New features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.2

Next Level

© Lead Image © Oleksandr Rozdobudko,

© Lead Image © Oleksandr Rozdobudko,

Article from Issue 239/2020

RHEL 8.2 comes with many new features, ranging from the kernel, through security and networking, to the desktop.

In mid-April, just before the virtual Red Hat Summit 2020 (Figure 1), Red Hat announced an update of its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution. If you want to read the real news about RHEL 8.2 from the press release [1], you have to fight your way through a thick fog of marketing phrases and buzzwords. You'll find references to "shifting global dynamics," as well as the "interconnected nature of the hybrid cloud era," and, of course, COVID-19, which somehow makes everything else even more urgent.

Figure 1: The new Red Hat version was a topic at the Red Hat Summit 2020, which was held as a purely virtual event due to COVID-19.

According to the announcement, updates to the Red Hat Insights analysis platform will provide customers with such gifts as "new intelligent management and monitoring capabilities." The new release also promises "improved container tools" and a "smoother user experience for both Linux experts and newcomers."

Beyond the hype, however, the announcement does point to some concrete improvements that could make a difference for users and IT professionals.

Infrastructure Updates

Sys admins will appreciate a new drift service that automatically compares a system to a predefined base configuration, thus helping to uncover any unauthorized changes. RHEL 8.2 also lets you manage memory resources via cgroup v2, setting quotas to prevent individual processes from hogging too much memory.

The Tuned system tuning tool is now available in the latest upstream version 2.13. Tuned monitors the system and can optimize performance based on profiles that depend on the intended use. You will find profiles for high data throughput, low latency, and energy saving. The updated Tuned comes with a new architecture-dependent tuning framework in RHEL 8.2, supporting several new include directives. Updates are available for the sap-hana, latency-performance, and realtime tuning profiles.

The BIND DNS server has moved to basic version 9.11.13, which introduces new algorithms, commands, and variables. tcp-highwater shows the maximum number of competing TCP clients per run, and BIND also supports an algorithm for SipHash-2-4-based DNS cookies, as described in RFC 7873. The named-checkconf command takes into account DNS64 network extensions that allow NAT from IPv6 clients on IPv4 servers.

In case of a distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attack, the servers no longer return SERVERFAIL messages but fall back on old cached records thanks to the new stale-answer function. The feature can be (de)activated via the configuration file or the remote control channel (rndc).

Secure with OpenSCAP

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense that was founded back in 1960 and has coined numerous abbreviations [2], which mostly relate to communication programs or technologies for the U.S. military services. One of the abbreviations is STIG, which stands for Security Technical Implementation Guides; it consists of recommendations for hardening the security of your own IT systems.

Red Hat customers who want to base their security on these recommendations can now look forward to a suitable profile and kickstart file for OpenSCAP. SCAP is the Security Content Automation Protocol that Red Hat users deploy for automated system monitoring and predefined security policy compliance checks as needed.

Armed with the new profile and the kickstart file for OpenSCAP, customers can check whether their systems are STIG-compliant. And not only that: The scap-security-guide packages also include a profile and the appropriate kickstart files for the Essential Eight policy of the Australian Cyber Security Center (ACSC).

In RHEL 8.2, users of the Podman container software, which – in contrast to Docker – does not require root privileges or a daemon, can use the oscap-podman tool to scan containers with OpenSCAP to identify security holes and check compliance.

SELinux Extension

Numerous other changes affect SELinux and the associated tools and types. udica, a tool introduced with RHEL 8.2, generates SELinux security policies specifically adapted to containers. If a container reports an access denial caused by udica, udica will change the associated policy if desired. In this case, the admin adds the new rule via the parameter -a or --append-rules.

There is also a new setroubleshoot plugin for SELinux. setroubleshoot detects blocked execmem access and gives the admin advice on how to proceed. The setools-gui package was already available in RHEL 7 and is now also on board in RHEL 8.2.

SELinux also manages lvmdbusd, a D-Bus API for the Logical Volume Manager (LVM). Users restricted by SELinux are allowed to manage user session services themselves starting in RHEL 8.2, for example, by running the systemctl --user command. The semanage port tool no longer exclusively focuses on TCP and UDP ports, but also on Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) and Datagram Congestion Control Protocol (DCCP) ports.

Further security updates affect the clevis command, which provides admins with information about LUKS-encrypted disks and also decrypts them automatically.

Rsyslog can now communicate with REST interfaces thanks to the omhttp plugin. The audit package has seen an update, as has the Audit subsystem in the kernel. Red Hat has also incorporated changes from the first release candidate of kernel 5.5, including improved search options on remote filesystems. Last but not least, the new release includes updates for sudo and PAM.

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