Chapter 7. Creating SELinux policies for containers

RHEL 8 provides a tool for generating SELinux policies for containers using the udica package. With udica, you can create a tailored security policy for better control of how a container accesses host system resources, such as storage, devices, and network. This enables you to harden your container deployments against security violations and it also simplifies achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance.

7.1. Introduction to the udica SELinux policy generator

To simplify creating new SELinux policies for custom containers, RHEL 8 provides the udica utility. You can use this tool to create a policy based on an inspection of the container JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) file, which contains Linux-capabilities, mount-points, and ports definitions. The tool consequently combines rules generated using the results of the inspection with rules inherited from a specified SELinux Common Intermediate Language (CIL) block.

The process of generating SELinux policy for a container using udica has three main parts:

  1. Parsing the container spec file in the JSON format
  2. Finding suitable allow rules based on the results of the first part
  3. Generating final SELinux policy

During the parsing phase, udica looks for Linux capabilities, network ports, and mount points.

Based on the results, udica detects which Linux capabilities are required by the container and creates an SELinux rule allowing all these capabilities. If the container binds to a specific port, udica uses SELinux user-space libraries to get the correct SELinux label of a port that is used by the inspected container.

Afterward, udica detects which directories are mounted to the container file-system name space from the host.

The CIL’s block inheritance feature allows udica to create templates of SELinux allow rules focusing on a specific action, for example:

  • allow accessing home directories
  • allow accessing log files
  • allow accessing communication with Xserver.

These templates are called blocks and the final SELinux policy is created by merging the blocks.

Additional resources

7.2. Creating and using an SELinux policy for a custom container

To generate an SELinux security policy for a custom container, follow the steps in this procedure.


  • The podman tool for managing containers is installed. If it is not, use the yum install podman command.
  • A custom Linux container - ubi8 in this example.


  1. Install the udica package:

    # yum install -y udica

    Alternatively, install the container-tools module, which provides a set of container software packages, including udica:

    # yum module install -y container-tools
  2. Start the ubi8 container that mounts the /home directory with read-only permissions and the /var/spool directory with permissions to read and write. The container exposes the port 21.

    # podman run --env container=podman -v /home:/home:ro -v /var/spool:/var/spool:rw -p 21:21 -it ubi8 bash

    Note that now the container runs with the container_t SELinux type. This type is a generic domain for all containers in the SELinux policy and it might be either too strict or too loose for your scenario.

  3. Enter the podman ps command to obtain the ID of the container:

    # podman ps
    CONTAINER ID   IMAGE                                   COMMAND   CREATED          STATUS              PORTS   NAMES
    37a3635afb8f  bash      15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes ago           heuristic_lewin
  4. Create a container JSON file, and use udica for creating a policy module based on the information in the JSON file:

    # podman inspect 37a3635afb8f > container.json
    # udica -j container.json my_container
    Policy my_container with container id 37a3635afb8f created!


    # podman inspect 37a3635afb8f | udica my_container
    Policy my_container with container id 37a3635afb8f created!
    Please load these modules using:
    # semodule -i my_container.cil /usr/share/udica/templates/{base_container.cil,net_container.cil,home_container.cil}
    Restart the container with: "--security-opt label=type:my_container.process" parameter
  5. As suggested by the output of udica in the previous step, load the policy module:

    # semodule -i my_container.cil /usr/share/udica/templates/{base_container.cil,net_container.cil,home_container.cil}
  6. Stop the container and start it again with the --security-opt label=type:my_container.process option:

    # podman stop 37a3635afb8f
    # podman run --security-opt label=type:my_container.process -v /home:/home:ro -v /var/spool:/var/spool:rw -p 21:21 -it ubi8 bash

Verification steps

  1. Check that the container runs with the my_container.process type:

    # ps -efZ | grep my_container.process
    unconfined_u:system_r:container_runtime_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 root 2275 434  1 13:49 pts/1 00:00:00 podman run --security-opt label=type:my_container.process -v /home:/home:ro -v /var/spool:/var/spool:rw -p 21:21 -it ubi8 bash
    system_u:system_r:my_container.process:s0:c270,c963 root 2317 2305  0 13:49 pts/0 00:00:00 bash
  2. Verify that SELinux now allows access the /home and /var/spool mount points:

    [root@37a3635afb8f /]# cd /home
    [root@37a3635afb8f home]# ls
    [root@37a3635afb8f ~]# cd /var/spool/
    [root@37a3635afb8f spool]# touch test
    [root@37a3635afb8f spool]#
  3. Check that SELinux allows binding only to the port 21:

    [root@37a3635afb8f /]# yum install nmap-ncat
    [root@37a3635afb8f /]# nc -lvp 21
    Ncat: Version 7.60 ( )
    Ncat: Generating a temporary 1024-bit RSA key. Use --ssl-key and --ssl-cert to use a permanent one.
    Ncat: SHA-1 fingerprint: 6EEC 102E 6666 5F96 CC4F E5FA A1BE 4A5E 6C76 B6DC
    Ncat: Listening on :::21
    Ncat: Listening on
    [root@37a3635afb8f /]# nc -lvp 80
    Ncat: Version 7.60 ( )
    Ncat: Generating a temporary 1024-bit RSA key. Use --ssl-key and --ssl-cert to use a permanent one.
    Ncat: SHA-1 fingerprint: 6EEC 102E 6666 5F96 CC4F E5FA A1BE 4A5E 6C76 B6DC
    Ncat: bind to :::80: Permission denied. QUITTING.

Additional resources

  • For more information, see the udica(8) and podman(1) man pages.
  • For guidance on how to start with containers on RHEL and how to work with container images, see the Building, running, and managing containers document.

7.3. Additional resources