Setting Password for Single User Mode in Linux adds security to Linux boxes. If someone accesses your server physically & reboots the server and then tries to change the root password from single-user mode. In that case, if the password is set on single-user mode, one has to first enter the root password, then only can reset the root password.

Note – In Debian-like Operating System requires a root password when booting into single user mode or recovery mode. But RHEL & CentOS allows access from the console into single-user mode without a password.

Setting password for Single user mode on CentOS/RHEL 5.x

Edit the file /etc/inittab, add ‘su:S:wait:/sbin/sulogin’ above the line initdefault as shown below:

# vi /etc/inittab
# inittab       This file describes how the INIT process should set up
#               the system in a certain run-level.
# Author:       Miquel van Smoorenburg, 
#               Modified for RHS Linux by Marc Ewing and Donnie Barnes
# Default runlevel. The runlevels used by RHS are:
#   0 - halt (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
#   1 - Single user mode
#   2 - Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you do not have networking)
#   3 - Full multiuser mode
#   4 - unused
#   5 - X11
#   6 - reboot (Do NOT set initdefault to this)

Setting password for single user mode on CentOS/RHEL 6.x

Edit the file /etc/sysconfig/init & replace “SINGLE=/sbin/sushell” with “/sbin/sulogin” as shown below:

# What ttys should gettys be started on?
# Set to '/sbin/sulogin' to prompt for password on single-user mode
# Set to '/sbin/sushell' otherwise