Utilizing Audit Logs - Exploring SE for Android (2015)

Exploring SE for Android (2015)

Chapter 7. Utilizing Audit Logs

So far we've seen AVC records or the SELinux denial messages show up in dmesg, but dmesg is a circular memory buffer, subject to frequent rollover dependent on how verbose your kernel is. By using the audit kernel subsystem, we can route these messages into user space and log them to disk. On the desktop, the daemon that does this is called auditd. A minimal port of auditd is maintained in the NSA branches however, it has not officially been merged into AOSP. We are going to use the auditd version from the NSA branches since we are working on Android 4.3. The officially merged version as of April 7, 2014 can be found at https://android-review.googlesource.com/#/c/89645/. It's implemented within logd, and merged at https://android-review.googlesource.com/#/c/83526/.

In this chapter, we will:

· Update our system with the fast-paced SE for Android Open Source Community (AOSP)

· Investigate how the audit subsystem works

· Learn to read SELinux audit logs and start writing policy

· Look at contexts relative to the logs

All LSMs should log their messages into the audit subsystem. The audit subsystem can then route the messages to the kernel circular buffer using printk, or to the auditing daemon in user space, if one is present. The kernel and userspace logging daemon communicate using the AUDIT_NETLINK socket. We will dissect this interface further in the chapter.

Lastly, the audit subsystem has the capability to print comprehensive records when policy violations occur. Although you don't need this feature to enable and work with SELinux, it can make your life easier. To enable this system, you must use auditd, because logdcurrently doesn't have this support. You'll need to build your kernel with CONFIG_AUDITSYSCALL=y and place an audit.rules file in /data/misc/audit/. After you patch your tree with the following instructions, read system/core/auditd/README.

Unfortunately, the UDOO kernel version 3.0.35 does not support CONFIG_AUDITSYSCALL. The patch located at https://git.kernel.org/cgit/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git/commit/?id=29ef73b7a823b77a7cd0bdd7d7cded3fb6c2587b should enable the support. However, on the UDOO, it causes a deadlock we could not trace down.

Upgrades – patches galore

Although Android 4.3, released from Google, had SE for Android support, it is still limited, especially in the areas of auditing. One of the simplest ways to bring this to a more useable state is to get the patches for some of the projects from the NSA's SE for Android 4.3 branch. Here, the community has staged and deployed many of the more advanced features which were not merged in the 4.3 timeframe.

The NSA maintains repositories at https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/. There are many projects so figuring out which to use and what branch can be daunting. A way to find them is to go through each project and find the projects with a SEAndroid-4.3 branch. You don't need to descend into the device trees since we're not building AOSP devices. The list of such project is:

· https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/system-core

· https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/frameworks-base

· https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/external-libselinux

· https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/build

· https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/frameworks-native

We can also safely skip sepolicy since we've already updated it to the bleeding edge, but the kernels are a bit trickier. We need the changes from kernel-common (https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/kernel-common) and the binder patch (https://android-review.googlesource.com/#/c/45984/), which can be attained as follows:

$ mkdir ~/sepatches

$ cd ~/sepatches

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/system-core.git

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/frameworks-base.git

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/external-libselinux.git

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/build.git

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/frameworks-native.git

We can start by figuring out the exact version we need to patch to by looking at the build/core/build_id.mk file, and by using the webpage https://source.android.com/source/build-numbers.html to do a lookup.

The file shows BUILD_ID is JSS15J, and the lookup shows that we are working with the android-4.3_r2.1 release for the UDOO.

For each downloaded project so far, generate the patches by running the command git checkout origin/seandroid-4.3_r2. Finally, execute git format-patch origin/jb-mr2.0-release. Since there is no 4.3._r2.1 branch, we're using r2.

For each of these patches, you'll need to apply them in the tree from their corresponding udoo/<project> folder. It is important to apply the patches for each project in numeric order starting with the 0001* patch, moving on to 0002*, and so on. As an example of how to apply a specific patch for a project, let's look at the first patch needed for system-core. Note that these Git repositories use hyphens in place of the slashes in the source tree; so frameworks-base correlates to frameworks/base.

