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Fedora 13

SELinux FAQ

Frequently-asked questions about Security Enhanced Linux

Karsten Wade

Fedora Documentation Project

Paul W. Frields

Fedora Documentation Project

Scott Radvan

Red Hat Engineering Content Services

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Abstract
This FAQ answers many questions about Security-Enhanced Linux. The information in this FAQ is valuable for those who are new to SELinux. This FAQ is, however, not designed to provide full coverage of SELinux. For detailed guides and instructions on understanding and using SELinux, please read the SELinux User Guide and Managing Confined Services Guide first. They are available at http://docs.fedoraproject.org

1. SELinux
External Resources

1. SELinux

Q: What is SELinux?
Q: What is SELinux policy?
Q: What happened to the strict policy?
Q: What programs are protected by the SELinux policy?
Q: What is the Reference Policy?
Q: What are file contexts?
Q: How do I view the security context of a file, user, or process?
Q: What is the difference between a domain and a type?
Q: What are policy modules?
Q: What is managed policy?
1.2. Controlling SELinux
Q: How do I install/not install SELinux?
Q: As an administrator, what do I need to do to configure SELinux for my system?
Q: How do I enable/disable SELinux protection on specific daemons under the targeted policy?
Q: In the past I have written local.te file in policy sources for my own local customization to policy, how do I do this now?
Q: I have some avc denials that I would like to allow, how do I do this?
Q: How can I help write policy?
Q: How do I switch the policy I am currently using?
Q: How can I back up files from an SELinux file system?
Q: How do I make a user public_html directory work under SELinux?
Q: How do I turn SELinux off at boot?
Q: How do I turn enforcing on/off at boot?
Q: How do I temporarily turn off enforcing mode without having to reboot?
Q: How do I turn system call auditing on/off at boot?
Q: How do I temporarily turn off system-call auditing without having to reboot?
Q: How do I get status info about my SELinux installation?
Q: How do I write policy to allow a domain to use pam_unix.so?
Q: I created a new Policy Package, where do I put it to make sure that it gets loaded into the kernel?
1.3. Resolving Problems
Q: Where are SELinux AVC messages (denial logs, etc.) stored?
Q: My application isn't working as expected and I am seeing avc: denied messages. How do I fix this?
Q: Why doesn't SELinux give me the full path in an error message?
Q: I installed on a system with a pre-existing /home partition, and now I can't log in. What do I do?
Q: After relabeling my /home using setfiles or fixfiles, am I still be able to read /home with a non-SELinux-enabled system?
Q: How do I share directories using NFS between Fedora and non-SELinux systems?
Q: How can I create a new Linux user account with the user's home?
Q: Does the su command change my SELinux identity and role?
Q: I'm having troubles with avc errors filling my logs for a particular program. How do I choose not to audit the access for it?
Q: Even running in permissive mode, I'm getting a large number of avc denied messages.
Q: I get a specific permission denial only when SELinux is in enforcing mode, but I don't see any audit messages in /var/log/messages (or /var/log/audit/audit.log if using the audit daemon). How can I identify the cause of these silent denials?
Q: Why do I not see the output when I run certain daemons in debug or interactive mode?
Q: When I do an upgrade of the policy package (for example, using yum), what happens with the policy? Is it updated automatically?
Q: If the policy shipping with an application package changes in a way that requires relabeling, will RPM handle relabeling the files owned by the package?
Q: Why do binary policies distributed with Fedora, such as /etc/selinux/<policyname>/policy/policy.<version>, and those I compile myself have different sizes and MD5 checksums?
Q: Will new policy packages disable my system?
Q: My console is being flooded with messages. How do I turn them off?
Q: Can I test the default policy without installing the policy source?
Q: Why are some of my KDE applications having trouble under SELinux?
Q: Why does SELINUX=disabled not work for me?
Q: I have a process running as unconfined_t, and SELinux is still preventing my application from running.
Q: What do these rpm errors mean?
Q: I want to run a daemon on a non standard port but SELinux will not allow me. How do get this to work?
Q: I am writing a PHP script that needs to create files and possibly execute them. SELinux policy is preventing this. What should I do?
Q: I am setting up swapping to a file, but I am seeing AVC messages in my log files?
Q: Please explain the relabelto/relabelfrom permissions?
1.4. Deploying SELinux
Q: What file systems can I use for SELinux?
Q: How does SELinux impact system performance?
Q: What types of deployments, applications, and systems should I leverage SELinux in?
Q: How does SELinux affect third-party applications?
What is SELinux?
SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) in Fedora is an implementation of mandatory access control in the Linux kernel using the Linux Security Modules (LSM) framework. Standard Linux security is a discretionary access control model.
Discretionary access control (DAC)
DAC is standard Linux security, and it provides minimal protection from broken software or malware running as a normal user or root. Users can grant risky levels of access to files they own.
Mandatory access control (MAC)
MAC provides full control over all interactions of software. Administratively defined policy closely controls user and process interactions with the system, and can provide protection from broken software or malware running as any user.
In a DAC model, file and resource decisions are based solely on user identity and ownership of the objects. Each user and program run by that user has complete discretion over the user's objects. Malicious or flawed software can do anything with the files and resources it controls through the user that started the process. If the user is the super-user or the application is setuid or setgid to root, the process can have root level control over the entire file system.
A MAC system does not suffer from these problems. First, you can administratively define a security policy over all processes and objects. Second, you control all processes and objects, in the case of SELinux through the kernel. Third, decisions are based on all the security relevant information available, and not just authenticated user identity.
