From Gentoo Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

File labels are the most common aspect of a SELinux system that users and administrators will need to care for. As SELinux policy decisions are based on the label of a resource, making sure that the file labels are correctly set is the most important part of maintaining SELinux systems.


The term label is used for the SELinux context of a file or other object on a system. Whenever a document talks about a file context or file label, both actually mean the same thing. The term comes from the SELinux permissions relabelfrom and relabelto which inform the policy if a relabel operation (change of context) is allowed from a particular label (context) or towards a particular label (context).

Label values are also often abbreviated in documents. A file with user_home_t label (or context) actually needs to have an entire context assigned, but in the document itself the type part of the context is the most important one. As such, instead of talking about a file with user_u:object_r:user_home_t:s0 label (and having to explain that the SELinux user part can be different) the type user_home_t alone is used.

Labels are extended attributes

On most file systems, SELinux labels are stored as extended attributes. This is not always the case though - some file systems do not support extended attributes. In these cases, all files on the file system get assigned the same context, usually provided through the mount option of the file system.

Non-file resources

On a SELinux system, everything needs to have a context / label assigned. Even resources such as TCP and UDP ports get a label. These labels are assigned by SELinux itself through policy definitions, although users can still manipulate the assigned port types if no specific port type is used yet.

Managing file labels

Although file labels are set as extended attributes in most cases, managing file labels goes further than just ensuring that that particular extended attribute is correctly set. The SELinux user space maintains a database of file path expressions together with the file context to be assigned to these resources. This allows administrators to verify if a file context is correct or not, and to reset the context of a file.

Listing file labels

The Linux core utilities support displaying of SELinux labels.

For instance, using ls -Z (the -Z option is often used for displaying SELinux contexts):

user $ls -lZ /etc/resolv.conf
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root system_u:object_r:net_conf_t 68 May  4 18:14 /etc/resolv.conf

Similarly, the stat command displays the label as well, here on an MLS-enabled system:

user $stat /etc/resolv.conf
  File: '/etc/resolv.conf'
  Size: 149             Blocks: 16         IO Block: 4096   regular file
Device: fb02h/64258d    Inode: 394204      Links: 1
Access: (0644/-rw-r--r--)  Uid: (    0/    root)   Gid: (    0/    root)
Context: system_u:object_r:net_conf_t:s0
Access: 2013-01-13 13:24:01.402000000 +0100
Modify: 2014-05-04 19:43:03.563000000 +0200
Change: 2014-05-04 19:43:03.573000000 +0200

The context of a file can also be directly read through the getfattr command, used to obtain a file's extended attributes:

user $getfattr -m . -d /etc/resolv.conf
getfattr: Removing leading '/' from absolute path names
# file: etc/resolv.conf

In the above output, next to the integrity related extended attributes, the security.selinux attribute is shown, which contains the SELinux context of the file.

Relabeling files

Relabeling files means that the context of one or more files is reset towards the definition stored by the SELinux user space utilities.

Such a relabeling operation is usually done through the setfiles or restorecon command:

root #restorecon /etc/resolv.conf

To relabel the entire file system, use rlpkg (which is a Gentoo-specific tool):

root #rlpkg -a -r

The rlpkg application also supports relabeling all files provided by a single Gentoo package. For instance, to relabel all files provided by the firefox-bin package:

root #rlpkg firefox-bin

Temporarily modifying file labels

To set a file context, the chcon command can be used:

root #chcon -t net_conf_t /etc/puppet-resolv.conf

However, the chcon tool does not update the SELinux user space definition list. As a result, when the administrator relabels a file, it will be reset to the original value.

Permanently modifying file labels

To ensure that a new file context remains, even after a relabeling operation, the administrator needs to update the SELinux user space definition list first.

The definition list uses PCRE-based regular expressions and can be managed through semanage fcontext.

For instance, to add /etc/puppet-resolv.conf to the list and assign it the net_conf_t type:

root #semanage fcontext -a -t net_conf_t "/etc/puppet-resolv\.conf"

The use of PCRE expressions allows for a denser set of rules that matches entire subdirectories easily:

root #semanage fcontext -a -t bin_t "/usr/lib/portage/bin(/.*)?"

After updating the definition list, the context of the file(s) isn't set yet. For this, the files need to be relabeled:

root #restorecon -R /etc/puppet-resolv.conf /usr/lib/portage/bin

Managing TCP and UDP port labels

TCP and UDP ports also get assigned a particular label.

Listing port labels

With seinfo, the context for a particular port can be viewed:

user $seinfo --portcon=80
   portcon tcp 80 system_u:object_r:http_port_t
   portcon tcp 1-511 system_u:object_r:reserved_port_t
   portcon udp 1-511 system_u:object_r:reserved_port_t

It is also possible to list all port definition declarations using semanage port:

root #semanage port -l | grep http
http_cache_port_t              tcp      3128, 8080, 8118, 10001-10010
http_cache_port_t              udp      3130
http_port_t                    tcp      8888, 80, 443, 488, 8008, 8009, 8443
pegasus_http_port_t            tcp      5988
pegasus_https_port_t           tcp      5989

Modifying port labels

If a port is not only assigned the reserved_port_t, unreserved_port_t or hi_reserved_port_t label, then the context for that port cannot be modified.

However, if the port only has one of these types assigned, then it is possible to set a specific type.

For instance, to assign the type http_port_t to port 9980, first check if it is possible:

user $seinfo --portcon=9980
   portcon udp 1024-65535 system_u:object_r:unreserved_port_t
   portcon tcp 1024-65535 system_u:object_r:unreserved_port_t

It is possible, so now use semanage port to assign it:

root #semanage port -a -t http_port_t -p tcp 9980

Managing process labels

The label of a process is decided by the SELinux policy, and is called a domain.

It is not possible to relabel a process. To have a process run in a different domain, it might be possible to launch the command using the runcon command. However, in the majority of cases, this will not be allowed by the SELinux policy. The domain in which a process runs is fully policy-driven (with a small configurable aspect provided for SELinux-aware applications).

Listing process labels

The standard core utilities can display the context of a process.

For instance, to get the context of the init process:

root #ps -eZ | grep init
system_u:system_r:init_t            1 ?        00:00:01 init


Label management is one of the most core competences that a system administrator on a SELinux system must have. As SELinux decisions are based on labels (contexts), ensuring that the right context is used on all resources is a primary concern for all administrators.