/proc/key-users: Explanation & Insights

Contains users of the keyrings

The file /proc/key-users is a special file in the Linux Kernel that provides an overview of the key management subsystem. This subsystem is responsible for managing encryption keys and security tokens, which are essential for various system operations - from securing network communication to accessing encrypted files.

What Does /proc/key-users Contain?

The /proc/key-users file contains a list of all currently active users of keys. Each line of this file represents a single user, showing their User ID (UID), the number of keys they currently own, the number of keys they have quotas for, and how many keys they've instantiated, updated, and revoked.

A typical entry in this file might look something like this:

   0:    65 64/64 50/1000000 983/25000000
 105:     1 1/1 1/200 9/20000
1000:     2 2/2 2/200 28/20000
1101:     5 5/5 5/200 51/20000

Why Is /proc/key-users Important?

The /proc/key-users file is essential for understanding how many keys are in use and by whom. This information can be critical, especially when diagnosing problems related to security or encryption. For instance, if a certain user cannot access an encrypted file, checking /proc/key-users can tell you whether they've reached their key quota.

How to Use /proc/key-users?

The primary way to interact with /proc/key-users is by reading its contents with the cat command. Here's how you can do it:

sudo cat /proc/key-users

This will output the current state of key usage on your system.

Typical Problems Diagnosed With /proc/key-users

One common problem that /proc/key-users can help diagnose is related to key exhaustion. Each user has a limit to how many keys they can have at a time. If a user is unable to create a new key, you can check /proc/key-users to see if they've reached their limit.

Another issue that can be diagnosed is related to unauthorized key usage. If you suspect that a user is using keys they shouldn't have access to, you can check /proc/key-users to see the keys owned by that user.


Understanding and properly using the /proc/key-users file is a significant part of managing a secure Linux system. It provides valuable insight into how encryption keys are used on your system and can be a crucial tool in diagnosing a range of security-related issues.

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