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Chapter 3. Managing confined and unconfined users

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Each Linux user is mapped to an SELinux user according to the rules in the SELinux policy. Administrators can modify these rules by using the semanage login utility or by assigning Linux users directly to specific SELinux users. Therefore, a Linux user has the restrictions of the SELinux user to which it is assigned. When a Linux user that is assigned to an SELinux user launches a process, this process inherits the SELinux user’s restrictions, unless other rules specify a different role or type.

3.1. Confined and unconfined users in SELinux

By default, all Linux users in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including users with administrative privileges, are mapped to the unconfined SELinux user unconfined_u. You can improve the security of the system by assigning users to SELinux confined users.

The security context for a Linux user consists of the SELinux user, the SELinux role, and the SELinux type. For example:

user_u:user_r:user_t

Where:

user_u
Is the SELinux user.
user_r
Is the SELinux role.
user_t
Is the SELinux type.

After a Linux user logs in, its SELinux user cannot change. However, its type and role can change, for example, during transitions.

To see the SELinux user mapping on your system, use the semanage login -l command as root:

semanage login -l
Login Name           SELinux User         MLS/MCS Range        Service

__default__          unconfined_u         s0-s0:c0.c1023       *
root                 unconfined_u         s0-s0:c0.c1023       *

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Linux users are mapped to the SELinux __default__ login by default, which is mapped to the SELinux unconfined_u user. The following line defines the default mapping:

__default__          unconfined_u         s0-s0:c0.c1023       *

Confined users are restricted by SELinux rules explicitly defined in the current SELinux policy. Unconfined users are subject to only minimal restrictions by SELinux.

Confined and unconfined Linux users are subject to executable and writable memory checks, and are also restricted by MCS or MLS.

To list the available SELinux users, enter the following command:

$ seinfo -u
Users: 8
   guest_u
   root
   staff_u
   sysadm_u
   system_u
   unconfined_u
   user_u
   xguest_u

Note that the seinfo command is provided by the setools-console package, which is not installed by default.

If an unconfined Linux user executes an application that SELinux policy defines as one that can transition from the unconfined_t domain to its own confined domain, the unconfined Linux user is still subject to the restrictions of that confined domain. The security benefit of this is that, even though a Linux user is running unconfined, the application remains confined. Therefore, the exploitation of a flaw in the application can be limited by the policy.

Similarly, we can apply these checks to confined users. Each confined user is restricted by a confined user domain. The SELinux policy can also define a transition from a confined user domain to its own target confined domain. In such a case, confined users are subject to the restrictions of that target confined domain. The main point is that special privileges are associated with the confined users according to their role.

3.2. Roles and access rights of SELinux users

The SELinux policy maps each Linux user to an SELinux user. This allows Linux users to inherit the restrictions of SELinux users.

You can customize the permissions for confined users in your SELinux policy according to specific needs by adjusting booleans in the policy. You can determine the current state of these booleans by using the semanage boolean -l command. To list all SELinux users, their SELinux roles, and levels and ranges for MLS and MCS, use the semanage user -l command as root.

Table 3.1. Roles of SELinux users
UserDefault roleAdditional roles

unconfined_u

unconfined_r

system_r

guest_u

guest_r

 

xguest_u

xguest_r

 

user_u

user_r

 

staff_u

staff_r

sysadm_r

unconfined_r

system_r

sysadm_u

sysadm_r

 

root

staff_r

sysadm_r

unconfined_r

system_r

system_u

system_r

 

Note that system_u is a special user identity for system processes and objects, and system_r is the associated role. Administrators must never associate this system_u user and the system_r role to a Linux user. Also, unconfined_u and root are unconfined users. For these reasons, the roles associated to these SELinux users are not included in the following table Types and access rights of SELinux roles.

Each SELinux role corresponds to an SELinux type and provides specific access rights.

