Locking Down Cobbler

If you want to enable the Cobbler web interface for a lot of users, and don't trust all of them to know what they are doing all of the time, here are some tips on some good configuration practices to allow for configuring a server that is hard for someone to mess with in ways they shouldn't be messing with it -- as defined by you and your site specific policy.


For Web Authentication, choose authn_kerberos or authn_ldap if you don't have Kerberos. See Kerberos and LDAP for details on how to set those up. Failing that, using the authn_digest is perfectly fine, but don't share passwords among the users. Logging goes to /var/log/cobbler/\*.log and can be used to see what user does what.

For Customizable Security, choose authz_ownership, as this will allow users to only edit things that they create unless you declare certain users to be admins. You should then define groups for users in /etc/cobbler/users.conf following the format of that file, then assign objects in cobbler (like distros, etc) ownership as described in AuthorizationWithOwnership.


For koan to work you must unblock 25150 (XMLRPC/tcp-ip) as well as HTTP 80, HTTPS 443 and TFTP 69 (tcp/udp) if you want PXE.

If you want to access read-write XMLRPC from outside the cobbler server, you'll need to unblock 25151.

Also, if applicable, unblock DHCP!

While it may be tempting to disable cobblerd, don't... cobbler uses cobblerd to generate dynamic content such as Kickstart Templates and this will mean nothing will work. Koan additionally communicates with cobblerd.


Cobbler works with SELinux -- though you should be using EL 5 or later. EL 4 is not supported since it does not have public_content_t, meaning files can't be served from Apache and TFTP at the same time.

You should install the semanage rules that "cobbler check" tells you about to ensure everything works according to plan.

Also note, you may run into some problems if you need to relocate your /var/www elsewhere, which most users should not need to do.

Default Passwords

Run "cobbler check" and it will warn you if any of the sample kickstarts still have "cobbler" as the password. If you are using those templates, that's a problem, if not, don't worry about it, but you may want to comment out the password line to prevent them from being used.

Test Your Configuration

Log in as various users (create some in different groups if need be) to make sure your authorization, authentication, and/or ACLs are correct as you expect them. Then also make sure you can deploy some physical and virtual systems outside the network to ensure your firewall configurations do not cut off anything important.

Command Line ACLs

All of the above is about network security, if you want to run the cobbler CLI as non root, you can run "cobbler aclsetup" to grant access to non-root users, such as your friendly trusted neighborhood administrators. Be aware this grants them file access on all of cobbler's configuration. This all uses setfacl, don't chmod yourself if you can help it as the RPM takes good steps to get all of this right. Same for running setfacl yourself as there are lots of places it must be applied.

A Note About File Readablity and "Security"

By nature of provisioning, TFTP and HTTP and so forth are typically wide open protocols by design. This is actually a good thing due to the Catch-22 that if it was hard to install, installing would be hard. Ease of installation requires openness, so these steps above are about keeping people from changing your provisioning configurations to ways that they should not have access to change them -- they are not about denying access to data in the provisioning server, such as the contents of kickstarts. If you need to be transferring sensitive files, a long "HERE" document in kickstart %post is not the place to do it. scp those later or use a config management system to move the files.

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