MAC under SELinux allows you to provide granular permissions for all subjects (users, programs, processes) and objects (files, devices). In practice, think of subjects as processes, and objects as the target of a process operation. You can safely grant a process only the permissions it needs to perform its function, and no more.
The SELinux implementation uses role-based access control (RBAC), which provides abstracted user-level control based on roles, and Type Enforcement® (TE). TE uses a table, or matrix to handle access controls, enforcing policy rules based on the types of processes and objects. Process types are called domains, and a cross-reference on the matrix of the process's domain and the object's type defines their interaction. This system provides a high level of granularity in a Linux system.
What is SELinux policy?
The SELinux policy describes the access permissions for all subjects and objects, that is, the entire system of users, programs, and processes and the files and devices they act upon. Fedora policy is delivered in a package, with an associated source package. Current shipping policy packages are:
selinux-policy-<version>.noarch.rpm
This package is common to all types of policy and contains config files/man pages. This includes the interface files for the development environment. This replaces the -sources package from the past. This package contains the interface files used in Reference Policy along with a Makefile and a small tool called sepolgen used to generate a policy template file. The interface files reside in /usr/share/selinux/devel/include directory. If you want to see all of the policy files used to build the Reference Policy you need to install the src.rpm.
What happened to the strict policy?
Strict policy since Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Fedora Core 5 has been the equivalent of targeted policy with the unconfined domains removed. This means all users had to have a type defined for them like staff_t or user_t. Also, all processes started by init would need to have policy written for them. As of Fedora Core 9, the strict policy was removed and merged into targeted policy.
What programs are protected by the SELinux policy?
The number of programs that have SELinux policy defined for them is constantly changing and evolving. Different versions of policy have more or less executables covered. By convention all confined executables have a label type that ends with exec_t. The SELinux tools package (setools) includes the seinfo application which allows you to examine the installed policy.
# seinfo -t | grep exec_t | wc -l
620
What is the Reference Policy?
The Reference Policy is a project maintained by Tresys Technology (http://www.tresys.com/) designed to rewrite the entire SELinux policy in a way that is easier to use and understand. To do this, it uses the concepts of modularity, abstraction, and well-defined interfaces. Refer to http://oss.tresys.com/ for more information on the Reference Policy.
Note that Reference Policy is not a new type of policy. Rather, it is a new base that policies can be built from.
What are file contexts?
File contexts are used by the setfiles command to generate persistent labels which describe the security context for a file or directory.
Fedora ships with the fixfiles script, which supports four options: check, relabel, relabel and verify. This script allows users to relabel the file system without having the selinux-policy-targeted-sources package installed. The command line usage is more friendly than the standard setfiles command.
How do I view the security context of a file, user, or process?
The new option -Z is the short method for displaying the context of a subject or object:
ls -Z file.foo 
id -Z
ps -eZ
What is the difference between a domain and a type?
There is no difference between a domain and a type, although domain is sometimes used to refer to the type of a process. The use of domain in this way stems from Domain and Type Enforcement (DTE) models, where domains and types are separate.
What are policy modules?
SELinux policies are modular, meaning making a change does not require getting entire policy source, modifying it, compiling it, and replacing the current policy with it. This means that third party developers can ship policy modules with their applications, and then they can be added to the policy without having to switch out the entire policy. The new module is then added to the module store, which results in a new policy binary that is a combination of the previous policy and the new module.
This actually works by separating out compile and link steps in the policy build procedure. Policy modules are compiled from source, and linked when installed into the module store (see Managed Policy). This linked policy is then loaded into the kernel for enforcement.
The primary command for dealing with modules is semodule, which lets you perform basic functions such as installing, upgrading, or removing modules. Other useful commands include checkmodule, which is the module compiler and is installed with the checkpolicy rpm, as well as semodule_package, which creates a policy package file (.pp) from a compiled policy module.
Modules are usually stored as policy package file (.pp extension) in /usr/share/selinux/policyname/. There you should at least find the base.pp, which is the base module.
To see how to write a simple policy module, check out Local Policy Customizations.
What is managed policy?
A library, libsemanage, exists to provide userspace tools an interface to making policy management easier. All policy management should use this library to access the policy store. The policy store holds all the policy information, and is found at /etc/selinux/policyname/modules/.
You should never have to edit the store directly. Instead, you should use tools that link against libsemanage. One example tool is semanage, which is a command line tool for managing much of the policy such as SELinux user mappings, SELinux port mappings, and file contexts entries. Other examples of tools that use libsemanage include semodule which uses it to manage the SELinux policy modules installed to the policy store and setsebool which uses it manage SELinux policy booleans. Additionally, graphical tools are currently being developed to utilize the functionality provided by libsemanage.

