Security of Foreman's templating endpoint

Foreman has a powerful templating API that can be often leveraged in many ways. But in order to be able to use this endpoint, it is important to understand all concepts and limitations.

Foreman template API lives at /unattended URL this endpoint is available both under HTTP and HTTPS protocols unlike rest of the application. Next element in the URL is template kind, for example to get “finish” template use /unattended/finish form. Typical examples of template kinds are provision, PXELinux, PXEGrub2, iPXE, finish, user_data or script. And finally, there are couple of possible options in the form of ?key=value as we all know it.

First concept to understand is build mode. Templates can only be rendered when a host is in build mode. This is essential and first step in protecting sensitive data - templates can only be downloaded in short windows during operating system installation. When a host is in build mode, a security token (unique string, hard to guess) is generated and clock starts ticking 6 hours expiration time. This can be changed in Administer > Settings via an option named Token duration, setting this value to zero disables tokens completely.

There is a global setting that enables accessing templates without build mode. It is called “Access unattended without build”. It’s disabled by default.

To download any kind of template, use the token to access the contents: /unattended/provision?token=XXX. Foreman does not expose tokens via UI or API/CLI, the only way to read token is via PXELinux/Grub template preview or by accessing the database or via foreman-rake console command Host.find().token. When host is not found, unattended controller returns Not found (404) response.

Tokens are very useful when used with OS installers that support passing HTTP arguments. There is a fallback mechanism when tokens are disabled or for provisioning workflows not supporting it. First mechanism is X_RHN_PROVISIONING_MAC header which is automatically sent by Anaconda in Red Hat compatible distributions (Fedora, CentOS…). It is actually just a list of MAC addresses, Foreman tries to match this with MAC addresses of provisioning interfaces.

Our second mechanism is similar, Foreman uses the remote IP address and matches it with the provisioning interfaces of hosts. To use this technique, make sure the host requesting the data from Foreman has IP address of a matching host in Foreman. Keep in mind when behind NAT, this will not work.

For hosts behind NATs or in different unreachable subnets, you can use Foreman’s Smart Proxy. Make sure to enable the ‘templates’ feature/setting. When enabled, it acts like a simple HTTP/HTTPS proxy and it also respects Anaconda HTTP header. Similarly to generic HTTP proxies, it also sets X_FORWARDED_FOR header which can be used to match client IP address from inaccessible subnets. To use this feature, in Foreman go to Administer > Settings, and configure the ‘Remote Address’ global setting. It’s a regular expression that must match remote IP address of Smart Proxy (do not use hostname).

There is one special way of getting templates which is called spoofing. When ?spoof=hostname parameter is present, Foreman will search for host by name. This is used in template previews, but keep in mind unlike all other ways described above, this requires authorization, therefore expect redirect to login page if username and password are not set.

When a host finishes provisioning, there’s special “call home” endpoint /unattended/built which uses the same API but it’s not a template at all. This way, clients inform Foreman to exit build mode. Client IP address can optionally be updated as well when Update IP from built request global setting is set.

With this knowledge, it is possible to take advantage of Foreman’s extensive ERB templating capabilities. We’ve seen primitive configuration management, post processing action or trivial remote execution via finish or script template kinds. The sky is the limit.

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