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auditctl command man page

AUDITCTL:(8) System Administration Utilities AUDITCTL:(8)

auditctl - a utility to assist controlling the kernel’s audit system

auditctl [options]

The auditctl program is used to control the behavior, get status, and
add or delete rules into the 2.6 kernel’s audit system.

-b backlog
Set max number of outstanding audit buffers allowed (Kernel
Default=64) If all buffers are full, the failure flag is con-
sulted by the kernel for action.

-e [0..2]
Set enabled flag. When 0 is passed, this can be used to tem-
porarily disable auditing. When 1 is passed as an argument, it
will enable auditing. To lock the audit configuration so that it
can’t be changed, pass a 2 as the argument. Locking the configu-
ration is intended to be the last command in audit.rules for
anyone wishing this feature to be active. Any attempt to change
the configuration in this mode will be audited and denied. The
configuration can only be changed by rebooting the machine.

-f [0..2]
Set failure flag 0=silent 1=printk 2=panic. This option lets you
determine how you want the kernel to handle critical errors.
Example conditions where this flag is consulted includes: trans-
mission errors to userspace audit daemon, backlog limit
exceeded, out of kernel memory, and rate limit exceeded. The
default value is 1. Secure environments will probably want to
set this to 2.

-h Help

-i Ignore errors when reading rules from a file

-l List all rules 1 per line. This can take a key option (-k), too.

-k key Set a filter key on an audit rule. The filter key is an arbi-
trary string of text that can be up to 31 bytes long. It can
uniquely identify the audit records produced by a rule. Typical
use is for when you have several rules that together satisfy a
security requirement. The key value can be searched on with
ausearch so that no matter which rule triggered the event, you
can find its results. The key can also be used on delete all

(-D) and list rules (-l) to select rules with a specific key.
You may have more than one key on a rule if you want to be able
to search logged events in multiple ways or if you have an aud-
ispd plugin that uses a key to aid its analysis.

-m text
Send a user space message into the audit system. This can only
be done by the root user.

-p [r|w|x|a]
Set permissions filter for a file system watch. r=read, w=write,
x=execute, a=attribute change. These permissions are not the
standard file permissions, but rather the kind of syscall that
would do this kind of thing. The read & write syscalls are
omitted from this set since they would overwhelm the logs. But
rather for reads or writes, the open flags are looked at to see
what permission was requested.

-q mount-point,subtree
If you have an existing directory watch and bind or move mount
another subtree in the watched subtree, you need to tell the
kernel to make the subtree being mounted equivalent to the
directory being watched. If the subtree is already mounted at
the time the directory watch is issued, the subtree is automati-
cally tagged for watching. Please note the comma separating the
two values. Omitting it will cause errors.

-r rate
Set limit in messages/sec (0=none). If this rate is non-zero and
is exceeded, the failure flag is consulted by the kernel for
action. The default value is 0.

-R file
Read rules from a file. The rules must be 1 per line and in the
order that they are to be executed in. The rule file must be
owned by root and not readable by other users or it will be
rejected. The rule file may have comments embedded by starting
the line with a ’#’ character. Rules that are read from a file
are identical to what you would type on a command line except
they are not preceeded by auditctl (since auditctl is the one
executing the file).

-s Report status. Note that a pid of 0 indicates that the audit
daemon is not running.

-t Trim the subtrees after a mount command.

-a list,action
Append rule to the end of list with action. Please note the
comma separating the two values. Omitting it will cause errors.
The following describes the valid list names:
task Add a rule to the per task list. This rule list is
used only at the time a task is created -- when
fork() or clone() are called by the parent task.
When using this list, you should only use fields
that are known at task creation time, such as the
uid, gid, etc.
entry Add a rule to the syscall entry list. This list is
used upon entry to a system call to determine if an
audit event should be created.
exit Add a rule to the syscall exit list. This list is
used upon exit from a system call to determine if an
audit event should be created.
user Add a rule to the user message filter list. This
list is used by the kernel to filter events origi-
nating in user space before relaying them to the
audit daemon. It should be noted that the only
fields that are valid are: uid, auid, gid, and pid.
All other fields will be treated as non-matching.
exclude Add a rule to the event type exclusion filter list.
This list is used to filter events that you do not
want to see. For example, if you do not want to see
any avc messages, you would using this list to
record that. The message type that you do not wish
to see is given with the msgtype field.
The following describes the valid actions for the rule:
never No audit records will be generated. This can be used
to suppress event generation. In general, you want
suppressions at the top of the list instead of the
bottom. This is because the event triggers on the
first matching rule.
always Allocate an audit context, always fill it in at
syscall entry time, and always write out a record at
syscall exit time.

-A list,action
Add rule to the beginning list with action.

-d list,action
Delete rule from list with action. The rule is deleted only if
it exactly matches syscall name and field names.

-D Delete all rules and watches. This can take a key option (-k),

-S [Syscall name or number|all]
Any syscall name or number may be used. The word ’all’ may also
be used. If this syscall is made by a program, then start an
audit record. If a field rule is given and no syscall is speci-
fied, it will default to all syscalls. You may also specify mul-
tiple syscalls in the same rule by using multiple -S options in
the same rule. Doing so improves performance since fewer rules
need to be evaluated. If you are on a bi-arch system, like
x86_64, you should be aware that auditctl simply takes the text,
looks it up for the native arch (in this case b64) and sends
that rule to the kernel. If there are no additional arch direc-
tives, IT WILL APPLY TO BOTH 32 & 64 BIT SYSCALLS. This can have
undesirable effects since there is no guarantee that, for exam-
ple, the open syscall has the same number on both 32 and 64 bit
interfaces. You may want to control this and write 2 rules, one
with arch equal to b32 and one with b64 to make sure the kernel
finds the events that you intend.

