Audit framework

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The Linux audit framework provides a CAPP-compliant (Controlled Access Protection Profiles) auditing system that reliably collects information about any security-relevant (or non-security-relevant) event on a system. It can help you track actions performed on a system.

Linux audit helps make your system more secure by providing you with a means to analyze what is happening on your system in great detail. It does not, however, provide additional security itself—it does not protect your system from code malfunctions or any kind of exploits. Instead, Audit is useful for tracking these issues and helps you take additional security measures, to prevent them.

The audit framework works by listening to the event reported by the kernel and logging them to a log file.

Note: as of linux 3.12, the audit framework is not yet compatible with the namespace implementation, if you use namespaces, do not use the audit framework.
Note: It may also affects the performance of the system.


audit is available in the community repository, it can be installed with:

# pacman -S audit
# systemctl enable auditd.service
# systemctl start auditd.service

Audit framework is composed of the auditd daemon, responsible for writing the audit messages that were generated through the audit kernel interface and triggered by application and system activity.

This daemon can be controled by several commands and files:

  • auditctl : to control the behavior of the daemon on the fly, adding rules etc.
  • /etc/audit/audit.rules : contains the rules and various parameters of the auditd daemon
  • aureport : generate report of the activity on a system
  • ausearch : search for various events
  • auditspd : the daemon which can be used to relay event notifications to other applications instead of writing them to disk in the audit log
  • autrace : this command can be used to trace a process, in a similar way as strace.
  • /etc/audit/auditd.conf : configuration file related to the logging.

Adding rules

Before adding rules, you must know that the audit framework can be very verbose and that each rules must be carrefully tested before being effectively deployed. Indeed, just one rule can flood all your log within a few minutes.

Audit files and directories access

The most basic use of the audit framework is to log the access to the files you want. To do this, you must use a watch -w to a file or a directory The most basic rule to set up is to track accesses to the passwd file :

# auditctl -w /etc/passwd -p rwxa

You can track access to a folder with :

# auditctl -w /etc/security/

The first rule keep track of every read r , write w , execution x , attribute change a to the file /etc/passwd. The second keep track to any access in the /etc/security/ folder.

You can list all active rules with :

# auditctl -l

Once you validate the rule, you can append them to the /etc/audit/audit.rules file like that :

-w /etc/audit/audit.rules -p rwxa
-w /etc/security/

Audit syscalls

The audit framework allow you to audit the syscalls performed with the -a option.

A security related rule is to track the chmod syscall, to detect file ownership changes :

auditctl -a entry,always -S chmod

For a list of all syscalls : man syscalls

A lot of rules and posibilities are available, see man auditctl and man audit.rules

Search the logs

The audit framework provide some tools to ease the use and the research of event haeing on a system.

using pid

You can search events related to a particular pid using ausearch:

# ausearch -p 1

This command will show you all the events logged according to your rules related to the PID1 (i.e. systemd).

using keys

One of the great feature of the audit framework is its hability to use keys to manage events, such a usage is recommended.

You can use the -k option in your rules to be able to find related events easily :

# auditctl -w /etc/passwd -p rwxa -k KEY_pwd

Then, if you search for events with the key KEY_pwd, ausearch will display only event related to the file /etc/passwd.

# ausearch -k KEY_pwd

Look for abnormalies

The aureport tool can be used to quicly report any anormal event performed on the system, it include network interface used in promiscous mode, process or thread crashing or exiting with ENOMEM error etc.

The easiest way to use aureport is :

# aureport -n

aureport can be used to generate custom report, see man aureport.

Which files or syscalls are worth-auditing ?

Keep in mind that each audit rule added will generate logs, so you must be ready to treat this amount of information. Basically, each security-related event/file must be monitored, like ids, ips, anti-rootkits etc. On the other side, it's totally useless to track every write syscall, the smallest compilation will fill your logs with this event.

More complex set of rules can be set up, performing auditing on a very fine-grained base. If you want to do so, the man pages of auditctl is worth-reading.