How to disable SELinux

SELinux is that “thing” that breaks functionalities and makes sysadmins think there is some magical force preventing whatever process to write on a 777 permission file or connecting to a socket. Usually learning how to configure SELinux and disable particular restrictions is the best way to go, but when deploying multiple nodes for dev testing or qa behind a firewall or in a private network (virtual cloud) the fast solution is preferred.

Some typical “access denied” issues caused by SELinux are:

  • Configuring the database engine to access files on a different mount point (e.g. some storage freshly allocated in AWS). The database works flawlessly with data files on a certain path but after mounting the storage and putting the same file on the same path, the startup fails.

  • Postfix cannot deliver local mails through the LMTP socket (e.g. used by Cyrus Imap or Dovecot).

  • Errors with accessing paths in PHP scripts (well, not always a bad thing, this one).

Taking down SELinux is easy. The config file is /etc/selinux/config and the typical content is:

# This file controls the state of SELinux on the system.
# SELINUX= can take one of these three values:
#       enforcing - SELinux security policy is enforced.
#       permissive - SELinux prints warnings instead of enforcing.
#       disabled - SELinux is fully disabled.
SELINUX=enforcing
# SELINUXTYPE= type of policy in use. Possible values are:
#       targeted - Only targeted network daemons are protected.
#       strict - Full SELinux protection.
SELINUXTYPE=targeted

# SETLOCALDEFS= Check local definition changes
SETLOCALDEFS=0

The obvious “fix” is to replace enforcing with any of the other 2 options. The “permissive” one will fill up a log with various warnings and would-be restrictions that can help do some proper configuration. But the real solution is to just put “disabled” in there and forget about it. *

Oh, and the node must be restarted:

$ sudo telinit 6

That’s it, have fun!


* No, this is not the real solution on a security-aware environment. Learning SELinux is the actual way to go for the long term (while I agree to you that the syntax is messy and the controls are way too fine grained, which is a good and a bad thing at the same time). More reading on this topic:

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