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Applies to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP5

32 Configuring SELinux

In this chapter, you will learn how to set up and manage SELinux on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The following topics are covered:

  • Why Use SELinux?

  • Understanding SELinux

  • Setting Up SELinux

  • Managing SELinux

32.1 Why Use SELinux?

SELinux was developed as an additional Linux security solution that uses the security framework in the Linux kernel. The purpose was to allow for a more granular security policy that goes beyond what is offered by the default existing permissions of Read, Write, and Execute, and beyond assigning permissions to the different capabilities that are available on Linux. SELinux does this by trapping all system calls that reach the kernel, and denying them by default. This means that on a system that has SELinux enabled and nothing else configured, nothing will work. To allow your system to do anything, as an administrator you will need to write rules and put them in a policy.

An example explains why a solution such as SELinux (or its counterpart AppArmor) is needed:

One morning, I found out that my server was hacked. The server was running a fully patched SLES installation. A firewall was configured on it and no unnecessary services were offered by this server. Further analysis revealed that the hacker had come in through a vulnerable PHP script that was a part of one of the Apache virtual hosts that were running on this server. The intruder had managed to get access to a shell, using the wwwrun account that was used by the Apache Web server. As this wwwrun user, the intruder had created several scripts in the /var/tmp and the /tmp directories, which were a part of a botnet that was launching a Distributed Denial of Service attack against several servers.

The interesting thing about this hack is that it occurred on a server where nothing was really wrong. All permissions where set OK, but the intruder had managed to get into the system. What becomes clearly evident from this example is that in some cases additional security is needed—a security that goes beyond what is offered by using SELinux. As a less complete and less complex alternative, AppArmor can be used.

AppArmor confines specific processes in their abilities to read/write and execute files (and other things). Its view is mostly that things that happen inside a process cannot escape.

SELinux instead uses labels attached to objects (for example, files, binaries, network sockets) and uses them to determine privilege boundaries, thereby building up a level of confinement that can span more than a process or even the whole system.

SELinux was developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), and since the beginning Red Hat has been heavily involved in its development. The first version of SELinux was offered in the era of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4™, around the year 2006. In the beginning it offered support for essential services only, but over the years it has developed into a system that offers many rules that are collected in policies to offer protection to a broad range of services.

SELinux was developed in accordance with some certification standards like Common Criteria and FIPS 140. Because some customers specifically requested solutions that met these standards, SELinux rapidly became relatively popular.

As an alternative to SELinux, Immunix, a company that was purchased by Novell in 2005, had developed AppArmor. AppArmor was built on top of the same security principles as SELinux, but took a completely different approach, where it was possible to restrict services to exactly what they needed to do by using an easy to use wizard-driven procedure. Nevertheless, AppArmor has never reached the same status as SELinux, even if there are some good arguments to secure a server with AppArmor rather than with SELinux.

Because many organizations are requesting SELinux to be in the Linux distributions they are using, SUSE is offering support for the SELinux framework in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. This does not mean that the default installation of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server will switch from AppArmor to SELinux in the near future.

32.1.1 Support Status

The SELinux framework is supported on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. This means that SLES offers all binaries and libraries you need to be able to use SELinux on your server. You may however miss some software that you may be familiar with from other Linux distributions.

SELinux support is at a fairly early stage in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which means that unexpected behavior may occur. To limit this risk as much as possible, it is best to use only the binaries that have been provided by default on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

32.1.2 Understanding SELinux Components

Before starting the configuration of SELinux, you should know a bit about how SELinux is organized. Three components play a role:

  • The security framework in the Linux kernel

  • The SELinux libraries and binaries

  • The SELinux policy

The default kernel of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server supports SELinux and the tools that are needed to manage it. The most important part of the work of the administrator with regard to SELinux is managing the policy.

