UNIXvisual: A visualization tool for teaching UNIX Permissions

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Computer Science; Center for Cybersecurity


UNIXvisual is a user-level visualization tool designed to facilitate the study and teaching of access control in UNIX. UNIXvisual is aimed at both novice users, who need only to control access to their own files, and students of computer security, who need a deeper and more comprehensive understanding. The system allows students to analyze permission settings in the underlying real file system, as well as in a combination of real and pseudo file systems defined through a specification file. It also allows a student to trace the value and effect of credentials within an executing process. UNIXvisual gives instructors flexibility in the allocation of lecture time by supporting self-study, lowers the overhead required for teaching access control by running under an ordinary user account, and enhances learning through the use of visualization. We also present the results of an evaluation of UNIXvisual within a junior-level course on concurrent computing. The evaluation indicated that UNIXvisual helped students understand UNIX permissions and enhanced the course coverage of UNIX permissions, regardless of their prior UNIX experience.

Publication Title

Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education