First, generate the patches:

$ cd sepatches/system-core

$ git checkout origin/seandroid-4.3_r2

$ git format-patch origin/jb-mr2.0-release

Apply the first patch, as follows:

$ cd <udoo_root>/system/core

$ patch -p1 < ~/sepatches/system-core/0001-Add-writable-data-space-for-radio.patch

patching file rootdir/init.rc

Reversed (or previously applied) patch detected! Assume -R? [n]


Note that for UDOO, it is important not to apply a patch number higher than 0005 in frameworks/base. For other projects, you should apply all the patches.

Note the error. Just hit Ctrl + C to quit the patching process whenever you see this. The Git trees are not quite perfect, and because of this, some of the patches are already in the UDOO source. The patch command will let us know, and we can skip these by canceling them, when warned, with Ctrl + C. Keep going through the patches, canceling the ones already applied, and fixing up any failures. After patching userspace, it's highly recommended that you build to ensure nothing is broken.

Once userspace is completely patched, we need to patch the kernel. Start by cloning the kernel-common project from Bitbucket with the git clone https://bitbucket.org/seandroid/kernel-common.git command. We will patch the kernel with the same method as the rest of the projects with the exception of the binder patch. By viewing the link for the binder patch mentioned, https://android-review.googlesource.com/#/c/45984/, we found that the Git SHA hash is a3c9991b560cf0a8dec1622fcc0edca5d0ced936, as given in the Patch set 4 reference field in the following screenshot:

Upgrades – patches galore

We can then generate the patch for this SHA hash:

$ git format-patch -1 a3c9991b560cf0a8dec1622fcc0edca5d0ced936


Then, apply that patch with the patch command as we did before. The patch has a failed hunk for a header file inclusion; just fix it up like the others by using the reject file. When you build, you'll get this error in the kernel:

security/selinux/hooks.c:1846:9: error: variable 'sad' has initializer but incomplete type

security/selinux/hooks.c:1846:28: error: storage size of 'sad' isn't known

Go ahead and remove this line and all references. This was a change made in the 3.0 kernels:

struct selinux_audit_data sad = {0,};

ad.selinux_audit_data = &sad;


We figured this out by looking through the original 3.0 patches, which can be found at following link:


As you recall, the UDOO uses a custom init.rc. We need to add any changes to init.rc to the one UDOO actually uses. All the patches that can modify init.rc will be in the system-core project, specifically these:

· 0003-Auditd-initial-commit.patch

· 0007-Handle-policy-reloads-within-ueventd-rather-than-res.patch

· 0009-Allow-system-UID-to-set-enforcing-and-booleans.patch

Go ahead and find the changes to init.rc in these patches and apply them to device/fsl/imx6/etc/init.rc using the same patch technique.

The audit system

In the previous section, we did a lot of patching; the point of which was to enable the audit integration work done on Android and its dependencies. These patches also fix some bugs in the code and, very importantly, enable the SELinux/LSM binder hooks and policy controls.

The audit system in Linux is used by LSMs to print the denial records as well as to gather very thorough and complete records of events. No matter what, when an LSM prints a message, it gets propagated to the audit subsystem and printed. However, if the audit subsystem has been enabled, then you get more context associated with the denial. The audit subsystem even supports loading rules for watching this. For instance, you could watch all writes to /system that were not done by the system UID.

The auditd daemon

The auditd daemon, or service, runs in userspace and listens over a NETLINK socket to the audit subsystem. The daemon registers itself to receive the kernel messages, and can also load the audit rules over this socket. Once registered, the auditd daemon receives all the audit events. The auditd daemon was minimally ported, and there was an attempt to mainline it into Android that was later rejected. However, auditd has been used by various OEMs (such as Samsung) and by the NSA's 4.3 branch. An alternative approach that put records in logcat was later merged into Android (for more information, refer to https://android-review.googlesource.com/89645).

Earlier, we saw the AVC denial messages from SELinux in dmesg. The problem with this is that the circular memory log is prone to rollover when you have many denials or a chatty kernel. With auditd, all the messages come to the daemon and are written to the/data/misc/audit/audit.log file. This log file, herein referred to as audit.log, may exist on device boot and is rotated into the /data/misc/audit/audit.old file, known as audit.old. The daemon resumes logging to a new audit.log file. This rotate event occurs when the size threshold AUDITD_MAX_LOG_FILE_SIZEKB (set during compile time in the system/core/auditd/Android.mk file) is exceeded. This threshold is typically 1000 KB but can be changed in the device's makefile. Also, sending SIGHUP with kill will cause a rotate as in the following example.