In the SELinux policy, security labels are applied to different objects on a Linux server. These objects typically are users, ports, processes and files. Using these security labels, rules are created that define what is and what is not allowed on a server. Remember, by default SELinux denies everything, and by creating the appropriate rules you can allow the access that is strictly necessary. Rules should therefore exist for all programs that you want to use on a system. Alternatively, you should configure parts of a system to run in unconfined mode, which means that specific ports, programs, users, files and directories are not protected by SELinux. This mode is useful if you only want to use SELinux to protect some essential services, while you are not specifically worried about other services. To get a really secure system, you should avoid this.

To ensure the appropriate protection of your system, you need an SELinux policy. This must be a tailor-made policy in which all files are provided with a label, and all services and users have a security label as well to express which files and directories can be accessed by which user and processed on the server. Developing such a policy is a tremendous amount of work.

The complexity of SELinux is also one of the main arguments against using it. Because a typical Linux system is so very complex, it is easy to overlook something and leave an opening that intruders can abuse to get into your system. And even if it is set up completely the way it should be, it still is very hard for an administrator to overlook all aspects with SELinux. With regard to the complexity, AppArmor takes a completely different approach and works with automated procedures that allow the administrator to set up AppArmor protection and understand exactly what is happening.

Note that a freely available SELinux policy might work on your server, but is unlikely to offer the same protection as a custom policy. SUSE also does not support third-party policies.

32.2 Policy

As mentioned, the policy is the key component in SELinux. It defines rules that specify which objects can access which files, directories, ports and processes on a system. To do this, a security context is defined for all of these. On an SELinux system where the policy has been applied to label the file system, you can use the ls -Z command on any directory to find the security context for the files in that directory. Example 32.1: “Security Context Settings Using ls -Z shows the security context settings for the directories in the / directory of a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server system with an SELinux-labeled file system.

Example 32.1: Security Context Settings Using ls -Z
ls -Z
system_u:object_r:bin_t bin
system_u:object_r:boot_t boot
system_u:object_r:device_t dev
system_u:object_r:etc_t etc
system_u:object_r:home_root_t home
system_u:object_r:lib_t lib
system_u:object_r:lib_t lib64
system_u:object_r:lost_found_t lost+found
system_u:object_r:mnt_t media
system_u:object_r:mnt_t mnt
system_u:object_r:usr_t opt
system_u:object_r:proc_t proc
system_u:object_r:default_t root
system_u:object_r:bin_t sbin
system_u:object_r:security_t selinux
system_u:object_r:var_t srv
system_u:object_r:sysfs_t sys
system_u:object_r:tmp_t tmp
system_u:object_r:usr_t usr
system_u:object_r:var_t var

The most important line in the security context is the context type. This is the part of the security context that ends in _t. It tells SELinux which kind of access the object is allowed. In the policy, rules are specified to define which type of user or which type of role has access to which type of context. For example, this can happen by using a rule like the following:

allow user_t bin_t:file {read execute gettattr};

This example rule states that the user who has the context type user_t (this user is called the source object) is allowed to access objects of class "file" with the context type bin_t (the target), using the permissions read, execute and getattr.

The standard policy that you are going to use contains a huge amount of rules. To make it more manageable, policies are often split into modules. This allows administrator to switch protection on or off for different parts of the system.

When compiling the policy for your system, you will have a choice to either work with a modular policy, or a monolithic policy, where one huge policy is used to protect everything on your system. It is strongly recommended to use a modular policy and not a monolithic policy. Modular policies are much easier to manage.

32.3 Installing SELinux Packages and Modifying GRUB 2

The easiest way to make sure that all SELinux components are installed is by using YaST. The procedure described below shows what to do on an installed SUSE Linux Enterprise Server:

  1. Log in to your server as root and start YaST.

  2. Select Software › Software Management

  3. Select View › Patterns and select the entire C/C++ Development category for installation.

  4. Select View › Search and make sure that Search in Name, Keywords and Summary are selected. Now enter the keyword selinux and click Search. You now see a list of packages.

