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libcap - Man Page

capability data object manipulation


#include <sys/capability.h>

int cap_clear(cap_t cap_p);
int cap_fill(cap_t cap_p, cap_flag_t to, cap_flag_t from);
int cap_fill_flag(cap_t cap_p, cap_flag_t to, const cap_t ref, cap_flag_t from);
int cap_clear_flag(cap_t cap_p, cap_flag_t flag);
int cap_compare(cap_t cap_a, cap_t cap_b);
ssize_t cap_copy_ext(void *ext_p, cap_t cap_p, ssize_t size);
cap_t cap_copy_int(const void *ext_p);
int cap_free(void *obj_d);
int cap_from_name(const char *name, cap_value_t *cap_p);
cap_t cap_from_text(const char *buf_p);
cap_t cap_get_fd(int fd);
cap_t cap_get_file(const char *path_p);
int cap_get_flag(cap_t cap_p, cap_value_t cap ,
                 cap_flag_t flag, cap_flag_value_t *value_p);
cap_value_t cap_max_bits();

#include <sys/types.h>

cap_t cap_get_pid(pid_t pid);
cap_t cap_get_proc(void);
int cap_set_fd(int fd, cap_t caps);
int cap_set_file(const char *path_p, cap_t cap_p);
int cap_set_flag(cap_t cap_p, cap_flag_t flag, int ncap ,
                 const cap_value_t *caps, cap_flag_value_t value);
int cap_set_proc(cap_t cap_p);
ssize_t cap_size(cap_t cap_p);
char *cap_to_name(cap_value_t cap);
char *cap_to_text(cap_t caps, ssize_t *length_p);
cap_t cap_get_pid(pid_t pid);
cap_t cap_init();
cap_t cap_dup(cap_t cap_p);

char *cap_proc_root(const char *root);
int cap_get_nsowner(cap_t cap_p);
int cap_set_nsowner(cap_t cap_p, uid_t rootuid);
int cap_get_bound(cap_value_t cap);
int cap_drop_bound(cap_value_t cap);
int cap_get_ambient(cap_value_t cap);
int cap_set_ambient(cap_value_t cap, cap_flag_value_t value);
int cap_reset_ambient(void);
int cap_set_mode(cap_mode_t flavor);
cap_mode_t cap_get_mode(void);
const char *cap_mode_name(cap_mode_t flavor);
unsigned cap_get_secbits();
int cap_set_secbits(unsigned bits);
int cap_prctl(long int pr_cmd, long int arg1, long int arg2, long int arg3,
              long int arg4, long int arg5);
int cap_prctlw(long int pr_cmd, long int arg1, long int arg2, long int arg3,
               long int arg4, long int arg5);
int cap_setuid(uid_t uid);
int cap_setgroups(gid_t gid, size_t ngroups, const gid_t groups[]);

Link with -lcap.


These primary functions work on a capability state held in working storage and attempt to complete the POSIX.1e (draft) user space API for Capability based privilege.

A cap_t holds information about the capabilities in each of the three sets, Permitted, Inheritable, and Effective.  Each capability in a set may be clear (disabled, 0) or set (enabled, 1).

These functions work with the following data types:


identifies a capability, such as CAP_CHOWN.


identifies one of the three flags associated with a capability (i.e., it identifies one of the three capability sets). Valid values for this type are CAP_EFFECTIVE, CAP_INHERITABLE or CAP_PERMITTED.


identifies the setting of a particular capability flag (i.e, the value of a capability in a set). Valid values for this type are CAP_CLEAR(0) or CAP_SET(1).

Return Value

The return value is generally specific to the individual function called. On failure, errno is set appropriately.

Conforming to

These functions are as per the withdrawn POSIX.1e draft specification. The following functions are Linux extensions: cap_clear_flag(), cap_drop_bound(), cap_fill(), cap_fill_flag(), cap_from_name(), cap_get_ambient(), cap_get_bound(), cap_get_mode(), cap_get_nsowner(), cap_get_secbits(), cap_mode_name(), cap_proc_root(), cap_prctl(), cap_prctlw(), cap_reset_ambient(), cap_setgroups(), cap_setuid(), cap_set_ambient(), cap_set_mode(), cap_set_nsowner(), cap_set_secbits(), cap_to_name() and cap_compare().

A Linux, IAB, extension of Inheritable, Bounding and Ambient tuple capability vectors are also supported by libcap. Those functions are described in a companion man page: cap_iab(3). Further, for managing the complexity of launching a sub-process, libcap supports the abstraction: cap_launch(3).

In addition to the cap_ prefixed libcap API, the library also provides prototypes for the Linux system calls that provide the native API for process capabilities. These prototypes are:

int capget(cap_user_header_t header, cap_user_data_t data);
int capset(cap_user_header_t header, const cap_user_data_t data);

Further, libcap provides a set-up function,

void cap_set_syscall(
        long int (*new_syscall)(long int, long int, long int, long int),
        long int (*new_syscall6)(long int,
                                 long int, long int, long int,
                                 long int, long int, long int));

which can be used to redirect its use of the capset() and other system calls that write kernel managed state. This is especially useful when supporting POSIX semantics for security state. When a program is linked against libpsx(3) as described in that man page, this function is used to connect libcap to POSIX semantics system calls.

Reporting Bugs

The libcap library is distributed from https://sites.google.com/site/fullycapable/ where the release notes may already cover recent issues.  Please report newly discovered bugs via:


See Also

cap_clear(3), cap_copy_ext(3), cap_from_text(3), cap_get_file(3), cap_get_proc(3), cap_iab(3), cap_init(3), cap_launch(3), capabilities(7), getpid(2), capsh(1), captree(8), getcap(8), getpcaps(8), setcap(8) and libpsx(3).

Referenced By

capabilities(7), cap_clear(3), cap_copy_ext(3), cap_from_text(3), cap_get_file(3), cap_get_proc(3), cap_iab(3), cap_init(3), cap_launch(3), capsh(1), ip-vrf(8), libpsx(3), procenv(1).

The man page cap_set_syscall(3) is an alias of libcap(3).

2022-10-16 Linux Programmer's Manual