I am using a laptop . I was thinking to have a support in my Ubuntu machine. When an incorrect password is entered, a picture is taken later revealing who has been trying to gain access.

I have searched around and the only thing I have found is stuff to do this on Macs. Is It possible to write a script for Ubuntu to do same .

If possible then what is a script or Software to make this happen.

  • A picture on the lightdm login screen or something like a password protected screensaver (Basically before login in or after login in)? – Luis Alvarado Feb 9 '13 at 20:08
  • Yes picture on lightdm login screen when user put incorrect password. – twister_void Feb 9 '13 at 20:12
  • 3
    "Proper" solution via PAM on the Ubuntuforums. Okay I will post this as an answer. :) – gertvdijk Feb 9 '13 at 20:28
  • Alternatively, install a third-party application such as Prey. It doesn't do exactly as you ask, but it specialises in protecting and recovering your computer in the case of theft. – Paddy Landau Feb 9 '13 at 20:48
  • Don't forget to mention the use of the webcam taking a picture in case you 're in a sensitive/protected environment. – pl1nk Feb 15 '13 at 14:22

Based on this post on the Ubuntuforums by BkkBonanza.

This is an approach using PAM and will work for all failed login attempts. Using SSH, a virtual terminal or via the regular login screen, it doesn't matter as everything is handled by PAM in the end.

  1. Install ffmpeg Install ffmpeg, we're going to use this as a command line way of grabbing the webcam images. Update: ffmpeg is removed when you upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04. We can use avconv in place of ffmpeg in the below script. No need to install anything separately.

  2. Create a small script somewhere, e.g. /usr/local/bin/grabpicture with the following content:

    ts=`date +%s`
    ffmpeg -f video4linux2 -s vga -i /dev/video0 -vframes 3 /tmp/vid-$ts.%01d.jpg
    exit 0  #important - has to exit with status 0

    Change the /dev/video0 with the actual video device of your webcam and choose a path where the pictures are being saved - I just choose /tmp. In the newer version of Ubuntu use avconv instead of ffmpeg (sudo apt-get install libav-tools).

  3. Make it executable, e.g. chmod +x /usr/local/bin/grabpicture.

  4. Test it, by just calling it: /usr/local/bin/grabpicture. Check if you see files appearing in /tmp/vid....jpg.

  5. Configure PAM to call this on every failed attempt.

    Note: do this carefully - if this fails you'll not be able to gain access to your system again in a regular way.

    1. Open a terminal window with root access (sudo -i) and leave it open - just in case you screw up in the next steps.
    2. Open /etc/pam.d/common-auth in your favourite editor, e.g. by doing gksudo gedit /etc/pam.d/common-auth. Keep in mind for the following steps that order of lines in this file matters.
    3. Locate the line below. By default there's one line before the one with pam_deny.so. On my 12.04 system it looks like this:

      auth    [success=1 default=ignore]      pam_unix.so nullok_secure
    4. In this line change the success=1 to success=2 to have it skip our script on succes. This is an important step.

    5. Right below there, add a new one to call the actual script:

      auth    [default=ignore]                pam_exec.so seteuid /usr/local/bin/grabpicture
    6. Save and close the file. No need to restart anything.

  6. Test it.

    1. In a new terminal window, as regular user, try su -l username to log in as another user with username username (change with an actual one of course). Deliberately enter the wrong password. Check if this result in a new picture.
    2. The same as above, but now enter the correct password. Check if you log in and it doesn't result in a picture being taken.
  7. If the tests have succeeded you can log out from your DE (Unity/KDE/...) and you should see the same when entering a wrong password from the login screen.

| improve this answer | |
  • 9
    That's clever. Two questions: (1) Shouldn't you use a folder other than /tmp, because /tmp is cleared every time you reboot? (2) How do you tell what your actual video device is? – Paddy Landau Feb 10 '13 at 10:26
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    This works but I wanted to add 3 things. (1) We can use /var/tmp which is not cleared on reboot. (2) Tread with this solution carefully as it is possible to get stuck in infinite loop of "low graphics mode" and/or "checking battery state", as I was. (3) If you get stuck, reboot and get into recovery mode (press left-shift); select "failsafe graphics mode" and see if / is mounted RW; now drop to root shell; cd to /etc/pam.d; chmod common-auth to RW, edit using nano to remove the line added to call the grabpicture script; save; exit; reboot. – Sri Feb 13 '13 at 6:35
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    I figured out why my PC got stuck. Steps 5.3 to 5.5 in the answer need to be adjusted according to what lines the common-auth file has. My common-auth also had another line for pam_winbind.so between the lines having pam_unix.so and pam_deny.so. Basically the auth lines on "success" need to skip the capture script as well as the pam_deny.so line. – Sri Feb 13 '13 at 8:29
  • I Also trying to same concept but the above mentioned answer not working it takes me low graphics error,neither it takes any image nor any error message for wrong attempt. .. What to do next. (gertvdijk) – SachiN Feb 14 '13 at 18:44
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    should maybe be updated to use avconv or opencv as opposed to the now deprecated ffmpeg – RobotHumans Apr 19 '13 at 22:35

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