Verify the daemon is running and get its PID:

root@udoo:/ # ps -Z | grep audit

u:r:auditd:s0 audit 2281 1 /system/bin/auditd

u:r:kernel:s0 root 2293 2 kauditd

Verify only one log exists:

root@udoo:/ # ls -la /data/misc/audit/

-rw-r----- audit system 79173 1970-01-02 00:19 audit.log

Rotate the logs:

root@udoo:/ # kill -SIGHUP 2281

Verify audit.old:

root@udoo:/ # ls -la /data/misc/audit/

-rw-r----- audit system 319 1970-01-02 00:20 audit.log

-rw-r----- audit system 79173 1970-01-02 00:19 audit.old

Auditd internals

Since the auditd and libaudit code from the Linux desktop have a GPL license, a rewrite was done for Android, released under the Apache license. The rewrite is minimal, thus you will only find the functions implemented that were required to support the daemon. The functional and header interfaces should remain identical though.

The auditd daemon starts life at main() in system/core/auditd.c. It quickly changes its permissions from UID root to a special auditd UID. When it does this, it retains CAPSYS_AUDIT, which is a required DAC capability check to use the AUDIT NETLINK socket. It does this via a call to drop_privileges_or_die(). From there, it does some option parsing with getopt(), and we finally get to the audit-specific calls, the first of which opens the NETLINK socket using audit_open(). This function simply calls socket(PF_NETLINK, SOCK_RAW, NETLINK_AUDIT), which opens a file descriptor to the NETLINK socket. After opening the socket, the daemon opens a handle to audit.log with a call to audit_log_open(const char *logfile, const char *rotatefile, size_t threshold). This function checks whether theaudit.log file exists and, if it does, renames it to audit.old. It then creates a new empty log file in which the data is recorded.

The next step is to register the daemon with the audit subsystem so that it knows to whom to send messages. By setting the PID of the daemon, you ensure that only this daemon will get the messages. Since NETLINK can support many readers, you don't want a "rogue auditd" to read the messages. With that stated, the daemon calls audit_set_pid(audit_fd, getpid(), WAIT_YES), where audit_fd is the NETLINK socket from audit_open(), getpid() returns the daemon's PID, and WAIT_YES causes the daemon to block until the operation is complete. Next, the daemon enables the audit subsystem's advanced features with a call to audit_set_enabled(audit_fd, 1) and adds rules to the audit subsystem via audit_rules_read_and_add(audit_fd, AUDITD_RULES_FILE). This function reads the rulesfrom that file, formats some structures, and sends those structures to the kernel.

The audit_set_enabled() and audit_rules_read_and_add()only have an effect if the kernel is built with CONFIG_AUDITSYSCALL. After this, the daemon checks whether the -k option was specified. The -k option tells auditd to look in dmesg for any missed audit records. It does this because there is a race between capturing audit records before the circular buffer overflows and userspace starting many services, generating audit events and policy violations. Essentially, this helps coalesce the audit events from early boot into the same log files.

After this, the daemon enters a loop to read from the NETLINK socket, formatting the messages, and writing them to the log file. It starts this loop by waiting for IO on the NETLINK socket using poll(). If poll() exits with an error, the loop continues to check the quitvariable. If EINTR is raised, the loop guard, quit, is set to true in the signal handler, and the daemon exits. If poll() is data on the NETLINK, the daemon calls audit_get_reply(audit_fd, &rep, GET_REPLY_BLOCKING, 0), getting an audit_reply structure back with the repparameter. It then writes the audit_reply structure (with formatting) to the audit.log file with audit_log_write(alog, "type=%d msg=%.*s\n", rep.type, rep.len, rep.msg.data). It does this until EINTR is raised, at which point, the daemon exits.

When the daemon exits, it clears the PID registered with the kernel (audit_set_pid(audit_fd, 0)), closes the audit socket via audit_close() (which is really just the syscall, close(audit_fd)), and closes the audit.log with audit_log_close(). The audit_log_* family of functions is not part of the GPLed interface to audit and is a custom write.

When Google ported auditd to the logd infrastructure in Android, it used the same functions and library code used by the daemon's main() and wrapped it into logd. However, Google did not take the audit_set_enabled() and audit_rules_read_and_add() functions.