1.2. Controlling SELinux

How do I install/not install SELinux?
The installer follows the choice you make in the Firewall Configuration screen. The default running policy is the targeted policy, and it is on by default.
As an administrator, what do I need to do to configure SELinux for my system?
The answer might be nothing! There are many Fedora users that don't even realize that they are using SELinux. SELinux provides protection for their systems with an out-of-the-box configuration. That said, there are a couple of things an administrator might want to do to configure their system. These include:
booleans
Booleans are runtime settings that can be toggled to alter SELinux policy behavior without having to write new policy. There are many Booleans that can be set in Fedora, and they allow an administrator to configure SELinux in very fine detail depending on requirements. To view the available booleans and modify their settings, use system-config-selinux or the command line tools getsebool and setsebool.
setting customizable file contexts
Files on an SELinux system have a security context which is stored in the extended attribute of the file (behavior can vary from filesystem to filesystem, but this is how ext3 works). These are set by rpm automatically, but sometimes a user might want to set a particular context on a file. An example would be setting the context on a public_html directory so that apache can access it, as illustrated in How do I make a user public_html directory work under SELinux.
For a list of types that you might want to assign to files, see /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/customizable_types. These are types commonly assigned to files by users and administrators. To set these, use the chcon command. Note that the types in customizable_types are also preserved after a relabel, so relabeling the system will not undo this.
making badly behaving libraries work
There are many libraries around that behave badly and try to break the memory protections SELinux provides. These libraries should really be fixed, so please file a bug with the library maintainer. That said, they can be made to work. More information and solutions to make the libraries work can be found in I have a process running as unconfined_t, and SELinux is still preventing my application from running.
How do I enable/disable SELinux protection on specific daemons under the targeted policy?
Use system-config-selinux, also known as the SELinux Administration graphical tool, to control the Boolean values of specific daemons. For example, if you need to disable SELinux for Apache to run correctly in your environment, you can disable the value in system-config-selinux. This change disables the transition to the policy defined in apache.te, allowing httpd to remain under regular Linux DAC security.
The getsebool and setsebool commands can also be used, including on systems that do not have the system-config-selinux tool. Please refer to the manual pages for these commands: getsebool(8) and setsebool(8) for further details on their operation.
In the past I have written local.te file in policy sources for my own local customization to policy, how do I do this now?
Since Fedora 5, a modular policy is used, so you don't have to have the complete policy source any more. Now, you can just create a local policy module for your local policy customizations. To do this, follow these steps.
  1. Create a temporary directory, and change into it.
    $ mkdir foo
    $ cd foo
    
  2. Create empty te, if, and fc files.
    $ touch local.te local.if local.fc
    
  3. Edit the local.te file, adding appropriate content. For example:
    policy_module(local, 1.0)
    
    require {
    	attribute httpdcontent;
    	type smbd_t;
    }
    
    allow smbd_t httpdcontent:dir create_dir_perms;
    allow smbd_t httpdcontent:{ file lnk_file } create_file_perms;
    
    There are 3 parts to this file.
    • The policy_module call inserts statements to make the module work, including declaring the module and requiring system roles, classes, and permissions. Make sure the name declared here (local in this case) matches the name you gave the file (local.te).
    • The require block lists the symbols that this module uses that must be declared in other modules. In this case, we require the attribute httpdcontent and the type smbd_t. Note that all types and attributes you use in rules must be required here unless you are declaring them yourself below.
    • The rest of the file is the policy, in this case consisting only of a couple of allow rules. You could also place type declarations, dontaudit statements, interface calls, or most things that can go in a normal te file here.
  4. Build the policy module.
    $ make -f /usr/share/selinux/devel/Makefile
    Compliling targeted local module
    /usr/bin/checkmodule:  loading policy configuration from tmp/local.tmp
    /usr/bin/checkmodule:  policy configuration loaded
    /usr/bin/checkmodule:  writing binary representation (version 5) to tmp/local.mod
    Creating targeted local.pp policy package
    rm tmp/local.mod.fc tmp/local.mod
    
    Note that this uses checkmodule, which is part of the checkpolicy rpm. So, make sure you install this rpm before doing this.
  5. Become root, and install the policy module with semodule.
    $ su -
    Password:
    # semodule -i local.pp
    

Module are uniquely identified by name

This means that if you later insert another local.pp, it will replace the one you just loaded. So, you should keep this local.te around, and just add to it if you need to make later policy customizations. If you lose it, but want to keep your previous policy around, just call the new local policy module something else (say local2.te).
I have some avc denials that I would like to allow, how do I do this?
If you have specific AVC messages you can use audit2allow to generate a Type Enforcement file that is ready to load as a policy module.
audit2allow -M local < /tmp/avcs
This creates a local.pp which you can then load into the kernel using semodule -i local.pp. You can also edit the local.te to make additional customizations. To create a module allowing all the denials since the last reboot that you can then customize, execute the following:
audit2allow -m local -l -i /var/log/messages > local.te
Note that the above assumes you are not using the audit daemon. If you were using the audit daemon, then you should use /var/log/audit/audit.log instead of /var/log/messages as your log file. This generates a local.te file, that looks similar to the following:
module local 1.0;

require {
        class file { append execute execute_no_trans getattr ioctl read write };
        type httpd_t;
        type httpd_w3c_script_exec_t;
 };


allow httpd_t httpd_w3c_script_exec_t:file { execute execute_no_trans getattr ioctl read };
You can hand edit this file, removing allow statements that you don't want to allow, and then recompile and reload it using
  • checkmodule -M -m -o local.mod local.te to compile the te file. Note that checkmodule is part of the checkpolicy rpm, so you need to have it installed.
  • semodule_package -o local.pp -m local.mod to create a policy package.
  • semodule -i local.pp to add it to the current machine's running policy. This installs a new module called local with these rules into the module store.

