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How to View the Login History on Linux

Method 1: Using the “last” Command (Quick and Simple)

1. Open Terminal: Open your terminal window.

2. Execute: Type last and press Enter.

3. Login List: You’ll see a list of recent successful logins, including:

  • Username
  • Terminal (tty) they logged in from
  • IP address for remote logins
  • Date and time of login/logout

Method 2: Analyzing Log Files (More Detailed)

Important Log Files:

  • /var/log/wtmp: Records past logins and logouts.
  • /var/log/btmp: Logs failed login attempts.
  • /var/log/auth.log or /var/log/secure: Authentication logs including login events which are usually more detailed. Location will vary slightly between Linux distributions.

Commands:

  • cat /var/log/wtmp | grep "username" (replace “username” with the actual username)
  • tail /var/log/auth.log Shows recent authentication entries
  • more /var/log/btmp Displays failed attempts

Method 3: “lastlog” Command (User Focused)

  • Execute: Type lastlog and press Enter.
  • User Logins: Displays a list of all users on the system and when they last logged in.

Other Things

File Permissions: You might need administrator sudo privileges to access log files.

Log Rotation: Linux distros usually rotate log files to prevent them from getting too big. This will limit how far back you can view login history.

Customization: The level of detail in log files can be configured.

Security Aspects

Monitoring: Check the log files regularly, especially btmp for failed logins, to identify unauthorized access attempts.

Investigating: Login history can be important for troubleshooting issues or security audits.

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