Auditing subsystem

The auditing subsystem has detection, collection, and processing functions.

The system administrator can configure each of these functions.

Auditing event detection

Event detection is distributed throughout the Trusted Computing Base (TCB), both in the kernel (supervisor state code) and the trusted programs (user state code). An auditable event is any security-relevant occurrence in the system. A security-relevant occurrence is any change to the security state of the system, any attempted or actual violation of the system access control or accountability security policies, or both. The programs and kernel modules that detect auditable events are responsible for reporting these events to the system audit logger, that runs as part of the kernel and can be accessed either with a subroutine (for trusted program auditing) or within a kernel procedure call (for supervisor state auditing). The information reported includes the name of the auditable event, the success or failure of the event, and any additional event-specific information that is relevant to security auditing.

Event detection configuration consists of turning event detection on or off, and specifiying which events are to be audited for which users. To activate event detection use the audit command to enable or disable the audit subsystem. The /etc/security/audit/config file contains the events and users that are processed by the audit subsystem.

Event information collection

Information collection encompasses logging the selected auditable events. This function is performed by the kernel audit logger, which provides both a system call and an intra-kernel procedure call interface that records auditable events.

The audit logger is responsible for constructing the complete audit record, consisting of the audit header, that contains information common to all events (such as the name of the event, the user responsible, the time and return status of the event), and the audit trail, which contains event-specific information. The audit logger appends each successive record to the kernel audit trail, which can be written in either (or both) of two modes:

BIN mode
The trail is written into alternating files, providing for safety and long-term storage.
The trail is written to a circular buffer that is read synchronously through an audit pseudo-device. STREAM mode offers immediate response.

Information collection can be configured at both the front end (event recording) and at the back end (trail processing). Event recording is selectable on a per-user basis. Each user has a defined set of audit events that are logged in the audit trail when they occur. At the back end, the modes are individually configurable, so that the administrator can employ the back-end processing best suited for a particular environment. In addition, BIN mode auditing can be configured to generate an alert in case the file system space available for the trail is getting too low.

Audit trail information processing

The operating system provides several options for processing the kernel audit trail. The BIN mode trail can be compressed, filtered, or formatted for output, or any reasonable combination of these before archival storage of the audit trail, if any. Compression is done through Huffman encoding. Filtering is done with standard query language (SQL)-like audit record selection (using the auditselect command), which provides for both selective viewing and selective retention of the audit trail. Formatting of audit trail records can be used to examine the audit trail, to generate periodic security reports, and to print a paper audit trail.

The STREAM mode audit trail can be monitored in real time, to provide immediate threat-monitoring capability. Configuration of these options is handled by separate programs that can be invoked as daemon processes to filter either BIN or STREAM mode trails, although some of the filter programs are more naturally suited to one mode or the other.