Mostly notes from Security-Enhanced Linux for mere mortals by Thomas Cameron | Redhat: SELinux User's and Administrator's Guide | The arch wiki article

SELinux policy:

The policy can be found at /etc/selinux/config, which is also symlinked to /etc/sysconfig/selinux

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.

SELINUXTYPE= can take one of three values:
    targeted - Targeted processes are protected,
    minimum - Modification of targeted policy. Only selected processes are protected. 
    mls - Multi Level Security protection.

It can also be seen via sestatus

The current mode can be viewed using getenforce


Files, Ports etc are labelled with an SELinux context. for files and directories, extended attrs are used to store these labels while kernel manages the labels for processes and such.

They are of the format


The user above is the selinux user and is different from the normal linux user

just the type can be used for basic usecases

selinux adds the -Z option to several commands to view the labels associated with the associated resources. A few of them are:

  • ls -Z
  • id -Z
  • ps -Z
  • netstat -Z

Type Enforcement

The types in the labels are usually related for resources that belong together.

Eg. for apache, the following types are observed:

  • httpd_config_t for its config directory
  • httpd_log_t for its log directory
  • httpd_sys_content_t for the webroot
  • httpd_initrc_exec_t for the init script
  • httpd_t for the process

Type enforcement is the part of the policy that says, for instance, “a process running with the label httpd_t can have read access to a file labeled httpd_config_t"

Working with labels

chcon or restorecon may be used to change the context of a file

When a file is created, it inherits the context of its parent (wiht a few exceptions)

The login process sets the default context, which is unconfined for the targeted policy

  • File transitions (defined by policy) may be set such that if an application foo_t creates a file in a directory labeled bar_t, it ges the baz_t label.

  • getsebool -a shows all booleans available

  • use setsebool <boolean_name> <0|1> to set the boolean temporarily

    • use the -P argument with it to make the change persistent

Tip: Install setroubleshoot and setroubleshoot-server on machines used to develop policy modules. Reboot or restart auditd afterwards. This will make the logs in /var/log/messages more human-readable

The SELinux logs tells you what to do in most cases

A good place to check for currently actiove booleans is the booleans.local file under /etc/selinux/targeted/modules/active/. Note: editing this file will not change anything.

Modifying policies using setsebool or other commands regenerates the /etc/selinux/targeted directory. So sont bother changing anything in there.

use man chcon so see how to change the labels.

Usually to change just the type, use chcon -t my_type_t /path/to/file

  • Or even just use chcon --reference /known/good/file /path/to/target/file to

  • use the refernce file's security context

  • Or maybe you just need to restore the context to its defaults. In this case, use restorecon. eg: restorecon -vR /path/to/file

    • -v is for verbose
    • -R is recursive
    • read man btw restorecon(8)
  • restorecon uses information from the /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/file_contexts(*) files to determine what a file or directory's context should be

  • to add a new default context to be used, we use semanage fcontext -a -t my_type_t "/foo(/.*)?"

    • fcontext : for file context man semanage-fcontext(8)
    • -a to add
    • -t for type
  • or simply semanage fcontext -a -e /known/good/file/ /foo/"

    • -e for equal
  • dont forget to use restorecon to apply the changes from the default context that was just set

  • When working on creating a polllicy, a good way is to use a permissive mode for SELinux to simply log the messages. Then after going through the usage of the application, use something like grep httpd /var/log/audit/audit.log | audit2allow -M mymodulelocal to create a new policy based on the audit. Then use semodule -i mymodulelocal.pp to install (-i) the module

  • audit2why can be used in a similar fashion to audit2allow to get a human-readable descriptions of the audits

Enabling SELinux on a new system

Setting selinux to enforcing usually doesnt end so well

So first set it to permissive, touch a file called .autorelabel to the root of the filesystem and reboot. This will relabel the whole filesystem to work with selinux

After its done relabelling, set SELinux to enforcing