Important

In order to load this newly created policy package into the kernel, you are required to execute semodule -i local.pp
Note that if you later install another module called local, it will replace this module. If you want to keep these rules around, then you either need to append future customizations to this local.te, or give future customizations a different name.
How can I help write policy?
Your help is definitely appreciated.
Also, since the Fedora policy is based on the Reference Policy, you should look at the documentation on its project page. Another excellent source of information is the example policy files in /usr/share/selinux/devel.
If you want to create a new policy domain, you can look at the interface files in the /usr/share/selinux/devel sub-directories.
Making things easier with sepolgen
The tool sepolgen is an easy way to create SELinux policy. The following procedure is an example on how to use sepolgen to create the required policy for a daemon called mydaemon:
sepolgen /usr/sbin/mydaemon
sepolgen then performs the following:
  1. Scans for appropriate templates in paths like /var/lib, /var/run, /etc/init.d/rc.d/mydaemon:
    rpm -qlf /usr/sbin/mydaemon
    
  2. Scans for syslog, setuid, setgid, etc. and adds the appropriate access:
    nm -D /usr/sbin/mydaemon
    
Four files are then generated:
mydaemon.te - Contains all types and allow rules discovered for this daemon.
mydaemon.if - Contains interfaces to be used with the types generated for this daemon.
mydaemon.fc - Contains file context mapping between types and paths on disk.
mydaemon.sh - Is a helper shell script used to compile/install policy and label the paths correctly.
The policy writer then only needs to execute mydaemon.sh and the policy will be compiled and installed - the daemon will then be ready to start testing.
The following procedure may help you to understand the testing process:
begin:
        service mydaemon start
        run tests against mydaemon
        check for AVC messages
        if None
            Break;
        audit2allow -R >> mydaemon.te
        Verify the policy is good or fix it.
        ./mydaemon.sh
        goto begin
How do I switch the policy I am currently using?

Use caution when switching policy

Other than trying out a new policy on a test machine for research purposes, you should seriously consider your situation before switching to a different policy on a production system. The act of switching is straightforward. This method is fairly safe, but you should try it first on a test system.
To use the automated method, run the Security Level Configuration tool. From the GUI Main Menu, select DesktopSystem SettingsSecurity level, or from a terminal, run system-config-selinux. Change the policy as desired and ensure that the Relabel on next reboot option is enabled.
You can also perform these steps manually with the following procedure:
  1. Edit /etc/selinux/config and change the type and the mode of policy:
    SELINUXTYPE=policyname SELINUX=permissive
    
    This step ensures are not locked out after rebooting. SELinux runs under the correct policy, but does allow you to login if there is a problem such as incorrect file context labeling.
  2. Set the system to relabel the file system on reboot:
    touch /.autorelabel
    
  3. Reboot the system. A clean restart under the new policy allows all system processes to be started in the proper context, and reveals any problems in the policy change.
  4. Confirm your changes took effect with the following command:
    sestatus -v
    
    With the new system running in permissive mode, check /var/log/messages for avc: denied messages. These may indicate a problem that needs to be solved for the system to run without trouble under the new policy.
  5. When you are satisfied that the system runs stable under the new policy, enable enforcing by changing SELINUX=enforcing. You can either reboot or run setenforce 1 to turn enforcing on in real time.
How can I back up files from an SELinux file system?
You can now use the tar command as normal, you no longer need to use star. Also, the Bacula program supports the xattr extensions when using SELinux, and can properly back up SELinux file systems.
How do I make a user public_html directory work under SELinux?
This process presumes that you have enabled user public HTML directories in your Apache configuration file, /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf. This process only covers serving static Web content. For more information about Apache; and SELinux, refer to the SELinux Managing Confined Services Guide at http://docs.fedoraproject.org.
  1. If you do not already have a ~/public_html directory, create it and populate it with the files and folders to be served.
    cd ~
    mkdir public_html
    cp /path/to/content ~/public_html
    
  2. At this point, httpd is configured to serve the contents, but you still receive a 403 forbidden error. This is because httpd is not allowed to read the security type for the directory and files as they are created in the user's home directory. Change the security context of the folder and its contents recursively using the -R option:
    ls -Z -d public_html/
    drwxrwxr-x auser auser user_u:object_r:user_home_t public_html
    chcon -R -t httpd_user_content_t public_html/ ls -Z -d public_html/
    drwxrwxr-x auser auser user_u:object_r:httpd_user_content_t public_html/
    ls -Z public_html/
    -rw-rw-r-- auser auser user_u:object_r:httpd_user_content_t bar.html
    -rw-rw-r-- auser auser user_u:object_r:httpd_user_content_t baz.html
    -rw-rw-r-- auser auser user_u:object_r:httpd_user_content_t foo.html
    
    You may notice at a later date that the user field, set here to user_u, is changed to system_u. This does not affect how the targeted policy works. The field that matters is the type field.
  3. Your static webpages should now be served correctly. If you continue to have errors, ensure that the Boolean which enables user home directories is enabled. You can set it using system-config-selinux. Select the SELinux tab, and then select the Modify SELinux Policy area. Select Allow HTTPD to read home directories. The changes take effect immediately.
How do I turn SELinux off at boot?
Set SELINUX=disabled in /etc/selinux/config.
Alternatively, you can add selinux=0 to your kernel boot parameters. However, this option is not recommended.

Be careful when disabling SELinux

If you boot with selinux=0, any files you create while SELinux is disabled do not have SELinux context information. The file system is marked for relabeling at the next boot. If an unforeseen problem prevents you from rebooting normally, you may need to boot in single-user mode for recovery.
How do I turn enforcing on/off at boot?
You can specify the SELinux mode using the configuration file /etc/sysconfig/selinux.
# This file controls the state of SELinux on the system.
# SELINUX= can take one of these three values:
#       enforcing - SELinux security policy is enforced.
#       permissive - SELinux prints warnings instead of enforcing.
#       disabled - No SELinux policy is loaded.
SELINUX=enforcing
# SELINUXTYPE= can take one of these two values:
#       targeted - Only targeted network daemons are protected.
#	mls - Multi Level Security protection.
SELINUXTYPE=targeted
Setting the value to enforcing is the same as adding enforcing=1 to the kernel boot parameters. Setting the value to permissive is the same as adding enforcing=0 to the kernel boot parameters.
However, setting the value to disabled is not the same as the selinux=0 kernel boot parameter. Rather than fully disabling SELinux in the kernel, the disabled setting instead turns enforcing off and skips loading a policy.

