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Overview of Linux Kernel Security Features

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Linux

In this article, we'll take a high-level look at the security features of the Linux kernel. We'll start with a brief overview of traditional Unix security, and the rationale for extending that for Linux, then we'll discuss the Linux security extensions.

Unix Security – Discretionary Access Control

Linux was initially developed as a clone of the Unix operating system in the early 1990s. As such, it inherits the core Unix security model—a form of Discretionary Access Control (DAC). The security features of the Linux kernel have evolved significantly to meet modern requirements, although Unix DAC remains as the core model.

Briefly, Unix DAC allows the owner of an object (such as a file) to set the security policy for that object—which is why it's called a discretionary scheme. As a user, you can, for example, create a new file in your home directory and decide who else may read or write the file. This policy is implemented as permission bits attached to the file's inode, which may be set by the owner of the file. Permissions for accessing the file, such as read and write, may be set separately for the owner, a specific group, and other (i.e. everyone else). This is a relatively simple form of access control lists (ACLs).

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