Guide to the Secure Configuration of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6

with profile Standard System Security Profile
This profile contains rules to ensure standard security baseline of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 system. Regardless of your system's workload all of these checks should pass.

This guide presents a catalog of security-relevant configuration settings for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. It is a rendering of content structured in the eXtensible Configuration Checklist Description Format (XCCDF) in order to support security automation. The SCAP content is is available in the scap-security-guide package which is developed at

Providing system administrators with such guidance informs them how to securely configure systems under their control in a variety of network roles. Policy makers and baseline creators can use this catalog of settings, with its associated references to higher-level security control catalogs, in order to assist them in security baseline creation. This guide is a catalog, not a checklist, and satisfaction of every item is not likely to be possible or sensible in many operational scenarios. However, the XCCDF format enables granular selection and adjustment of settings, and their association with OVAL and OCIL content provides an automated checking capability. Transformations of this document, and its associated automated checking content, are capable of providing baselines that meet a diverse set of policy objectives. Some example XCCDF Profiles, which are selections of items that form checklists and can be used as baselines, are available with this guide. They can be processed, in an automated fashion, with tools that support the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP). The DISA STIG for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, which provides required settings for US Department of Defense systems, is one example of a baseline created from this guidance.
Do not attempt to implement any of the settings in this guide without first testing them in a non-operational environment. The creators of this guidance assume no responsibility whatsoever for its use by other parties, and makes no guarantees, expressed or implied, about its quality, reliability, or any other characteristic.
Profile TitleStandard System Security Profile
Profile IDxccdf_org.ssgproject.content_profile_standard

Revision History

Current version: 0.1.31

  • draft (as of 2016-11-28)


  • cpe:/o:redhat:enterprise_linux:6
  • cpe:/o:redhat:enterprise_linux:6::client
  • cpe:/o:redhat:enterprise_linux:6::computenode

Table of Contents

  1. System Settings
    1. Installing and Maintaining Software
    2. File Permissions and Masks
    3. Account and Access Control


contains 10 rules

System Settingsgroup

Contains rules that check correct system settings.

contains 10 rules

Installing and Maintaining Softwaregroup

The following sections contain information on security-relevant choices during the initial operating system installation process and the setup of software updates.

contains 4 rules

Updating Softwaregroup

The yum command line tool is used to install and update software packages. The system also provides a graphical software update tool in the System menu, in the Administration submenu, called Software Update.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems contain an installed software catalog called the RPM database, which records metadata of installed packages. Consistently using yum or the graphical Software Update for all software installation allows for insight into the current inventory of installed software on the system.

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Ensure Red Hat GPG Key Installedrule

To ensure the system can cryptographically verify base software packages come from Red Hat (and to connect to the Red Hat Network to receive them), the Red Hat GPG key must properly be installed. To install the Red Hat GPG key, run:

$ sudo rhn_register
If the system is not connected to the Internet or an RHN Satellite, then install the Red Hat GPG key from trusted media such as the Red Hat installation CD-ROM or DVD. Assuming the disc is mounted in /media/cdrom, use the following command as the root user to import it into the keyring:
$ sudo rpm --import /media/cdrom/RPM-GPG-KEY


The Red Hat GPG key is necessary to cryptographically verify packages are from Red Hat.

identifiers:  CCE-26506-6, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000008

references:  SI-7, MA-1(b), 351

Remediation Shell script:   (show)

# The two fingerprints below are retrieved from
readonly REDHAT_RELEASE_2_FINGERPRINT="567E 347A D004 4ADE 55BA 8A5F 199E 2F91 FD43 1D51"
readonly REDHAT_AUXILIARY_FINGERPRINT="43A6 E49C 4A38 F4BE 9ABF 2A53 4568 9C88 2FA6 58E0"
# Location of the key we would like to import (once it's integrity verified)
readonly REDHAT_RELEASE_KEY="/etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-redhat-release"

RPM_GPG_DIR_PERMS=$(stat -c %a "$(dirname "$REDHAT_RELEASE_KEY")")

