Using the session recording solution in 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 playback 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.
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 8.0 systems. You can review the recorded sessions from the web console interface or in a terminal using the
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.
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
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.
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:
2.1. Installing tlog
# yum install tlog
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:
# yum install cockpit-session-recording
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.
To specify which users or user groups you want to record from the command-line interface (CLI), modify open the
# vi /etc/sssd/conf.d/sssd-session-recording.confNote
sssd-session-recording.conffile is created automatically once you have opened the configuration page in the web console interface.
Specify the scope of recorded users or user groups, either enter:
noneto record no sessions.
someto record only specified sessions.
allto record all sessions.
In case you choose
someas 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
example2, and group
examples have session recording enabled.
[session_recording] 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.
Connect to the RHEL 8 web console locally by entering
localhost:9090or by entering your IP address
<IP_ADDRESS>:9090to your browser.
Log in to the RHEL 8 web console.Important
Your user has to have administrator privileges to be able to view te recorded sessions.
- Go to the Session Recording page in the menu on the left of the interface.
Click on the gear button in the right top corner.
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
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
# 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.
# yum install systemd-journal-remote
journalctl -o exportcommand:
journalctl -o export | 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
The web console player supports window resizing.
3.2. Playback with
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
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
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
- 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.