Table 3.2. Types and access rights of SELinux roles
RoleTypeLog in using X Window Systemsu and sudoExecute in home directory and /tmp (default)Networking

unconfined_r

unconfined_t

yes

yes

yes

yes

guest_r

guest_t

no

no

yes

no

xguest_r

xguest_t

yes

no

yes

web browsers only (Mozilla Firefox, GNOME Web)

user_r

user_t

yes

no

yes

yes

staff_r

staff_t

yes

only sudo

yes

yes

auditadm_r

auditadm_t

 

yes

yes

yes

dbadm_r

dbadm_r

 

yes

yes

yes

logadm_r

logadm_t

 

yes

yes

yes

webadm_r

webadm_r

 

yes

yes

yes

secadm_r

secadm_t

 

yes

yes

yes

sysadm_r

sysadm_t

only when the xdm_sysadm_login boolean is on

yes

yes

yes

For more detailed descriptions of the non-administrator roles, see Confined non-administrator roles in SELinux.

For more detailed descriptions of the administrator roles, see Confined administrator roles in SELinux.

To list all available roles, enter the seinfo -r command:

seinfo -r
Roles: 14
   auditadm_r
   dbadm_r
   guest_r
   logadm_r
   nx_server_r
   object_r
   secadm_r
   staff_r
   sysadm_r
   system_r
   unconfined_r
   user_r
   webadm_r
   xguest_r

Note that the seinfo command is provided by the setools-console package, which is not installed by default.

Additional resources

3.3. Confined non-administrator roles in SELinux

In SELinux, confined non-administrator roles grant specific sets of privileges and permissions for performing specific tasks to the Linux users assigned to them. By assigning separate confined non-administrator roles, you can assign specific privileges to individual users. This is useful in scenarios with multiple users who each have a different level of authorizations.

You can also customize the permissions of SELinux roles by changing the related SELinux booleans on your system. To see the SELinux booleans and their current state, use the semanage boolean -l command as root. You can get more detailed descriptions if you install the selinux-policy-devel package.

# semanage boolean -l
SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
…
xguest_connect_network         (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest users to configure Network Manager and connect to apache ports
xguest_exec_content            (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest to exec content
…

Linux users in the user_t, guest_t, and xguest_t domains can only run set user ID (setuid) applications if SELinux policy permits it (for example, passwd). These users cannot run the setuid applications su and sudo, and therefore cannot use these applications to become root.

By default, Linux users in the staff_t, user_t, guest_t, and xguest_t domains can execute applications in their home directories and /tmp. Applications inherit the permissions of the user that executed them.

To prevent guest_t, and xguest_t users from executing applications in directories in which they have write access, set the guest_exec_content and xguest_exec_content booleans to off.

SELinux has the following confined non-administrator roles, each with specific privileges and limitations:

guest_r

Has very limited permissions. Users assigned to this role cannot access the network, but can execute files in the /tmp and /home directories.

Related boolean:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
guest_exec_content             (on   ,   on)  Allow guest to exec content
xguest_r

Has limited permissions. Users assigned to this role can log into X Window, access web pages by using network browsers, and access media. They can also execute files in the /tmp and /home directories.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
xguest_connect_network         (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest users to configure Network Manager and connect to apache ports
xguest_exec_content            (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest to exec content
xguest_mount_media             (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest users to mount removable media
xguest_use_bluetooth           (on   ,   on)  Allow xguest to use blue tooth devices
user_r

Has non-privileged access with full user permissions. Users assigned to this role can perform most actions that do not require administrative privileges.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
unprivuser_use_svirt           (off  ,  off)  Allow unprivileged user to create and transition to svirt domains.
staff_r

Has permissions similar to user_r and additional privileges. In particular, users assigned to this role are allowed to run sudo to execute administrative commands that are normally reserved for the root user. This changes roles and the effective user ID (EUID) but does not change the SELinux user.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
staff_exec_content             (on   ,   on)  Allow staff to exec content
staff_use_svirt                (on   ,   on)  allow staff user to create and transition to svirt domains.

