Copy Back with cfEngine

I love cfengine. There are tons of resources out there for managing all kinds of common and uncommon system administration tasks. Rather than regurgitate all that information I wanted to share how I worked around what has been noted as a short coming of cfengine, clients copying information back to the master server.

Configuring the cfengine master server, with cfegine!

The easiest way to do secure file transfer without passwords would be ssh + public key authentication. This will grant us a reasonable level of security, which we can fine tune with products like scponly. For now, we'll just play around with basics. The first thing to do is to setup a user on your cfengine server to accept the file transfers. Make this user unprivileged and make sure they are allowed to login with ssh. I restrict ssh connectivity using groups. I have a special group for utility accounts on my servers called 'localssh'.

I'm going to create a user named 'util' to handle this setup:

cfmaster# adduser -n -g localssh -h /home/util util

We need passwordless authentication, so we're using ssh-keys. However, we don't want to generate those keys as they will be too much work. We also want to make sure we keep that key under lock and barrel to ensure it's safety. I'll use cfengine to configure the master server, and regenerate a utility key everyday. This will ensure limited exposure of the key on the network. Here's the master section of our cfengine

    hg_cfmaster     = ( )

    util_keydir    = ( /usr/local/cfkeys )
    util_privkey   = ( /usr/local/cfkeys/util.dsa )
    util_pubkey    = ( /usr/local/cfkeys/ )
    util_updir     = ( /home/util/cfin )
    actionsequence = ( directories tidy shellcommands )

    $(util_keydir)  mode=700 owner=root group=root fix=all
    /home/util      mode=700 owner=util group=localssh fix=all
    $(util_updir)   mode=700 owner=util group=localssh fix=all

      $(util_keydir) pattern=util.dsa age=1 r=0 define=dc_util_genkey

      "/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t dsa -b 1024 -N '' -C ''\
        -f $(util_privkey)"

    $(util_pubkey)  dest=/home/util/.ssh/authorized_keys mode=600
                    owner=util group=localssh type=sum

What have we done!?@?!@? Well, the control and groups sections setup our variables. The 'directories' section creates the directories and makes sure the permissions are nice and tight. This ensures that cfengine keeps it that way. The neat trick is my use of "dynamic classes" to take care of key regeneration. The tidy section looks in the $(util_keydir) for anything matching "util.dsa" and removes it if it's older than 1 day old. The "define" section defines a dynamic class for the tidy statement if and only if files were deleted. Then in shellcommands, if our dynamic class "dc_util_genkey" is active, we issue the ssh-keygen command to create our new key. Last, the copy section moves the generated public_key into the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file for our util user. This enables the key for logging in without a password. We can get fancier, but like I said, for now, its simple.

Distributing the private key to the clients

The cfengine clients are going to need the private key to be able to authenticate to our cfmaster server. This is a quick addition in the aforementioned 'copy' block so it looks like this:

    $(util_pubkey)  dest=/home/util/.ssh/authorized_keys mode=600 owner=util
                    group=localssh type=sum
      $(util_privkey) dest=$(util_keydir) mode=0600 owner=root
                      group=root type=sum server=$(policyhost)

That's it. Now all the clients will decide if they need the key based on the checksum and replace it as a newer copy becomes available. So, now we have an account that we can use to send files back to our cfengine master server.

Sending a file to our cfengine master server

What do we do now? Well, I used this technique to issue a certificate request to my cfengine master server for a security tool called OSSEC-HIDS. This meant cfengine could manage the configurations and keys from my clients, making deployment completely automated. Here's an example using the key to scp a file back:

    "/usr/bin/scp -i $(util_privkey) /tmp/somefilewithinformation.txt\

There ya go! I'll be putting up a page on the OSSEC-HIDS Wiki. on how I used this technique to manage all my clients configurations relatively soon.