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eldim

A Secure File Upload Proxy

Description

eldim is a web server that accepts file uploads from a particular set of hosts, and its job is to encrypt them, and then store them in an Object Storage backend system.

The eldim flow of data

It has a preconfigured ACL that only allows specific IP Addresses, or token bearers to access the file upload service. After a file is uploaded, it is encrypted, and then uploaded to a configured provider.

It has been designed to work as a standalone application, which means it must not sit behind a proxy, but instead be exposed directly to the Internet.

Groups & Mailing Lists

Currently the project has two mailing lists, in Google Groups, that are used for communication:

eldim-announce

The eldim-announce group is recommended for all users of eldim. It includes announcements for new versions, a changelog, as well as breaking changes that may occur in the future. Moreover, it is the place that will be used for security announcements in the future, if and when they come.

This is a very low volume list, and it is read-only. That is, only eldim updates are posted there, and you cannot send e-mails to other members.

eldim-dev

The eldim-dev group tries to address that final point above, and it is the techincal mailing list of the eldim project.

This group can be used to report problems, share news, exchange ideas, etc. Basically it exists for communication about technical matters related to eldim, between the users, the contributors, or the developers.

Design Decisions

The design of eldim is data agnostic, and tries to push the relevant logic of all operations to the proper server. For example, the service itself does not care what types of files are uploaded, or when they're uploaded, or what they are. It simply receives a file and a file name, and then encrypts and uploads this file under a specific name to the Object Storage.

In eldim's configuration file you can add a list of hosts, as well as their (host)names, and eldim makes sure that all files uploaded from a particular host will always have that host's name in their name. For example, files from the host mail.example.com, will always have a file name starting with mail.example.com/.

The data collection part is left to the servers sending data to it. It is them who decide what to send, when to send it, and what operations, such as compression for example, must be applied to the file.

Security

In order for every server to be able to upload logs or backups to a central object storage bucket, they need to have some secrets stored in them. For example, in Swift, each server needs to have a username and an API key. This is something that is not really secure, as compromising any server would give full access to the backup repository. An attacker could download files, delete files, change them, etc.

In eldim, the servers do not have any stored information, and instead just upload the files to a single server. This server is the one with the access, and can control what operations are being performed, and by whom.

The way eldim works, no server is allowed to mess with another server's files. Server mail.example.com cannot upload files as ftp.example.com, even if they upload to the very same bucket. eldim automatically prepends all file uploads with the server hostname, which is inside its configuration file, and not sent by the servers themselves.

Moreover, eldim will reject files that already exist. If the file mail.example.com/2018-01-01/mail.log.tgz already exists in the object store, it will not allow for it to be overwritten. This check is in place to prevent a hacked server from overwritting all previous log entries with empty data, effectively deleting everything.

Finally, eldim works only over HTTPS. This decision is hard coded inside the server itself, and cannot be changed by the configuration file. A code change is required. It is configured to only work with at least TLSv1.2, the only currently secure versions of TLS, but currently it may accept some more weak ciphers and not only the most secure ones.

Encryption

Since version v0.6.0, eldim uses age for file encryption. It is a well defined protocol, with multiple implementations, a very good CLI tool, and is already part of some operating system distributions. More importantly, it is modern, well-designed, and opinionated, with one and only one purpose in mind: encrypt files. It uses state of the art practices and algorithms, and is also very flexible.

age is using asymmetric encryption, which means that eldim only needs to know about the public keys in its configuration file, and never needs or has access to the private keys. This vastly reduces the risk of a compromised eldim server, as files uploaded cannot be decrypted by the attacker.

With age, eldim supports multiple public keys, so you can use more than one, and have the files encrypted with all of them. That means that files can be decrypted with any of the keys. You can use this functionality to have backup keys, or give access to multiple people, each one holding their own key pair. Unfortunately, eldim currently does not support M of N so you need to keep this in mind while threat modelling.

To generate an age keypair, you can use the age-keygen CLI tool. However, a very nice feature is that eldim also supports SSH keys! You can use your RSA or Ed25519 SSH keys in addition to the age keys. A single eldim server supports multiple keys, of different types.

How to run eldim

eldim runs as a daemon, since it has to listen for HTTPS requests continuously. For this reason, you need to ensure that the binary is running all the time. The recommended way of achieving this is through your operating system's startup / init system. If you are using systemd, a basic unit file is provided in this repository for you to use.

As with any software, it is not recommended to run eldim as root. For this reason, you should create an eldim user. The included systemd unit file assumes the eldim user exists in the system.

You can create such user by running:

sudo useradd -s /usr/sbin/nologin -r -M eldim

When executed, eldim has two command line flags that you can use to configure it before it even reads the configuration file. They are:

  • -j: When set, it will output all logs in JSON format, instead of plaintext
  • -c: The path to the configuration file

Metrics

As of eldim v0.2.0, eldim supports metrics exporting using Prometheus. You can find more information about the metrics currently supported and exported here.

Configuration

In order to read the full documentation on how to configure eldim, click here.

The HTTP API

You can find the full specification of the HTTP API of eldim by clicking here.

How to upload data from a server

You can basically upload files to eldim in any way you like, as long as you follow the above API, but here are some examples. This code can be for example in a daily or weekly cron job:

# Compress nginx' access.log
tar -zcf /tmp/nginx.access.log.tgz /var/log/nginx/access.log /var/log/nginx/access.log.1
# Upload to eldim
curl -F filename=$(date +%F-%H-%M)/access.log -F file=@/tmp/nginx.access.log.tgz https://eldim.example.com/api/v1/file/upload/

The $(date +%F-%H-%M) part will automatically print the date in the 2018-01-01-13-37 format (YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM).

If you are testing eldim, you may use -k in curl, to skip certificate checks, as you may be using a self-signed certificate. However, deploying this to production without a trusted certificate is not recommended.

For production workloads, you may want to use the --retry N flag of curl, to retry the request up to N times, if it fails. It is recommended to also set the --retry-connrefused flag as well. You can combine the above with --retry-delay X, so curl will sleep X seconds between retries. Good values for X are eldim's domain TTL * 2, or something similar.

eldim is designed to work without placing trust on the file upload servers. If, however, you want to not have to trust the eldim server either, you can optionally encrypt all data sent to eldim with age (or gpg). That way eldim won't be able to decrypt them, but neither will the sender alone.

To encrypt files with age, use:

cat file.tgz | age -r "AgeID" > out.tgz.enc

Of course, you need to replace "AgeID" with an age recipient address.

eldim Logs

Currently eldim logs a lot of information in detail. This is done on purpose and is not a debugging leftover. Since it is a tool that is related to security, it is always good to have a lot of information to be able to go back to in case something happens.

It is totally normal for eldim to log up to 20 lines per successful upload request, or even more, depending on the configuration.

During service startup, all information logged is related to actions and the configuration file, and is in plain text. After the service is started, all logs start with a UUID. This is called the Request ID. During the arrival of every request, eldim generates a unique identifier for this request. This identifier is included in every future log file entry that is related to this request.

By default eldim logs to stdout and stderr, so if you are using the provided systemd unit file, all its logs will be available in syslog.