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Recording sessions

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

Using the Session Recording solution in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

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This documentation collection provides introduction to using the Session Recording solution based on tlog with RHEL web console embedded player on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.

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Chapter 1. Getting started with Session Recording on RHEL

1.1. Session Recording in RHEL

This section introduces the Session Recording solution and its purpose.

The Session Recording solution is provided within Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 and it is based on the tlog package. The tlog package and its associated web console session player provide you with the ability to record and play back user terminal sessions. You can configure the recording to take place per user or user group via the SSSD service. All terminal input and output is captured and stored in a text-based format in the system journal.


Recording of the terminal input is turned off by default to not intercept raw passwords and other sensitive information. Be aware that if you turn on recording of the terminal input, all entered paswords will be captured in plaintext.

The solution can be used for auditing user sessions on security-sensitive systems or, in the event of a security breach, reviewing recorded sessions as part of forensic analysis. System administrators are able to configure session recording locally on RHEL 8 systems. You can review the recorded sessions from the web console interface or in a terminal using the tlog-play command.

1.2. Components of Session Recording

There are three main components key to the Session Recording solution. The tlog utility, the SSSD service and a web console embedded user interface.


The tlog utility is a terminal input/output (I/O) recording and playback program. It inserts itself (specifically the tlog-rec-session tool) between the user terminal and the user shell, and logs everything that passes through as JSON messages.


The System Security Services Daemon (SSSD) service provides a set of daemons to manage access to remote directories and authentication mechanisms. When configuring session recording, you can use SSSD to specify, which users or user groups should tlog record. This can be done either from a command-line interface (CLI) or from the RHEL 8 web console interface.

The RHEL 8 web console embedded interface

The Session Recording page is part of the RHEL 8 web console interface. The web console embedded interface for Session Recording enables you to manage recorded sessions.


You have to have administrator privileges to be able to access the recorded sessions.

1.3. Limitations of Session Recording

In this section we list the most notable limitations of the Session Recording solution.

  • Be aware that tlog does not record terminal in the Gnome 3 graphical session. Recording terminals in graphical sessions is not supported because a graphical session has a single audit session ID for all terminals and tlog does not have a way to distinguish between the terminals and prevent repeated recordings.
  • When tlog recording is configured to log to the journal/syslog directory, the recorded user will see the act of recording the results of viewing the system journal or /var/log/messages. Because viewing generates logs, which then print to the screen, this causes Session Recording to record this action, which generates more records, causing a loop of flooded output.

    You can use a following command to work around this problem:

    # journalctl -f | grep -v 'tlog-rec-session'

    You can also configure tlog to limit the output. For details, see`tlog-rec` or tlog-rec-session manual pages.

Chapter 2. Deploying Session Recording on RHEL

In this section we cover how to deploy the Session Recording solution on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system.


To be able to deploy the Session Recording solution you need to have the following packages installed: tlog, SSSD, cockpit-session-recording.

2.1. Installing tlog

Install the tlog packages.


  • Use the following command:

    # yum install tlog

2.2. Installing cockpit-session-recording

The basic web console packages are a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 by default. To be able to use the Session Recording solution, you have to install the cockpit-session-recording packages and start or enable the web console on your system:


  1. Install cockpit-session-recording.

    # yum install cockpit-session-recording
  2. Start or enable the web console on your system:

    # systemctl start cockpit.socket


    # systemctl enable cockpit.socket --now

When you have all the necessary packages installed, you can move on to configuring your recording parameters.

2.3. Configuring the recorded users or user groups with SSSD from the CLI

If you choose to manage recorded users or user groups with SSSD, which is the recommended option, every user’s original shell will be preserved.


  1. To specify which users or user groups you want to record from the command-line interface (CLI), modify open the sssd-session-recording.conf configuration file:

    # vi /etc/sssd/conf.d/sssd-session-recording.conf

    The sssd-session-recording.conf file is created automatically once you have opened the configuration page in the web console interface.

  2. Specify the scope of recorded users or user groups, either enter:

    • none to record no sessions.
    • some to record only specified sessions.
    • all to record all sessions.
  3. In case you choose some as a scope of recorded users or groups, add their names divided by commas to the file.

