4.7. SELinux Contexts – Labeling Files

On systems running SELinux, all processes and files are labeled in a way that represents security-relevant information. This information is called the SELinux context. For files, this is viewed using the ls -Z command:
~]$ ls -Z file1
-rw-rw-r--  user1 group1 unconfined_u:object_r:user_home_t:s0 file1
In this example, SELinux provides a user (unconfined_u), a role (object_r), a type (user_home_t), and a level (s0). This information is used to make access control decisions. On DAC systems, access is controlled based on Linux user and group IDs. SELinux policy rules are checked after DAC rules. SELinux policy rules are not used if DAC rules deny access first.

Note

By default, newly-created files and directories inherit the SELinux type of their parent directories. For example, when creating a new file in the /etc directory that is labeled with the etc_t type, the new file inherits the same type:
~]$ ls -dZ - /etc
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:etc_t:s0       /etc
~]# touch /etc/file1
~]# ls -lZ /etc/file1
-rw-r--r--. root root unconfined_u:object_r:etc_t:s0   /etc/file1
There are multiple commands for managing the SELinux context for files, such as chcon, semanage fcontext, and restorecon.

4.7.1. Temporary Changes: chcon

The chcon command changes the SELinux context for files. However, changes made with the chcon command do not survive a file system relabel, or the execution of the restorecon command. SELinux policy controls whether users are able to modify the SELinux context for any given file. When using chcon, users provide all or part of the SELinux context to change. An incorrect file type is a common cause of SELinux denying access.

Quick Reference

  • Run the chcon -t type file-name command to change the file type, where type is an SELinux type, such as httpd_sys_content_t, and file-name is a file or directory name:
    ~]$ chcon -t httpd_sys_content_t file-name
  • Run the chcon -R -t type directory-name command to change the type of the directory and its contents, where type is an SELinux type, such as httpd_sys_content_t, and directory-name is a directory name:
    ~]$ chcon -R -t httpd_sys_content_t directory-name

Procedure 4.6. Changing a File's or Directory's Type

The following procedure demonstrates changing the type, and no other attributes of the SELinux context. The example in this section works the same for directories, for example, if file1 was a directory.
  1. Change into your home directory.
  2. Create a new file and view its SELinux context:
    ~]$ touch file1
    ~]$ ls -Z file1
    -rw-rw-r--  user1 group1 unconfined_u:object_r:user_home_t:s0 file1
    
    In this example, the SELinux context for file1 includes the SELinux unconfined_u user, object_r role, user_home_t type, and the s0 level. For a description of each part of the SELinux context, see Chapter 2, SELinux Contexts.
  3. Enter the following command to change the type to samba_share_t. The -t option only changes the type. Then view the change:
    ~]$ chcon -t samba_share_t file1
    ~]$ ls -Z file1 
    -rw-rw-r--  user1 group1 unconfined_u:object_r:samba_share_t:s0 file1
    
  4. Use the following command to restore the SELinux context for the file1 file. Use the -v option to view what changes:
    ~]$ restorecon -v file1
    restorecon reset file1 context unconfined_u:object_r:samba_share_t:s0->system_u:object_r:user_home_t:s0
    
    In this example, the previous type, samba_share_t, is restored to the correct, user_home_t type. When using targeted policy (the default SELinux policy in Red Hat Enterprise Linux), the restorecon command reads the files in the /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/ directory, to see which SELinux context files should have.

Procedure 4.7. Changing a Directory and its Contents Types

The following example demonstrates creating a new directory, and changing the directory's file type along with its contents to a type used by the Apache HTTP Server. The configuration in this example is used if you want Apache HTTP Server to use a different document root (instead of /var/www/html/):
  1. As the root user, create a new web/ directory and then 3 empty files (file1, file2, and file3) within this directory. The web/ directory and files in it are labeled with the default_t type:
    ~]# mkdir /web
    ~]# touch /web/file{1,2,3}
    ~]# ls -dZ /web
    drwxr-xr-x  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 /web
    
    ~]# ls -lZ /web
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file2
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file3
    
  2. As root, enter the following command to change the type of the web/ directory (and its contents) to httpd_sys_content_t:
    ~]# chcon -R -t httpd_sys_content_t /web/
    ~]# ls -dZ /web/
    drwxr-xr-x  root root unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0 /web/
    
    ~]# ls -lZ /web/
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0 file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0 file2
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0 file3
    
  3. To restore the default SELinux contexts, use the restorecon utility as root:
    ~]# restorecon -R -v /web/
    restorecon reset /web context unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0->system_u:object_r:default_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file2 context unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0->system_u:object_r:default_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file3 context unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0->system_u:object_r:default_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file1 context unconfined_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0->system_u:object_r:default_t:s0
    
See the chcon(1) manual page for further information about chcon.

Note

Type Enforcement is the main permission control used in SELinux targeted policy. For the most part, SELinux users and roles can be ignored.

