23.2 Configuring and Using SELinux

23.2.1 About SELinux Administration
23.2.2 About SELinux Modes
23.2.3 Setting SELinux Modes
23.2.4 About SELinux Policies
23.2.5 About SELinux Context
23.2.6 About SELinux Users
23.2.7 Troubleshooting Access-Denial Messages

Traditional Linux security is based on a Discretionary Access Control (DAC) policy, which provides minimal protection from broken software or from malware that is running as a normal user or as root. Access to files and devices is based solely on user identity and ownership. Malware or broken software can do anything with files and resources that the user that started the process can do. If the user is root or the application is setuid or setgid to root, the process can have root-access control over the entire file system.

The National Security Agency created Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) to provide a finer-grained level of control over files, processes, users and applications in the Linux operating system. The SELinux enhancement to the Linux kernel implements the Mandatory Access Control (MAC) policy, which allows you to define a security policy that provides granular permissions for all users, programs, processes, files, and devices. The kernel's access control decisions are based on all the security relevant information available, and not solely on the authenticated user identity.

When security-relevant access occurs, such as when a process attempts to open a file, SELinux intercepts the operation in the kernel. If a MAC policy rule allows the operation, it continues; otherwise, SELinux blocks the operation and returns an error to the process. The kernel checks and enforces DAC policy rules before MAC rules, so it does not check SELinux policy rules if DAC rules have already denied access to a resource.

The following table describes the SELinux packages that are installed by default with Oracle Linux:




Provides utilities such as load_policy, restorecon, secon, setfiles, semodule, sestatus, and setsebool for operating and managing SELinux.


Provides the API that SELinux applications use to get and set process and file security contexts, and to obtain security policy decisions.


Provides the SELinux Reference Policy, which is used as the basis for other policies, such as the SELinux targeted policy.


Provides support for the SELinux targeted policy, where objects outside the targeted domains run under DAC.


Contains Python bindings for developing SELinux applications.


Provides the avcstat, getenforce, getsebool, matchpathcon, selinuxconlist, selinuxdefcon, selinuxenabled, setenforce, and togglesebool utilities.

The following table describes a selection of useful SELinux packages that are not installed by default:




Translates SELinux levels, such as s0-s0:c0.c1023, to an easier-to-read form, such as SystemLow-SystemHigh.


Provides a GUI (system-config-selinux) that you can use to manage SELinux. For example, you can use the GUI to set the system default enforcing mode and policy type.


Provides additional Python utilities for operating SELinux, such as audit2allow, audit2why, chcat, and semanage.


Provides support for the strict Multilevel Security (MLS) policy as an alternative to the SELinux targeted policy.


Provides the GUI that allows you to view setroubleshoot-server messages using the sealert command.


Translates access-denial messages from SELinux into detailed descriptions that you can view on the command line using the sealert command.


Provides the Tresys Technology SETools distribution of tools and libraries, which you can use to analyze and query policies, monitor and report audit logs, and manage file context.

Use yum or another suitable package manager to install the SELinux packages that you require on your system.

For more information about SELinux, refer to the SELinux Project Wiki, the selinux(8) manual page, and the manual pages for the SELinux commands.

23.2.1 About SELinux Administration

The following table describes the utilities that you can use to administer SELinux, and the packages that contain each utility.






Generates SELinux policy allow_audit rules from logs of denied operations.



Generates SELinux policy don’t_audit rules from logs of denied operations.



Displays statistics for the SELinux Access Vector Cache (AVC).



Changes or removes the security category for a file or user.



Searches for file context.



Fixes the security context for file systems.



Reports the current SELinux mode.



Reports SELinux boolean values.



Indexes file context.



Loads a new SELinux policy into the kernel.



Queries the system policy and displays the default security context that is associated with the file path.



Replaces file context.



Resets the security context on one or more files.



Daemon that watches for file creation and sets the default file context.



Runs a command in an SELinux sandbox.


setroubleshoot-server, setroubleshoot

Acts as the user interface to the setroubleshoot system, which diagnoses and explains SELinux AVC denials and provides recommendations on how to prevent such denials.



Reports from the SELinux audit log.



Checks SELinux policies.



Displays the SELinux context from a file, program, or user input.



Compares SELinux polices.



Queries SELinux policies.



Displays all SELinux contexts that are reachable by a user.



Displays the default SELinux context for a user.



Indicates whether SELinux is enabled.



Manages SELinux policies.



Manages SELinux policy modules.



Displays the dependencies between SELinux policy packages.



Expands a SELinux policy module package.



Links SELinux policy module packages together.



Creates a SELinux policy module package.



Queries SELinux policies.



Displays the SELinux mode and the SELinux policy that are in use.



Modifies the SELinux mode.



Sets SELinux boolean values.



Sets the security context for one or more files.



