The systraq Manual

Werurwe 2016

Joost van Baal

Revision History
Revision 20160316Wer 16 2016

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Installation
3. Daily Maintenance
4. Internals
5. Hacking on systraq
6. Contact, other tools

1. Introduction

1.1. What is it?

systraq Is a small set of simple scripts monitoring your system, and warning you when system files change.

systraq Daily sends you an email listing the state of your system. Furthermore, if critical files have changed, you'll get an email within a shorter notice. It consists of few very small shell scripts. It's written for Debian GNU/Linux, but very likely runs on any Unix like operating system. (Examples and default configuration will likely be somewhat Debian centered, 'though.)

It can help you keeping your system secure. However, in case you're planning to use systraq on a multi user system, make sure you really want to do the monitoring this script offers: it might not comply with your site's privacy policy. Getting informed when users' config file change might be too intrusive.

1.2. Why?

In the early 2000s, I had some *BSD boxes, which regularly mail stuff like:

 checking setuid files and devices:

 checking for uids of 0:
 root 0
 toor 0

 checking for passwordless accounts: login failures:
 Oct 11 11:31:52 hille login: 1 LOGIN FAILURE ON ttyv0
 Oct 11 11:31:52 hille login: 1 LOGIN FAILURE ON ttyv0, .^[^[^[[MS refused connections:

 Disk status:
 Filesystem  1K-blocks     Used    Avail Capacity  Mounted on
 /dev/ad0s1a     39647    27927     8549    77%    /
 /dev/ad0s1f   1016303   857921    77078    92%    /usr
 /dev/ad0s1g   7026508  6219148   245240    96%    /usr/home
 /dev/ad0s1e     19815     6712    11518    37%    /var
 procfs              4        4        0   100%    /proc

 Network interface status:
 Name  Mtu   Network       Address            Ipkts Ierrs    Opkts Oerrs  Coll
 lp0*  1500  <Link#1>                             0     0        0     0     0
 ed0   1500  <Link#2>    00:00:e8:6b:a9:3b   651828  1177  4029190     4 36522

 /etc/sshd_config diffs (OLD < > NEW)
 < #     $OpenBSD: mailer.conf,v 1.3 2000/04/06 18:24:19 millert Exp $
 > # This is ssh server systemwide configuration file.
 > Port 22
 > #Protocol 2,1

On OpenBSD boxes, the shellscripts /etc/daily, /etc/weekly and /etc/monthly kick off the process to generate these status mails. The shellscript /etc/security is called, as well as the mtree(8) command.

I very much like this system, taking care of the automatic monitoring of my system. I run GNU/Linux also, these boxes lacked such a system (tripwire is too heavyweigth for my demands.) This system seemed not very portable to GNU/Linux, unfortunately. (Which is another way of stating: I'm too lazy to port the complete system.)

Jeremy Weatherford wrote FileTraq for his Red Hat Linux box. This small tool could be regarded as a first estimate to what I wanted. Jeremy runs it as root, I believe. I want to avoid that as much as possible. I do want to monitor files like /etc/shadow, but I do not want to get the diff emailed when these change. I do want to get a notice if such a file changes. Christoph Lameter's debsums is a tool, for monitoring files installed from Debian packages, which has functionality like this. On Debian systems, there's checksecurity(8) in the cron package, which monitors permissions on device files.

So, I mixed ideas of the BSD 'daily run output' style emails with FileTraq and some other tools. That's how systraq came to be.

2. Installation

2.1. Requirements

You might need the GNU version of utilities like cut and ls: I've only tested sytraq on a GNU/Linux system. The systraq tool works nice with the Debian debsums package; however, systraq is useful too on systems lacking this package.

You need Jeremy Weatherford's FileTraq. However, beware! Jeremy no longer seems to maintain FileTraq. You'll need an up to date version; the Debian package filetraq >= 0.2-10 by Sergio Talens-Oliag is fine. If you are on a Debian system, you know how to get this. If you are on another system, you can get the Debian filetraq version from the master ftp site or from any other mirror. Be sure to at least get the files filetraq_0.2.orig.tar.gz and filetraq_0.2-10.diff.gz (or a later version). You can apply the diff with any patch.