4.7.2. Persistent Changes: semanage fcontext

The semanage fcontext command is used to change the SELinux context of files. To show contexts to newly created files and directories, enter the following command as root:
~]# semanage fcontext -C -l
Changes made by semanage fcontext are used by the following utilities. The setfiles utility is used when a file system is relabeled and the restorecon utility restores the default SELinux contexts. This means that changes made by semanage fcontext are persistent, even if the file system is relabeled. SELinux policy controls whether users are able to modify the SELinux context for any given file.

Quick Reference

To make SELinux context changes that survive a file system relabel:
  1. Enter the following command, remembering to use the full path to the file or directory:
    ~]# semanage fcontext -a options file-name|directory-name
  2. Use the restorecon utility to apply the context changes:
    ~]# restorecon -v file-name|directory-name

Procedure 4.8. Changing a File's or Directory 's Type

The following example demonstrates changing a file's type, and no other attributes of the SELinux context. This example works the same for directories, for instance if file1 was a directory.
  1. As the root user, create a new file in the /etc directory. By default, newly-created files in /etc are labeled with the etc_t type:
    ~]# touch /etc/file1
    ~]$ ls -Z /etc/file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:etc_t:s0       /etc/file1
    
    To list information about a directory, use the following command:
    ~]$ ls -dZ directory_name
  2. As root, enter the following command to change the file1 type to samba_share_t. The -a option adds a new record, and the -t option defines a type (samba_share_t). Note that running this command does not directly change the type; file1 is still labeled with the etc_t type:
    ~]# semanage fcontext -a -t samba_share_t /etc/file1
    ~]# ls -Z /etc/file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:etc_t:s0       /etc/file1
    
    ~]$ semanage fcontext -C -l
    /etc/file1    unconfined_u:object_r:samba_share_t:s0
    
  3. As root, use the restorecon utility to change the type. Because semanage added an entry to file_contexts.local for /etc/file1, restorecon changes the type to samba_share_t:
    ~]# restorecon -v /etc/file1
    restorecon reset /etc/file1 context unconfined_u:object_r:etc_t:s0->system_u:object_r:samba_share_t:s0
    

Procedure 4.9. Changing a Directory and its Contents Types

The following example demonstrates creating a new directory, and changing the directory's file type along with its contents to a type used by Apache HTTP Server. The configuration in this example is used if you want Apache HTTP Server to use a different document root instead of /var/www/html/:
  1. As the root user, create a new web/ directory and then 3 empty files (file1, file2, and file3) within this directory. The web/ directory and files in it are labeled with the default_t type:
    ~]# mkdir /web
    ~]# touch /web/file{1,2,3}
    ~]# ls -dZ /web
    drwxr-xr-x  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 /web
    
    ~]# ls -lZ /web
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file2
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file3
    
  2. As root, enter the following command to change the type of the web/ directory and the files in it, to httpd_sys_content_t. The -a option adds a new record, and the -t option defines a type (httpd_sys_content_t). The "/web(/.*)?" regular expression causes semanage to apply changes to web/, as well as the files in it. Note that running this command does not directly change the type; web/ and files in it are still labeled with the default_t type:
    ~]# semanage fcontext -a -t httpd_sys_content_t "/web(/.*)?"
    ~]$ ls -dZ /web
    drwxr-xr-x  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 /web
    
    ~]$ ls -lZ /web
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file1
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file2
    -rw-r--r--  root root unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0 file3
    
    The semanage fcontext -a -t httpd_sys_content_t "/web(/.*)?" command adds the following entry to /etc/selinux/targeted/contexts/files/file_contexts.local:
    /web(/.*)?    system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    
  3. As root, use the restorecon utility to change the type of web/, as well as all files in it. The -R is for recursive, which means all files and directories under web/ are labeled with the httpd_sys_content_t type. Since semanage added an entry to file.contexts.local for /web(/.*)?, restorecon changes the types to httpd_sys_content_t:
    ~]# restorecon -R -v /web
    restorecon reset /web context unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0->system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file2 context unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0->system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file3 context unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0->system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    restorecon reset /web/file1 context unconfined_u:object_r:default_t:s0->system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    
    Note that by default, newly-created files and directories inherit the SELinux type of their parent directories.

Procedure 4.10. Deleting an added Context

The following example demonstrates adding and removing an SELinux context. If the context is part of a regular expression, for example, /web(/.*)?, use quotation marks around the regular expression:
~]# semanage fcontext -d "/web(/.*)?"
  1. To remove the context, as root, enter the following command, where file-name|directory-name is the first part in file_contexts.local:
    ~]# semanage fcontext -d file-name|directory-name
    The following is an example of a context in file_contexts.local:
    /test    system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0
    
    With the first part being test. To prevent the test/ directory from being labeled with the httpd_sys_content_t after running restorecon, or after a file system relabel, enter the following command as root to delete the context from file_contexts.local:
    ~]# semanage fcontext -d /test
  2. As root, use the restorecon utility to restore the default SELinux context.
See the semanage(8) manual page for further information about semanage.

Important

When changing the SELinux context with semanage fcontext -a, use the full path to the file or directory to avoid files being mislabeled after a file system relabel, or after the restorecon command is run.