Access Control and Audit Tools

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2008-10-14 Print this article Print

Version 11.1 of Novell's OpenSUSE, which is the community-oriented sibling of the company's more buttoned-down SUSE Linux Enterprise distributions, is slated for release at the beginning of December, complete with basic support for the SELinux mandatory access control system.

Novell's embrace of SELinux has raised eyebrows in the Linux community because SELinux has been primarily a Red Hat-driven initiative over the past few years. For its part, Novell has been pushing an alternative access control scheme, called AppArmor, which was the fruit of Novell's 2005 acquisition of Immunix.

Novell has often called out Red Hat and SELinux for the system's complexity-a Linux system secured with SELinux carries policies that closely govern the specific actions and rights of every user, file and application on a machine, and these policies can be very difficult to create, review and troubleshoot.

However, as implemented by Red Hat, SELinux can be enabled with a targeted policy that tightly controls certain applications while leaving others to the supervision of traditional Linux access controls.

OpenSUSE 11.1 will ship with only basic support for SELinux-AppArmor remains the suggested security enhancement mechanism for the distributions-but according to Novell, the addition of basic SELinux support will allow customers who have adopted SELinux to migrate their systems to Novell's Linux operating system.

Click here to read Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's comparison of vulnerability ratings systems. 

Version 10 of Red Hat's Fedora Linux distribution, which is scheduled for release at the end of November, is set to ship with a new security audit and intrusion prevention tool.

Between this new tool, Fedora's support for full-volume encryption at install time (a feature that Ubuntu also offers but OpenSUSE lacks) and Fedora's well-implemented SELinux subsystem, Red Hat has delivered the most well-rounded complement of security features available on any current Linux distribution.

The new audit utility, which Red Hat is calling Sectool, provides a set of system tests for detecting configuration issues regarding permissions, firewall rules and the status of other system security features. In addition, Sectool offers administrators a framework for writing their own tests in Bash, Python or other scripting languages.

As implemented in Fedora 10, Sectool organizes sets of tests into five security levels, with ascending security strictness: Naive, Desktop, Network, Server or Paranoid.

I ran the graphical version of the Sectool utility (there's also a command-line version) on a Fedora 10 beta installation at a few of the security levels, and the tool responded with errors, problems that I should fix and warnings, or less serious informational messages.

The tool offered enough information in the error messages to point me in the right direction toward resolving the issues, but this functionality could be better integrated with the system's configuration tools.

eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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