# Verify /etc/pki/rpm-gpg directory permissions are safe
if [ "${RPM_GPG_DIR_PERMS}" -le "755" ]
  # If they are safe, try to obtain fingerprints from the key file
  # (to ensure there won't be e.g. CRC error)
  IFS=$'\n' GPG_OUT=($(gpg --with-fingerprint "${REDHAT_RELEASE_KEY}"))
  # No CRC error, safe to proceed
  if [ "${GPG_RESULT}" -eq "0" ]
    for ITEM in "${GPG_OUT[@]}"
      # Filter just hexadecimal fingerprints from gpg's output from
      # processing of a key file
      RESULT=$(echo ${ITEM} | sed -n "s/[[:space:]]*Key fingerprint = \(.*\)/\1/p" | tr -s '[:space:]')
      # If fingerprint matches Red Hat's release 2 or auxiliary key import the key
      if [[ ${RESULT} ]] && ([[ ${RESULT} = "${REDHAT_RELEASE_2_FINGERPRINT}" ]] || \
                             [[ ${RESULT} = "${REDHAT_AUXILIARY_FINGERPRINT}" ]])
        rpm --import "${REDHAT_RELEASE_KEY}"

Ensure gpgcheck Enabled In Main Yum Configurationrule

The gpgcheck option controls whether RPM packages' signatures are always checked prior to installation. To configure yum to check package signatures before installing them, ensure the following line appears in /etc/yum.conf in the [main] section:



Ensuring the validity of packages' cryptographic signatures prior to installation ensures the authenticity of the software and protects against malicious tampering.

identifiers:  CCE-26709-6, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000013

references:  SI-7, MA-1(b), 352, 663

Remediation Shell script:   (show)

sed -i 's/gpgcheck=.*/gpgcheck=1/g' /etc/yum.conf

Software Integrity Checkinggroup

Both the AIDE (Advanced Intrusion Detection Environment) software and the RPM package management system provide mechanisms for verifying the integrity of installed software. AIDE uses snapshots of file metadata (such as hashes) and compares these to current system files in order to detect changes. The RPM package management system can conduct integrity checks by comparing information in its metadata database with files installed on the system.

Integrity checking cannot prevent intrusions, but can detect that they have occurred. Requirements for software integrity checking may be highly dependent on the environment in which the system will be used. Snapshot-based approaches such as AIDE may induce considerable overhead in the presence of frequent software updates.

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Verify Integrity with RPMgroup

The RPM package management system includes the ability to verify the integrity of installed packages by comparing the installed files with information about the files taken from the package metadata stored in the RPM database. Although an attacker could corrupt the RPM database (analogous to attacking the AIDE database as described above), this check can still reveal modification of important files. To list which files on the system differ from what is expected by the RPM database:

$ rpm -qVa
See the man page for rpm to see a complete explanation of each column.

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Verify and Correct File Permissions with RPMrule

The RPM package management system can check file access permissions of installed software packages, including many that are important to system security. After locating a file with incorrect permissions, run the following command to determine which package owns it:

$ rpm -qf FILENAME
Next, run the following command to reset its permissions to the correct values:
$ sudo rpm --setperms PACKAGENAME

warning  Note: Due to a bug in the gdm package, the RPM verify command may continue to fail even after file permissions have been correctly set on /var/log/gdm. This is being tracked in Red Hat Bugzilla #1277603.

Permissions on system binaries and configuration files that are too generous could allow an unauthorized user to gain privileges that they should not have. The permissions set by the vendor should be maintained. Any deviations from this baseline should be investigated.

identifiers:  CCE-26731-0, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000518

references:  AC-6, CM-6(d), SI-7, 1493, 1494, 1495

Remediation Shell script:   (show)


# Declare array to hold list of RPM packages we need to correct permissions for

# Create a list of files on the system having permissions different from what
# is expected by the RPM database
FILES_WITH_INCORRECT_PERMS=($(rpm -Va --nofiledigest | grep '^.M'))

# For each file path from that list:
# * Determine the RPM package the file path is shipped by,
# * Include it into SETPERMS_RPM_LIST array

