SELinux, audit2why, audit2allow, and policy files

I’m no expert on SELinux, but I cringe whenever I read an online tutorial that includes the step Disable SELinux.

I ran into such a problem recently when I was installing Icinga. The service failed to start because of permissions issues creating the process ID (PID) file. One site suggested disabling SELinux, but I thought it was time to learn to update SELinux’s Type Enforcement (TE) policies instead.

First, I needed the audit2why tool, to explain what was being blocked and why:

# yum -q provides audit2why
policycoreutils-python-2.5-17.1.el7.x86_64 : SELinux policy core python
                                           : utilities
Repo        : base
Matched from:
Filename    : /usr/bin/audit2allow

I installed the policycoreutils-python package (and dependencies):

# yum install policycoreutils-python

I then ran audit2why against the audit log:

# audit2why -i /var/log/audit/audit.log
type=AVC msg=audit(1510711476.690:132): avc:  denied  { chown } for  pid=2459 comm="icinga" capability=0  scontext=system_u:system_r:nagios_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:system_r:nagios_t:s0 tclass=capability

        Was caused by:
                Missing type enforcement (TE) allow rule.

                You can use audit2allow to generate a loadable module to allow this access.

type=AVC msg=audit(1510711476.724:134): avc:  denied  { read write } for  pid=2465 comm="icinga" name="" dev="tmpfs" ino=19128 scontext=system_u:system_r:nagios_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:object_r:initrc_var_run_t:s0 tclass=file

        Was caused by:
                Missing type enforcement (TE) allow rule.

                You can use audit2allow to generate a loadable module to allow this access.

That’s still a little opaque. It’s not entirely clear to me why chown was blocked, for example. Look at the following specifics:


To help decode that:

  • scontext = Source Context
  • tcontext = Target Context
  • _u:_r:_t:s# = user:role:type:security level

The source and target contexts are identical, and so it seems to me that the command should be allowed. But let’s try audit2allow and see what that tells us:

# audit2allow -i /var/log/audit/audit.log

#============= nagios_t ==============
allow nagios_t initrc_var_run_t:file { lock open read write };
allow nagios_t self:capability chown;

It is unclear to me how broad the first rule is: does it allow the nagios type (nagios_t) access to all initrc_var_run_t files? If so, that’s probably too broad. As the man page warns:

Care must be exercised while acting on the output of  this  utility  to
ensure  that  the  operations  being  permitted  do not pose a security
threat. Often it is better to define new domains and/or types, or  make
other structural changes to narrowly allow an optimal set of operations
to succeed, as opposed to  blindly  implementing  the  sometimes  broad
changes  recommended  by this utility.

That’s fairly terrifying. Although if the alternative is disabling SELinux completely, an overly broad SELinux policy is not the worst thing in the world.

So audit2allow provided a couple rules. Now what? Fortunately the audit2why and audit2allow man pages both include details on how to incorporate the rules into your SELinux policy. First, generate a new type enforcement policy:

# audit2allow -i /var/log/audit/audit.log --module local > local.te

This includes some extra information in addition to the default output:

# cat local.te

module local 1.0;

require {
        type nagios_t;
        type initrc_var_run_t;
        class capability chown;
        class file { lock open read write };

#============= nagios_t ==============
allow nagios_t initrc_var_run_t:file { lock open read write };
allow nagios_t self:capability chown;

Next the man page says:

# SELinux provides a policy devel environment under
# /usr/share/selinux/devel including all of the shipped
# interface files.
# You can create a te file and compile it by executing

$ make -f /usr/share/selinux/devel/Makefile local.pp

However, my system had no /usr/share/selinux/devel directory:

# ls /usr/share/selinux/
packages  targeted

I needed to install the policycoreutils-devel package (and dependencies):

# yum install policycoreutils-devel

Now compile the policy file to a binary:

# make -f /usr/share/selinux/devel/Makefile local.pp
Compiling targeted local module
/usr/bin/checkmodule:  loading policy configuration from tmp/local.tmp
/usr/bin/checkmodule:  policy configuration loaded
/usr/bin/checkmodule:  writing binary representation (version 17) to tmp/local.mod
Creating targeted local.pp policy package
rm tmp/local.mod.fc tmp/local.mod

Now install it using the semodule command:

# semodule -i local.pp

Did that solve the problem?

# systemctl start icinga
# systemctl status icinga
● icinga.service - LSB: start and stop Icinga monitoring daemon
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/rc.d/init.d/icinga; bad; vendor preset: disabled)
   Active: active (running) since Tue 2017-11-14 22:35:23 EST; 6s ago
     Docs: man:systemd-sysv-generator(8)
  Process: 2661 ExecStop=/etc/rc.d/init.d/icinga stop (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
  Process: 3838 ExecStart=/etc/rc.d/init.d/icinga start (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
   CGroup: /system.slice/icinga.service
           └─3850 /usr/bin/icinga -d /etc/icinga/icinga.cfg

Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain systemd[1]: Starting LSB: start and sto...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain icinga[3838]: Running configuration che...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain icinga[3838]: Icinga with PID  not runn...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain icinga[3838]: Starting icinga: Starting...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain systemd[1]: Started LSB: start and stop...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain icinga[3850]: Finished daemonizing... (...
Nov 14 22:35:23 localhost.localdomain icinga[3850]: Event loop started...
Hint: Some lines were ellipsized, use -l to show in full.

It worked! The permissions issues were resolved without resorting to disabling SELinux.

There is still more I need to understand about SELinux, but it’s a start.

Additional reading:
CentOS: SELinux Policy Overview

5 thoughts on “SELinux, audit2why, audit2allow, and policy files”

  1. audit2allow on CentOS has the -M switch that will automatically generate the .te file and compile it to a .pp file. When complete, it will tell you exactly what to do next:

    # grep denied /var/log/audit/audit.log | grep maildrop | audit2allow -M postfix
    ******************** IMPORTANT ***********************
    To make this policy package active, execute:

    semodule -i postfix.pp

    # semodule -i postfix.pp

  2. I have a problem when I run the command:

    audit2allow -i /var/log/audit/audit.log

    It shows this:

    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File "/usr/bin/audit2allow", line 365, in
    File "/usr/bin/audit2allow", line 351, in main
    File "/usr/bin/audit2allow", line 129, in __read_input
    parser = audit.AuditParser(last_load_only=self.__options.lastreload)
    File "/usr/lib64/python2.7/site-packages/sepolgen/", line 358, in __init__
    File "/usr/lib64/python2.7/site-packages/sepolgen/", line 370, in __initialize
    File "/usr/lib64/python2.7/site-packages/sepolgen/", line 549, in __store_base_types
    self.base_types = sepolicy.get_types_from_attribute("base_file_type")
    File "/usr/lib64/python2.7/site-packages/sepolicy/", line 111, in get_types_from_attribute
    return info(ATTRIBUTE, attribute)[0]["types"]
    File "/usr/lib64/python2.7/site-packages/sepolicy/", line 54, in info
    dict_list =, name)
    RuntimeError: invalid argument

    I don’t know how to resolve it. can you help me?

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