Provides a GUI that you can use to manage SELinux.



Flips the current value of an SELinux boolean.

23.2.2 About SELinux Modes

SELinux runs in one of three modes.


The kernel uses only DAC rules for access control. SELinux does not enforce any security policy because no policy is loaded into the kernel.


The kernel denies access to users and programs unless permitted by SELinux security policy rules. All denial messages are logged as AVC (Access Vector Cache) denials. This is the default mode that enforces SELinux security policy.


The kernel does not enforce security policy rules but SELinux sends denial messages to a log file. This allows you to see what actions would have been denied if SELinux were running in enforcing mode. This mode is intended to used for diagnosing the behavior of SELinux.

23.2.3 Setting SELinux Modes

You can set the default and current SELinux mode in the Status view of the SELinux Administration GUI.

Alternatively, to display the current mode, use the getenforce command:

# getenforce

To set the current mode to Enforcing, enter:

# setenforce Enforcing

To set the current mode to Permissive, enter:

# setenforce Permissive

The current value that you set for a mode using setenforce does not persist across reboots. To configure the default SELinux mode, edit the configuration file for SELinux, /etc/selinux/config, and set the value of the SELINUX directive to disabled, enabled, or permissive.

23.2.4 About SELinux Policies

An SELinux policy describes the access permissions for all users, programs, processes, and files, and for the devices upon which they act. You can configure SELinux to implement either Targeted Policy or Multilevel Security (MLS) Policy. Targeted Policy

Applies access controls to a limited number of processes that are believed to be most likely to be the targets of an attack on the system. Targeted processes run in their own SELinux domain, known as a confined domain, which restricts access to files that an attacker could exploit. If SELinux detects that a targeted process is trying to access resources outside the confined domain, it denies access to those resources and logs the denial. Only specific services run in confined domains. Examples are services that listen on a network for client requests, such as httpd, named, and sshd, and processes that run as root to perform tasks on behalf of users, such as passwd. Other processes, including most user processes, run in an unconfined domain where only DAC rules apply. If an attack compromises an unconfined process, SELinux does not prevent access to system resources and data.

The following table lists examples of SELinux domains.




init and processes executed by init


Kernel processes


Processes executed by Oracle Linux users run in the unconfined domain Multilevel Security (MLS) Policy

Applies access controls to multiple levels of processes with each level having different rules for user access. Users cannot obtain access to information if they do not have the correct authorization to run a process at a specific level. In SELinux, MLS implements the Bell–LaPadula (BLP) model for system security, which applies labels to files, processes and other system objects to control the flow of information between security levels. In a typical implementation, the labels for security levels might range from the most secure, top secret, through secret, and classified, to the least secure, unclassified. For example, under MLS, you might configure a program labelled secret to be able to write to a file that is labelled top secret, but not to be able to read from it. Similarly, you would permit the same program to read from and write to a file labelled secret, but only to read classified or unclassified files. As a result, information that passes through the program can flow upwards through the hierarchy of security levels, but not downwards.


You must install the selinux-policy-mls package if you want to be able to apply the MLS policy. Setting SELinux Policies


You cannot change the policy type of a running system.

You can set the default policy type in the Status view of the SELinux Administration GUI.

Alternatively, to configure the default policy type, edit /etc/selinux/config and set the value of the SELINUXTYPE directive to targeted or mls. Customizing SELinux Policies

You can customize an SELinux policy by enabling or disabling the members of a set of boolean values. Any changes that you make take effect immediately and do not require a reboot.

You can set the boolean values in the Boolean view of the SELinux Administration GUI.

Alternatively, to display all boolean values together with a short description, use the following command:

# semanage boolean -l
SELinux boolean    State  Default Description

ftp_home_dir       (off  ,  off)  Allow ftp to read and write files in the user home ...
smartmon_3ware     (off  ,  off)  Enable additional permissions needed to support dev...
xdm_sysadm_login   (off  ,  off)  Allow xdm logins as sysadm

You can use the getsebool and setsebool commands to display and set the value of a specific boolean.

# getsebool boolean
# setsebool boolean on|off

For example, to display and set the value of the ftp_home_dir boolean:

# getsebool ftp_home_dir
ftp_home_dir --> off
# setsebool ftp_home_dir on
# getsebool ftp_home_dir
ftp_home_dir --> on

To toggle the value of a boolean, use the togglesebool command as shown in this example:

# togglesebool ftp_home_dir
ftp_home_dir: inactive

To make the value of a boolean persist across reboots, specify the -P option to setsebool, for example:

# setsebool -P ftp_home_dir on
# getsebool ftp_home_dir
ftp_home_dir --> on

23.2.5 About SELinux Context

Under SELinux, all file systems, files, directories, devices, and processes have an associated security context. For files, SELinux stores a context label in the extended attributes of the file system. The context contains additional information about a system object: the SELinux user, their role, their type, and the security level. SELinux uses this context information to control access by processes, Linux users, and files.