Interpreting SELinux denial logs

The SELinux denials get routed to the kernel audit subsystem, to auditd, and finally, to audit.log and audit.old. With the logs resident in audit.log, let's pull this file over adb and have a closer look at it.

Run the following command from the host, with adb enabled:

$ adb pull /data/misc/audit/audit.log

Now, let's tail that file and look for these lines:

$ tail audit.log


type=1400 msg=audit(88526.980:312): avc: denied { getattr } for pid=3083 comm="adbd" path="/data/misc/audit/audit.log" dev=mmcblk0p4 ino=42 scontext=u:r:adbd:s0 tcontext=u:object_r:audit_log:s0 tclass=file

type=1400 msg=audit(88527.030:313): avc: denied { read } for pid=3083 comm="adbd" name="audit.log" dev=mmcblk0p4 ino=42 scontext=u:r:adbd:s0 tcontext=u:object_r:audit_log:s0 tclass=file

type=1400 msg=audit(88527.030:314): avc: denied { open } for pid=3083 comm="adbd" name="audit.log" dev=mmcblk0p4 ino=42 scontext=u:r:adbd:s0 tcontext=u:object_r:audit_log:s0 tclass=file

The records here consist of two major portions: type and msg. The type field indicates what type of message it is. Messages with type 1400 are AVC messages, which are SELinux denial messages (there are other types, as well). The msg (short for message) portion of the preceding policy contains the part for us to analyze.

The last command we executed was adb pull /data/misc/audit/aduit.log and, as you can see, we have a few adb policy violations at the tail of the audit.log file. Let's start by looking at this event:

type=1400 msg=audit(88526.980:312): avc: denied { getattr } for pid=3083 comm="adbd" path="/data/misc/audit/audit.log" dev=mmcblk0p4 ino=42 scontext=u:r:adbd:s0 tcontext=u:object_r:audit_log:s0 tclass=file

We can see that the comm field is adbd. However, it's not wise to trust this value since it can be controlled from userspace using the prctl() interface. It can only be viewed as a hint. The best way to verify this is to check the PID using ps -Z:

# ps -Z | grep adbd

u:r:adbd:s0 root 3083 1 /sbin/adbd

With the daemon verified, we can now check the message in more detail. The message consists of the following fields (optional fields are identified by *):

· avc: denied: This part will always happen and denotes it is a denial record.

· { permission }: This is the permission that was denied, in this case, getattr.

· for: This will always be printed and makes the output readable.

· Path*: This is the optional field that contains the path of the object in question. It only makes sense for filesystem access denials.

· dev*: This is the optional field that identifies the block device for the mounted filesystem. It only makes sense for filesystem access denials.

· ino*: This is the optional inode of the file. Only the anonymous files in Linux print inode. It only makes sense for filesystem access denials.

· tclass: This is the target class of the object, which in our case was file.

At this point, we need to understand what the msg portion of the denial record is telling us at a very distilled level. It is saying that the Android debug bridge daemon wants to be able to call getattr on our policy file. A few events down, we will see it also wants readand open. This is the side effect of running adb pull. A getattr permission denial occurs from a stat() syscall, and the read/open are from read() and open() syscalls. If you want to allow this in your policy, which would be a security decision based on your threat model, you should add:

allow adbd audit_log:file { getattr read open };

Alternatively, use the macro sets defined in global_macros:

allow adbd audit_log:file r_file_perms;

Most of the time, you should use the macros defined in global_macros for file permission accesses. Typically, adding them one by one is very time consuming and tedious. The macros group the permissions in a context analogous to read, write, and execute DAC permissions. For instance, if you give it open and read, there's a good chance at some point that the source domain will need to stat the file. So, the r_file_perms macro has those permissions in it already.

You should add this rule to external/sepolicy/adbd.te. The .te files (also called type enforcement files) are organized by source context, so make sure you add it to the correct file. We do not recommend adding this allow rule—there's no legitimate reason that adbdneeds access to the audit logs—we can safely ignore these with a dontaudit rule:

dontaudit adbd audit_log:file r_file_perms;

The dontaudit rule is a policy statement that says don't audit (print) denials that match this rule.

If you're not sure what to do, the best advice is to leverage the mailing lists for SE for Android, SELinux, and audit. Just keep the messages appropriate to the specific mailing lists topic.