	RPM_PACKAGE=$(rpm -qf "$FILE_PATH")

# Remove duplicate mention of same RPM in $SETPERMS_RPM_LIST (if any)
SETPERMS_RPM_LIST=( $(echo "${SETPERMS_RPM_LIST[@]}" | sort -n | uniq) )

# For each of the RPM packages left in the list -- reset its permissions to the
# correct values
	rpm --setperms "${RPM_PACKAGE}"

Verify File Hashes with RPMrule

The RPM package management system can check the hashes of installed software packages, including many that are important to system security. Run the following command to list which files on the system have hashes that differ from what is expected by the RPM database:

$ rpm -Va | grep '^..5'
A "c" in the second column indicates that a file is a configuration file, which may appropriately be expected to change. If the file was not expected to change, investigate the cause of the change using audit logs or other means. The package can then be reinstalled to restore the file. Run the following command to determine which package owns the file:
$ rpm -qf FILENAME
The package can be reinstalled from a yum repository using the command:
$ sudo yum reinstall PACKAGENAME
Alternatively, the package can be reinstalled from trusted media using the command:
$ sudo rpm -Uvh PACKAGENAME


The hashes of important files like system executables should match the information given by the RPM database. Executables with erroneous hashes could be a sign of nefarious activity on the system.

identifiers:  CCE-27223-7, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000519

references:  CM-6(d), SI-7, 1496

File Permissions and Masksgroup

Traditional Unix security relies heavily on file and directory permissions to prevent unauthorized users from reading or modifying files to which they should not have access.

Several of the commands in this section search filesystems for files or directories with certain characteristics, and are intended to be run on every local partition on a given system. When the variable PART appears in one of the commands below, it means that the command is intended to be run repeatedly, with the name of each local partition substituted for PART in turn.

The following command prints a list of all xfs partitions on the local system, which is the default filesystem for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 installations:

$ mount -t xfs | awk '{print $3}'
For any systems that use a different local filesystem type, modify this command as appropriate.

contains 4 rules

Verify Permissions on Important Files and Directoriesgroup

Permissions for many files on a system must be set restrictively to ensure sensitive information is properly protected. This section discusses important permission restrictions which can be verified to ensure that no harmful discrepancies have arisen.

contains 4 rules

Verify that All World-Writable Directories Have Sticky Bits Setrule

When the so-called 'sticky bit' is set on a directory, only the owner of a given file may remove that file from the directory. Without the sticky bit, any user with write access to a directory may remove any file in the directory. Setting the sticky bit prevents users from removing each other's files. In cases where there is no reason for a directory to be world-writable, a better solution is to remove that permission rather than to set the sticky bit. However, if a directory is used by a particular application, consult that application's documentation instead of blindly changing modes.
To set the sticky bit on a world-writable directory DIR, run the following command:

$ sudo chmod +t DIR


Failing to set the sticky bit on public directories allows unauthorized users to delete files in the directory structure.

The only authorized public directories are those temporary directories supplied with the system, or those designed to be temporary file repositories. The setting is normally reserved for directories used by the system, by users for temporary file storage (such as /tmp), and for directories requiring global read/write access.

identifiers:  CCE-26840-9, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000336

references:  AC-6

Ensure No World-Writable Files Existrule

It is generally a good idea to remove global (other) write access to a file when it is discovered. However, check with documentation for specific applications before making changes. Also, monitor for recurring world-writable files, as these may be symptoms of a misconfigured application or user account.


Data in world-writable files can be modified by any user on the system. In almost all circumstances, files can be configured using a combination of user and group permissions to support whatever legitimate access is needed without the risk caused by world-writable files.

identifiers:  CCE-26910-0, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000282

references:  AC-6

Ensure All SGID Executables Are Authorizedrule

The SGID (set group id) bit should be set only on files that were installed via authorized means. A straightforward means of identifying unauthorized SGID files is determine if any were not installed as part of an RPM package, which is cryptographically verified. Investigate the origin of any unpackaged SGID files.