  5. Make sure that all the packages you have found are selected and click Accept to install them.

Selecting all SELinux Packages in YaST
Figure 32.1: Selecting all SELinux Packages in YaST

After installing the SELinux packages, you need to modify the GRUB 2 boot loader. Do this from YaST, select System › Boot Loader › Kernel Parameters. Now add the following parameters to the Optional Kernel Command Line Parameters:

security=selinux selinux=1 enforcing=0

These options are used for the following purposes:


This option tells the kernel to use SELinux and not AppArmor


This option switches on SELinux


This option puts SELinux in permissive mode. In this mode, SELinux is fully functional, but does not enforce any of the security settings in the policy. Use this mode for configuring your system. To switch on SELinux protection, when the system is fully operational, change the option to enforcing=1 and add SELINUX=enforcing in /etc/selinux/config.

After installing the SELinux packages and enabling the SELinux GRUB 2 boot options, reboot your server to activate the configuration.

32.4 SELinux Policy

The policy is an essential component of SELinux. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP5 includes the minimum SELinux reference policy in the package selinux-policy-minimum. You must build a policy that is customized for your installation. SELinux policies should be customized for your particular needs. Contact SUSE consulting services for assistance. We recommend slemicro for customers and partners who are looking for a containerized or virtualized host with full SELinux support, including a supported policy. The examples in this chapter refer to this policy, if not stated otherwise.

After installing the policy, you are ready to start file system labeling. Run

restorecon -Rp /

to start the /sbin/setfiles command to label all files on your system. The /etc/selinux/minimum/contexts/files/file_contexts input file is used. The file_contexts file needs to match your actual file system as much as possible. Otherwise, it can lead to a completely unbootable system. If that happens, modify the records in file_contexts with the semanage fcontext command to match the real structure of the file system your server is using. For example

semanage fcontext -a -t samba_share_t /etc/example_file

changes the file type from the default etc_t to samba_share_t and adds the following record to the related file_contexts.local file:

/etc/example_file    unconfined_u:object_r:samba_share_t:s0

Then run

restorecon -v /etc/example_file

for the type change to take effect.

Before doing this, make sure to read the rest of this chapter, so you fully understand how context type is applied to files and directories. Do not forget to make a backup of the file_contexts file before starting.

Note: The User nobody

While using semanage, you may get a message that complains about the home directory of nobody. In this case, change the login shell of user nobody to /sbin/nologin. Then the settings of nobody match the current policy settings.

After another reboot SELinux should be operational. To verify this, use the command sestatus -v. It should give you an output similar to Example 32.2: “Verifying that SELinux is functional”.

Example 32.2: Verifying that SELinux is functional
sestatus -v
SELinux status:                 enabled
SELinuxfs mount:                /selinux
Current mode:                   permissive
Mode from config file:          permissive
Policy version:                 26
Policy from config file:        minimum

Process contexts:
Current context:                root:staff_r:staff_t
Init context:                   system_u:system_r:init_t
/sbin/mingetty                  system_u:system_r:sysadm_t
/usr/sbin/sshd                  system_u:system_r:sshd_t

File contexts:
Controlling term:               root:object_r:user_devpts_t
/etc/passwd                     system_u:object_r:etc_t
/etc/shadow                     system_u:object_r:shadow_t
/bin/bash                       system_u:object_r:shell_exec_t
/bin/login                      system_u:object_r:login_exec_t
/bin/sh                         system_u:object_r:bin_t -> system_u:object_r:shell_exec_t
/sbin/agetty                    system_u:object_r:getty_exec_t
/sbin/init                      system_u:object_r:init_exec_t
/sbin/mingetty                  system_u:object_r:getty_exec_t
/usr/sbin/sshd                  system_u:object_r:sshd_exec_t
/lib/libc.so.6                  system_u:object_r:lib_t -> system_u:object_r:lib_t
/lib/ld-linux.so.2              system_u:object_r:lib_t -> system_u:object_r:ld_so_t

