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Maybe 6 months ago, I was able to get sudo root permissions to do things like "sudo apt-get update" or "sudo apt-get install openjdk-8-jdk-headless" with no password prompting (at https://ide.cs50.io).

But, now when I execute any sudo operation, I am prompted "[sudo] password for ubuntu:". I don't have a proper password (I just use my github account details) but do see that my username is "ubuntu". Now, I am thinking that maybe I was never supposed to have had such powerful root permissions in the first place.

So, was the old way wrong or is the new way wrong?

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I do not have sudo access on my instance of the IDE. If you run sudo -v, it should also tell you that Sorry, user ubuntu may not run sudo on ide.... I would assume that your previous access was an oversight that has since been corrected.

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