Adding U2F to your Login in Linux!

So one thing I really appreciate about Yubikeys is that they force the issue of security.  They are a discrete, physical second factor. Don’t have your Yubikey? Good luck getting on to the system. This isn’t to say that somehow the Yubikey (Or similar, U2F-capable devices) will secure everything under the sun, and let’s be real there are always going to be side channel attacks, but the point of any endeavor in security is to delay a sufficiently motivated attacker until they A.) Get caught, or B.) Lose motivation. Traditionally, setting up second factor authentication on end-user boxes has been a bit of a pain, requiring an agent (Such as the old Windows Yubico agent that relied on a HMAC challenge-response setup) some other sort of implementation. Because of the nature of PAM this ties right in, and because it’s using FIDO2 it should be good to use for the foreseeable future.

Installing the plugin

I’m not going to belabor the process of installation of the U2F PAM component- Yubico does a great job outlining the basics here and outlining the details of of what pam_u2f can do here . While the instructions are geared towards Ubuntu, one could realistically use them for anything that relies on apt; heck, if one were so inclined they could roll their own off of the Yubico github, but that’s neither here nor there.

What I do want to do instead is discuss how I have it configured, why I configured it the way I did, and options.

A Word of Caution

So I need to be real with you here- modifying PAM is scary. Modifying PAM without knowing what you are doing can and will get you locked out of a system if you do it all in one shot. Always leave a terminal open that is ready to reverse changes if you mess up a change to, say, sudo or su. There is no faster way to need to run a live instance and rip apart a LUKS-encrypted partition to roll back PAM changes than to YOLO it here.

Be safe.

Pam.d Configuration

If you look at the Yubico developer documents, it’s a pretty straight-forward exercise. You will modify the relevant pam.d files to do what you want them to do- if for instance you want every PAM-related event to require the yubikey, you would modify your common auth file. If you want a more nuanced/sane approach, consider the following files to modify:

“Point of Entry” Scenarios – Places where someone might boot the PC, wake it, etc.
<If you rely on a screensaver and it ties into PAM, this would be a good place to lock up too>

“Ooops I left my computer unlocked” Scenarios

Where you are looking to modify is right after the “@include common-auth” line in these respective files.

An example for how to set this beast up in PAM might be the following-

 auth required prompt nodetect cue nouserok authfile=/etc/yubico/u2f_keys 

What this does for us, the consumer, is the following:

  • Prompt for a Yubikey if one isn’t inserted.
  • Prompt for us to press the button.
  • Mitigates revealing information about the authentication stack if a token is inserted but not properly configured.
  • Allows users who are not currently configured to use u2f (Other accounts not yet configured?) to log in.

Assuming you’re slightly more paranoid and want as little as possible revealed about what is going on or why you have a weird looking USB thumb drive in your PC, you can use the following configuration:

 auth required authfile=/etc/yubico/u2f_keys 

In this case the Yubikey will simply blink (Like it did during initial configuration), you press the button, and if it is set up to the user it succeeds and lets you in.

Go foward, and be safe.

New Kimchi version soon!

So I know I don’t post often, however if there is one thing I do it’s tinker.  Kimchi, a beautiful and robust KVM management interface done in HTML5, facilitates that- and unfortunately it’s been without a solid release for two years.  A lot of issues have cropped up since then, and I even posted about one of the fixes you have to do in order to get stuff working- fortunately I didn’t run into too many more issues beyond that, but if you look through the Github issues page for it there are a whole mess of issues that got brought up.

However, that’s going to change!  It turns out one of the head people behind it took a break from the codebase and has since come back!

There’s no firm ETA (Which is fair, let’s be real here it’s FOSS), but the fact that it’s still being developed warms my heart.  Wok (And Kimchi, which runs off of it) are great and any forward movement is good movement.

Wayland is Painful for VNC.

So in setting up Ubuntu 17.10 on a remote server, you might naturally wish to set up VNC on your box because let’s face it, monitor connectivity is at a premium and command-line wizardry, while amazing, isn’t the best way to go for everyone.

Something to consider is that As of 17.10, the default display server is Wayland. Wayland’s great for a default user experience, but for VNC (As well as other screen sharing apps) it is an absolute trainwreck. In fact, for the upcoming 18.04 LTS release in April XOrg will end up becoming the default display server again- you can read more about the rationale here.

