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CentOS / Redhat: Turn On SELinux Protection

SELinux enforces the idea that programs should be limited in what files they can access and what actions they can take. However, by default it is turned off under RHEL / CentOS 5.x server? How do I turn it on? How can I enable SELinux on CentOS / RHEL 6 IBM server?

SELinux is a kernel security extension, which can be used to guard against misconfigured or compromised programs. It comes with Mandatory Access Control (MAC) system that improves the traditional UNIX/Linux DAC (Discretionary Access Control) model. SELinux can be any one of the following state:

  1. enforcing - SELinux security policy is enforced.
  2. permissive - SELinux prints warnings instead of enforcing.
  3. disabled - SELinux is fully disabled.

Step #1: Install additional SELinux packages

Type the following the yum command:
# yum install policycoreutils setroubleshoot

Step #2: Run SELinux in permissive mode

Edit /etc/selinux/config file, run:
# vi /etc/selinux/config
Update the configuration file as follows:


Save and close the file. Reboot the server:
# reboot

Step #3: Make sure SELinux did not deny actions

Type the following command to confirm that SELinux did not deny actions during the reboot:

grep "SELinux is preventing" /var/log/messages

This command does not return any error or output go to step #3. If you get any output/error, try chcon command. It can be used to change SELinux security context of a file. However, it is recommended that you relabel complete filesystem. Type the following command to restore default security contexts for /home:
# restorecon -Rv -n /home
You can run this on root (/) file system too:
# restorecon -Rv -n /
Do not skip this step. Type the following commands:
# touch /.autorelabel
# reboot

It will take some time to relabel complete filesystem. If you get any errors or common services mysqld or sshd failed, try the following solution (go to a single user mode):
# init 1
# genhomedircon
# touch /.autorelabel
# reboot

Now, go to step #4.

Step #4: Set SELINUX to enforcing mode

Edit /etc/selinux/config, enter:
# vi /etc/selinux/config
Update the configuration file as follows:


Understanding SELinux Configuration

  • SELINUX=enforcing : Enforcing is the default mode which will enable and enforce the SELinux security policy on the Linux. It will also deny unauthorized access and log actions in a log file.
  • SELINUXTYPE=targeted : Only targeted network daemons (such as DNS, Apache and others) are protected.

Save and close the file. Make sure SELinux is not disabled using Grub boot loader. Search /boot/grub/grub.conf file using grep and make sure the following line DO NOT appears:
# egrep -i 'selinux=0|enforcing=0' /boot/grub/grub.conf
If you found lines with selinux=0 or enforcing=0, remove them and save the changes. Reboot the server:
# reboot

Step #5: Make Sure SELinux is Properly Enabled

Type the following command:
# sestatus
Sample outputs:

SELinux status:                 enabled
SELinuxfs mount:                /selinux
Current mode:                   enforcing
Mode from config file:          enforcing
Policy version:                 24
Policy from config file:        targeted

Check Out Related Media

This tutorial is available in a quick video format that demos all of the above steps:

Video - 01: Enabling SELinux under CentOS/RHEL/SL v6.x

How Do I Print Full List Of Allowed Network Ports?

Type the following commands
# semanage port -l
# semanage port -l | less
#### look for port 80 ####
# semanage port -l | grep -w 80

How Do I Allow Lighttpd / Apache / Nginx At Port 8181?

By default SELinux will block access to many ports including 8181. You need to allow access to a port # 8181 so that it can bind and listen for incoming requests on non privileged ports. You need to use the semanage command as follows:
# semanage port -a -t http_port_t -p tcp 8181

How Do I Find Out Unprotected Services?

Type the following command:
# ps -eZ | egrep "initrc" | egrep -vw "ps|tr|egrep|awk|bash" | tr ':' ' ' | awk '{ print $NF }'
You should not see any output on fully configured SELinux systems.

How Do I See SELinux Labels?

Type the following command:
# ls -lZ /path/to/file
# ls -lZd /path/to/dir
# ls -lZd /etc
# ls -lZ /dev/ | grep deviceName
# ls -lZ /etc/resolv.conf

Sample outputs:

-rw-r--r--  root root system_u:object_r:net_conf_t     /etc/resolv.conf

Troubleshooting SELinux Policy Errors

SELinux is pretty complicated kernel software. It takes time to fix error. Use the following tools to find and debug SELinux policy problems (refer to your local man pages):

  • ps -Z -p PID
  • ls -Z fileName
  • ausearch
  • restorecon
  • semodule
  • audit2allow
  • Log files: /var/log/audit/audit.log and /var/log/setroubleshoot/setroubleshootd.log
Recommended readings:

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Craig January 30, 2010, 9:12 pm

    After installing several hundred RHEL 5.x systems over the last 18 months I can assure you that by default SELinux is indeed turned on and enforcing in RHEL 5.x .

  • petko February 25, 2010, 6:47 am

    good stuff. I open port on the firewall and add the same port at httpd port in selinx , and also update apache to listen on it. But I can’t access my webpage with doaminname only, I have to type http://www.mydomainname.com:theport#

    • krizb February 23, 2011, 9:22 am

      Web browser is set to default to port 80, if you don’t tell him otherwise.
      It is not server problem.

  • sachin May 18, 2013, 9:33 am

    how much time it will take to reboot in step#2….

  • sanjeev tanwar October 23, 2013, 7:36 am


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