2.2. Configure the package (and optionally rebuild documentation)


 $ ./configure
 $ make
This will configure the package (you might want to pass some arguments to ./configure, see the INSTALL file). You won't need typesetting tools: the typesetted documentation is shipped with the tarball. If you want to hack on the documentation, you'll need to have the documentation build tools installed. After editing documentation sources, just running ./configure and make will be enough to get typesetting from the DocBook XML sources done.

2.3. Install scripts and documentation

(If you're upgrading from an old systraq installation, back up your configuration files in /etc/systraq and run

 # make uninstall
from within your old unpacked tarball.) Run

 # make install
This will install st_snapshot, st_snapshot.hourly and systraq in /usr/sbin. Furthermore, it will install documentation in /usr/share/doc/systraq. (Sample) configuration files will get installed in /etc/systraq and /usr/share/doc/systraq/examples. Helper scripts will be installed in /usr/share/systraq.

2.4. User account

Create a dedicated systraq user account. E.g.

# adduser --system --home /var/lib/systraq --disabled-password --force-badname _systraq
This user will read worldreadable files, and write files under /var/lib/systraq. Cronjobs will get run as this user, you might want to create a ~_systraq/.forward (or whatever your MTA uses), to get these job's output in your mailbox.

2.5. Set up configuration files

2.5.1. Introduction

Example configuration files are distributed with this manual. (On Debian systems, the examples could be used as reasonable defaults, except for the filetraq.conf file, which needs to be generated for your particular system.) All configuration files are line oriented, lines with a leading # are ignored. We give some descriptions here.

2.5.2. filetraq.conf

The files listed in /etc/systraq/filetraq.conf will be checked by filetraq for changes in content every half hour. Diff's will be emailed to the administrator. The files snapshot_pub.stat and snapshot_root.stat should be listed here, as well as systraq.sums (all these files reside in /var/lib/systraq). It is advisable to also list every worldreadable file under /etc/ (and possibly /usr/local/etc/) here. You also might like to list each user's ~/.ssh/authorized_keys here.

All files listed in filetraq.conf should exist on your system, and should be worldreadable. (You can monitor non-world readable files in /etc/ by adding them to snapshot_root.list).

You could create filetraq.conf using this Makefile:

        echo '# $@: automatically generated' > $@
        find /etc /home/*/.ssh/authorized_keys* -perm -a+r -type f | \
          sort >> $@

filetraq.conf: filetraq.main.conf filetraq.tail.conf
        echo '# $@: generated from $^' | \
          cat - filetraq.main.conf filetraq.tail.conf > $@

.PHONY: filetraq.main.conf
where filetraq.tail.conf is

; that might get something useful, as a starter. Be sure to inspect /usr/share/doc/systraq/examples/filetraq.conf too.

You could install the Makefile in /etc/systraq.

If you don't like filetraq's default diff style, but, like me, prefer unified diff, do

# rm -f /etc/default/filetraq
# ln -s /etc/systraq/filetraq.default /etc/default/filetraq

2.5.3. st_snapshots's file lists

Daily, st_snapshot will check all files as listed in its configuration files, aka listfiles. These listfiles are /etc/systraq/snapshot_{pub,root}.list and /etc/systraq/snapshot_{pub,root}.homelist. Example versions of these files are installed in /usr/share/doc/systraq/examples when running make install. The names of these files are given as the two arguments of st_snapshot.

snapshot_pub.list Should contain all world readable files for which we want to monitor existence, ownership, permissions and changes in content. It should contain /var/lib/systraq/systraq.sums too. snapshot_root.list should contain all files which are not world readable, we want to monitor. snapshot_{pub,root}.homelist should contain files we expect to find in homedirectories of users. All users homedirectories are scanned for files listed in these two listfiles. Think of files like shell startup scripts and stuff in ~/.ssh/ and ~/.rhosts. You might want to add .gnupg/revoke.asc and .gnupg/secring.gpg too.

