This is the standard Unix authentication module. It uses standard calls from the system's libraries to retrieve and set account information as well as authentication. Usually this is obtained from the /etc/passwd and the /etc/shadow file as well if shadow is enabled.
The account component performs the task of establishing the status of the user's account and password based on the following shadow elements: expire, last_change, max_change, min_change, warn_change. In the case of the latter, it may offer advice to the user on changing their password or, through the PAM_AUTHTOKEN_REQD return, delay giving service to the user until they have established a new password. The entries listed above are documented in the shadow(5) manual page. Should the user's record not contain one or more of these entries, the corresponding shadow check is not performed.
The authentication component performs the task of checking the users credentials (password). The default action of this module is to not permit the user access to a service if their official password is blank.
A helper binary, unix_chkpwd(8), is provided to check the user's password when it is stored in a read protected database. This binary is very simple and will only check the password of the user invoking it. It is called transparently on behalf of the user by the authenticating component of this module. In this way it is possible for applications like xlock(1) to work without being setuid-root. The module, by default, will temporarily turn off SIGCHLD handling for the duration of execution of the helper binary. This is generally the right thing to do, as many applications are not prepared to handle this signal from a child they didn't know was fork()d. The noreap module argument can be used to suppress this temporary shielding and may be needed for use with certain applications.
The password component of this module performs the task of updating the user's password. The default encryption hash is taken from the ENCRYPT_METHOD variable from /etc/login.defs
The session component of this module logs when a user logins or leave the system.
Remaining arguments, supported by others functions of this module, are silently ignored. Other arguments are logged as errors through syslog(3).