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SELinux is a mandatory access control system which enables a more fine-grained mechanism where the security administrator defines what a user can do. Unlike the standard discretionary access control in place for Linux (where the end user can still decide for himself how his resources are accessed by others) a mandatory access control system is fully governed through a security policy. With SELinux, enforcement of the access controls is done by the Linux kernel, governed through a security policy that is loaded at start of the system.



Linux has a well-known discretionary access control system, based on the permission mask set on resources and the ownership of the resource versus the run-time privileges of a process. Some additional security features are available as well, such as capabilities and extended ACLs, which allow administrators to fine-tune the secure state of their system. But even all those features still prove to be discretionary in their model.

A discretionary model means that the owner of a resource can still decide how the resource is shared on the system. A directory can be made world-writable by its owner, and from that point onward all processes on the system can write to the directory. With a mandatory access control system, the access to resources is governed through a mandatory system that cannot be worked around from. With SELinux, this is the SELinux security subsystem running in the Linux kernel.

SELinux resources

A quick introduction to SELinux helps to have a high-level idea behind the SELinux security subsystem. It covers the difference between discretionary and mandatory access control, the labeled approach that SELinux takes and how it is integrated in the Linux operating system.

For more in-depth information, please refer to the following resources.

Type enforcement Controlling accesses is done in most cases through a type-enforcement based approach
Role-based access control Ensuring a least privilege approach on a Linux system using SELinux' RBAC model
User-based access control Ensuring segregation of users, even when they run using the same domains and accessing the same types
Information flow control Limiting information flow based on security clearance and sensitivities
Unconfined domains When SELinux protections are not needed in all cases, unconfined domains can be used.
User guides
Installation The main resource for installing and enabling SELinux on a Gentoo system
Users and logins Mapping Linux users (logins) to SELinux users
Managing labels Setting and configuring file (and other resource) labels
Policy The SELinux policy defines the acceptable behavior on a system; it can be rebuilt by administrators, loaded and unloaded (through its modular design) and tweaked by adding more policy rules
Logging SELinux usually logs denials in the audit log (or system log if no auditing is enabled)
Booleans Enable or disable additional policy controls through SELinux booleans
States SELinux can be enabled or disabled, and running in enforcing, partial permissive or full permissive mode
Expert documentation
Policy development Updating SELinux policy to suit your needs, and send patches to Gentoo or even upstream projects
Policy store The policy store contains the SELinux policy binaries; multiple stores can be defined on a system
Networking support SELinux supports port labeling, but also packet-based access controls through SECMARK and peer-to-peer labeling support
Reference material
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions on SELinux and SELinux integration in Gentoo
SELinux policy language Supported SELinux language constructs
Policy module specific information More in-depth information about particular SELinux policy modules


For engineers and developers, we provide the following resources:

Upstream projects
Linux Security Modules The integration of SELinux in the Linux kernel is done through the LSM subsystem
Reference policy All Linux distributions base their SELinux policies on the reference policy
SELinux userspace project The software that engineers and administrators use to work with SELinux
Gentoo Linux integration
Gentoo SELinux project Project site of the Gentoo SELinux project
Profiles Enabling SELinux support in default Gentoo profiles
Policy packages Information on how the Gentoo packages push out SELinux policies to a system

Learning SELinux

We also provide the following resources to gradually learn about SELinux.

Online resources
SELinux tutorials More than a dozen small tutorials that introduce you to SELinux and its Gentoo integration


April 10, 2017: Refpolicy policies 2.20170204 are now available

On February 4th, the Reference Project released the 2.20170204 version of the SELinux policies. After some testing, we now have the policies available in Gentoo (stable for x68 and amd64).

October 27, 2016: Refpolicy policies 2.20161023 are now available

On October 23rd, the Reference Project released the 2.20161023 version of the SELinux policies. Gentoo now includes those policies (~arch for now), ready for testing.

SELinux in Gentoo

The integration of SELinux in Gentoo is handled by the SELinux subproject of the Gentoo Hardened project.

Problems with SELinux in Gentoo?

Want some help?

  • Try the gentoo-hardened mailinglist
  • Call out to us through IRC on freenode's #gentoo-hardened channel

Support state

SELinux user space:

SELinux policies:

External resources