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Difference Between Virtual Users (Service Accounts) and Regular Users (Debian)

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Regular Users


  • User accounts are used by real users
  • Each process runs as a particular user
  • Each file is owned by a particular user
  • A human/real user has a real login shell e.g. /bin/sh, /bin/bash, /bin/csh
  • A human user usually has a home directory (most of the time in /home)


Virtual Users


  • A virtual user or service account, usually runs as a daemon or is linked to a process like web shells, FTP’s, or a service running on the system, rather than to someone using the system
  • A virtual user has its own set of privileges, e.g. its own files, and its own network ports
  • A service account may not have the ability to use a shell, it is used to execute services with restricted scope and privilege
  • These accounts isolate various services that run on a machine, so that they don’t tread on each others’ toes