Additional resources

  • To map a Linux user to staff_u and configure sudo, see Confining an administrator using sudo and the sysadm_r role.
  • For additional information about each role and the associated types, see the relevant man pages installed with the selinux-policy-doc package:

    guest_selinux(8), xguest_selinux(8), user_selinux(8), and staff_selinux(8)

3.4. Confined administrator roles in SELinux

In SELinux, confined administrator roles grant specific sets of privileges and permissions for performing specific tasks to the Linux users assigned to them. By assigning separate confined administrator roles, you can divide the privileges over various domains of system administration to individual users. This is useful in scenarios with multiple administrators, each with a separate domain.

You can assign these roles to SELinux users by using the semanage user command.

SELinux has the following confined administrator roles:

auditadm_r

The audit administrator role allows managing processes related to the Audit subsystem.

Related boolean:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
auditadm_exec_content          (on   ,   on)  Allow auditadm to exec content
dbadm_r

The database administrator role allows managing MariaDB and PostgreSQL databases.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
dbadm_exec_content             (on   ,   on)  Allow dbadm to exec content
dbadm_manage_user_files        (off  ,  off)  Determine whether dbadm can manage generic user files.
dbadm_read_user_files          (off  ,  off)  Determine whether dbadm can read generic user files.
logadm_r

The log administrator role allows managing logs, specifically, SELinux types related to the Rsyslog logging service and the Audit subsystem.

Related boolean:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
logadm_exec_content            (on   ,   on)  Allow logadm to exec content
webadm_r

The web administrator allows managing the Apache HTTP Server.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
webadm_manage_user_files       (off  ,  off)  Determine whether webadm can manage generic user files.
webadm_read_user_files         (off  ,  off)  Determine whether webadm can read generic user files.
secadm_r

The security administrator role allows managing the SELinux database.

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
secadm_exec_content            (on   ,   on)  Allow secadm to exec content
sysadm_r

The system administrator role allows doing everything of the previously listed roles and has additional privileges. In non-default configurations, security administration can be separated from system administration by disabling the sysadm_secadm module in the SELinux policy. For detailed instructions, see Separating system administration from security administration in MLS.

The sysadm_u user cannot log in directly using SSH. To enable SSH logins for sysadm_u, set the ssh_sysadm_login boolean to on:

# setsebool -P ssh_sysadm_login on

Related booleans:

SELinux boolean                State  Default Description
ssh_sysadm_login               (on   ,   on)  Allow ssh logins as sysadm_r:sysadm_t
sysadm_exec_content            (on   ,   on)  Allow sysadm to exec content
xdm_sysadm_login               (on   ,   on)  Allow the graphical login program to login directly as sysadm_r:sysadm_t

Additional resources

  • To assign a Linux user to a confined administrator role, see Confining an administrator by mapping to sysadm_u.
  • For additional information about each role, and the associated types, see the relevant man pages installed with the selinux-policy-doc package:

    auditadm_selinux(8), dbadm_selinux (8), logadm_selinux(8), webadm_selinux(8), secadm_selinux(8), and sysadm_selinux(8)

3.5. Adding a new user automatically mapped to the SELinux unconfined_u user

The following procedure demonstrates how to add a new Linux user to the system. The user is automatically mapped to the SELinux unconfined_u user.

Prerequisites

  • The root user is running unconfined, as it does by default in Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Procedure

  1. Enter the following command to create a new Linux user named <example_user>:

    useradd <example_user>
  2. To assign a password to the Linux <example_user> user:

    passwd <example_user>
    Changing password for user <example_user>.
    New password:
    Retype new password:
    passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
  3. Log out of your current session.
  4. Log in as the Linux <example_user> user. When you log in, the pam_selinux PAM module automatically maps the Linux user to an SELinux user (in this case, unconfined_u), and sets up the resulting SELinux context. The Linux user’s shell is then launched with this context.

Verification

  1. When logged in as the <example_user> user, check the context of a Linux user:

    $ id -Z
    unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023

Additional resources

  • pam_selinux(8) man page.