32.5 Configuring SELinux

At this point you have a completely functional SELinux system and it is time to further configure it. In the current status, SELinux is operational but not in enforcing mode. This means that it does not limit you in doing anything, it logs everything that it should be doing if it were in enforcing mode. This is good, because based on the log files you can find what it is that it would prevent you from doing. As a first test, put SELinux in enforcing mode and find out if you can still use your server after doing so: check that the option enforcing=1 is set in the GRUB 2 configuration file, while SELINUX=enforcing is set in /etc/selinux/config. Reboot your server and see if it still comes up the way you expect it to. If it does, leave it like that and start modifying the server in a way that everything works as expected. However, you may not even be able to boot the server properly. In that case, switch back to the mode where SELinux is not enforcing and start tuning your server.

Before you start tuning your server, verify the SELinux installation. You have already used the command sestatus -v to view the current mode, process, and file contexts. Next, run

semanage boolean -l

which lists all Boolean switches that are available, and at the same time verifies that you can access the policy. Example 32.3, “Getting a List of Booleans and Verifying Policy Access” shows part of the output of this command.

Example 32.3: Getting a List of Booleans and Verifying Policy Access
semanage boolean -l
SELinux boolean                          Description
ftp_home_dir                   -> off   ftp_home_dir
mozilla_read_content           -> off   mozilla_read_content
spamassassin_can_network       -> off   spamassassin_can_network
httpd_can_network_relay        -> off   httpd_can_network_relay
openvpn_enable_homedirs        -> off   openvpn_enable_homedirs
gpg_agent_env_file             -> off   gpg_agent_env_file
allow_httpd_awstats_script_anon_write -> off   allow_httpd_awstats_script_anon_write
httpd_can_network_connect_db   -> off   httpd_can_network_connect_db
allow_ftpd_full_access         -> off   allow_ftpd_full_access
samba_domain_controller        -> off   samba_domain_controller
httpd_enable_cgi               -> off   httpd_enable_cgi
virt_use_nfs                   -> off   virt_use_nfs

Another command that outputs useful information at this stage is

semanage fcontext -l

It shows the default file context settings as provided by the policy (see Example 32.4: “Getting File Context Information” for partial output of this command).

Example 32.4: Getting File Context Information
semanage fcontext -l
/var/run/usb(/.*)?                                 all files          system_u:object_r:hotplug_var_run_t
/var/run/utmp                                      regular file       system_u:object_r:initrc_var_run_t
/var/run/vbe.*                                     regular file       system_u:object_r:hald_var_run_t
/var/run/vmnat.*                                   socket             system_u:object_r:vmware_var_run_t
/var/run/vmware.*                                  all files          system_u:object_r:vmware_var_run_t
/var/run/vpnc(/.*)?                                all files          system_u:object_r:vpnc_var_run_t
/var/run/watchdog\.pid                             regular file       system_u:object_r:watchdog_var_run_t
/var/run/winbindd(/.*)?                            all files          system_u:object_r:winbind_var_run_t
/var/run/wnn-unix(/.*)                             all files          system_u:object_r:canna_var_run_t
/var/run/wpa_supplicant(/.*)?                      all files          system_u:object_r:NetworkManager_var_run_t
/var/run/wpa_supplicant-global                     socket             system_u:object_r:NetworkManager_var_run_t
/var/run/xdmctl(/.*)?                              all files          system_u:object_r:xdm_var_run_t
/var/run/yiff-[0-9]+\.pid                          regular file       system_u:object_r:soundd_var_run_t

32.6 Managing SELinux

The base SELinux configuration is now operational and it can now be configured to secure your server. In SELinux, an additional set of rules is used to define exactly which process or user can access which files, directories, or ports. To do this, SELinux applies a context to every file, directory, process, and port. This context is a security label that defines how this file, directory, process, or port should be treated. These context labels are used by the SELinux policy, which defines exactly what should be done with the context labels. By default, the policy blocks all non-default access, which means that, as an administrator, you need to enable all features that are non-default on your server.