SELinux Configuration Precedence

The command line kernel parameter overrides the configuration file.
How do I temporarily turn off enforcing mode without having to reboot?
Occasionally you may need to perform an action that is normally prevented by policy. Run the command setenforce 0 to turn off enforcing mode in real time. When you are finished, run setenforce 1 to turn enforcing back on.
How do I turn system call auditing on/off at boot?
Add audit=1 to your kernel command line to turn system call auditing on. Add audit=0 to your kernel command line to turn system call auditing off.
System-call auditing is on by default. When on, it provides information about the system call that was executing when SELinux generated a denied message. The error message is helpful when debugging policy.
How do I temporarily turn off system-call auditing without having to reboot?
Run auditctl -e 0. Note that this command does not affect auditing of SELinux AVC denials.
How do I get status info about my SELinux installation?
As root, execute the command /usr/sbin/sestatus -v. For more information, refer to the sestatus(8) manual page.
How do I write policy to allow a domain to use pam_unix.so?
Very few domains in the SELinux world are allowed to read the /etc/shadow file. There are constraint rules that prevent policy writers from writing code like
allow mydomain_t shadow_t:file read;
In RHEL4 you can setup your domain to use the unix_chkpwd command. The easiest way is to use the unix_chkpwd attribute. So if you were writing policy for an ftpd daemon you would write something like
daemon_domain(vsftpd, `auth_chkpwd')
This would create a context where vsftpd_t -> chkpwd_exec_t -> system_chkpwd_t which can read /etc/shadow, while vsftpd_t is not able to read it.
In Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and above, add the rule
auth_domtrans_chk_passwd(vsftpd_t)
I created a new Policy Package, where do I put it to make sure that it gets loaded into the kernel?
You need to execute the command semodule -i myapp.pp. This modifies the policy that is stored on the machine. Your policy module now is loaded with the rest of the policy. You can even remove the pp file from the system.
semodule -l lists the currently loaded modules.
#semodule -i myapp 1.2.1
If you later would like to remove the policy package, you can execute semodule -r myapp.

1.3. Resolving Problems

Q: Where are SELinux AVC messages (denial logs, etc.) stored?
Q: My application isn't working as expected and I am seeing avc: denied messages. How do I fix this?
Q: Why doesn't SELinux give me the full path in an error message?
Q: I installed on a system with a pre-existing /home partition, and now I can't log in. What do I do?
Q: After relabeling my /home using setfiles or fixfiles, am I still be able to read /home with a non-SELinux-enabled system?
Q: How do I share directories using NFS between Fedora and non-SELinux systems?
Q: How can I create a new Linux user account with the user's home?
Q: Does the su command change my SELinux identity and role?
Q: I'm having troubles with avc errors filling my logs for a particular program. How do I choose not to audit the access for it?
Q: Even running in permissive mode, I'm getting a large number of avc denied messages.
Q: I get a specific permission denial only when SELinux is in enforcing mode, but I don't see any audit messages in /var/log/messages (or /var/log/audit/audit.log if using the audit daemon). How can I identify the cause of these silent denials?
Q: Why do I not see the output when I run certain daemons in debug or interactive mode?
Q: When I do an upgrade of the policy package (for example, using yum), what happens with the policy? Is it updated automatically?
Q: If the policy shipping with an application package changes in a way that requires relabeling, will RPM handle relabeling the files owned by the package?
Q: Why do binary policies distributed with Fedora, such as /etc/selinux/<policyname>/policy/policy.<version>, and those I compile myself have different sizes and MD5 checksums?
Q: Will new policy packages disable my system?
Q: My console is being flooded with messages. How do I turn them off?
Q: Can I test the default policy without installing the policy source?
Q: Why are some of my KDE applications having trouble under SELinux?
Q: Why does SELINUX=disabled not work for me?
Q: I have a process running as unconfined_t, and SELinux is still preventing my application from running.
Q: What do these rpm errors mean?
Q: I want to run a daemon on a non standard port but SELinux will not allow me. How do get this to work?
Q: I am writing a PHP script that needs to create files and possibly execute them. SELinux policy is preventing this. What should I do?
Q: I am setting up swapping to a file, but I am seeing AVC messages in my log files?
Q: Please explain the relabelto/relabelfrom permissions?
Where are SELinux AVC messages (denial logs, etc.) stored?
Messages can be found in /var/log/messages unless you choose to install and enable the audit daemon, in which case AVC messages will be in /var/log/audit/audit.log.
My application isn't working as expected and I am seeing avc: denied messages. How do I fix this?
This message means that the current SELinux policy is not allowing the application to do something. There are a number of reasons this could happen.
First, one of the files the application is trying to access could be mislabeled. If the AVC message refers to a specific file, inspect its current label with ls -alZ /path/to/file. If it seems wrong, use the command restorecon -v /path/to/file to restore the file's default context. If you have a large number of denials related to files, you may want to use fixfiles relabel, or run restorecon -R /path to recursively relabel a directory path.
Denials are sometimes due to a configuration change in the program that triggered the denial message. For example, if you change Apache to also listen on port 8800, you must also change the security policy, apache.te.
If you are having trouble getting a specific application like Apache to work, refer to How to use system-config-selinux for information on disabling enforcement just for that application.
Why doesn't SELinux give me the full path in an error message?
To answer this, let's first examine the structure of a typical SELinux AVC error message. Items of note in this example are in bold:
node=host.example.com type=AVC msg=audit(12/13/2006 11:28:14.395:952) : avc: denied { getattr } for pid=7236 comm=vsftpd name=public_html dev=dm-0 ino=9601649 scontext=system_u:system_r:ftpd_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0 tclass=dir

