What is pkexec?

pkexec, short for "PolicyKit Execute," is a command-line utility in Unix-like operating systems that allows authorized users to run programs as another user, typically as the superuser (root), while respecting the system's security policies and privileges. It's often used as a more secure and controlled alternative to running commands with the traditional sudo command.

PolicyKit is a framework that provides fine-grained access control to system actions and resources. It allows system administrators to define policies that determine who can perform certain privileged operations and under what conditions.

When you run a command with pkexec, the system checks the PolicyKit policies to determine whether you have the necessary privileges to execute the command. If you have the required authorization, the command is executed with the requested privileges. If not, you'll be prompted to enter your password (if required) or the action might be denied based on the defined policies.

For example, you can use pkexec to run graphical applications with elevated privileges. This ensures that only authorized users can perform privileged actions, reducing the risk of unintended system changes or malicious activities.

Here's the basic syntax of using pkexec:

pkexec command_to_run

For instance, if you want to open a text editor as the superuser using pkexec, you would run:

pkexec gedit

This would prompt you for your password (if required) and then open the gedit text editor with root privileges.

It's important to note that pkexec relies on the PolicyKit framework, and its behavior can vary depending on the system's configured policies and settings. It's a valuable tool for system administrators who need to grant specific permissions to users for privileged operations in a controlled and secure manner.