32.6.1 Viewing the Security Context

As already mentioned, files, directories, and ports can be labeled. Within each label, different contexts are used. To be able to perform your daily administration work, the type context is what you are most interested in. As an administrator, you will mostly work with the type context. Many commands allow you to use the -Z option to list current context settings. In Example 32.5: “The default context for directories in the root directory” you can see what the context settings are for the directories in the root directory.

Example 32.5: The default context for directories in the root directory
ls -Z
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:bin_t:s0       bin
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:boot_t:s0      boot
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:cgroup_t:s0    cgroup
drwxr-xr-x+ root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 data
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:device_t:s0    dev
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:etc_t:s0       etc
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:home_root_t:s0 home
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:lib_t:s0       lib
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:lib_t:s0       lib64
drwx------. root root system_u:object_r:lost_found_t:s0 lost+found
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:mnt_t:s0       media
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:autofs_t:s0    misc
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:mnt_t:s0       mnt
drwxr-xr-x. root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 mnt2
drwxr-xr-x. root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 mounts
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:autofs_t:s0    net
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:usr_t:s0       opt
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:proc_t:s0      proc
drwxr-xr-x. root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 repo
dr-xr-x---. root root system_u:object_r:admin_home_t:s0 root
dr-xr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:bin_t:s0       sbin
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:security_t:s0  selinux
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:var_t:s0       srv
-rw-r--r--. root root unconfined_u:object_r:swapfile_t:s0 swapfile
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:sysfs_t:s0     sys
drwxrwxrwt. root root system_u:object_r:tmp_t:s0       tmp
-rw-r--r--. root root unconfined_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0 tmp2.tar
-rw-r--r--. root root unconfined_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0 tmp.tar
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:usr_t:s0       usr
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:var_t:s0       var

In the listing above, you can see the complete context for all directories. It consists of a user, a role, and a type. The s0 setting indicates the security level in Multi Level Security environments. These environments are not discussed here. In such an environment, make sure that s0 is set. The Context Type defines what kind of activity is permitted in the directory. Compare, for example, the /root directory, which has the admin_home_t context type, and the /home directory, which has the home_root_t context type. In the SELinux policy, different kinds of access are defined for these context types.

Security labels are not only associated with files, but also with other items, such as ports and processes. In Example 32.6: “Showing SELinux settings for processes with ps Zaux for example you can see the context settings for processes on your server.

Example 32.6: Showing SELinux settings for processes with ps Zaux
ps Zaux
LABEL                           USER       PID %CPU %MEM    VSZ   RSS TTY      STAT START   TIME COMMAND
system_u:system_r:init_t        root         1  0.0  0.0  10640   808 ?        Ss   05:31   0:00 init [5]
system_u:system_r:kernel_t      root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    05:31   0:00 [kthreadd]
system_u:system_r:kernel_t      root         3  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    05:31   0:00 [ksoftirqd/0]
system_u:system_r:kernel_t      root         6  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    05:31   0:00 [migration/0]
system_u:system_r:kernel_t      root         7  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    05:31   0:00 [watchdog/0]
system_u:system_r:sysadm_t      root      2344  0.0  0.0  27640   852 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/mcelog --daemon --config-file /etc/mcelog/mcelog.conf
system_u:system_r:sshd_t        root      3245  0.0  0.0  69300  1492 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/sshd -o PidFile=/var/run/sshd.init.pid
system_u:system_r:cupsd_t       root      3265  0.0  0.0  68176  2852 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/cupsd
system_u:system_r:nscd_t        root      3267  0.0  0.0 772876  1380 ?        Ssl  05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/nscd
system_u:system_r:postfix_master_t root   3334  0.0  0.0  38320  2424 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 /usr/lib/postfix/master
system_u:system_r:postfix_qmgr_t postfix  3358  0.0  0.0  40216  2252 ?        S    05:32   0:00 qmgr -l -t fifo -u
system_u:system_r:crond_t       root      3415  0.0  0.0  14900   800 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/cron
system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t    root      3437  0.0  0.0  16468  1040 ?        S    05:32   0:00 /usr/sbin/smartd
system_u:system_r:sysadm_t      root      3441  0.0  0.0  66916  2152 ?        Ss   05:32   0:00 login -- root
system_u:system_r:sysadm_t      root      3442  0.0  0.0   4596   800 tty2     Ss+  05:32   0:00 /sbin/mingetty tty2

32.6.2 Selecting the SELinux Mode

In SELinux, three different modes can be used:


This is the default mode. SELinux protects your server according to the rules in the policy, and SELinux logs all of its activity to the audit log.


