Automated Bcfg2 SSL Authentication

This how-to describes one possible scenario for automating SSL certificate generation and distribution for bcfg2 client/server communication using the SSL CA feature of Cfg. The process involves configuring a certificate authority (CA), generating the CA cert and key pair, configuring the Cfg SSL CA feature and a Bundle to use the generated certs to authenticate the Bcfg2 client and server.


If you already have a SSL CA available you can skip this section, otherwise you can easily build one on the server using openssl. The paths should be adjusted to suite your preferences.

  1. Prepare the directories and files:

    mkdir -p /etc/pki/CA/newcerts
    mkdir /etc/pki/CA/crl
    echo '01' > /etc/pki/CA/serial
    touch /etc/pki/CA/index.txt
    touch /etc/pki/CA/crlnumber
  2. Edit the openssl.cnf config file, and in the [ CA_default ] section adjust the following parameters:

    dir         = /etc/pki          # Where everything is kept
    certs       = /etc/pki/CA/certs     # Where the issued certs are kept
    database    = /etc/pki/CA/index.txt # database index file.
    new_certs_dir   = /etc/pki/CA/newcerts      # default place for new certs.
    certificate = /etc/pki/CA/certs/bcfg2ca.crt     # The CA certificate
    serial      = /etc/pki/CA/serial        # The current serial number
    crl_dir     = /etc/pki/CA/crl           # Where the issued crl are kept
    crlnumber   = /etc/pki/CA/crlnumber # the current crl number
    crl     = /etc/pki/CA/crl.pem       # The current CRL
    private_key = /etc/pki/CA/private/bcfg2ca.key # The private key
  3. Create the CA root certificate and key pair. You’ll be asked to supply a passphrase, and some organizational info. The most important bit is Common Name which you should set to be the hostname of your bcfg2 server that your clients will see when doing a reverse DNS query on it’s ip address.:

    openssl req -new -x509 -extensions v3_ca -keyout bcfg2ca.key \
        -out bcfg2ca.crt -days 3650
  4. Move the generated cert and key to the locations specified in openssl.cnf:

    mv bcfg2ca.key /etc/pki/CA/private/
    mv bcfg2ca.crt /etc/pki/CA/certs/

Your self-signing CA is now ready to use.


SSL CA Feature

The SSL CA feature of Cfg was not designed specifically to manage Bcfg2 client/server communication, though it is certainly able to provide certificate generation and management services for that purpose. You’ll need to configure Cfg as described in SSL Keys and Certificates, including:

  • Configuring a [sslca_default] section in bcfg2.conf that describes the CA you created above;
  • Creating Cfg/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2client.crt/sslcert.xml and Cfg/etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key/sslkey.xml to describe the key and cert you want generated.

In general, the defaults in sslcert.xml and sslkey.xml should be fine, so those files can look like this:


  <Cert key="/etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key"/>



Client Bundle

To automate the process of generating and distributing certs to the clients we need define at least the cert and key paths created by Cfg, as well as the CA certificate path in a Bundle. For example:

<Path name='/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2ca.crt'/>
<Path name='/etc/pki/tls/bcfg2client.crt'/>
<Path name='/etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key'/>

Here’s a more complete example bcfg2-client bundle:

  <Path name='/etc/bcfg2.conf'/>
  <Path name='/etc/cron.d/bcfg2-client'/>
  <Package name='bcfg2'/>
  <Service name='bcfg2'/>
  <Group name='rpm'>
    <Path name='/etc/sysconfig/bcfg2'/>
    <Path name='/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2ca.crt'/>
    <Path name='/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2client.crt'/>
    <Path name='/etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key'/>
  <Group name='deb'>
    <Path name='/etc/default/bcfg2' altsrc='/etc/sysconfig/bcfg2'/>
    <Path name='/etc/ssl/certs/bcfg2ca.crt' altsrc='/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2ca.crt'/>
    <Path name='/etc/ssl/certs/bcfg2client.crt' altsrc='/etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2client.crt'/>
    <Path name='/etc/ssl/private/bcfg2client.key' altsrc='/etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key'/>

The bcfg2.conf client config needs at least 5 parameters set for SSL auth.

  1. key : This is the host specific key that Cfg will create.
  2. certificate : This is the host specific cert that Cfg will create.
  3. ca : This is a copy of your CA certificate. Not generated by Cfg.
  4. password : Set to arbitrary string when using certificate auth. This also shouldn’t be required. See:

Here’s what a functional [communication] section in a bcfg2.conf genshi template for clients might look like.:

{% if metadata.uuid != None %}\
user = ${metadata.uuid}
{% end %}\
{% choose %}\
{% when 'rpm' in metadata.groups %}\
certificate = /etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2client.crt
key = /etc/pki/tls/private/bcfg2client.key
ca = /etc/pki/tls/certs/bcfg2ca.crt
{% end %}\
{% when 'deb' in metadata.groups %}\
certificate = /etc/ssl/certs/bcfg2client.crt
key = /etc/ssl/private/bcfg2client.key
ca = /etc/ssl/certs/bcfg2ca.crt
{% end %}\
{% end %}\

As a client will not be able to authenticate with certificates it does not yet posses we need to overcome the chicken and egg scenario the first time we try to connect such a client to the server. We can do so using password based auth to bootstrap the client manually specifying all the relevant auth parameters like so:

bcfg2 -qv -S https://fqdn.of.bcfg2-server:6789 -u fqdn.of.client \

If all goes well the client should recieve a freshly generated key and cert and you should be able to run bcfg2 again without specifying the connection parameters.

If you do run into problems you may want to review Authentication.

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