Book Image

SELinux System Administration. - Second Edition

Book Image

SELinux System Administration. - Second Edition

Overview of this book

Do you have the crucial job of protecting your private and company systems from malicious attacks and undefined application behavior? Are you looking to secure your Linux systems with improved access controls? Look no further, intrepid administrator! This book will show you how to enhance your system’s secure state across Linux distributions, helping you keep application vulnerabilities at bay. This book covers the core SELinux concepts and shows you how to leverage SELinux to improve the protection measures of a Linux system. You will learn the SELinux fundamentals and all of SELinux’s configuration handles including conditional policies, constraints, policy types, and audit capabilities. These topics are paired with genuine examples of situations and issues you may come across as an administrator. In addition, you will learn how to further harden the virtualization offering of both libvirt (sVirt) and Docker through SELinux. By the end of the book you will know how SELinux works and how you can tune it to meet your needs.
Table of Contents (16 chapters)
SELinux System Administration - Second Edition
About the Author
About the Reviewers


The secure state of an operating system or service is the result of a layered security approach. Systems can be shielded from the outside world through firewalls, operating systems have to be kept up to date with the latest security patches, services have to be configured properly, separation of duties has to be implemented for end users, and so forth.

Access controls are another layer that administrators have to look into. With Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux), the Linux ecosystem has a robust and established mandatory access control (MAC) system in place. Some distributions enable SELinux by default, others allow administrators to enable SELinux easily. Android, one of the most popular mobile device operating systems, has also embraced SELinux technology under the SEAndroid name.

But unlike Android, where users and applications are tightly controlled and where deviation from the setup and organization of files and resources is not allowed, desktops, workstations, and servers that implement Linux have greater diversity. As a result, configuring and tuning SELinux on these systems requires more knowledge of what SELinux is, how it works, and how it can be configured.

In this book, we discuss what SELinux is and how it is embedded in the Linux operating system. We go through various configuration aspects of SELinux and deal with several use cases that leverage SELinux’s strengths to further harden the system and services hosted on it.

What this book covers 

Chapter 1, Fundamental SELinux Concepts, gives administrators insight into what SELinux is and how it is enforced through the Linux kernel. It explains the differences in SELinux implementations between distributions and describes the SELinux-specific terminology that administrators will often read about when diving deeper into the SELinux technology. 

Chapter 2, Understanding SELinux Decisions and Logging, covers the various enforcement states of SELinux and shows where SELinux logs its events. The chapter takes great care to teach administrators how to interpret and analyze those events.

Chapter 3, Managing User Logins, explains to administrators how to manage Linux users and their permissions and map those users to the various roles that SELinux supports through its own user space support and Linux’s pluggable authentication modules. Furthermore, the chapter deals with SELinux’s category support.

Chapter 4, Process Domains and File-Level Access Controls, introduces administrators to SELinux labels and how these labels are stored on the file system or represented for other resources. It then educates administrators and end users on how to set and update these labels.

Chapter 5, Controlling Network Communications, further develops the standard network security services, iptables and IPSec, with SELinux features. Administrators are trained to understand and enable SELinux support in those security services and even enable cross-system labeling through Labeled IPSec and NetLabel/CIPSO.

Chapter 6, sVirt and Docker Support, clarifies how Red Hat has devised the secured virtualization (sVirt) technology and implemented it on both operating system virtualization (through libvirt) and containers (through Docker). The chapter learns how to tune these services with SELinux support and control resources between the guests or containers.

Chapter 7, D-Bus and systemd, goes into the realms of the mentioned core system services and how they use SELinux rules to further harden their own services and features. With this knowledge at hand, administrators are then shown how to tune the D-Bus service controls as well as handle SELinux’s access controls enforced through systemd.

Chapter 8, Working with SELinux Policies, looks at tuning and controlling the SELinux policies themselves. It shows how custom policy enhancements can be created or even replace the distribution-provided policy.

Chapter 9, Analyzing Policy Behavior, dives into the analysis tools that allow engineers and administrators to query the SELinux policy more in depth to assert for themselves that the policy is contained and behaves as expected.

Chapter 10, SELinux Use Cases, covers a number of common server use cases, such as web servers and file servers, and how SELinux can be used to secure those services. It covers how isolation through SELinux is possible, allowing administrators to set up a multi-tenant, hardened environment.

What you need for this book 

As SELinux is a core component of a Linux distribution, readers will need to have a Linux system at their disposal that already has SELinux enabled. Converting an installation to SELinux is not in the scope of this book—please consult your distribution's documentation for this.

Furthermore, tuning and configuring the security of a system requires administrative privileges on the system.

Who this book is for

This book targets Linux system administrators who have reasonable experience with maintaining Linux systems and want to understand and work with the SELinux technology. Moreover, this book can be enlightening for IT architects to understand how SELinux can be positioned to enhance the security of Linux systems and Linux-hosted services within their organization.


In this book, you will find a number of text styles that distinguish between different kinds of information. Here are some examples of these styles and an explanation of their meaning.

Code words in text, database table names, folder names, filenames, file extensions, pathnames, dummy URLs, user input, and Twitter handles are shown as follows: "We accomplish this through the semanage login command."

A block of code is set as follows:

  Dominated roles:

Any command-line input or output is written as follows:

# seinfo -amcs_constrained_type -x | grep virt_

New terms and important words are shown in bold. Words that you see on the screen, for example, in menus or dialog boxes, appear in the text like this: "Once loaded, select New Analysis to initiate the policy analysis functions."


Warnings or important notes appear in a box like this.


Tips and tricks appear like this.

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