Laptop Docking Script and SELinux

I’ve continued to make progress in my efforts to get SELinux working on my laptop. My day job has been pretty demanding these days but I ran into a few interesting AVCs and had to come up with a fix that is worth mentioning. Let’s start with the AVCs:

avc:  denied  { read } for  pid=530 comm="" name=".X11-unix" dev=dm-1 ino=1179649 scontext=system_u:system_r:udev_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 tcontext=system_u:object_r:xdm_tmp_t:s0 tclass=dir
avc:  denied  { open } for  pid=530 comm="" name=".X11-unix" dev=dm-1 ino=1179649 scontext=system_u:system_r:udev_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023 tcontext=system_u:object_r:xdm_tmp_t:s0 tclass=dir

There’s only two AVCs so it’s a pretty easy fix right? Just allow udev access to xdm’s tmp files … yeah I’m not convinced. What the heck is udev doing reading tmp files belonging to X? Yeah and what’s the command “” all about (from the comm section in the AVC log).

A little digging in the udev rules files shows that this script is run when my laptop gets docked and undocked. So it makes sense that this script would manipulate my X configuration but it shouldn’t be digging around in private files belonging to X. Whoever wrote this script messed up so just granting udev additional permissions isn’t the right approach.

This time we have to get in touch with the author and fix the script. Interestingly enough this is one of my scripts! I wrote about this script some time ago and it looks like it’s time to update it.

Rewriting with SELinux in mind

This is one of those situations where questioning these accesses is the right thing to do. But it’s not that the script shouldn’t be reconfiguring X, it’s that it shouldn’t be messing with X’s private tmp files. Really this has less to do with security than it does with good program design. These are temporary files and X may change their location and contents at any time. No other program should depend on them.

There’s a surprisingly easy fix to this problem and it’s a pretty cool one. ConsoleKit is a daemon that keeps track of desktop “sessions” which are effectively X logins. This is a gross over simplification and the interested reader should dig into the ConsoleKit docs for a more accurate description. What’s important is that the information that my script needs is exposed by ConsoleKit through a few DBus calls.

All of the direct access to tmp in this script can be replaced by 3 calls to ConsoleKit through DBus. I’ve updated the script in my previous post where you can check it out if you’re interested.


This post ended up having less to do with SELinux and more to do with good programing practices. Write your programs / scripts to use the published interfaces available to accomplish their goals. Mucking around in another programs temporary files is a bad idea (shame on me!). Where SELinux comes into play is that it formalizes these accesses in policy forcing some bad programming practices out into the open.

If you’re following along at home you’ll notice that this script went from causing 2 AVCs to causing about 10 🙂 I’m OK with that because the script is that much better than it was. Looks like this script needs to have it’s own policy module. I’ll save that for later this week. Stay tuned.

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