A tool exists called audit2allow, which can help you write policy allow rules. However, it's only a tool and can be misused. It translates the policy file to the allow rules for the policy:

$ cat audit.log | audit2allow

#============= adbd ==============

allow adbd audit_log:file { read getattr open };

The audit2allow tool is not macro aware or aware if you really want to add this allow rule to the policy file. Only the policy author can make this decision.

There is also a tool to enable the r_file_* macro mapping called fixup.py. You can get the tool at https://bitbucket.org/billcroberts/fixup/overview. After downloading, make it executable, and place it somewhere in your executable path:

$ chmod a+x fixup.py

$ cat audit.log | audit2allow | fixup.py

#============= adbd ==============

allow adbd audit_log:file r_file_perms;


In the simplest sense, writing policies is just the activity of identifying policy violations and adding the appropriate allow rules to the policy file. However, in order for SELinux to be effective, the source and target contexts must be correct. If they are not, the allow rules are meaningless.

The first things you might encounter are denials where the target type is unlabeled. In this case, the proper target label needs to be set (refer to Chapter 11, Labeling Properties). Also, process labels can be wrong. Multiple processes can belong to a domain, and unless explicitly done via policy, the child process of a parent inherits the parent's domain. However, in Android, domains that have multiple processes are quite limited. You will never see multiple processes in init, system_server, adbd, auditd, debuggerd, dhcp,servicemanager, vold, netd, surfaceflinger, drmserver, mediaserver, installd, keystore, sdcardd, wpa, and zygote domains.

It's okay to see multiple processes in the following domains:

· system_app

· untrusted_app

· platform_app

· shared_app

· media_app

· release_app

· isolated_app

· shell

On a released device, nothing should be run in the su, recovery, and init_shell domains. The following table provides a complete mapping of domains to the expected executables and cardinality:



Cardinality (N)



N == 1



N == 1



N == 1



N == 1



N == 1



N == 1


/system/bin/debuggerd, /system/bin/debuggerd64

N == 1



N == 1


zygote, zygote64

N == 1



N == 1



N >= 1



N == 1



N == 1



N ==1



N >=1



N >=0 && N < 2



N >=0 && N < 2



N == 0



N == 0



N == 0

Several Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) tests have been written around this and submitted to AOSP at https://android-review.googlesource.com/#/c/82861/.

Based on these generic assertions of what a good policy should look like, let's evaluate ours.

First, we will check for unlabeled objects. From the host, with the audit.log file you obtained with adb pull:

$ cat audit.log | grep unlabeled


type=1400 msg=audit(86527.670:341): avc: denied { rename } for pid=3206 comm="pool-1-thread-1" name="com.android.settings_preferences.xml" dev=mmcblk0p4 ino=129664 scontext=u:r:system_app:s0 tcontext=u:object_r:unlabeled:s0 tclass=file


It looks like we have some files and other things that are not labeled properly; we will address these in the Chapter 11, Labeling Properties. Now, let's check for domains that have multiple processes when they should not, and find improper binaries in those domains (refer to the previous table for the complete mapping.)


$ adb shell ps -Z | grep u:r:init:s0

u:r:init:s0 root 1 0 /init

u:r:init:s0 root 2267 1 /sbin/watchdogd


$ adb shell ps -Z | grep u:r:zygote:s0

u:r:zygote:s0 root 2285 1 zygote

$ adb shell ps -Z | grep u:r:init_shell

u:r:init_shell:s0 root 2278 1 /system/bin/sh

… through all domains

After doing this, we found issues because something is running in the init_shell domain, and watchdogd is in the init domain. These must be corrected.


Writing sepolicy is relatively easy, writing good policy is an art. It requires the policy author to understand the system and the implications of the allow rule. Policy itself is a meta-programming language where the language controls how userspace and the kernel get along, and much like any program, the policy can be architected for a specific use. Policies can be too porous (essentially useless) or very tight and difficult to change without breaking the portions that already work.

A good policy needs to preserve the intended proper function of the system, so thorough testing of all the systems within Android is essential. CTS is a great help in exercising Android, but it often does not cover all the cases; user testing is recommended. In the next chapter, we will cover how filesystems and filesystem objects get their security labels and how we can change them. Later, we will go over how to use CTS as a tool to test the system and generate policy violations for intended behaviors.