How to Check SELinux Status on Ubuntu

How to Check SELinux Status on Ubuntu

Security-Enhanced Linux, commonly known as SELinux, is a security module for the Linux kernel. Originally developed by the United States National Security Agency, it provides a mechanism for supporting access control security policies, including mandatory access controls (MAC). SELinux is an essential tool for system administrators who wish to secure their servers against unauthorized access and potential vulnerabilities.

Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions, does not have SELinux enabled by default. Instead, it uses AppArmor as its primary mandatory access control system. However, it’s possible to install and enable SELinux on Ubuntu if desired.

In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to check the SELinux status on an Ubuntu system. Whether you’re considering transitioning from AppArmor to SELinux or simply want to verify its status, this tutorial will provide you with the necessary insights.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Accessing the Terminal

Before you can check the SELinux status, you need to access the terminal:

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Press CTRL + ALT + T simultaneously. This will open the terminal window. Once the terminal is open, you’re ready to enter commands.

Step 2: Install the SELinux Utilities

If you haven’t previously installed SELinux or its utilities on your Ubuntu system, you’ll need to do so:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install selinux-utils

Step 3: Check the SELinux Status

With the utilities installed, you can now check the status of SELinux:


This command will display the current status of SELinux on your system. If SELinux is not enabled, the output will indicate that it’s disabled.

Step 4: Understanding the Output

The sestatus command provides various pieces of information:

  • SELinux status: Indicates whether SELinux is enabled or disabled.
  • Current mode: Shows if SELinux is operating in ‘enforcing’, ‘permissive’, or ‘disabled’ mode.
  • Policy version: Displays the version of the SELinux policy in use.

Commands Mentioned

  • sudo apt update – Updates the package list for upgrades.
  • sudo apt install selinux-utils – Installs the SELinux utilities.
  • sestatus – Checks and displays the SELinux status.
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  1. Why isn’t SELinux enabled by default on Ubuntu?

    Ubuntu uses AppArmor by default as its primary mandatory access control system. AppArmor is considered more user-friendly and less complex than SELinux, making it a preferred choice for Ubuntu’s user-centric philosophy.

  2. Can I run both AppArmor and SELinux simultaneously?

    It’s not recommended to run both AppArmor and SELinux simultaneously as they can conflict. If you wish to use SELinux, it’s advisable to disable AppArmor first.

  3. How do I enable SELinux on Ubuntu?

    To enable SELinux on Ubuntu, you’ll need to install the necessary packages, adjust the boot parameters, and possibly adjust file contexts. It’s a multi-step process that requires careful attention to detail.

  4. Is SELinux better than AppArmor?

    Neither is objectively “better” than the other. Both SELinux and AppArmor have their strengths and use-cases. SELinux offers fine-grained control and is powerful, while AppArmor is simpler and more user-friendly. The choice depends on the specific needs and expertise of the administrator.

  5. What is the difference between ‘enforcing’ and ‘permissive’ modes in SELinux?

    In ‘enforcing’ mode, SELinux enforces its policies and denies access based on those policies. In ‘permissive’ mode, SELinux allows all operations but logs any operations that would have been denied in ‘enforcing’ mode. It’s useful for troubleshooting without affecting system functionality.

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Checking the SELinux status on Ubuntu is a straightforward process, but understanding its implications and how it fits into the broader security landscape is crucial. While Ubuntu comes with AppArmor by default, SELinux offers a robust and fine-grained control mechanism for those who need it.

Whether you’re sticking with AppArmor or considering a switch to SELinux, always prioritize your server’s security.

For those looking to further enhance their server capabilities, exploring options like best dedicated servers and best VPS hosting can provide additional layers of performance and security. Stay informed, stay secure, and always keep learning.


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