3.6. Adding a new user as an SELinux-confined user

Use the following steps to add a new SELinux-confined user to the system. This example procedure maps the user to the SELinux staff_u user right with the command for creating the user account.

Prerequisites

  • The root user is running unconfined, as it does by default in Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Procedure

  1. Enter the following command to create a new Linux user named <example_user> and map it to the SELinux staff_u user:

    useradd -Z staff_u <example_user>
  2. To assign a password to the Linux <example_user> user:

    passwd <example_user>
    Changing password for user <example_user>.
    New password:
    Retype new password:
    passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
  3. Log out of your current session.
  4. Log in as the Linux <example_user> user. The user’s shell launches with the staff_u context.

Verification

  1. When logged in as the <example_user> user, check the context of a Linux user:

    $ id -Z
    uid=1000(<example_user>) gid=1000(<example_user>) groups=1000(<example_user>) context=staff_u:staff_r:staff_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023

Additional resources

  • pam_selinux(8) man page.

3.7. Confining regular users in SELinux

You can confine all regular users on your system by mapping them to the user_u SELinux user.

By default, all Linux users in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including users with administrative privileges, are mapped to the unconfined SELinux user unconfined_u. You can improve the security of the system by assigning users to SELinux confined users. This is useful to conform with the V-71971 Security Technical Implementation Guide.

Procedure

  1. Display the list of SELinux login records. The list displays the mappings of Linux users to SELinux users:

    # semanage login -l
    
    Login Name    SELinux User  MLS/MCS Range   Service
    
    __default__   unconfined_u  s0-s0:c0.c1023       *
    root          unconfined_u  s0-s0:c0.c1023       *
  2. Map the __default__ user, which represents all users without an explicit mapping, to the user_u SELinux user:

    # semanage login -m -s user_u -r s0 __default__

Verification

  1. Check that the __default__ user is mapped to the user_u SELinux user:

    # semanage login -l
    
    Login Name    SELinux User   MLS/MCS Range    Service
    
    __default__   user_u         s0               *
    root          unconfined_u   s0-s0:c0.c1023   *
  2. Verify that the processes of a new user run in the user_u:user_r:user_t:s0 SELinux context.

    1. Create a new user:

      # adduser <example_user>
    2. Define a password for <example_user>:

      # passwd <example_user>
    3. Log out as root and log in as the new user.
    4. Show the security context for the user’s ID:

      [<example_user>@localhost ~]$ id -Z
      user_u:user_r:user_t:s0
    5. Show the security context of the user’s current processes:

      [<example_user>@localhost ~]$ ps axZ
      LABEL                           PID TTY      STAT   TIME COMMAND
      -                                 1 ?        Ss     0:05 /usr/lib/systemd/systemd --switched-root --system --deserialize 18
      -                              3729 ?        S      0:00 (sd-pam)
      user_u:user_r:user_t:s0        3907 ?        Ss     0:00 /usr/lib/systemd/systemd --user
      -                              3911 ?        S      0:00 (sd-pam)
      user_u:user_r:user_t:s0        3918 ?        S      0:00 sshd: <example_user>@pts/0
      user_u:user_r:user_t:s0        3922 pts/0    Ss     0:00 -bash
      user_u:user_r:user_dbusd_t:s0  3969 ?        Ssl    0:00 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon --session --address=systemd: --nofork --nopidfile --systemd-activation --syslog-only
      user_u:user_r:user_t:s0        3971 pts/0    R+     0:00 ps axZ

3.8. Confining an administrator by mapping to sysadm_u

You can confine a user with administrative privileges by mapping the user directly to the sysadm_u SELinux user. When the user logs in, the session runs in the sysadm_u:sysadm_r:sysadm_t SELinux context.

By default, all Linux users in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including users with administrative privileges, are mapped to the unconfined SELinux user unconfined_u. You can improve the security of the system by assigning users to SELinux confined users. This is useful to conform with the V-71971 Security Technical Implementation Guide.

