[CentOS-devel] The Right Way to mount tmpfs using systemd with the right selinux security context

George Dunlap

dunlapg at umich.edu
Mon Sep 14 15:34:55 UTC 2015

In the context of packaging Xen, I'm looking for the Right Way(tm) to
mount a tmpfs with a suitable security context.

= Background =

xenstored is a daemon run in a Xen domain 0 (control domain).  It acts
as a sort of registry that domains and the toolstack can use to
communicate and store important information.

xenstored uses a simple database stored in /var/lib/xenstored/tdb .
This file is not persistent across reboots, it is fairly small, and
the access speed has a major impact on the speed of the system.  For
this reason, mounting /var/lib/xenstored as a tmpfs results is highly

The Xen project ships a number of recommended systemd initscripts with
its distribution.  One of these is var-lib-xenstored.mount, which
simply mounts tmpfs on /var/lib/xenstored.  xenstored.service requires

The default CentOS selinux policies in
/etc/selinux/targeted/modules/active/file_contexts contain labels for

/var/lib/xenstored(/.*)?    system_u:object_r:xenstored_var_lib_t:s0
/usr/sbin/xenstored    --    system_u:object_r:xenstored_exec_t:s0

(Presumably somewhere there's a connection defined between the two
labels; I haven't found it yet.)

The security context for /var/lib/xenstored is set automatically (I
presume due to the above rule):

# ls -aZ /var/lib/xenstored/
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:xenstored_var_lib_t:s0 .

= The Problem =

When var-lib-xenstored.mount mounts tmpfs at
/var/lib/xenstored, the security context reverts to the default for

# systemctl start var-lib-xenstored.mount
# ls -aZ /var/lib/xenstored/
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:tmpfs_t:s0     .

SELinux subsequently denies permission to xenstored to access the
location, and xenstore fails.

= Discussion =

The version of var-lib-xenstored.mount in Xen 4.5 contains a security
context in the mount options, which can be set at configure time; the
result looks something like this:


Unfortunately, the way this was set up meant that if your system did
*not* have selinux, then the mount would fail.  So this was removed,
leaving us the way things are above.

I *could* patch var-lib-xenstored.mount in my xen package; but I would
like to avoid patches as much as possible.  Furthermore, as someone
whose main job is to be an upstream Xen developer, I would prefer to
make var-lib-xenstored.mount as useful as possible *by default*,
without needing to be patched / modified by people downstream using

One solution which has been proposed is to use a config file (say,
/etc/sysconfig/xenstored) which contains a custom set of options for

However, when poking around, I couldn't find any other places where a
context is manually added to a mounted place like that, which made me
wonder if there was a better, more generic way to automatically get
things to work properly.

I did some poking around, and found that
/usr/lib/systemd/rhel-readonly mounts things with tmpfs, and sorts out
the selinux stuff by running restorecon after mounting it.  I tried
that, and it seems to work:

# restorecon -R /var/lib/xenstored
# ls -aZ /var/lib/xenstored/
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:xenstored_var_lib_t:s0 .

Running "systemctl start xenstored.sevrice" afterwards gets a working xenstore.

So I guess I was wondering if there was a better way to get
/var/lib/xenstored labelled with the right contexts than trying to
shove the contexts in at mount time.  Is there a way to have systemd
automatically call restorecon after mounting the filesystem?  Or is
there a better way to get systemd to mount a suitable tmpfs at


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