Intrusion Detection for the Masses

Set up Tripwire to catch intruders big and small.
Running Checks with Tripwire

Once we've got a database installed, we can run periodic checks against it. At its simplest, the command to do so is: tripwire --check. This compares all protected files against the hash-database and prints a report both to the screen and a binary file. The report can be viewed again with the command:

twprint --print-report --report-level N --twrfile /path/file

where N is a number from 0 to 4, 0 being a one-line summary and 4 being a full report with full details. /path/file is the full path and name of the latest report (by default it should reside in /var/lib/tripwire/report).

To have Tripwire automatically e-mail the report to all recipients specified in the policy, we could have run our check like this instead:

tripwire --check --email-report

Note that the report is still printed to standard output and saved in /var/lib/tripwire/report as well.

If you've installed the Tripwire RPM on a Red Hat 7 system, your system is already set up to run Tripwire periodically in check mode. The RPM includes the script /etc/cron.daily/tripwire-check. If you've used the emailto attribute in your Tripwire policy, however, you may wish to edit the second-to-last line of this script to read:

test -f /etc/tripwire/tw.cfg && /usr/sbin/tripwire --check --email-report

(This line by default lacks the --email-report flag.)

Tripwire won't tell you much unless you run regular checks, either manually, via cron/anacron or some combination thereof.

There Were Violations! Now What?

So, what happens when Tripwire reports violations? That's up to you. Often, violations will be the result of a too-restrictive Tripwire policy rather than actual skullduggery. You'll need to decide which are which and what to do about them.

Either way, you'll probably want to update the Tripwire database after violations are found so that it reflects any legitimate changes to the files and directories being monitored. There are two ways to do this. The first is to run the tripwire command in update mode:

tripwire --update --twrfile /var/lib/tripwire/report/myhost-date.twr

The last argument is the absolute path to the report you wish to use as the basis for this update. This opens the report with the editor specified in tw.cfg so you can indicate which, if any, of the changed files/directories you wish Tripwire not to update in its database. In other words, when you exit the editing session, Tripwire will update the attributes and hashes in its database only for those report entries with an X next to them (they all are by default).

Here's an excerpt from a tripwire-update session:

Remove the "x" from the adjacent box to prevent
updating the database with the new values for this
[x] "/home/mick/www"

If I delete the “x” from this entry, exit the editor and run a check, the /home/mick/www change will be reported again; the database will not have updated to reflect this change. In short, if the change is legitimate, leave the “x” there. If it isn't or you're not sure, remove the “x”.

The second way to update the Tripwire database is to do the actual check in “interactive” mode, which immediately triggers an update session after the check finishes. Thus,

tripwire --check --interactive

is the same thing as

tripwire --check
tripwire --twrfile /var/lib/tripwire/report/reportname.twr
but with the added advantage of saving you the trouble of looking up the report's filename (since it includes a timestamp, this isn't easily guessed).

When you get false positives, it will often make sense to fine-tune your policy. Remember to do this in the manner described at the end of the Editing or Creating a Policy section above.

Now Go Forth and Trip Yourself Some Crackers!

Before we sign off for this month, I leave you with two excellent tips I learned from Ron Forrester, Project Manager for Tripwire Open Source:

  1. Always set MAILNOVIOLATIONS=TRUE [in tw.cfg] so you get a heartbeat from tripwire, i.e., if your cron job runs Tripwire once an hour, and you don't get a report for more than an hour, you know something is up.

  2. Always leave a violation or two (say /etc/ in—this makes it more difficult for an intruder to forge a report. It is quite easy to forge a report with no violations, but add a known violation or two, and it gets much more difficult.

I hope that's enough to get you started; there's much I haven't covered here or have only touched on. Believe you me, this tool's power is worth its learning curve, and the Tripwire Open Source Manual (see below) is both comprehensive and extremely well-written. Good luck!



Mick Bauer ( is a network security consultant in the Twin Cities area. He's been a Linux devotee since 1995 and an OpenBSD zealot since 1997, taking particular pleasure in getting these cutting-edge operating systems to run on obsolete junk. Mick welcomes questions, comments and greetings.