node=host.example.com type=SYSCALL msg=audit(12/13/2006 11:28:14.395:952) : arch=i386 syscall=lstat64 success=no exit=0 
a0=8495230 a1=849c830 a2=874ff4 a3=328d28 items=0 ppid=7234 pid=7236 auid=dwalsh uid=dwalsh gid=dwalsh euid=dwalsh suid=dwalsh fsuid=dwalsh egid=dwalsh sgid=dwalsh fsgid=dwalsh tty=(none) comm=vsftpd exe=/usr/sbin/vsftpd subj=system_u:system_r:ftpd_t:s0 key=(null)
This AVC message consists of two records, the actual AVC record and the SYSCALL record. The kernel generates both of these records when the SELinux system denies access. This AVC message indicates that SELinux prevented /usr/sbin/vsftpd from performing the getattr access on a dir named public_html.
But which particular public_html directory has the problem?
The AVC records themselves do not show the full path to the problematic public_html directory in question. This is done because of performance reasons. Since AVC messages should occur infrequently, having the kernel report the full path is not considered to be worth the overhead. The AVC records do however include the device (dm-0), and the inode in question (9601649). You can use this device and inode information to find the correct path if the file and/or directory still exists.
The slow way:
# find / -inum 9601649
A better way:
The setroubleshoot tools can use the locate command to attempt to re-assemble the path in question:
# locate -r /public_html$

/home/dwalsh/public_html
/home/obama/public_html
...(continues)
setroubleshoot then uses stat to get the inode of of each file returned and compares it to the values in the AVC message; if they match, it analyzes the full path. Of course, you need to have the mlocate package installed and running via cron to gather these paths.
Refer to http://danwalsh.livejournal.com/34903.html for further details on this topic.
I installed on a system with a pre-existing /home partition, and now I can't log in. What do I do?
Your /home partition is not labeled correctly. You can easily fix this two different ways.
If you just want to relabel /home recursively:
/sbin/restorecon -v -R /home
If you want to be sure there are no other files incorrectly labeled, you can relabel the entire file system:
/sbin/fixfiles relabel
You must have the policycoreutils package installed to use fixfiles.
After relabeling my /home using setfiles or fixfiles, am I still be able to read /home with a non-SELinux-enabled system?
You can read the files from a non-SELinux distribution, or one with SELinux disabled. However, files created by a system not using SELinux systems do not have a security context, nor do any files you remove and recreate. This could be a challenge with files such as ~/.bashrc. You may have to relabel /home when you reboot the SELinux enabled Fedora system.
How do I share directories using NFS between Fedora and non-SELinux systems?
Just as NFS transparently supports many file system types, it can be used to share directories between SELinux and non-SELinux systems.
When you mount a non-SELinux file system via NFS, by default SELinux treats all the files in the share as having a context of nfs_t. You can override the default context by setting it manually, using the context= option. The following command makes the files in the NFS mounted directory appear to have a context of system_u:object_r:tmp_t to SELinux:
mount -t nfs -o context=system_u:object_r:tmp_t server:/shared/foo /mnt/foo
When SELinux exports a file system via NFS, newly created files have the context of the directory they were created in. In other words, the presence of SELinux on the remote mounting system has no effect on the local security contexts.
How can I create a new Linux user account with the user's home?
You can create your new user with the standard useradd command. First you must become root.
For the targeted policy:
su - root
id -Z
root:system_r:unconfined_t
useradd auser
ls -Z /home
drwx------ auser auser root:object_r:user_home_dir_t /home/auser
The initial context for a new user directory has an identity of root. Subsequent relabeling of the file system changes the identity to system_u. These are functionally the same since the role and type are identical (object_r:user_home_dir_t.)
Does the su command change my SELinux identity and role?
The su command performs full domain transitions and changes your role. This is easier than using the newrole command as newrole requires you to enter two passwords - one to identify as the user, and another to identify as root.
Other forms of Linux/UNIX® identity change, for example setuid(2), do not cause an SELinux identity change.
I'm having troubles with avc errors filling my logs for a particular program. How do I choose not to audit the access for it?
If you wanted to not audit dmesg, for example, you would put this in your dmesg.te file:
dontaudit dmesg_t userdomain:fd { use };
This eliminates the error output to the terminal for all user domains, including user, staff and sysadm.
Even running in permissive mode, I'm getting a large number of avc denied messages.
In a non-enforcing mode, you should actually receive more messages than in enforcing mode. The kernel logs each access denial as if you were in an enforcing mode. Since you are not restricted by policy enforcement, you can perform more actions, which results in more denials being logged.
If an application running under an enforcing mode is denied access to read a number of files in a directory, it is stopped once at the beginning of the action. In a non-enforcing mode, the application is not stopped from traversing the directory tree, and generates a denial message for each file read in the directory.
I get a specific permission denial only when SELinux is in enforcing mode, but I don't see any audit messages in /var/log/messages (or /var/log/audit/audit.log if using the audit daemon). How can I identify the cause of these silent denials?
The most common reason for a silent denial is when the policy contains an explicit dontaudit rule to suppress audit messages. The dontaudit rule is often used this way when a benign denial is filling the audit logs.
To look for your particular denial, enable auditing of all dontaudit rules:
semodule -b /usr/share/selinux/targeted/enableaudit.pp

