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AppArmor is a Mandatory Access Control (MAC) system, implemented upon the Linux Security Modules (LSM).

AppArmor, like most other LSMs, supplements rather than replaces the default Discretionary Access Control (DAC). As such it's impossible to grant a process more privileges than it had in the first place.

Ubuntu, SUSE and a number of other distributions use it by default. RHEL (and its variants) use SELinux which requires good userspace integration to work properly. SELinux attaches labels to all files, processes and objects and is therefore very flexible. However configuring SELinux is considered to be very complicated and requires a supported filesystem. AppArmor on the other hand works using file paths and its configuration can be easily adapted.

AppArmor proactively protects the operating system and applications from external or internal threats and even zero-day attacks by enforcing a specific rule set on a per application basis. Security policies completely define what system resources individual applications can access, and with what privileges. Access is denied by default if no profile says otherwise. A few default policies are included with AppArmor and using a combination of advanced static analysis and learning-based tools, AppArmor policies for even very complex applications can be deployed successfully in a matter of hours.

Every breach of policy triggers a message in the system log, and AppArmor can be configured to notify users with real-time violation warnings popping up on the desktop.



AppArmor is available in linux (since 4.18.8.arch1-1), linux-zen (since 4.18.8.zen1-1) and linux-hardened (since 4.17.4.a-1). Another option is to compile a #Custom kernel.

To enable AppArmor as default security model on every boot, set the following kernel parameters:

apparmor=1 security=apparmor

Custom kernel

When compiling the kernel, it is required to set at least the following options:


To use AppArmor as the default Linux security model and omitting the need of setting kernel parameters, also set the following options:


Userspace Tools

The userspace tools and libraries to control AppArmor are supplied by the apparmorAUR package.

The package is a split package which consists of following sub-packages:

To load all AppArmor profiles on startup, enable apparmor.service.


To test if AppArmor has been enabled:

$ cat /sys/module/apparmor/parameters/enabled

Y — enabled, N — disabled, no such file — module not in kernel.

To display the current loaded status use apparmor_status:

# apparmor_status
apparmor module is loaded.
44 profiles are loaded.
44 profiles are in enforce mode.
0 profiles are in complain mode.
0 processes have profiles defined.
0 processes are in enforce mode.
0 processes are in complain mode.
0 processes are unconfined but have a profile defined.


To disable AppArmor for the current session, stop apparmor.service, or disable it to prevent it from starting at the next boot.

Alternatively you may choose to disable the kernel modules required by AppArmor by appending apparmor=0 security="" to the kernel boot parameters.


Auditing and generating profiles

To create new profiles the Audit framework should be running. This is because Arch Linux adopted systemd and doesn't do kernel logging to file by default. AppArmor can grab kernel audit logs from the userspace auditd daemon, allowing you to build a profile.

To get kernel audit logs, you'll need to have rules in place to monitor the desired application. Most often a basic rule configured with auditctl(8) will suffice:

# auditctl -a exit,always -F arch=b64 -S all -F path=/usr/bin/chromium -F key=MonitorChromium

Be sure to read Audit framework#Adding rules if this is unfamiliar to you.

Note: Remember to stop the service afterwards (and maybe clear /var/log/audit/audit.log) because it may cause overhead depending on your rules.

Understanding profiles

Profiles are human readable text files residing under /etc/apparmor.d/ describing how binaries should be treated when executed. A basic profile looks similar to this:

#include <tunables/global>

profile test /usr/lib/test/test_binary {
    #include <abstractions/base>

    # Main libraries and plugins
    /usr/share/TEST/** r,
    /usr/lib/TEST/** rm,

    # Configuration files and logs
    @{HOME}/.config/ r,
    @{HOME}/.config/TEST/** rw,

Strings preceded by a @ symbol are variables defined by abstractions (/etc/apparmor.d/abstractions/), tunables (/etc/apparmor.d/tunables/) or by the profile itself. #include includes other profile-files directly. Paths followed by a set of characters are access permissions. Pattern matching is done using AppArmor's globbing syntax.

Most common use cases are covered by the following statements:

  • r — read: read data
  • w — write: create, delete, write to a file and extend it
  • m — memory map executable: memory map a file executable
  • x — execute: execute file; needs to be preceded by a qualifier

Remember that those permission do not allow binaries to exceed the permission dictated by the Discretionary Access Control (DAC).

This is merely a short overview, for a more detailed guide be sure to have a look at the documentation.

Parsing profiles

To load (enforce or complain), unload, reload, cache and stat profiles use apparmor_parser. The default action (-a) is to load a new profile in enforce mode, loading it in complain mode is possible using the -C switch, in order to overwrite an existing profile use the -r option and to remove a profile use -R. Each action may also apply to multiple profiles. Refer to apparmor_parser(8) man page for more information.

Tips and tricks

Get desktop notification on DENIED actions

The notify daemon displays desktop notifications whenever AppArmor denies a program access. The script must be started at each boot and needs a few additional parameters:

# aa-notify -p -f /var/log/audit/audit.log --display $DISPLAY

The daemon relies on the auditing events being logged to a text file which can be specified using -f. To circumvent systemd not logging to a file it is necessary to enable auditd.service and pass its log file to aa-notify. No special auditing rules are necessary for this to work, therefore the overhead is not as significant as it was when #Auditing and generating profiles.

Cache profiles

Since AppArmor has to translate the configured profiles into a binary format it may take some time to load them. Besides being bothersome for the user, it may also increases the boot time significantly!

To circumvent some of those problems AppArmor can cache profiles in /etc/apparmor.d/cache/. However this behaviour is disabled by default therefore it must be done manually with apparmor_parser. In order to write to the cache use -W (overwrite existing profiles with -T) and reload the profiles using -r. Refer to #Parsing profiles for a brief overview of additional arguments.

See also