Friday, 24 April 2020

COVID19 - Provisioning remote access with Linux, the details

Had a few requests asking about how all this was put together so....

Starting with a minimal Ubuntu 18.04 server install...

apt-get install openbox lightdm
apt-get install plank
apt-get install zenity pcmanfm
apt-get install lxterminal
apt-get install rdesktop
apt-get install tightvnc
apt-get install novnc

add a file in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d containing:



configure user 'base'
login as user "base" right click and open a terminal.
Run `plank` then ctrl-c
(this creates the openbox and plank .config). Since this should be a jump box, users access to local machine should be minimized - the default setup gives the user access to a terminal session on the local machine. Edit the openbox menu.xml file to disable this - but also set the shell to /sbin/nogin to prevent access to the local system.

I was experimenting with user home directories on different paths (so I could have some mounted noexec, some with exec) but when I did this, the users not in /home were not able to login; pam-google-authenticator reported 'Failed to compute location of secret file for "$USER"'. Checking the .so file, the path does not appear to be hard-coded - I suspect it may have been different apparmor rules in play. The solution I chose was to ensure that home directories were within /home - by mounting the extra filesystem (with noexec) there.

While you could use a conventional XDG launcher, this exposes a lot of functionality on the jump box. Using plank and the openbox menu (along with noexec & nologin) as the only means of starting programs reduces the attack surface massively.

One issue with the build I have in place at the moment is that pcmanfm will store  user paswords if asked. I have a tidy up script running from cron which removes any files in the user's home directory which are not also present in /home/base but its still something of a concern. Firefox is started in incognito mode (using the settings in the plank launcher).

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