Enabled dontaudit output is verbose

Enabling auditing of all dontaudit rules likely produce a large amount of audit information, most of which is irrelevant to your denial.
Use this technique only if you are specifically looking for an audit message for a denial that seems to occur silently. You want to re-enable dontaudit rules as soon as possible.
Once you have found your problem you can reset to the default mode by executing
semodule -b /usr/share/selinux/targeted/base.pp
Why do I not see the output when I run certain daemons in debug or interactive mode?
SELinux intentionally disables access to the tty devices to stop daemons from communicating back with the controlling terminal. This communication is a potential security hole because such daemons could insert commands into the controlling terminal. A broken or compromised program could use this hole to cause serious problems.
There are a few ways you can capture standard output from daemons. One method is to pipe the output to the cat command.
snmpd -v | cat
When debugging a daemon, you may want to turn off the transition of the daemon to its specific domain. You can do this using system-config-selinux or setsebool on the command line.
A final option is to turn off enforcing mode while debugging. Issue the command setenforce 0 to turn off enforcing mode, and use the command setenforce 1 to re-enable SELinux when you are finished debugging.
When I do an upgrade of the policy package (for example, using yum), what happens with the policy? Is it updated automatically?
Policy reloads itself when the package is updated. This behavior replaces the manual make load.
In certain situations, you may need to relabel the file system. This might occur as part of an SELinux bug fix where file contexts become invalid, or when the policy update makes changes to the file /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/file_contexts.
After the file system is relabeled, a reboot is not required, but is useful in ensuring every process and program is running in the proper domain. This is highly dependent on the changes in the updated policy.
To relabel, you have several options. You may use the fixfiles command:
fixfiles relabel reboot
Alternately, use the /.autorelabel mechanism:
touch /.autorelabel reboot
If the policy shipping with an application package changes in a way that requires relabeling, will RPM handle relabeling the files owned by the package?
Yes. The security contexts for the files owned by the package are stored in the header data for the package. The file contexts are set directly after the cpio copy, as the package files are being put on the disk.
Why do binary policies distributed with Fedora, such as /etc/selinux/<policyname>/policy/policy.<version>, and those I compile myself have different sizes and MD5 checksums?
When you install a policy package, pre-compiled binary policy files are put directly into /etc/selinux. The different build environments will make target files that have different sizes and MD5 checksums.
Will new policy packages disable my system?
There is a possibility that changes in the policy package or in the policy shipping with an application package can cause errors, more denials, or other unknown behaviors. You can discover which package caused the breakage by reverting policy and application packages one at a time. If you don't want to return to the previous package, the older version of the configuration files will be saved with the extension .rpmsave. Use the mailing lists, bugzilla, and IRC to help you work through your problem. If you are able, write or fix policy to resolve your problem.
My console is being flooded with messages. How do I turn them off?
To regain useful control, turn off kernel messages to the console with this command:
dmesg -n 1
Can I test the default policy without installing the policy source?
You can test SELinux default policy by installing just the selinux-policy-policyname and policycoreutils packages. Without the policy source installed, the fixfiles command automates the file system relabeling.
The command fixfiles relabel is the equivalent of make relabel. During the relabeling, it will delete all of the files in /tmp, cleaning up files which may have old file context labels.
Other commands are fixfiles check, which checks for mislabeled files, and fixfiles restore, which fixes the mislabeled files but does not delete the files in /tmp. The fixfiles command does not take a list of directories as an argument, because it relabels the entire file system. If you need to relabel a specific directory path, use restorecon.
Why are some of my KDE applications having trouble under SELinux?
KDE executables always appear as kdeinit, which limits what can be done with SELinux policy. This is because every KDE application runs in the domain for kdeinit.
Problems often arise when installing SELinux because it is not possible to relabel /tmp and /var/tmp. There is no good method of determining which file should have which context.
The solution is to fully log out of KDE and remove all KDE temporary files:
rm -rf /var/tmp/kdecache-<username> rm -rf /var/tmp/<other_kde_files>
At your next login, your problem should be fixed.
Why does SELINUX=disabled not work for me?
Be careful of white space in the file /etc/sysconfig/selinux. The code is very sensitive to white space, even trailing space.
I have a process running as unconfined_t, and SELinux is still preventing my application from running.
We have begun to confine the unconfined_t domain somewhat. SELinux restricts certain memory protection operation. Following is a list of those denials, as well as possible reasons and solutions for those denials. For more information on these restrictions, see http://people.redhat.com/drepper/selinux-mem.html.
These show up in /var/log/messages (or /var/log/audit/audit.log if using the audit daemon) as avc denials. These can also show up when running programs with errors like
error while loading shared libraries: /usr/lib/libavutil.so.49:
cannot restore segment prot after reloc: Permission denied
which indicates that the library is trying to perform a text relocation and failing. Text relocations are bad, but can be allowed via the first hint below. Below are the SELinux memory permissions that are denied, as well as hints at how to address these denials.
execmod
This is usually based on a library label. You can permanently change the context on the library with the following commands
# /usr/sbin/semanage fcontext -a -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/libavutil.so.49.0.0'
# /sbin/restorecon -v /usr/lib/libavutil.so.49.0.0
with the particular library at fault in place of /usr/lib/libavutil.so.49.0.0. Now your application should be able to run. Please report this as a bug in http://bugzilla.redhat.com.
execstack
Attempt to execstack -c LIBRARY. Now try your application again. If the application now works, the library was mistakenly marked as requiring execstack. Please report this as a bug in http://bugzilla.redhat.com.
execmem, execheap
A boolean for each one of these memory check errors have been provided. So if you need to run an application requiring either of these permissions, you can set the boolean allow_exec* to fix the problem. For instance if you try to run an application and you get an AVC message containing an execstack failure. You can set the Boolean with:
setsebool -P allow_execstack=1
What do these rpm errors mean?
restorecon reset /etc/modprobe.conf context system_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t->system_u:object_r:modules_conf_t
restorecon reset /etc/cups/ppd/homehp.ppd context user_u:object_r:cupsd_etc_t->system_u:object_r:cupsd_rw_etc_t
During the update process, the selinux package runs restorecon on the difference between the previously install policy file_context and the newly install policy context. This maintains the correct file context on disk.
libsepol.sepol_genbools_array: boolean hidd_disable_trans no longer in policy
This indicates that the updated policy has removed the boolean from policy.
I want to run a daemon on a non standard port but SELinux will not allow me. How do get this to work?
You can use the semanage command to define additional ports. So say you want httpd to be able to listen on port 8082. You could enter the command.
semanage port -a -p tcp -t http_port_t 8082
I am writing a PHP script that needs to create files and possibly execute them. SELinux policy is preventing this. What should I do?
First, you should never allow a system service to execute anything it can write. This gives an attacker the ability to upload malicious code to the server and then execute it, which is something we want to prevent.
If you merely need to allow your script to create (non-executable) files, this is possible. That said, you should avoid having system applications writing to the /tmp directory, since users tend to use the /tmp directory also. It would be better to create a directory elsewhere which could be owned by the apache process and allow your script to write to it. You should label the directory httpd_sys_script_rw_t, which will allow apache to read and write files to that directory. This directory could be located anywhere that apache can get to (even $HOME/public_html/).
I am setting up swapping to a file, but I am seeing AVC messages in my log files?
You need to identify the swapfile to SELinux by setting its file context to swapfile_t.
chcon -t swapfile_t SWAPFILE
Please explain the relabelto/relabelfrom permissions?
For files, relabelfrom means "Can domain D relabel a file from (i.e. currently in) type T1?" and relabelto means "Can domain D relabel a file to type T2?", so both checks are applied upon a file relabeling, where T1 is the original type of the type and T2 is the new type specified by the program.
Useful documents to look at:
  • Object class and permission summary by Tresys http://tresys.com/selinux/obj_perms_help.shtml
  • Implementing SELinux as an LSM technical report (describes permission checks on a per-hook basis) http://www.nsa.gov/selinux/papers/module-abs.cfm. This is also available in the selinux-doc package (and more up-to-date there).
  • Integrating Flexible Support for Security Policies into the Linux Operating System - technical report (describes original design and implementation, including summary tables of classes, permissions, and what permission checks are applied to what system calls. It is not entirely up-to-date with current implementation, but a good resource nonetheless). http://www.nsa.gov/selinux/papers/slinux-abs.cfm

