SELinux modes – Simple explanation

Everyone who uses linux might be familiar with SELinux. The full form of SELinux is Security-Enhanced Linux. It is a kernel level security module that enhances the access level security policies.

In this post I will be quickly explaining about the various modes in SELinux.

There are three modes in SELinux

  • Enforcing
  • Permissive
  • Disabled

In CentOS and RHEL systems , the SELinux configurations are controlled using the configuration file /etc/sysconfig/selinux.

The changes made to this file needs a system reboot. We can disable the SELinux permanently only with a system reboot. But we can set the SELinux into permissive mode without reboot. This can be easily performed by issuing a setenforce command. The details are explained in my another blog post.

Here we can set SELinux to any of the modes mentioned above.

In the Enforcing mode, SELinux is completely active and it will allow access only using the SELinux policies. User can configure the policies to enable access to their application.

In the Permissive mode, the SELinux will be monitoring and logging all the activities that would have been denied if it is in the enforcing state. The SELinux will not block any activities in this state.

In the Disabled mode, SELinux will be completely disabled.

Disable SELinux without reboot

To disable the SELinux by modifying /etc/sysconfig/selinux file, we have to perform a reboot. In some cases, we may not be able to perform a reboot because this involves a downtime of the system. In this situations we can disable SELinux by using a simple command. This will not disable SELinux permanently. The effect will last until the next reboot, but you have the option to edit the selinux file so that it will be in the disabled state even after  the reboot also. The steps for disabling selinux permanently are explained in my previous post.

The command the check the status of SELinux is given below.


This may show enforcing or permissive or disabled. In permissive mode, SELinux will not block anything, but merely warns you. The line will show enforcing when it’s actually blocking.

To disable the SELinux temporarily we can use the following command. This has to be executed as root or using sudo.

setenforce 0

After this command execution we can check the status of selinux using sestatus command. If it is permissive, we are good to go. 🙂