Executable files with the SGID permission run with the privileges of the owner of the file. SGID files of uncertain provenance could allow for unprivileged users to elevate privileges. The presence of these files should be strictly controlled on the system.

identifiers:  CCE-26769-0

references:  AC-6(1)

Ensure All SUID Executables Are Authorizedrule

The SUID (set user id) bit should be set only on files that were installed via authorized means. A straightforward means of identifying unauthorized SGID files is determine if any were not installed as part of an RPM package, which is cryptographically verified. Investigate the origin of any unpackaged SUID files.


Executable files with the SUID permission run with the privileges of the owner of the file. SUID files of uncertain provenance could allow for unprivileged users to elevate privileges. The presence of these files should be strictly controlled on the system.

identifiers:  CCE-26497-8

references:  AC-6(1)

Account and Access Controlgroup

In traditional Unix security, if an attacker gains shell access to a certain login account, they can perform any action or access any file to which that account has access. Therefore, making it more difficult for unauthorized people to gain shell access to accounts, particularly to privileged accounts, is a necessary part of securing a system. This section introduces mechanisms for restricting access to accounts under Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

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Protect Accounts by Restricting Password-Based Logingroup

Conventionally, Unix shell accounts are accessed by providing a username and password to a login program, which tests these values for correctness using the /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow files. Password-based login is vulnerable to guessing of weak passwords, and to sniffing and man-in-the-middle attacks against passwords entered over a network or at an insecure console. Therefore, mechanisms for accessing accounts by entering usernames and passwords should be restricted to those which are operationally necessary.

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Verify Proper Storage and Existence of Password Hashesgroup

By default, password hashes for local accounts are stored in the second field (colon-separated) in /etc/shadow. This file should be readable only by processes running with root credentials, preventing users from casually accessing others' password hashes and attempting to crack them. However, it remains possible to misconfigure the system and store password hashes in world-readable files such as /etc/passwd, or to even store passwords themselves in plaintext on the system. Using system-provided tools for password change/creation should allow administrators to avoid such misconfiguration.

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Prevent Log In to Accounts With Empty Passwordrule

If an account is configured for password authentication but does not have an assigned password, it may be possible to log onto the account without authentication. Remove any instances of the nullok option in /etc/pam.d/system-auth to prevent logins with empty passwords.


If an account has an empty password, anyone could log in and run commands with the privileges of that account. Accounts with empty passwords should never be used in operational environments.

identifiers:  CCE-27038-9, DISA FSO RHEL-06-000030

references:  IA-5(b), IA-5(c), IA-5(1)(a)

Remediation Shell script:   (show)

sed --follow-symlinks -i 's/\<nullok\>//g' /etc/pam.d/system-auth

Secure Session Configuration Files for Login Accountsgroup

When a user logs into a Unix account, the system configures the user's session by reading a number of files. Many of these files are located in the user's home directory, and may have weak permissions as a result of user error or misconfiguration. If an attacker can modify or even read certain types of account configuration information, they can often gain full access to the affected user's account. Therefore, it is important to test and correct configuration file permissions for interactive accounts, particularly those of privileged users such as root or system administrators.

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Ensure that No Dangerous Directories Exist in Root's Pathgroup

The active path of the root account can be obtained by starting a new root shell and running:

$ sudo echo $PATH
This will produce a colon-separated list of directories in the path.

Certain path elements could be considered dangerous, as they could lead to root executing unknown or untrusted programs, which could contain malicious code. Since root may sometimes work inside untrusted directories, the . character, which represents the current directory, should never be in the root path, nor should any directory which can be written to by an unprivileged or semi-privileged (system) user.

It is a good practice for administrators to always execute privileged commands by typing the full path to the command.

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Ensure that Root's Path Does Not Include World or Group-Writable Directoriesrule

For each element in root's path, run:

$ sudo ls -ld DIR
and ensure that write permissions are disabled for group and other.


Such entries increase the risk that root could execute code provided by unprivileged users, and potentially malicious code.

identifiers:  CCE-26768-2

references:  CM-6(b), 366

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