Linux, FreeBSD, and Unix-like systems are multi-user and need some way of authenticating individual users. Back in the old days, this was done in different ways. You need to change each Unix application to use different authentication scheme. Also, authentication schemes differed between a variant of Unix systems. Porting was a nightmare. For example to use Windows Server (Active Directory) or LDAP for authentication you need to make changes to an application. Each application had its way of authenticating users. So Open Group lead to the development of PAM for the Unix-like system. Today Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X and many other Unix-like systems are configured to use a centralized authentication mechanism called Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM). The book “PAM Mastery” deals with the black magic of PAM.