Skip to main content

Forward Secure Sealing (FSS) in Systemd-Journal

Forward Secure Sealing (FSS) is a feature in the systemd journal designed to detect log file tampering. Given that attackers often try to hide their actions by modifying or deleting log file entries, FSS provides administrators with a mechanism to identify any such unauthorized alterations.


Logs are a crucial component of system monitoring and auditing. Ensuring their integrity means administrators can trust the data, detect potential breaches, and trace actions back to their origins. Traditional methods to maintain this integrity involve writing logs to external systems or printing them out. While these methods are effective, they are not foolproof. FSS offers a more streamlined approach, allowing for log verification directly on the local system.

How FSS Works

FSS operates by "sealing" binary logs at regular intervals. This seal is a cryptographic operation, ensuring that any tampering with the logs prior to the sealing can be detected. If an attacker modifies logs before they are sealed, these changes become a permanent part of the sealed record, highlighting any malicious activity.

The technology behind FSS is based on "Forward Secure Pseudo Random Generators" (FSPRG), a concept stemming from academic research.

Two keys are central to FSS:

  • Sealing Key: Kept on the system, used to seal the logs.
  • Verification Key: Stored securely off-system, used to verify the sealed logs.

Every so often, the sealing key is regenerated in a non-reversible process, ensuring that old keys are obsolete and the latest logs are sealed with a fresh key. The off-site verification key can regenerate any past sealing key, allowing administrators to verify older seals. If logs are tampered with, verification will fail, alerting administrators to the breach.

Enabling FSS

To enable FSS, use the following command:

journalctl --setup-keys

By default, systemd will seal the logs every 15 minutes. However, this interval can be adjusted using a flag during key generation. For example, to seal logs every 10 seconds:

journalctl --setup-keys --interval=10s

Verifying Journals

After enabling FSS, you can verify the integrity of your logs using the verification key:

journalctl --verify

If any discrepancies are found, you'll be alerted, indicating potential tampering.

Disabling FSS

Should you wish to disable FSS:

Delete the Sealing Key: This stops new log entries from being sealed.

journalctl --rotate

Rotate and Prune the Journals: This will start a new unsealed journal and can remove old sealed journals.

journalctl --vacuum-time=1s

Adjust Systemd Configuration (Optional): If you've made changes to facilitate FSS in /etc/systemd/journald.conf, consider reverting or adjusting those. Restart the systemd-journald service afterward:

systemctl restart systemd-journald


FSS is a significant advancement in maintaining log integrity. While not a replacement for all traditional integrity methods, it offers a valuable tool in the battle against unauthorized log tampering. By integrating FSS into your log management strategy, you ensure a more transparent, reliable, and tamper-evident logging system.

Do you have any feedback for this page? If so, you can open a new issue on our netdata/learn repository.