

    chsh -s /usr/{pkg,local}/bin/lshell user_name

After this, whichever method is used by the user to log into his account, he will end up using the limited shell you configured for him!

Use case 2: OpenSSH & authorized_keys

In order to launch lshell limited to the 'ssh' command, I used ssh's authorized_keys:

# vi /home/foo/.ssh/authorized_keys
# and add :
command="/usr/bin/lshell --config /path/to/lshell.conf",no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding,no-agent-forwarding,no-pty just before the public key part.

This will have the effect of executing lshell upon user's SSH connection.


If you want to contribute to this project, please do not hesitate. Open an issue and, if possible, send a patch! I would be glad to take a look at it!

You can use the interface on github: ghantoos/lshell/issues


Ignace Mouzannar

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