-F [n=v | n!=v | n<v | n>v | n<=v | n>=v | n&v | n&=v]
Build a rule field: name, operation, value. You may have up to
64 fields passed on a single command line. Each one must start
with -F. Each field equation is anded with each other to trigger
an audit record. There are 8 operators supported - equal, not
equal, less than, greater than, less than or equal, and greater
than or equal, bit mask, and bit test respectively. Bit test
will "and" the values and check that they are equal, bit mask
just "ands" the values. Fields that take a user ID may instead
have the user’s name; the program will convert the name to user
ID. The same is true of group names. Valid fields are:
a0, a1, a2, a3
Respectively, the first 4 arguments to a syscall.
Note that string arguments are not supported. This
is because the kernel is passed a pointer to the
string. Triggering on a pointer address value is not
likely to work. So, when using this, you should only
use on numeric values. This is most likely to be
used on platforms that multiplex socket or IPC oper-
arch The CPU architecture of the syscall. The arch can be
found doing ’uname -m’. If you do not know the arch
of your machine but you want to use the 32 bit
syscall table and your machine supports 32 bit, you
can also use b32 for the arch. The same applies to
the 64 bit syscall table, you can use b64. In this
way, you can write rules that are somewhat arch
independent because the family type will be auto
detected. However, syscalls can be arch specific and
what is available on x86_64, may not be available on
ppc. The arch directive should preceed the -S option
so that auditctl knows which internal table to use
to look up the syscall numbers.
auid The original ID the user logged in with. Its an
abbreviation of audit uid. Sometimes its referred to
as loginuid. Either the text or number may be used.
devmajor Device Major Number
devminor Device Minor Number
dir Full Path of Directory to watch. This will place a
recursive watch on the directory and its whole sub-
tree. Should only be used on exit list. See "-w".
egid Effective Group ID
euid Effective User ID
exit Exit value from a syscall. If the exit code is an
errno, you may use the text representation, too.
fsgid Filesystem Group ID
fsuid Filesystem User ID
filetype The target file’s type. Can be either file, dir,
socket, symlink, char, block, or fifo.
gid Group ID
inode Inode Number
key This is another way of setting a filter key. See
discussion above for -k option.
msgtype This is used to match the message type number. It
should only be used on the exclude filter list.
obj_user Resource’s SE Linux User
obj_role Resource’s SE Linux Role
obj_type Resource’s SE Linux Type
obj_lev_low Resource’s SE Linux Low Level
Resource’s SE Linux High Level
path Full Path of File to watch. Should only be used on
exit list.
perm Permission filter for file operations. See "-p".
Should only be used on exit list. You can use this
without specifying a syscall and the kernel will
select the syscalls that satisfy the permissions
being requested.
pers OS Personality Number
pid Process ID
ppid Parent’s Process ID
subj_user Program’s SE Linux User
subj_role Program’s SE Linux Role
subj_type Program’s SE Linux Type
subj_sen Program’s SE Linux Sensitivity
subj_clr Program’s SE Linux Clearance
sgid Saved Group ID. See getresgid(2) man page.
success If the exit value is >= 0 this is true/yes otherwise
its false/no. When writing a rule, use a 1 for
true/yes and a 0 for false/no
suid Saved User ID. See getresuid(2) man page.
uid User ID

-w path
Insert a watch for the file system object at path. You cannot
insert a watch to the top level directory. This is prohibited by
the kernel. Wildcards are not supported either and will generate
a warning. The way that watches work is by tracking the inode
internally. If you place a watch on a file, its the same as
using the -F path option on a syscall rule. If you place a watch
on a directory, its the same as using the -F dir option on a
syscall rule. The -w form of writing watches is for backwards
compatibility and the syscall based form is more expressive.
Unlike most syscall auditing rules, watches do not impact per-
formance based on the number of rules sent to the kernel. The
only valid options when using a watch are the -p and -k. If you
need to anything fancy like audit a specific user accessing a
file, then use the syscall auditing form with the path or dir
fields. See the EXAMPLES section for an example of converting
one form to another.

-W path
Remove a watch for the file system object at path.

Syscall rules get evaluated for each syscall for each program. If you
have 10 syscall rules, every program on your system will delay during a
syscall while the audit system evaulates each one. Too many syscall
rules will hurt performance. Try to combine as many as you can whenever
the filter, action, key, and fields are identical. For example:
auditctl -a exit,always -S open -F success=0
auditctl -a exit,always -S truncate -F success=0
could be re-written as one rule:
auditctl -a exit,always -S open -S truncate -F success=0
Also, try to use file system auditing wherever practical. This improves
performance. For example, if you were wanting to capture all failed
opens & truncates like above, but were only concerned about files in
/etc and didn’t care about /usr or /sbin, its possible to use this
auditctl -a exit,always -S open -S truncate -F dir=/etc -F success=0
This will be higher performance since the kernel will not evaluate it
each and every syscall. It will be handled by the filesystem auditing
code and only checked on filesystem related syscalls.

To see all syscalls made by a specific program:
auditctl -a entry,always -S all -F pid=1005
To see files opened by a specific user:
auditctl -a exit,always -S open -F auid=510
To see unsuccessful open call’s:
auditctl -a exit,always -S open -F success=0
To watch a file for changes (2 ways to express):
auditctl -w /etc/shadow -p wa
auditctl -a exit,always -F path=/etc/shadow -F perm=wa
To recursively watch a directory for changes (2 ways to express):
auditctl -w /etc/ -p wa
auditctl -a exit,always -F dir=/etc/ -F perm=wa


audit.rules(7), auditd(8).

Steve Grubb

Red Hat Nov 2008 AUDITCTL:(8)


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