This mode is useful for troubleshooting. If set to Permissive, SELinux does not protect your server, but it still logs everything that happens to the log files.


In this mode, SELinux is switched off completely and no logging occurs. The file system labels however are not removed from the file system.

You have already read how you can set the current SELinux mode from GRUB 2 while booting using the enforcing boot parameter.

32.6.3 Modifying SELinux Context Types

An important part of the work of an administrator is setting context types on files to ensure appropriate working of SELinux.

If a file is created within a specific directory, it inherits the context type of the parent directory by default. If, however, a file is moved from one location to another location, it retains the context type that it had in the old location.

To set the context type for files, you can use the semanage fcontext command. With this command, you write the new context type to the policy, but it does not change the actual context type immediately! To apply the context types that are in the policy, you need to run the restorecon command afterward.

The challenge when working with semanage fcontext is to find out which context you actually need. You can use

semanage fcontext -l

to list all contexts in the policy, but it may be a bit hard to find out the actual context you need from that list as it is rather long (see Example 32.7: “Viewing Default File Contexts”).

Example 32.7: Viewing Default File Contexts
semanage fcontext -l | less
SELinux fcontext                                   type               Context

/                                                  directory          system_u:object_r:root_t:s0
/.*                                                all files          system_u:object_r:default_t:s0
/[^/]+                                             regular file       system_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0
/\.autofsck                                        regular file       system_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0
/\.autorelabel                                     regular file       system_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0
/\.journal                                         all files          X:>>None>>
/\.suspended                                       regular file       system_u:object_r:etc_runtime_t:s0
/a?quota\.(user|group)                             regular file       system_u:object_r:quota_db_t:s0
/afs                                               directory          system_u:object_r:mnt_t:s0
/bin                                               directory          system_u:object_r:bin_t:s0
/bin/.*                                            all files          system_u:object_r:bin_t:s0

There are three ways to find out which context settings are available for your services:

  • Install the service and look at the default context settings that are used. This is the easiest and recommended option.

  • Consult the man page for the specific service. Some services have a man page that ends in _selinux, which contains all the information you need to find the correct context settings.

    When you have found the right context setting, apply it using semanage fcontext. This command takes -t context type as its first argument, followed by the name of the directory or file to which you want to apply the context settings. To apply the context to everything that already exists in the directory where you want to apply the context, you add the regular expression (/.*)? to the name of the directory. This means: optionally, match a slash followed by any character. The examples section of the semanage man page has some useful usage examples for semanage. For more information on regular expressions, see for example the tutorial at http://www.regular-expressions.info/.

  • Display a list of all context types that are available on your system:

    seinfo -t

    Since the command by itself outputs an overwhelming amount of information, it should be used in combination with grep or a similar command for filtering.

32.6.4 Applying File Contexts

To help you apply the SELinux context properly, the following procedure shows how to set a context using semanage fcontext and restorecon. You will notice that at first attempt, the Web server with a non-default document root does not work. After changing the SELinux context, it will:

  1. Create the /web directory and then change to it:

    sudo mkdir /web  && cd /web
  2. Use a text editor to create the file /web/index.html that contains the text welcome to my Web site.

  3. Open the file /etc/apache2/default-server.conf with an editor, and change the DocumentRoot line to DocumentRoot /web

  4. Start the Apache Web server:

    sudo systemctl start apache2
  5. Open a session to your local Web server:

    w3m localhost

    You will receive a Connection refused message. Press Enter, and then q to quit w3m.

