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Tag: Ubuntu

Storing passwords securely using Pass (GPG)

Published / by tuxninja / Leave a Comment

Today we live in an endless sea of passwords, which are a very inefficient and ineffective means of securing our data & environments. Many companies are trying to solve this problem using a variety of techniques that all revolve around various forms of multi-factor authentication.

However, in the mean time were all screwed 😉

Just kidding. Quick PSA though, use two factor authentication at a minimum everywhere you can ESPECIALLY your email, since it’s used for password recovery on other sites. Ok then moving on…

There are many password managers like LastPass and 1Password, which do a fairly effective job at providing convenience and prevent you from scribbling down your passwords on paper (STOP IT !!!). However, I personally can’t get passed the whole ‘store all my passwords in one super secure vault on the Internet’ thing. To be fair some of these password managers can be downloaded on your machine and ran locally, but there are two other drawbacks to those I found.

  1. Some of them are not free and…
  2. Some of them have ugly and clunky UI’s

So what do I like/use then ? I use something called ‘pass’. Which is a command line utility that wraps GPG. The reason I use it is because…

  1. I love using command line utilities over GUI, I find it far more convenient and…
  2. I was going to write this exact utility (a GPG wrapper) until I found out someone else did and…
  3. Because I like GPG.

At most of the organizations I have worked at, password management was done poorly i.e. everyone used different approaches and there was no governance or oversight. I hope with this article to make folks aware of what I feel is a simple, effective method that every unix savvy administrator should use.

FYI Pass provides migration scripts from the most popular password manager tools on their website.

Introducing Pass

From the Pass site “Password management should be simple and follow Unix philosophy. With pass, each password lives inside of a gpg encrypted file whose filename is the title of the website or resource that requires the password. These encrypted files may be organized into meaningful folder hierarchies, copied from computer to computer, and, in general, manipulated using standard command line file management utilities.”

Where Can You Get or Learn More About Pass ? 


Installing Pass

Depending on your operating system there are various ways to install


Fedora / RHEL


Since I already installed pass on my Mac a while back I will be installing it on a Docker container with Ubuntu 16.04.

After pass successfully installs, try running it

Well that is pretty straight forward, it appears we need to initiliaze the db.

Looks like we need to provide ‘key’…can that be just anything?

Now our password store looks initialized ! Let’s try inserting a password into the DB !

Uh oh what happened ? Well remember I said it uses GPG, and we not only don’t have a gpg key setup in our Docker container, but we initialized our Pass DB without using a GPG Key (the whole point) !

To remedy this we need to create a GPG key

Creating your GPG Key

To view your GPG key run

Now we can see we have one GPG key, with the ID 5B2F89A5

Let’s try re-initializing Pass. 

But we have a problem, re-initializing Pass doesn’t get rid of our previous insert into the db. As you can see here our Pass DB is effectively corrupt.

Hmmm, what’s a guy to do….

Yes it really was that simple, and that is one more reason why I love pass.

You can also initialize your password store using git for version control, see the passwordstore.org website for more info !

Now let’s insert some good stuff.

Inserting A Password into Pass

That seems to have worked. Let’s try to retrieve the pass.

Retrieving A Password In Pass

Note, I retrieve the password twice using my GPG Passsword (You will be prompted through a curses interface to enter your passphrase). Then I run it again, because of the initial GPG migration messages just to show how it would normally work after you’ve used GPG once with Pass.

Now let’s say someone is standing over your shoulder, you want to access your passsword, but you don’t want them to see it. You can get it straight to your clipboard by using -c.

Copying Passwords To Your Clipboard

Docker Issue ?

Notice the prompt is not included in the above example ? That is cause it didn’t actually work. Apparently, it doesn’t work in Docker due to not having display dependencies installed/configured. So what I show above is the output from my mac…but my actual Docker related error was.

There might be an easy way to fix this (like install X), but I don’t usually use Docker for storing my passwords I just happen to be using it for this tutorial, so moving on !


It’s also important to note that Pass supports folder structures, as shown in my example I am creating a ‘Gmail’ folder and placing a password file called ‘myemail’ with my password in it. In reality I recommend not naming the file after your account/email and using the multiline version to encrypt those details as well. That way you can just stick to the site name for the name of the encrypted file in whatever folder or in the top level of Pass.