So what’s a VNC user to do? Well, you have two real options.

First option is to straight up remove the Wayland session. There’s info on that here, which I haven’t tried but assume it isn’t far off from working.

The second option is to use a shell that relies on XOrg, such as xfce, and use that as your GUI on the box.  Here is a pretty solid article on how to set that up.

Something you need to keep in mind is that VNC, by default, is really not that secure. With an 8 character password max, several glaring flaws in managing it at scale, and so on- actually, let me just drop this, a link to an old but still incredibly relevant blog post on why VNC can be a minefield.  A good practice with VNC is to force localhost only connections to the service, which requires SSH tunneling.  Please do this, even if in a home environment.
Please.  Think of Bob Barker.

Kimchi can give you heartburn…

So, what you might notice if you try to load up one of the latest OSes as a guest in Kimchi is that you get an error.

“Error KCHIMG0001E while creating template: “physical block size is 2048 bytes, but Linux says it is 512 bytes.”

Thankfully, this is a quick fix and already patched but not yet in stable as of the time of this writing.

Here is where the issue is discussed, and the patch can be found in this commit:

Once you apply the patch appropriately and restart wokd, Kimchi should work appropriately.

Eat your Kimchi.

As is relatively unfashionable these days I decided to stand up a little box on my own network to tinker with. I figure I can use it to run a few different things, spin up new VMs to learn, tear them down when I need to.

For the hypervisor I went with KVM. You, dear reader, might be asking yourself “Why”? Well, first I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to pony up for any sort of hypervisor solution. Second, I figured it was probably the better choice in the war between XEN vs. KVM, at least to try for now.

Now, you can run KVM more or less bare are get away with it, but I wanted a way that I could easily manage VMs. Enter Kimchi, which is an HTML5-based management tool for KVM.

Mise en Place

So from my system’s trusty command line, I did the old two-step shuffle of taking an Ubuntu 17.10 instance and updating it.

sudo apt update
sudo apt full-upgrade -y

Once we’re up to date, it’s time to look into To get a hold of Kimchi and Wok, we run the following commands to get their deb files.


Also, we need to get a hold of Gingerbase, which is made by the same people who do Wok and allows for some basic remote host management (Patching, etc.).


Now, you *can* get a hold of Ginger (Which adds more management capabilities) if you want, but you don’t have to and I’m not going to blame you if you don’t.


Something very handy about apt (And something not a lot of people realize) is that it can be used to resolve dependencies of deb files pulled down from elsewhere- assuming of course your repos have the dependencies. Anyway, instead of using dpkg, then forcing apt to fix broken across all of these, there is a simpler way to go through installing these. So let’s dive in.

Installing Wok

Installing Wok is dirt simple. Because of some issues with nginx and Wok initially firing off with the install, I’m going to recommend the following:

sudo apt install nginx -y
sudo apt install ./wok-2.5.0-0.noarch.deb -y

Once it’s installed (Dependencies and all), go ahead and start the service.

sudo service wokd start

Installing Gingerbase

Next up, Gingerbase. Gingerbase is required for Kimchi, but thankfully installation couldn’t be easier.

sudo apt-get install ./ginger-base.noarch.deb -y


Once that’s installed, go ahead and reboot. We’ve probably caught kernel updates etc. from doing an update and full-upgrade previously, so now’s as good a time as any.

sudo shutdown -r now

Kimchi, it’s the main course

Your box back up? Good. Now let’s pile on Kimchi. Go ahead and run the following.

sudo apt install ./kimchi-2.5.0-0.noarch.deb -y
sudo service wokd restart

After this finishes up, we need to add a firewall rule to Ubuntu’s firewall setup as otherwise nothing’s getting out.

sudo ufw allow 8001/tcp

After everything is said and done you should be able to access your instance by going to https://INSTANCE_IP_HERE:8001/


If it looks like this, you are probably good to go!

Topping it off with ginger

So if you want to extend the features of Gingerbase and add the capability to start/stop services via Wok (Among other things), you can install ginger. Just go through the same process we did before.

sudo apt install ./ginger.noarch.deb -y
sudo service wokd restart

If it complains about the wokd service having changed, do the following-

systemctl daemon-reload

Then restart the service.

Afterward you get a whole mess of features that you may or may not need, but I leave that for you to decide.