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Up and running with the File Access Policy Analyzer


It's time for YAACA - Yet Another Application Control Article! Yes, once again I'm writing on the topic of application control. You can see some previous articles here:

Application control is important, though can be difficult to implement. I've spoken with several organisations recently who have invested significant time and money on application control programs. In this article, I'll take a look at an open source tool that can make application control easier to implement - the File Access Policy Analyzer.

The File Access Policy Analyzer, or fapolicy-analyzer, is a set of tools to help with the configuration and maintenance of fapolicyd. It can help to better understand why policies are failing, and create fapolicyd exceptions and rules files.

The File Access Policy Analyzer needs a graphical environment, so if you haven't already, let's install Gnome

sudo dnf install @GNOME

You can then access the graphical environment

sudo systemctl isolate

Configuring fapolicyd

Before we can run the fapolicy-analyzer, we should ensure that fapolicyd is enabled and configured in permissive mode.

Edit /etc/fapolicyd/fapolicyd.conf and make the following changes:

permissive = 1
syslog_format = rule,dec,perm,uid,gid,pid,exe,:,path,ftype,trust

Restart fapolicyd

sudo systemctl restart fapolicyd

Installing fapolicy-analyzer

For this write-up I'm going to install the latest version of fapolicy-analyzer from source on Fedora 36. Firstly, we need some dependencies:

curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSf | sh
dnf install -y python-devel # python 3.9.+ is the default
dnf install -y cairo cairo-devel python3-wheel gcc zlib-devel bzip2 bzip2-devel \
  readline-devel sqlite sqlite-devel openssl-devel tk-devel git python3-cairo-devel \
  cairo-gobject-devel gobject-introspection-devel dbus-devel gtksourceview3 Xvfb
pip install pipenv --user

Now we can clone, build and run the latest source:

git clone
cd fapolicy-analyzer
make run

Profiling an executable

When you first start fapolicy-analyzer you'll be shown this screen.

fapolicy startup

This allows us to see the existing trusted applications in the system trust database (backed by the RPM database), and explore the file-backed ancillary trust database.

Let's try profiling an application. I've created a new user on the system and pulled down a binary cowsay we can run locally. If you navigate to 'Tool -> Profile Executable' you can specify these parameters:

cowsay app profile

Once the analysis completes, you'll be able to see the results. Here, we can see that the cowsay binary is not trusted by the system database.

cowsay app results

We can select 'Trust' to add the binary to the ancillary trust database - we'll see later how to apply these changes.

cowsay app trust
cowsay app trust

Ok - that was a relatively simple application. What about something more complex? For this example, I've pulled down the ansible binary. We can perform the same app profiling, and see the trusted/untrusted components.

ansible app profile
ansible app results

This example is a little more interesting. In addition to the /usr/local/bin/ansible binary, we have a number of shared libraries and other files that the application attempted to access. This is certainly useful for understanding how complex applications access system components, and helping create exceptions.

For now, let's simply add the ansible binary to the ancillary trust database.

ansible app trust

Making changes

Navigate back to 'Tool -> Administer Trust Databases'. In the top left-hand corner is a button to deploy the latest changesets. Press this button to deploy the updates to the ancillary trust database. You'll see a screen highlighting the changes to be made:

trust db changes

Once you select 'Ok', the changes will be written to the ancillary trust database on the host:

# cat /etc/fapolicyd/ 
/usr/local/bin/cowsay 2772992 fc564f72acb1e84a64131d687ef5106dadcf410d03126638aca46e498d020ca6
/usr/local/bin/ansible 5936 3a296b73554feba5f98d3d0550915e7633416ea650e90c17cb19b07beefe2622

You could then take this file, and template it across many systems using Ansible.

Wrap up

This was a very quick overview of the File Access Policy Analyzer open source tool that can make application control implementation simpler and easier.

You could implement the fapolicy-analyzer as part of a DevSecOps approach to application control management.

  • Using the fapolicy-analyzer during application development to identify a trusted application baseline
  • Packaging updates to the fapolicyd ancillary baseline along with application releases
  • Automating updated fapolicyd baselines across many hosts using Ansible