You can specify the -Z option to certain commands (ls, ps, and id) to display the SELinux context with the following syntax:

SELinux user:Role:Type:Level

where the fields are as follows:

SELinux user

An SELinux user account compliments a regular Linux user account. SELinux maps every Linux user to an SELinux user identity that is used in the SELinux context for the processes in a user session.


In the Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) security model, a role acts as an intermediary abstraction layer between SELinux process domains or file types and an SELinux user. Processes run in specific SELinux domains, and file system objects are assigned SELinux file types. SELinux users are authorized to perform specified roles, and roles are authorized for specified SELinux domains and file types. A user's role determines which process domains and file types he or she can access, and hence, which processes and files, he or she can access.


A type defines an SELinux file type or an SELinux process domain. Processes are separated from each other by running in their own domains. This separation prevents processes from accessing files that other processes use, and prevents processes from accessing other processes. The SELinux policy rules define the access that process domains have to file types and to other process domains.


A level is an attribute of Multilevel Security (MLS) and Multicategory Security (MCS). An MLS range is a pair of sensitivity levels, written as low_level-high_level. The range can be abbreviated as low_level if the levels are identical. For example, s0 is the same as s0-s0. Each level has an optional set of security categories to which it applies. If the set is contiguous, it can be abbreviated. For example, s0:c0.c3 is the same as s0:c0,c1,c2,c3. Displaying SELinux User Mapping

To display the mapping between SELinux and Linux user accounts, select the User Mapping view in the the SELinux Administration GUI.

Alternatively, enter the following command to display the user mapping:

# semanage login -l

Login Name                SELinux User              MLS/MCS Range            

__default__               unconfined_u              s0-s0:c0.c1023           
root                      unconfined_u              s0-s0:c0.c1023           
system_u                  system_u                  s0-s0:c0.c1023  

By default, SELinux maps Linux users other than root and the default system-level user, system_u, to the Linux __default__ user, and in turn to the SELinux unconfined_u user. The MLS/MCS Range is the security level used by Multilevel Security (MLS) and Multicategory Security (MCS). Displaying SELinux Context Information

To display the context information that is associated with files, use the ls -Z command:

# ls -Z
-rw-------. root root system_u:object_r:admin_home_t:s0 anaconda-ks.cfg
drwx------. root root unconfined_u:object_r:admin_home_t:s0 Desktop
-rw-r--r--. root root system_u:object_r:admin_home_t:s0 install.log
-rw-r--r--. root root system_u:object_r:admin_home_t:s0 install.log.syslog

To display the context information that is associated with a specified file or directory:

# ls -Z /etc/selinux/config
-rw-r--r--. root root system_u:object_r:selinux_config_t:s0 /etc/selinux/config

To display the context information that is associated with processes, use the ps -Z command:

# ps -Z
LABEL                                                 PID  TTY   TIME     CMD
unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 3038 pts/0 00:00:00 su
unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 3044 pts/0 00:00:00 bash
unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 3322 pts/0 00:00:00 ps

To display the context information that is associated with the current user, use the id -Z command:

# id -Z
unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 Changing the Default File Type

Under some circumstances, you might need to change the default file type for a file system hierarchy. For example, you might want to use a DocumentRoot directory other than /var/www/html with httpd.

To change the default file type of the directory hierarchy /var/webcontent to httpd_sys_content_t:

  1. Use the semanage command to define the file type httpd_sys_content_t for the directory hierarchy:

    # /usr/sbin/semanage fcontext -a -t httpd_sys_content_t "/var/webcontent(/.*)?"

    This command adds the following entry to the file /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/file_contexts.local:

    /var/webcontent(/.*)?     system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
  2. Use the restorecon command to apply the new file type to the entire directory hierarchy.

    # /sbin/restorecon -R -v /var/webcontent Restoring the Default File Type

To restore the default file type of the directory hierarchy /var/webcontent after previously changing it to httpd_sys_content_t:

  1. Use the semanage command to delete the file type definition for the directory hierarchy from the file /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/file_contexts.local:

    # /usr/sbin/semanage fcontext -d "/var/webcontent(/.*)?"

  2. Use the restorecon command to apply the default file type to the entire directory hierarchy.

    # /sbin/restorecon -R -v /var/webcontent Relabelling a File System

If you see an error message that contains the string file_t, the problem usually lies with a file system having an incorrect context label.

To relabel a file system, use one of the following methods:

  • In the Status view of the SELinux Administration GUI, select the Relabel on next reboot option.

  • Create the file /.autorelabel and reboot the system.

  • Run the fixfiles onboot command and reboot the system.