  6. Find the current context type for the default Apache DocumentRoot, which is /srv/www/htdocs. It should be set to httpd_sys_content_t:

    ls -Z /srv/www
  7. Set the new context in the policy and press Enter:

    semanage fcontext -a -f "" -t httpd_sys_content_t '/web(/.*) ?'
  8. Apply the new context type:

    restorecon /web
  9. Show the context of the files in the directory /web. You will see that the new context type has been set properly to the /web directory, but not to its contents.

    ls -Z /web
  10. Apply the new context recursively to the /web directory. The type context has now been set correctly.

    restorecon -R /web
  11. Restart the Web server:

    sudo systemctl restart apache2

    You should now be able to access the contents of the /web directory.

32.6.5 Configuring SELinux Policies

The easiest way to change the behavior of the policy is by working with Booleans. These are on-off switches that you can use to change the settings in the policy. To find out which Booleans are available, run

semanage boolean -l

It will show a long list of Booleans, with a short description of what each of these Booleans will do for you. When you have found the Boolean you want to set, you can use setsebool -P, followed by the name of the Boolean that you want to change. It is important to use the -P option at all times when using setsebool. This option writes the setting to the policy file on disk, and this is the only way to make sure that the Boolean is applied automatically after a reboot.

The procedure below gives an example of changing Boolean settings

  1. List Booleans that are related to FTP servers.

    semanage boolean -l | grep ftp
  2. Turn the Boolean off:

    setsebool allow_ftpd_anon_write off

    Note that it does not take much time to write the change. Then verify that the Boolean is indeed turned off:

    semanage boolean -l|grep ftpd_anon
  3. Reboot your server.

  4. Check again to see if the allow_ftpd_anon_write Boolean is still turned on. As it has not yet been written to the policy, you will notice that it is off.

  5. Switch the Boolean and write the setting to the policy:

    setsebool -P allow_ftpd_anon_write

32.6.6 Working with SELinux Modules

By default, SELinux uses a modular policy. This means that the policy that implements SELinux features is not just one huge policy, but it consists of many smaller modules. Each module covers a specific part of the SELinux configuration. The concept of the SELinux module was introduced to make it easier for third party vendors to make their services compatible with SELinux. To get an overview of the SELinux modules, you can use the semodule -l command. This command lists all current modules in use by SELinux and their version numbers.

As an administrator, you can switch modules on or off. This can be useful if you want to disable only a part of SELinux and not everything to run a specific service without SELinux protection. Especially in the case of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, where there is not a completely supported SELinux policy yet, it can make sense to switch off all modules that you do not need so that you can focus on the services that really do need SELinux protection. To switch off an SELinux module, use

semodule -d MODULENAME

To switch it on again, you can use

semodule -e modulename

As an administrator, you do not typically change the contents of the policy files that come from the SELinux Policy RPM. You would rather use semanage fcontext to change file contexts. If you are using audit2allow to generate policies for your server, you should change the policy files after all.

To change the contents of any of the policy module files, compile the changes into a new policy module file. To do this, first install the selinux-policy-devel package. Then, in the directory where the files created by audit2allow are located, run:

make -f /usr/share/selinux/devel/Makefile

When make has completed, you can manually load the modules into the system, using semodule -i.

32.7 Troubleshooting

By default, if SELinux is the reason something is not working, a log message to this effect is sent to the /var/log/audit/audit.log file. That is, if the auditd service is running. If you see an empty /var/log/audit, start the auditd service using

sudo systemctl start auditd

and enable it in the targets of your system, using

sudo systemctl enable auditd

In Example 32.8: “Example Lines from /etc/audit/audit.log you can see a partial example of the contents of /var/log/audit/audit.log

