How to Do Security Auditing of Linux System Using Lynis Tool?


In today's world, where cyber threats and attacks have become more sophisticated and frequent, it is imperative to secure computer systems against malicious activities. A security audit is a systematic evaluation of the security of a computer system or network, which involves identifying potential vulnerabilities and addressing them before they are exploited by attackers. In this article, we will discuss how to perform a security audit on a Linux system using the Lynis tool.

Definition of Security Auditing

Security auditing refers to the process of evaluating the security posture of a computer system or network by examining its configuration settings, software packages, user accounts, and other relevant parameters. The primary goal of security auditing is to identify weaknesses in the system that could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access or cause harm.

Importance of Security Auditing for Linux Systems

Linux systems are widely used in many organizations due to their stability and high level of customization. However, this popularity makes them an attractive target for cybercriminals who want to steal sensitive data or disrupt services. Therefore, it is essential to regularly perform security audits on Linux systems to ensure that they are adequately protected against potential threats.

Overview of Lynis Tool

Lynis is an open-source security auditing tool that enables users to evaluate the security posture of their Linux systems quickly. It scans the system for potential vulnerabilities and generates a detailed report that highlights areas requiring attention.

The tool supports various UNIX-based operating systems such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora among others. Additionally, Lynis provides an easy-to-use interface with informative command-line output that even novice users can use in their day-to-day operations.

Preparing for Security Auditing with Lynis

Installing Lynis on the Linux system

Before starting security auditing with Lynis, it is important to install the tool on your Linux system. The installation process of Lynis is straightforward, and users can download it from the official website or install it using package managers such as apt-get or yum.

It is recommended to download the latest version of Lynis from the official website to ensure that you are using a stable and up-to-date version of the tool. Once downloaded, you can extract the files and move them to a directory where you would like to store them.

Understanding Lynis configuration options and settings

Lynis comes with a default configuration that works well for most users, but it also allows users to customize its settings according to their specific needs. Users can configure scan parameters such as group scans, individual tests, or sections of tests.

Users can also modify how Lynis outputs its results by setting output options such as report file format and log verbosity level. It is essential to understand these configuration options before running an audit since they affect how results are generated and presented.

Updating the system before running the audit

Before running an audit with Lynis, it is crucial to ensure that your Linux system is up-to-date. Updates contain patches for vulnerabilities that have been identified in previous versions of software and eliminate any known weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers.

To update your Linux system effectively, you should check for updates regularly using package managers such as apt-get or yum. After installing all available updates, you can confidently run an audit with Lingus knowing that any known vulnerabilities have been addressed.

Running a Security Audit with Lynis

After installing Lynis and familiarizing yourself with the configuration options and settings, it's time to run a security audit on your Linux system. This process is relatively straightforward, but understanding the output of the audit report is crucial in identifying potential vulnerabilities and threats.

Understanding the Output of the Audit Report

Lynis generates an extensive report outlining all discovered issues and recommended solutions. The report is divided into different categories such as Boot and Services, Network, Storage, Security, and more. Each category contains items that are either marked as "OK" or "Warning" or "Critical."

The "OK" items indicate that there are no issues found in that category, while "Warning" items suggest some potential problems that need to be addressed. The "Critical" items denote significant security concerns requiring immediate attention.

Analyzing Potential Vulnerabilities and Threats

Lynis provides detailed information about each identified issue along with comprehensive recommendations for remediation. To analyze potential vulnerabilities and threats effectively, focus on critical or warning items first.

These could include things like software vulnerabilities, weak passwords/configuration settings, open ports/services exposed to the internet without protection or encryption. You should prioritize these issues by evaluating how easy they would be for a threat actor to exploit them successfully and determine their impact on your system if exploited.

Addressing Identified Issues and Implementing Recommended Solutions

After analyzing the audit results carefully, it's time to take action by addressing identified issues and implementing recommended solutions. Some recommended actions may include applying software patches/updates; reconfiguring services using secure protocols; modifying file permissions; enabling firewalls or intrusion detection systems (IDS); tightening access controls through password policies or two-factor authentication mechanisms.

It's essential to prioritize which issues to fix first and allocate enough time to implement the recommended solutions. By addressing these issues promptly, you can reduce the risk of security incidents and safeguard your Linux system against malicious attacks.

Advanced Techniques for Security Auditing with Lynis

Customizing audit scans to specific needs

One of the most valuable features of Lynis is its ability to be customized according to specific needs. By default, Lynis performs a comprehensive security audit of the Linux system using a predefined set of tests.

However, users can modify the test parameters and include or exclude certain tests as per their requirements. For instance, they can exclude tests that are not relevant to their system or include additional tests that address specific risks associated with their environment.

Integrating Lynis with other security tools

Lynis can be integrated with other security tools to enhance its capabilities and provide more complete protection against cyber threats. For example, users can integrate it with intrusion detection systems (IDS) such as Snort or Suricata to automate response actions when suspicious activities are detected. In addition, they can use vulnerability scanners like OpenVAS or Nessus alongside Lynis to validate the results of the audit report and identify any missed vulnerabilities.

Automating periodic audits using cron jobs

Performing regular audits is critical for maintaining system integrity and safeguarding against potential attacks. However, conducting manual audits on a frequent basis is time-consuming and may not be feasible for larger environments. Therefore, automated periodic auditing using cron jobs is an efficient approach that helps ensure ongoing security assessments without requiring manual intervention.

Users can configure cron jobs to run Lynis at a specified frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) and receive automatic notifications when issues are detected. Overall, advanced techniques such as customizing scans, integrating with other tools, and automating periodic audits provide greater flexibility and efficiency in protecting Linux systems from potential threats through the use of Lynis tool.


Security auditing is a critical aspect of maintaining the integrity of Linux systems and protecting against cyber threats. Lynis is a powerful tool that provides a wide range of features to perform security audits effectively and efficiently. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily use Lynis to identify potential vulnerabilities and make necessary improvements to your system's security posture.

Updated on: 11-Jul-2023


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