1.4. Deploying SELinux

What file systems can I use for SELinux?
The file system must support xattr labels in the right security.* namespace. In addition to ext2/ext3/ext4, XFS has recently added support for the necessary labels.
Note that XFS SELinux support was broken in the upstream Linux kernel versions 2.6.14 and 2.6.15, but fixed (worked around) in version 2.6.16. Your kernel must be of this version or later if you choose to use XFS with SELinux.
How does SELinux impact system performance?
This is a metric that is hard to measure, and is heavily dependent on the tuning and usage of the system running SELinux. When performance was last measured, the impact was around 7% for completely untuned code. Subsequent changes in system components such as networking are likely to have made that worse in some cases. SELinux performance tuning continues to be a priority of the development team.
What types of deployments, applications, and systems should I leverage SELinux in?
Initially, SELinux has been used on Internet facing servers that are performing a few specialized functions, where it is critical to keep extremely tight security. Administrators typically strip such a box of all extra software and services, and run a very small, focused set of services. A Web server or mail server is a good example.
In these edge servers, you can lock down the policy very tightly. The smaller number of interactions with other components makes such a lock down easier. A dedicated system running a specialized third-party application would also be a good candidate.
In the future, SELinux will be targeted at all environments. In order to achieve this goal, the community and independent software vendors (ISVs) must work with the SELinux developers to produce the necessary policy.
How does SELinux affect third-party applications?
One goal of implementing a targeted SELinux policy in Fedora is to allow third-party applications to work without modification. The targeted policy is transparent to those unaddressed applications, and it falls back on standard Linux DAC security. These applications, however, will not be running in an extra-secure manner. You or another provider must write policy to protect these applications with MAC security.
It is impossible to predict how every third-party application might behave with SELinux, even running the targeted policy. You may be able to fix issues that arise by changing the policy. You may find that SELinux exposes previously unknown security issues with your application. You may have to modify the application to work under SELinux.
Note that with the addition of Policy Modules, it is now possible for third-party developers to include policy modules with their application. If you are a third-party developer or a package-maintainer, please consider including a policy module in your package. This will allow you to secure the behavior of your application with the power of SELinux for any user installing your package.
One important value that Fedora testers and users bring to the community is extensive testing of third-party applications. With that in mind, please bring your experiences to the appropriate mailing list, such as the fedora-selinux list, for discussion. For more information about that list, refer to http://www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo/fedora-selinux-list/.