Rsync copy files with root privileges between servers with root superuser account disabled

 

rsync-copy-files-between-two-servers-with-root-privileges-with-root-superuser-account-disabled

Sometimes on servers that follow high security standards in companies following PCI Security (Payment Card Data Security) standards it is necessery to have a very weird configurations on servers,to be able to do trivial things such as syncing files between servers with root privileges in a weird manners.This is the case for example if due to security policies you have disabled root user logins via ssh server and you still need to synchronize files in directories such as lets say /etc , /usr/local/etc/ /var/ with root:root user and group belongings.

Disabling root user logins in sshd is controlled by a variable in /etc/ssh/sshd_config that on most default Linux OS
installations is switched on, e.g. 

grep -i permitrootlogin /etc/ssh/sshd_config
PermitRootLogin yes


Many corporations use Vulnerability Scanners such as Qualys are always having in their list of remote server scan for SSH Port 22 to turn have the PermitRootLogin stopped with:

 

PermitRootLogin no


In this article, I'll explain a scenario where we have synchronization between 2 or more servers Server A / Server B, whatever number of servers that have already turned off this value, but still need to
synchronize traditionally owned and allowed to write directories only by root superuser, here is 4 easy steps to acheive it.

 

1. Add rsyncuser to Source Server (Server A) and Destination (Server B)


a. Execute on Src Host:

 

groupadd rsyncuser
useradd -g 1000 -c 'Rsync user to sync files as root src_host' -d /home/rsyncuser -m rsyncuser

 

b. Execute on Dst Host:

 

groupadd rsyncuser
useradd -g 1000 -c 'Rsync user to sync files dst_host' -d /home/rsyncuser -m rsyncuser

 

2. Generate RSA SSH Key pair to be used for passwordless authentication


a. On Src Host
 

su – rsyncuser

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096

 

b. Check .ssh/ generated key pairs and make sure the directory content look like.

 

[rsyncuser@src-host .ssh]$ cd ~/.ssh/;  ls -1

id_rsa
id_rsa.pub
known_hosts


 

3. Copy id_rsa.pub to Destination host server under authorized_keys

 

scp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub  rsyncuser@dst-host:~/.ssh/authorized_keys

 

Next fix permissions of authorized_keys file for rsyncuser as anyone who have access to that file (that exists as a user account) on the system
could steal the key and use it to run rsync commands and overwrite remotely files, like overwrite /etc/passwd /etc/shadow files with his custom crafted credentials
and hence hack you 🙂
 

Hence, On Destionation Host Server B fix permissions with:
 

su – rsyncuser; chmod 0600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
[rsyncuser@dst-host ~]$

 

For improved security here to restrict rsyncuser to be able to run only specific command such as very specific script instead of being able to run any command it is good to use little known command= option
once creating the authorized_keys

 

4. Test ssh passwordless authentication works correctly


For that Run as a normal ssh from rsyncuser

On Src Host

 

[rsyncuser@src-host ~]$ ssh rsyncuser@dst-host


Perhaps here is time that for those who, think enabling a passwordless authentication is not enough secure and prefer to authorize rsyncuser via a password red from a secured file take a look in my prior article how to login to remote server with password provided from command line as a script argument / Running same commands on many servers 

5. Enable rsync in sudoers to be able to execute as root superuser (copy files as root)

 


For this step you will need to have sudo package installed on the Linux server.

Then, Execute once logged in as root on Destionation Server (Server B)

 

[root@dst-host ~]# grep 'rsyncuser ALL' /etc/sudoers|wc -l || echo ‘rsyncuser ALL=NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/rsync’ >> /etc/sudoers
 

 

Note that using rsync with a ALL=NOPASSWD in /etc/sudoers could pose a high security risk for the system as anyone authorized to run as rsyncuser is able to overwrite and
respectivle nullify important files on Destionation Host Server B and hence easily mess the system, even shell script bugs could produce a mess, thus perhaps a better solution to the problem
to copy files with root privileges with the root account disabled is to rsync as normal user somewhere on Dst_host and use some kind of additional script running on Dst_host via lets say cron job and
will copy gently files on selective basis.

Perhaps, even a better solution would be if instead of granting ALL=NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/rsync in /etc/sudoers is to do ALL=NOPASSWD:/usr/local/bin/some_copy_script.sh
that will get triggered, once the files are copied with a regular rsyncuser acct.

 

6. Test rsync passwordless authentication copy with superuser works


Do some simple copy, lets say copy files on Encrypted tunnel configurations located under some directory in /etc/stunnel on Server A to /etc/stunnel on Server B

The general command to test is like so:
 

rsync -aPz -e 'ssh' '–rsync-path=sudo rsync' /var/log rsyncuser@$dst_host:/root/tmp/


This will copy /var/log files to /root/tmp, you will get a success messages for the copy and the files will be at destination folder if succesful.

 

On Src_Host run:

 

[rsyncuser@src-host ~]$ dst=FQDN-DST-HOST; user=rsyncuser; src_dir=/etc/stunnel; dst_dir=/root/tmp;  rsync -aP -e 'ssh' '–rsync-path=sudo rsync' $src_dir  $rsyncuser@$dst:$dst_dir;

 

7. Copying files with root credentials via script


The simlest file to use to copy a bunch of predefined files  is best to be handled by some shell script, the most simple version of it, could look something like this.
 

#!/bin/bash
# On server1 use something like this
# On server2 dst server
# add in /etc/sudoers
# rsyncuser ALL=NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/rsync

user='rsyncuser';

dst_dir="/root/tmp";
dst_host='$dst_host';
src[1]="/etc/hosts.deny";
src[2]="/etc/sysctl.conf";
src[3]="/etc/samhainrc";
src[4]="/etc/pki/tls/";
src[5]="/usr/local/bin/";

 

for i in $(echo ${src[@]}); do
rsync -aPvz –delete –dry-run -e 'ssh' '–rsync-path=sudo rsync' "$i" $rsyncuser@$dst_host:$dst_dir"$i";
done


In above script as you can see, we define a bunch of files that will be copied in bash array and then run a loop to take each of them and copy to testination dir.
A very sample version of the script rsync_with_superuser-while-root_account_prohibited.sh 
 

Conclusion


Lets do short overview on what we have done here. First Created rsyncuser on SRC Server A and DST Server B, set up the key pair on both copied the keys to make passwordless login possible,
set-up rsync to be able to write as root on Dst_Host / testing all the setup and pinpointing a small script that can be used as a backbone to develop something more complex
to sync backups or keep system configurations identicatial – for example if you have doubts that some user might by mistake change a config etc.
In short it was pointed the security downsides of using rsync NOPASSWD via /etc/sudoers and few ideas given that could be used to work on if you target even higher
PCI standards.

 

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