#StackBounty: #network-manager #steam #policykit Understanding the polkit password prompt for network-manager (and possibly others)

Bounty: 50

When I start the Steam client (by Valve) on Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS, an authentication window pops up stating that "System policy prevents modification of network settings for all users" and asking me to enter the superuser password:

Polkit password prompt

I know that I could proceed by providing the superuser password or loosening the polkit policy. What I don’t know and would like to ask here is what my options are if I am questioning the validity of the password request. Specifically:

  • The message is very vague with the wording "modification of network settings". How can I determine what the application is actually trying to change in my network settings? I would like to know what exactly is about to be changed so that (1) I am aware of the new settings afterwards and (2) even more importantly so that I could make an educated decision about whether to allow the change in the first place.

  • The message is very vague with the wording "an application". In this case, I know that the application is steam, since the popup appears immediately after starting it, but if the cause was not this clear (like in this question), how could I determine which process triggered the message? Even the details section of the dialog does not show me this information.

  • It makes me feel uneasy that an arbitrary wild popup appears out of the blue asking me for my superuser password. How do I know that it is not a malicious application trying to steal the superuser password that shows me an identical window? I wonder what the thinking behind polkit’s authentication popups was, how could this password prompting system be trusted?

  • How can I decline the authentication request once and for all if I were to decide not to grant access to the network settings for the application? If I click Cancel, the dialog just pops up again.

  • Lastly a slightly off-topic aspect of this authentication window: If I just leave the popup-up dialog open in the background, steam eventually proceeds to start and work just fine (it does so after a short delay without any manual intervention but I can also restart networking manually to get rid of the delay). What could be going on behind the scenes that brings up this prompt but then works without it?

Get this bounty!!!

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