23.2.6 About SELinux Users

As described in Section 23.2.5, “About SELinux Context”, each SELinux user account compliments a regular Oracle Linux user account. SELinux maps every Oracle Linux user to an SELinux user identity that is used in the SELinux context for the processes in a user session.

SELinux users form part of a SELinux policy that is authorized for a specific set of roles and for a specific MLS (Multi-Level Security) range, and each Oracle Linux user is mapped to an SELinux user as part of the policy. As a result, Linux users inherit the restrictions and security rules and mechanisms placed on SELinux users. To define the roles and levels of users, the mapped SELinux user identity is used in the SELinux context for processes in a session. You can display user mapping in the User Mapping view of the SELinux Administration GUI. You can also view the mapping between SELinux and Oracle Linux user accounts from the command line:

# semanage login –l
Login Name   SELinux User     MLS/MCS Range
_default_    unconfined_u     s0-s0:c0.c1023
root         unconfined_u     s0-s0:c0.c1023
system_u     system_u         s0-s0:c0.c1023

The MLS/MCS Range column displays the level used by MLS and MCS.

By default, Oracle Linux users are mapped to the SELinux user unconfined_u.

You can configure SELinux to confine Oracle Linux users by mapping them to SELinux users in confined domains, which have predefined security rules and mechanisms as listed in the following table.

SELinux User

SELinux Domain

Permit Running su?

Permit Network Access?

Permit Logging in Using X Window System?

Permit Executing Applications in $HOME and /tmp?






















Firefox only


No Mapping Oracle Linux Users to SELinux Users

To map an Oracle Linux user oluser to an SELinux user such as user_u, use the semanage command:

# semanage login -a -s user_u oluser Configuring the Behavior of Application Execution for Users

To help prevent flawed or malicious applications from modifying a user's files, you can use booleans to specify whether users are permitted to run applications in directories to which they have write access, such as in their home directory hierarchy and /tmp.

To allow Oracle Linux users in the guest_t and xguest_t domains to execute applications in directories to which they have write access:

# setsebool -P allow_guest_exec_content on
# setsebool -P allow_xguest_exec_content on

To prevent Linux users in the staff_t and user_t domains from executing applications in directories to which they have write access:

# setsebool -P allow_staff_exec_content off
# setsebool -P allow_user_exec_content off

23.2.7 Troubleshooting Access-Denial Messages

The decisions that SELinux has made about allowing denying access are stored in the Access Vector Cache (AVC). If the auditing service (auditd) is not running, SELinux logs AVC denial messages to /var/log/messages. Otherwise, the messages are logged to /var/log/audit/audit.log. If the setroubleshootd daemon is running, easier-to-read versions of the denial messages are also written to /var/log/messages.

If you have installed the setroubleshoot and setroubleshoot-server packages, the auditd and setroubleshoot services are running, and you are using the X Window System, you can use the sealert -b command to run the SELinux Alert Browser, which displays information about SELinux AVC denials. To view the details of the alert, click Show. To view a recommended solution, click Troubleshoot.

If you do not use the SELinux Alert Browser, you can search in /var/log/audit/audit.log for messages containing the string denied, and in /var/log/messages for messages containing the string SELinux is preventing. For example:

# grep denied /var/log/audit/audit.log 
type=AVC msg=audit(1364486257.632:26178): avc:  denied  { read } for  
pid=5177 comm="httpd" name="index.html" dev=dm-0 ino=396075 
tcontext=unconfined_u:object_r:acct_data_t:s0 tclass=file

The main causes of access-denial problems are:

  • The context labels for an application or file are incorrect.

    A solution might be to change the default file type of the directory hierarchy. For example, change the default file type from /var/webcontent to httpd_sys_content_t:

    # /usr/sbin/semanage fcontext -a -t httpd_sys_content_t "/var/webcontent(/.*)?"
    # /sbin/restorecon -R -v /var/webcontent
  • A Boolean that configures a security policy for a service is set incorrectly.

    A solution might be to change the value of a Boolean. For example, allow users' home directories to be browsable by turning on httpd_enable_homedirs:

    # setsebool -P httpd_enable_homedirs on
  • A service attempts to access a port to which a security policy does not allow access.

    If the service's use of the port is valid, a solution is to use semanage to add the port to the policy configuration. For example, allow the Apache HTTP server to listen on port 8000:

    # semanage port -a -t http_port_t -p tcp 8000
  • An update to a package causes an application to behave in a way that breaks an existing security policy.

    You can use the audit2allow -w -a command to view the reason why an access denial occurred.

    If you then run the audit2allow -a -M module command, it creates a type enforcement (.te) file and a policy package (.pp) file. You can use the policy package file with the semodule -i module.pp command to stop the error from reoccurring. This procedure is usually intended to allow package updates to function until an amended policy is available. If used incorrectly, it can create potential security holes on your system.