/proc/keys: Explanation & Insights

Displays information about the keyrings used by the kernel

The /proc/keys file is a special kind of file that is part of the /proc filesystem. This file provides an interface to the kernel's key management facility, a part of the Kernel that handles the management of security or cryptographic keys in the system.

What Does /proc/keys Contain?

/proc/keys displays the keys that the Kernel currently has in-use. These keys are used for various purposes such as network filesystem encryption, user authentication, and more. Each line in the file represents a key, showing information such as the key's ID, type, description, and usage count.

038050a2 I--Q---     1 perm 1f3f0000     0     0 keyring   _uid_ses.0: empty

Why is /proc/keys Important?

Understanding the /proc/keys file can be crucial when diagnosing certain security or authentication issues on your Linux server. It can provide insights into what keys are currently active, how they're being used, and whether they're operating correctly.

Typical Problems and Diagnostics

If you're having trouble with a network file system like NFS or CIFS not authenticating correctly, /proc/keys can help diagnose the problem. By checking the keys, you can verify if the necessary keys for authentication are present and being used.

Here's an example of how to use the cat command to view the contents of the /proc/keys file:

$ cat /proc/keys

How to Use /proc/keys

You can use the cat command to view the content of the /proc/keys file. However, as the file could contain a large amount of data, you might want to use the grep command to filter the output. Here's an example:

$ cat /proc/keys | grep 'cifs'

This command will filter out and display only the keys related to CIFS.


The /proc/keys file is a powerful tool in the hands of a Linux administrator. It provides a wealth of information about the keys currently in use by the system, which can be invaluable in diagnosing and solving problems.

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