If a file listed in a listfile is a directory, all files residing in this directory, or any subdirectory thereof, gets counted in. Shell wildcards are allowed in the listfiles.

Now create the files /etc/systraq/snapshot_{pub,root}.list and /etc/systraq/snapshot_{pub,root}.homelist, using the example files. Once you're happy with the files, follow the instructions in the next section.

2.6. Inspecting current state of your system, making the first snapshot

Inspect all files listed in the listfiles, and decide wether their content is OK for your securitypolicy. Especially, the authorized_keys files need inspection. Once you're happy with their contents, create the /var/lib/systraq directory, and make sure the _systraq user can write to it. NB: if your copy of the systraq package uses another useraccount (the Debian package uses account "debian-systraq", e.g.) that user should have write-access instead, of course. Then, run st_snapshot manually:

# su -s /bin/sh _systraq
$ ST_OPHOMES=yes st_snapshot /etc/systraq/snapshot_pub.list \
   /etc/systraq/snapshot_pub.homelist > /var/lib/systraq/snapshot_pub.stat
Of course, if your copy of the systraq package uses another useraccount you should su to that user instead. And now, run as root:

# st_snapshot /etc/systraq/snapshot_root.list \
   /etc/systraq/snapshot_root.homelist > /var/lib/systraq/snapshot_root.stat
Inspect the permissions as listed in the output files, and decide wether you're happy with them. Check if all files listed should really be on your system. (One could argue about wether one should have ~/.netrc, ~/.rhosts, ~/.ssh/identity, ~/.shosts, /etc/exports, /etc/*hosts.equiv . Of course, this depends on your planned use of the system.) If you're not happy, fix the permissions and ownerships. You might like to take a look at the OpenBSD /etc/security script to get inspiration.

Make sure you trust all binary files, which are not in vendor-supplied packages (e.g. stuff in /usr/local/bin/ on Debian systems), as they are on your system now. (You could e.g. reinstall them from trusted sources.) Once your system is considered safe, generate a file containing checksums of these files. You can generate this by running e.g., as user _systraq,

$ find /usr/local/sbin /usr/local/bin /usr/local/lib \
   /usr/local/share -type f -exec sha256sum {} + | \
   sort -k 2 >/var/lib/systraq/systraq.sums

Make sure you trust all files in your filetraq.conf file, and create the directory /var/lib/systraq/filetraq/. Then run, as user _systraq,

$ filetraq /etc/systraq/filetraq.conf \
to create the first filetraq backup.

2.7. Setting up cronjob

The systraq-version/etc/systraq file is installed as /etc/cron.d/systraq. (If your cron doesn't look in this directory (but has support for cron.d style directories), then activate it by doing

# ln -s /etc/cron.d/systraq /etc/cron.d/systraq
.) This makes sure filetraq gets run every half hour, systraq gets run daily, and the systraq status files get updated by running st_snapshot, using the st_snapshot.hourly wrapper, each hour.

3. Daily Maintenance

When a user is added to the system: update filetraq.conf with this user's authorized_keys.

filetraq.conf needs maintenance also once files listed there have been removed by system upgrades, or once files have been added to e.g. /etc/.

In case Debian packages are installed with missing /var/lib/dpkg/info/*.md5sums file, things break. Consult the examples section in the debsums manpage, for a hint on how to deal with these broken packages. Alternatively, one can do:

debsums -s > /tmp/sums 2>&1
grep 'no md5sums for' /tmp/sums | awk '{print $5}' > /tmp/pkgs
check the contents of /tmp/pkgs.

apt-get update
apt-get --reinstall install `cat /tmp/pkgs`
debsums --silent --generate=missing,keep `cat /tmp/pkgs`
apt-get clean

When installing or upgrade stuff in /usr/local, be sure to update /var/lib/systraq/systraq.sums with the correct checksums.

4. Internals

4.1. Files used

We list all files used by the systraq system, along with a short description of their role.

Files used


homedir of _systraq user.


stores systraq status files, should be writable by _systraq user.

