The audit trail is created by the audit daemon (see the auditd(1M) man page). The audit daemon starts on each machine when the machine is brought up. After auditd starts at boot time, it is responsible for collecting the audit trail data and writing the audit records into audit files, which are also called audit log files. See the audit.log(4) man page for a description of the file format.
The audit daemon runs as root. All files it creates are owned by root. Even when auditd has no classes to audit, auditd continuously operates, looking for a place to put audit records. The auditd operations continue even if the rest of the machine's activities are suspended because the kernel's audit buffers are full. The audit operations can continue because auditd is not audited.
Only one audit daemon may run at a time. An attempt to start a second one results in an error message, and the new one exits. If there is a problem with the audit daemon, you should try using audit -t to terminate auditd gracefully, then restart it manually.
The audit_warn script is run by auditd whenever the daemon switches audit directories or encounters difficulty (such as a lack of storage). As distributed, the audit_warn script sends mail to an audit_warn alias and sends a message to the console. Your site should customize audit_warn to suit your needs. Customizing the audit_warn script is described in "The audit_warn Script".
When auditd starts on each machine, it creates the file /etc/security/audit_data. The format of the file consists of a single entry with the two fields separated by a colon (see the audit_data(4) man page). The first field is the audit daemon's process ID, and the second field is the path name of the audit file to which the audit daemon is currently writing audit records. Here is an example:
# cat /etc/security/audit_data 116:/etc/security/audit/blinken.1/files/19910320100002.not_terminated.lazy
auditd opens and closes audit log files in the directories specified in the audit_control file in the order in which they are specified.
auditd reads audit data from the kernel and writes it to an audit file.
auditd executes the audit_warn script when the audit directories fill past limits specified in the audit_control file. The script, by default, sends warnings to the audit_warn alias and to the console.
With the system default configuration, when all audit directories are full, processes that generate audit records are suspended. In addition, auditd writes a message to the console and to the audit_warn alias. (The auditing policy can be reconfigured with autoconfig.) At this point only the system administrator can log in to write audit files to tape, delete audit files from the system, or do other cleanup.
When the audit daemon starts as the machine is brought up to multiuser mode, or when the audit daemon is instructed by the audit -s command to reread the file after the file has been edited, auditd determines the amount of free space necessary and reads the list of directories from the audit_control file. It then uses those directories as possible locations for creating audit files.
The audit daemon maintains a pointer into this list of directories, starting with the first. Every time the audit daemon needs to create an audit file, it puts the file into the first available directory in the list, starting at the audit daemon's current pointer. The pointer may be reset to the beginning of the list if the administrator enters the audit -s command. When you use the audit -n command to instruct the daemon to switch to a new audit file, the new file is created in the same directory as the current file.
A directory is suitable to the audit daemon if it is accessible to the audit daemon, which means that it must be mounted, that the network connection (if remote) permits successful access, and that the permissions on the directory allow access. Also, in order for a directory to be suitable for audit files, it must have sufficient free space remaining. You can edit the minfree: line in the audit_control file to change the default of 20 percent. To give an example of how the minfree percentage is applied, if the default minimum free space of 20 percent is accepted, an email notice is sent to the audit_warn alias whenever a file system becomes more than 80 percent full.
When no directories on the list have enough free space left, the daemon starts over from the beginning of the list and picks the first accessible directory that has any space available until the hard limit is reached. In the default configuration, if no directories are suitable, the daemon stops processing audit records, and they accumulate within the kernel until all processes generating audit records are suspended.
To keep audit files at a manageable size, a cron job can be set up that periodically switches audit files (see the cron(1M) man page). Intervals might range from once per hour to twice per day, depending on the amount of audit data being collected. The data can then be filtered to remove unnecessary information, and then compressed.