Example 2.1. SSSD configuration

In the following example users example1 and example2, and group examples have session recording enabled.

scope = some
users = example1, example2
groups = examples

2.4. Configuring the recorded users or user groups with SSSD from web UI

Second option for specifying recorded users or user groups using SSSD is to list them directly in the RHEL 8 web console.


  1. Connect to the RHEL 8 web console locally by entering localhost:9090 or by entering your IP address <IP_ADDRESS>:9090 to your browser.
  2. Log in to the RHEL 8 web console.


    Your user has to have administrator privileges to be able to view te recorded sessions.

  3. Go to the Session Recording page in the menu on the left of the interface.
  4. Click on the gear button in the right top corner.

    SSSD Configuration button
  5. Set your parameters in the SSSD Configuration table. Names in the Users and Groups lists should be divided by commas.

    Example 2.2. Configuration of recorded users with SSSD

    SSSD Configuration

2.5. Configuration of recorded users or user groups without SSSD


Be aware that this practice is not recommended to use. The preferred option is to configure your recorded users via SSSD either from command-line interface or directly from the RHEL 8 web console.

If choose to manually change the user’s shell, their working shell will be the one that is listed in the tlog-rec-session.conf configuration file.

If you do not want to use SSSD for specifying recorded user or user groups it is possible to directly change the shell of the user you want to record to /usr/bin/tlog-rec-session:

# chsh <user_name>
Changing shell for <user_name>.
New shell [</old/shell/location>]

2.6. Exporting recorded sessions to a file

You can export your recorded sessions and their logs and copy them.

The following procedure shows how to export recorded sessions on a local system.


Install the systemd-journal-remote package.

# yum install systemd-journal-remote


  1. Create the /tmp/dir directory:

    # mkdir /tmp/dir
  2. Run the journalctl -o export command:

    # journalctl -o export | /usr/lib/systemd/systemd-journal-remote -o /tmp/dir/example.journal -

This creates an export file from the system journal with all its entities. You can then copy the exported file to the /var/log/journal/ directory on any other host. For your convenience, you can also create the /var/log/journal/remote/ directory for export files from remote hosts.

Chapter 3. Playing back recorded sessions

There are two possibilities for replaying already recorded sessions. The first one is to use the tlog-play tool. The second option is to manage your recorded sessions from the RHEL 8 web console, also referred to as Cockpit.

3.1. Playback with the web console

The RHEL 8 web console has a whole interface for managing recorded sessions. You can choose the session you want to review directly from the Session Recording page, where the list of your recorded session is.

Example 3.1. Example list of recorded sessions

List of recorded sessions

The web console player supports window resizing.

3.2. Playback with tlog-play

Other option for playback of recorded sessions is using the tlog-play tool. The tlog-play tool is a playback program for terminal input and output recorded with the tlog-rec tool. It reproduces the recording of the terminal it is under, but cannot change its size. For this reason the playback terminal needs to match the recorded terminal size for proper playback. The tlog-play tool loads its parameters from the /etc/tlog/tlog-play.conf configuration file. The parameters can be overriden with command line options described in the tlog-play manual pages.

3.3. Playing back recorded sessions with tlog-play

Recorded sessions can be played back either from a simple file or from Systemd Journal.

Playing back from a file

You can play a session back from a file both during and after recording:

# tlog-play --reader=file --file-path=tlog.log

Playing back from Journal

Generally, you can select Journal log entries for playback using Journal matches and timestamp limits, with the -M or --journal-match, -S or --journal-since, and -U or --journal-until options.

In practice however, playback from Journal is usually done with a single match against the TLOG_REC Journal field. The TLOG_REC field contains a copy of the rec field from the logged JSON data, which is a host-unique ID of the recording.

You can take the ID either from the TLOG_REC field value directly, or from the MESSAGE field from the JSON rec field. Both fields are part of log messages coming from the tlog-rec-session tool.


  1. You can play back the whole recording as follows:
# tlog-play -r journal -M TLOG_REC=<your-unique-host-id>

You can find further instructions and documentation in the tlog-play manual pages.

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