Multiline Encrypted Files with Pass

A common use case with Pass is adding an entire encrypted file so you can store more than just a password…

Again retrieving it is as easy as..

Finally if you no longer want the info to be stored in Pass…

If you want to copy you password to the clipboard from a multiline file, you must store your password on the first line of the file !

Deleting An Entry In Pass

Another thing, the output on my mac is much prettier than this `– thing I am getting in the Ubuntu Docker container… Not sure if that’s an Ubuntu issue or Docker, but on the Mac the output is much prettier, which can be seen on the passwordstore.org home page.

So that’s it, Pass is pretty straight forward, easy to work with, depends on GPG security and that is why I like it.

Stay secure, until next time !


Setting up Netflix’s Edda (CMDB) in AWS on Ubuntu

Published / by tuxninja / Leave a Comment

If you are running any kind of environment with greater than 10 servers, than you need a CMDB (Configuration Management DataBase). CMDB’s are the brain of your fleet & it’s environment. You can store anything in a CMDB, but commonly the metadata in CMDB’s consists of any of the following physical & digital asset inventory, software licenses, software configuration data, policy information, relationships (I.E. This VM—> Compute –> Rack –> Availability Zone –> Datacenter), automation metadata, and more… they also commonly provide change history for changes in your environment.

In the world of infrastructure as code, CMDB is king.

CMDB’s enable endless automation possibilities, without them you are stuck gathering and collecting ‘current’ configuration state about your infrastructure every time you want perform an automated change or run an audit/report . In my career I have built or been a part of CMDB efforts at nearly every company I have worked for. They are simply necessary, and by their nature they tend to require the choice of ‘built by us’ vs ‘buy or run’.

However, if you have the luxury of only running in AWS, you are in luck, because Netflix (The AWS poster child)  open sourced Edda in 2012 for this purpose!

Rather than talk about the specific features of Edda refer to the blog post or documentation, I want to keep this article short and jump right into setting up Edda, which is a bit tricky, because the documentation is out of date!

Setting Up Edda (2016)

First, in AWS you need setup an EC2 VM that has at least.. 6G for OS + dependencies including Mongo, and then however much disk you need to store the metadata for your environment (keep in mind it keeps change history). Personally I just created a root partition with 100G to keep things simple. For instance type I used ‘m4.xlarge’ and the Ubuntu version is 14.04.

After booting the VM, SSH to it and create a directory wherever your storage is allocated partition wise to store Edda & it’s dependencies. I will be using /cmdb/ in my example.

Initial Install Steps

For the record, the Edda Wiki has the build steps wrong, it appears they no long are using Gradle, but have switch to SBT… which reminds me be aware Edda is written in Scala, which isn’t as popular as Java, Python etc… in addition it’s functional programming, which I don’t personally know a lot about, but I hear it’s got quite the learning curve..so beware if you need to make custom code changes, I would not recommend it, unless you know Scala ! 🙂

After the build of Edda succeeds, install Mongo

That’s it for dependencies

Configuring Mongo

For Edda to use Mongo all we need to do is ‘use’ the database we want to use for Edda & create an associated user. (Mongo will auto-create DB’s upon insert).

You can test the user is working by doing… 

Configuring Edda

Under /cmdb/edda/src/main/resources we need to modify ‘edda.properties’ with valid config values for accounts, regions & mongo access.

Relevant Mongo Values

Account & Region Values 

The above example is using one account and only one region. The Edda configuration uses generic labels, they are very flexible, but when using them you might be confused by the name of the label as it’s intent. Don’t fall into that trap, I did, and then I found this post on Google Groups… Check it out to gain more insight on how the configuration works and can be tweaked for  your needs. There is also the standard documentation, but it’s a little light IMO.

Running Edda

Congrats you made it, time to run Edda ! Again the documentation has this wrong (listed as gradle & Jetty)…instead were using SBT + Jetty…

If everything goes smoothly you will start to see logs about crawling AWS API’s spewing to your screen 🙂 After about 2 minutes you should see data. You can check by doing a curl.

This API URL should return a JSON object with instance ID’s for the account & region specified.

Additionally, Edda is listening on whatever private IP address you have setup, you will just need to modify the default security group to allow 8080 on your machine.

I get a bit frustrated with out of date documentation..so I hope this helps ! Happy automating !