Using PL/Java with SELinux

These notes were made running PostgreSQL and PL/Java on a Red Hat system, but should be applicable—with possible changes to details—on other systems running SELinux.

Anything that gets run by postgres itself runs under a special SELinux context with type postgresql_t that severely limits things it can do. This is generally good.

File contexts

SELinux may prevent it from opening important files, such as libpljava-[version].so or pljava-[version].jar, depending on the SELinux contexts set on those files. The contexts can be listed using ls -Z.

The exact SELinux rules being applied, and the file contexts they would allow, can be different. For example, a .so file is considered executable and triggers one kind of rule, while to SELinux a .jar file is just an ordinary file that Java is trying to open.

Whether a failure is being caused by SELinux can be determined by searching the system log for avc: denied messages. If that is the problem, it can be solved in more than one way. For example:

  • Search the system’s existing SELinux policy (using apol or sesearch, perhaps) to find the rules that apply to what the program is trying to do, and what target contexts would be allowed, then use chcon to set one of those contexts on the file in question. For example, on a Red Hat box, changing the context type on libpljava-[version].so to lib_t and on pljava-[version].jar to usr_t did the trick.
  • Write and load a new SELinux policy module with rules that allow the needed operations.

Issues requiring policy modules

Something in the JVM uses the sched_get{param,priority,scheduler} system calls, so a process of type postgresql_t has to be given the getsched SELinux permission. Also, for SSL connections to work, access to the random_device needs to be allowed. Both of these rules can be added in a policy module:

policy_module(mod-pljava, 1.0)

require {
    type postgresql_t;
    type random_device_t;

allow postgresql_t postgresql_t : process { getsched };
allow postgresql_t random_device_t : chr_file { getattr };

If that is placed in a file pljava.te then

make -f /usr/share/selinux/devel/Makefile
semodule -i pljava.pp

will build and install it.

As another example, suppose a PL/Java function needs to make an ssh connection to a remote host. In the default policy, nothing running as postgresql_t is allowed to connect network sockets to remote ssh ports. Again, a policy module can do the trick:

policy_module(mod-pgsql-ssh, 1.0)

require {
    type postgresql_t;
    type ssh_port_t;

allow postgresql_t ssh_port_t : tcp_socket { name_connect };

As it stands, this is quite broad, and would allow connections to the ssh port at any remote address, exactly what the SELinux policy was trying to prevent. It is reportedly possible (if fiddly) to allow only connecting to the ssh port on the intended remote machine, using the right melange of SELinux and iptables.

avc: denied { execstack }

At one time, log messages saying avc: denied { execstack } might be seen, because Sun had released a Java distribution with a with the execstack attribute missing entirely, which SELinux interprets to mean that the library might need to execute code on the stack, even if it doesn’t really.

If seen, the problem can be confirmed by running execstack -q (manual page) on the file and seeing that it has no execstack attribute.

Recent Java distributions have properly included the attribute, set to false, so SELinux knows the JVM will not need to execute code on the stack. Therefore, the best resolution to the issue is to upgrade to a JDK distribution that is not missing the attribute.

How to break things

One of the best ways to cause a PL/Java installation to stop working, after being trouble-free for ages, is to replace or update one of the files it depends on, and forget to reapply the needed SELinux context to the file.