/var/lib/systraq/snapshot_pub.stat , /var/lib/systraq/snapshot_root.stat

stdout of st_snapshot, listing permissions, ownership and checksums of some files, both publicly readable, as well as non-world readable.


configuration file for filetraq, listing files to get monitored.

/etc/systraq/snapshot_pub.list, /etc/systraq/snapshot_root.list, /etc/systraq/snapshot_pub.homelist, /etc/systraq/snapshot_root.homelist

configutation files for st_snapshot, listing both publicly readable, as well as non-world readable files to get monitored, as well as files to be found in homedirectories. Script st_snapshot.hourly passes these to st_snapshot in its two arguments.


checksums of binary files not in Debian packages, verified by running systraq.

4.2. Dependencies

FIXME: diagram listing dependencies: what calls what, what reads and writes what.

4.3. The systraq scripts

The systraq, st_snapshot and st_snapshot.hourly scripts come with their own manpages, distributed with this manual.

5. Hacking on systraq

Some hints for those who'd like to hack the systaq software. This section is only interesting for software developers.

5.1. Version Control

Systraq is maintained using git on Debian's Alioth, in the collab-maint project. If you have access, you should be able to do:

 $ git clone ssh+git://
If you don't have git write access, you can check for readonly Web access; or do

 $ git clone git://
for access using your git client. Commit messages get sent to a Debian Package Tracking System mailing list. See for more information.

5.2. Generating .tar.gz from version control

If you'd like rebuild documentation, e.g. for creating a new .tar.gz release, you'll need the tools listed below.

You need the SGML Declaration for XML 1.0 for building. On Debian systems, this is installed as /usr/share/sgml/declaration/xml.dcl. ./configure will give you hints on what to do if it fails to find this file.

You need the DocBook XSL stylesheet for manpages for building. On Debian systems, this is installed as /usr/share/sgml/docbook/stylesheet/xsl/nwalsh/manpages/docbook.xsl. ./configure will give you hints on what to do if it fails to find this file.

You need an XSLT engine for building. By default, systraq tries to find xsltproc from Daniel Veillard. This package is shipped with many GNU/Linux and BSD distributions. Alternatively, Saxon, written in Java, from Michael Kay or XML::XSLT, written in Perl, from Geert Josten, Egon Willighagen e.a. might work for you. However, you'd have to hack systraq's man/ to use these.

You need OpenJade, as maintained by Castle, Clasen, Ibach, Martin, Nilsson e.a. to typeset this manual. OpenJade is shipped with many GNU/Linux and BSD distributions. Alternatively, you can use James Clark's Jade from Beware: there hasn't been a Jade release between October 1998 (1.2.1) and October 2004. You might need Debian patches: The Debian package has had patches applied on 8 Jun 2004 and maybe later. So you're likely better off using OpenJade: upstream for this extension of Jade was alive at 2004-09. The ./configure script will pick whatever is available on your system.

Furthermore, you need jadetex and pdfjadetex as shipped with JadeTex (and with many GNU/Linux and BSD distributions) to generate PostScript and PDF from this document.

You need TeX's dvips to generate PostScript from JadeTex's DVI. If it's not included with your system, get it from the TeX Live distribution.

Finally, you need w3m to convert HTML output to plain ascii. If ./configure doesn't find w3m on your system, it'll use Lynx. Both text-browsers are shipped with many GNU/Linux and BSD distributions.

6. Contact, other tools

6.1. Contact information, reporting bugs

If you have any questions or remarks about systraq, you can mail the author at . You can also use this address for reporting bugs (reading the How To Ask Questions The Smart Way document before reporting might be useful) . However, if the bug you've found is present in the systraq Debian package too, please use the Debian Bug Tracking System for reporting.

6.2. Similar tools

I believe diffmon does about the same as this tool.

FAM (File Alteration Monitor) could be used by systraq (instead of cron): it is for a particular process to "subscribe" to changes to a file / directory. FAM then implements the system-dependent best way to do that (e.g. dnotify on modern Linux) and, if more than one process is interested in the same file, centralises the polling (if polling is necessary), so that less resources are taken in total.

Aide and Osiris are big packages for use in sites where demands are high.