Example 32.8: Example Lines from /etc/audit/audit.log
type=DAEMON_START msg=audit(1348173810.874:6248): auditd start, ver=1.7.7 format=raw kernel=4.12.14-94.37-default auid=0 pid=4235 subj=system_u:system_r:auditd_t res=success
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:292): avc:  denied  { write } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartmontools" dev=sda6 ino=581743 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=dir
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:293): avc:  denied  { remove_name } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state~" dev=sda6 ino=582390 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=dir
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:294): avc:  denied  { unlink } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state~" dev=sda6 ino=582390 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=file
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:295): avc:  denied  { rename } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state" dev=sda6 ino=582373 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=file
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:296): avc:  denied  { add_name } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state~" scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=dir
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:297): avc:  denied  { create } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state" scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=file
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:298): avc:  denied  { write open } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" name="smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state" dev=sda6 ino=582390 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=file
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.081:299): avc:  denied  { getattr } for  pid=3426 comm="smartd" path="/var/lib/smartmontools/smartd.WDC_WD2500BEKT_75PVMT0-WD_WXC1A21E0454.ata.state" dev=sda6 ino=582390 scontext=system_u:system_r:fsdaemon_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_lib_t tclass=file
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.309:300): avc:  denied  { append } for  pid=1316

At first look, the lines in audit.log are a bit hard to read. However, on closer examination they are not that hard to understand. Every line can be broken down into sections. For example, the sections in the last line are:


every SELinux-related audit log line starts with the type identification type=AVC


This is the time stamp, which unfortunately is written in epoch time, the number of seconds that have passed since Jan 1, 1970. You can use date -d on the part up to the dot in the epoch time notation to find out when the event has happened:

date -d @1348173901
Thu Sep 20 16:45:01 EDT 2012
avc: denied { append }:

the specific action that was denied. In this case the system has denied the appending of data to a file. While browsing through the audit log file, you can see other system actions, such as write open, getattr and more.

for pid=1316:

the process ID of the command or process that initiated the action


the specific command that was associated with that PID


the name of the subject of the action

dev=sda6 ino=582296:

the block device and inode number of the file that was involved


the source context, which is the context of the initiator of the action


a class identification of the subject

Instead of interpreting the events in audit.log yourself, there is another approach. You can use the audit2allow command, which helps analyze the cryptic log messages in /var/log/audit/audit.log. An audit2allow troubleshooting session always consists of three different commands. First, you would use audit2allow -w -a to present the audit information in a more readable way. The audit2allow -w -a by default works on the audit.log file. If you want to analyze a specific message in the audit.log file, copy it to a temporary file and analyze the file with:

audit2allow -w -i FILENAME
Example 32.9: Analyzing Audit Messages
audit2allow -w -i testfile
type=AVC msg=audit(1348173901.309:300): avc:  denied  { append } for  pid=1316
comm="rsyslogd" name="acpid" dev=sda6 ino=582296
scontext=system_u:system_r:syslogd_t tcontext=system_u:object_r:apmd_log_t tclass=file
This was caused by:

Missing type enforcement (TE) allow rule.

To generate a loadable module to allow this access, run


To find out which specific rule has denied access, you can use audit2allow -a to show the enforcing rules from all events that were logged to the audit.log file, or audit2allow -i FILENAME to show it for messages that you have stored in a specific file:

Example 32.10: Viewing Which Lines Deny Access
audit2allow -i testfile
#============= syslogd_t ==============
allow syslogd_t apmd_log_t:file append;

To create an SELinux module with the name mymodule that you can load to allow the access that was previously denied, run

audit2allow -a -R -M mymodule

If you want to do this for all events that have been logged to the audit.log, use the -a -M command arguments. To do it only for specific messages that are in a specific file, use -i -M as in the example below:

Example 32.11: Creating a Policy Module Allowing an Action Previously Denied
audit2allow -i testfile -M example
******************** IMPORTANT ***********************
To make this policy package active, execute:

semodule -i example.pp

As indicated by the audit2allow command, you can now run this module by using the semodule -i command, followed by the name of the module that audit2allow has created for you (example.pp in the above example).