Prerequisites

  • The root user runs unconfined. This is the Red Hat Enterprise Linux default.

Procedure

  1. Optional: To allow sysadm_u users to connect to the system by using SSH:

    # setsebool -P ssh_sysadm_login on
  2. Map a new or existing user to the sysadm_u SELinux user:

    • To map a new user, add a new user to the wheel user group and map the user to the sysadm_u SELinux user:

      # adduser -G wheel -Z sysadm_u <example_user>
    • To map an existing user, add the user to the wheel user group and map the user to the sysadm_u SELinux user:

      # usermod -G wheel -Z sysadm_u <example_user>
  3. Restore the context of the user’s home directory:

    # restorecon -R -F -v /home/<example_user>

Verification

  1. Check that <example_user> is mapped to the sysadm_u SELinux user:

    # semanage login -l | grep <example_user>
    <example_user>     sysadm_u    s0-s0:c0.c1023   *
  2. Log in as <example_user>, for example, by using SSH, and show the user’s security context:

    [<example_user>@localhost ~]$ id -Z
    sysadm_u:sysadm_r:sysadm_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
  3. Switch to the root user:

    $ sudo -i
    [sudo] password for <example_user>:
  4. Verify that the security context remains unchanged:

    # id -Z
    sysadm_u:sysadm_r:sysadm_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
  5. Try an administrative task, for example, restarting the sshd service:

    # systemctl restart sshd

    If there is no output, the command finished successfully.

    If the command does not finish successfully, it prints the following message:

    Failed to restart sshd.service: Access denied
    See system logs and 'systemctl status sshd.service' for details.

3.9. Confining an administrator by using sudo and the sysadm_r role

You can map a specific user with administrative privileges to the staff_u SELinux user, and configure sudo so that the user can gain the sysadm_r SELinux administrator role. This role allows the user to perform administrative tasks without SELinux denials. When the user logs in, the session runs in the staff_u:staff_r:staff_t SELinux context, but when the user enters a command by using sudo, the session changes to the staff_u:sysadm_r:sysadm_t context.

By default, all Linux users in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including users with administrative privileges, are mapped to the unconfined SELinux user unconfined_u. You can improve the security of the system by assigning users to SELinux confined users. This is useful to conform with the V-71971 Security Technical Implementation Guide.

Prerequisites

  • The root user runs unconfined. This is the Red Hat Enterprise Linux default.

Procedure

  1. Map a new or existing user to the staff_u SELinux user:

    1. To map a new user, add a new user to the wheel user group and map the user to the staff_u SELinux user:

      # adduser -G wheel -Z staff_u <example_user>
    2. To map an existing user, add the user to the wheel user group and map the user to the staff_u SELinux user:

      # usermod -G wheel -Z staff_u <example_user>
  2. Restore the context of the user’s home directory:

    # restorecon -R -F -v /home/<example_user>
  3. To allow <example_user> to gain the SELinux administrator role, create a new file in the /etc/sudoers.d/ directory, for example:

    # visudo -f /etc/sudoers.d/<example_user>
  4. Add the following line to the new file:

    <example_user> ALL=(ALL) TYPE=sysadm_t ROLE=sysadm_r ALL

Verification

  1. Check that <example_user> is mapped to the staff_u SELinux user:

    # semanage login -l | grep <example_user>
    <example_user>     staff_u    s0-s0:c0.c1023   *
  2. Log in as <example_user>, for example, using SSH, and switch to the root user:

    [<example_user>@localhost ~]$ sudo -i
    [sudo] password for <example_user>:
  3. Show the root security context:

    # id -Z
    staff_u:sysadm_r:sysadm_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
  4. Try an administrative task, for example, restarting the sshd service:

    # systemctl restart sshd

    If there is no output, the command finished successfully.

    If the command does not finish successfully, it prints the following message:

    Failed to restart sshd.service: Access denied
    See system logs and 'systemctl status sshd.service' for details.

3.10. Additional resources

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