I have a running AWS vm. The only access I have is using the ssh key (.pem file) to log in as ec2-user which is an unprivileged user. From there, I could user the sudo command without a password.

Somehow, passwordless sudo got disabled and it is asking me for the ec2-user password. But this password was never set, it is scrambled.

  1. How do I regain root/sudo access? Or am I forced to start from scratch?
  2. How did this happen? I never touched the /etc/sudoers file
  • 6
    Have you contacted the Amazon people?
    – mdpc
    Oct 7, 2014 at 6:10
  • I am not familiar with the amazon vms. But you might know, that if you have a console access to the machine you can boot it with init=/bin/bash.
    – cornelinux
    Oct 7, 2014 at 7:11
  • 1
    @cornelinux there is no console access for EC2 vms.
    – user9517
    Oct 7, 2014 at 7:27

1 Answer 1


Can't say for sure why it happened. If your sudo rule was based on your user being part of a specific group (e.g. wheel or sudo) and you were removed from that group that would explain it.

You shouldn't need to blow your instance away, but you will need to stop it (not terminate) and attach the disk to another instance where you have root access so it can be fixed. More information from Amazon's website

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