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Frequently Asked Questions

The current draft is the wiki is work in progress. Do not rely on it currently. Older versions of the FAQ is available in the references section .

What is SELinux?

SE(Security Enhanced) Linux is a security feature in the Linux and enabled by default in Fedora that provides more fine grained access control compared to traditional file permissions. A centralized policy determines which software can access what resources. For example, network services can be confined to a particular port and Apache web server can be restricted to be able to connect to only 80 by default.

Where can I go to provide feedback or ask for help?

You can provide feedback via for bugs and issues and ask for help and clarify doubts in fedora-selinux mailing list at

Who developed SELinux?

NSA (National Security Agency) developed SELinux initially. It has partnered with Red Hat to continue development and carry out integration of SELinux into Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is not specific to Red Hat however and other Linux distributions and other operating systems have adopted SELinux and similar frameworks.

Is it a firewall?

Though often confused with one, SELinux is not a firewall. A firewall controls the flow of traffic to and from a computer to the network. SELinux can confine access of programs within a computer and hence can be conceptually thought of a internal firewall between programs. Security works best when multiple layers are used and SELinux is complimentary to a firewall and other security features used in Fedora.

Is it useful on a desktop?

Yes. SELinux policies in Fedora were initially focused on network facing services. However several dozens of desktop software including Firefox, HAL, D-Bus etc are protected by default using SELinux policies in current releases of Fedora.

How do I find out if SELinux is enabled on my system?

Run the sestatus command to find out the current status of SELinux. SELinux can be in three different modes

  • Enabled: SELinux is enabled and SELinux policy is enforced
  • Disabled: SELinux is disabled and has no effect on your system
  • Permissive: SELinux is enabled but but merely logs warnings instead of enforcing access. This mode is useful for troubleshooting.

How do I find out whether SELinux is denying access for any software?

When SELinux prevents any software from accessing a particular resource, for example when Firefox is denied access to /etc/shadow, it generates a message and logs it in /var/log/audit/audit.log or /var/log/messages if audit service is disabled. If the log contains "avc:denied" that means it is a SELinux policy denial. Note that you would need administrator privileges (root access) on your system to be able to read this log file. An example denial would look like

type=AVC msg=audit(1214965667.121:635): avc:  denied  { unix_read unix_write } for  pid=15524 comm="npviewer.bin" 
key=59918130 scontext=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:nsplugin_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 

How do I understand SELinux denials?

setroubleshoot is a utility that parses the messages from SELinux and provides comprehensive help on what it means and possible actions to take. It has both a graphical utility for your desktop and a server side component that can send email alerts. It is installed by default on Fedora. If you wish to install it on your system, use Add/Remove programs or run the following command as root user.

  1. yum install setroubleshoot

How do I enable or disable SELinux ?

SELinux is enabled by default in Fedora. SELinux policy has booleans that can be used to disable SELinux for specific services or you can disable SELinux entirely. If you want to disable SELinux entirely, you can use system-config-selinux (part of policycoreutils-gui package) to do this graphically or set the value of SELINUX in /etc/selinux/config to disabled. However it is highly recommended that you set it to permissive instead since it will show you the denials and setting it to permissive does not requiring relabeling the entire system when you enable it again.

How does SELinux work?

What are SELinux booleans ?

What is SELinux policy ?

What is mandatory access control ?

SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) in Fedora is an implementation of mandatory access control in the Linux kernel using the Linux Security Modules (LSM) framework. Discretionary access control (DAC) is standard Linux security, and it provides no protection from broken software or malware running as a normal user or root. Users can grant risky levels of access to files they own. Mandatory access control (MAC) provides full control over all interactions of software. Administratively defined policy closely controls user and process interactions with the system, and can provide protection from broken software or malware running as any user.

In a DAC model, file and resource decisions are based solely on user identity and ownership of the objects. Each user and program run by that user has complete discretion over the user's objects. Malicious or flawed software can do anything with the files and resources it controls through the user that started the process. If the user is the super-user or the application is setuid or setgid to root, the process can have root level control over the entire file system.

A MAC system does not suffer from these problems. First, you can administratively define a security policy over all processes and objects. Second, you control all processes and objects, in the case of SELinux through the kernel. Third, decisions are based on all the security relevant information available, and not just authenticated user identity.

MAC under SELinux allows you to provide granular permissions for all subjects (users, programs, processes) and objects (files, devices). In practice, think of subjects as processes, and objects as the target of a process operation. You can safely grant a process only the permissions it needs to perform its function, and no more.

The SELinux implementation uses role-based access control (RBAC), which provides abstracted user-level control based on roles, and Type Enforcement® (TE). TE uses a table, or matrix to handle access controls, enforcing policy rules based on the types of processes and objects. Process types are called domains, and a cross-reference on the matrix of the process's domain and the object's type defines their interaction. This system provides extremely granular control for actors in a Linux system.

What is the performance impact of SELinux?

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