Aug 10, 2011

Preventing bash (and ksh) history alteration in Linux


From the looks of things, fixing ksh to make history alteration impossible is fairly easy. I’ve seen all the recommendations to make HIST* environment variables read-only, and the use of chattr to make the history file append-only (with chattr +a .sh_history).

Bash, however, has two things which seem to make it impossible to prevent history alteration: the history command (with history -c and history -d) and the separation of the history file from the actual run-time history (kept in memory). I also read here on serverfault that if you kill the current shell, then history won’t be written out.

Is there any way to prevent history alteration for Bash? I want to be able to save all user commands without the user being able to remove anything from the history whatsoever.

Any further tips on Korn shell are also welcome. (I know about ksh-93 auditing… don’t know if we can use it.)


Here’s a solution for sending all commands executed to a syslog server.

Extract from the blog post

Here are two methods to send a copy of all commands executed by the users to a Syslog server. The first one will use the Bash “trap” feature. The second one is a patch to apply in the Bash source code.

Using a trap

Just add the following lines in your /etc/profile:

function log2syslog
   declare command
   command=$(fc -ln -0)
   logger -p local1.notice -t bash -i — $USER : $command
trap log2syslog DEBUG

/etc/profile is parsed and executed when Bash is started. The goal is to use the trap feature and call a function each time the user generates activity. The trap function (log2syslog) will extract the last command from the history and log it to Syslog using the logger command. Very easy to implement but this method:

spawns new process at each command logged (can have a negative effect when the server activity is high)
is not transparent to the user (regular users can’t edit /etc/profile but can read it!)

That’s why the second method will be preferred.
Using a patch

The method is to apply a patch on the Bash source tree and recompile the shell. It requires a environment with a compiler and the source code but this method will use less CPU and will be completely transparent!

An example of patch is available here. It takes five minutes to manually apply the patch to the Bash 4 source tree.

Here is an example of Syslog message:

Feb 27 19:30:51 honey bash: HISTORY: PID=21099 UID=1000 echo foo!

Related posts:

  1. how to view history command for user root
  2. How to set a timeout within a BASH script for a process that sometimes becomes inactive?
  3. How can I logout users when reboot/halt over ssh, but so that their .bash_history is saved?
  4. svn: externals history with parent repository in redmine
  5. Bash script normal user to Root

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