Sunday 26 March 2017

Some Azure security settings don't really mean what you think they mean

In today's blog we will focus on how to reset a public key for a Linux VM in Azure. Spoiler Alert!!! Using the Reset password functionality from the Azure Portal doesn't have the functionality that you would expect from a password reset. We will explain this further in this blog.
First, we will explain how you generate a VM with public key access in the Azure portal. Next, we will explain what happens when you reset your public key for a VM using the Reset Password functionality in the portal. Next we will explain how you can actually remove the previous public key to get a complete reset functionality. Finally we will also explain what happens with the public keys when a VM gets redeployed.

Setting up a Linux VM in Azure through the portal
How to setup the VM
To setup a Linux VM in Azure, you can go to the Azure Portal. For the Authentication Type you can choose SSH public key. To generate a public/private key pair you can use for example PuTTYgen. You can next choose all the other parts of the VM. In the portal you also need the username that will use the VM. In this example we will use the username mary and Mary will provide her first public key mary1.

Logging in to the VM
You can next choose the ssh client of your choice to access the VM when you provide the IP of the machine together with the private key that corresponds with the public key pair. In this way we can successfully log into the machine.

What happened behind the scenes?
When you use the SSH public key authentication type when you generate your VM, two things happen behind the scene.
1. In your VM, a .ssh directory has been  generated. In this .ssh directory, a file authorized_keys has been generated. In this file you will see the public key that you provided in the Portal.

2. In the Portal under the Automation script tab, various templates were generated. You can use these templates later on when you want to automate the deployment of your VMs. In the picture below you can see a fragment from the Template file and you can see in the highlighted osProfile section that the user mary can log in with the provided public key and that password authentication has been disabled.

Sometime bad things happen
Unfortunately your laptop on which you had installed your keys got stolen and therefore you need to reset all your passwords and off course you also need to revoke public key access for your public keys that you had on your VM.

Resetting the public key through the Azure Portal 
The steps to follow in the portal
When you go to the Azure Portal and go to your VM, you can select Reset password from the left column. In the screenshot below you can see the information that is provided to you and the information that you need to fill in to reset your public key. In this case we have added in public key mary2.

Logging in with key mary2

We use the mary2 key to login and we can happily login to our VM.

Logging in with key mary1
Unfortunately, the person who stole your laptop was able to extract the key because no full disk encryption was used. Contrary to what you expect the key still works and he has access to your vm in the cloud.

What happened behind the scenes?
1. The public key that you provide through the Azure Portal gets added to the authorized_keys file. However, the original public key has not been removed. Therefore you can keep using this key to access the VM.

2. In the Portal in the Automation script you will see that there is still being referred to the first public key. Notice that just copying over this information to deploy a new virtual machine might allow the laptop thief again to gain access.

How to do a "real" reset?
The easiest way to do a real reset of the ssh key, is to log in to the VM and remove the previous public key from the authorized key file. The automated script will however still look the same as above. Also make sure that you put in comments that start with # in your authorized_key file so that you know which public keys are used for what purpose.

What happens after a redeploy of the virtual machine?
When you redeploy your virtual machine, the active authorized_key file is copied over during deployment. So if you could login with key1, key2 and key3 before deployment. You can also still login with key1, key2 and key3. These keys can either be added in the authorized_key file through the VM itself or they can be added to the VM by the Reset functionality of the portal. 
However deploying of  your VM might result in downtime of the machine and in loss of data. Therefore we will go in further detail about what happens with your VM when you redeploy in a later blog post.

In this blog post we have learnt how you can reset the public key that you use to gain access through a Linux VM in Azure. This consists of two steps. The first one is going to VM in the portal and use the Reset password functionality to add an extra public key. If you want to disable the previous public key from the authorized_keys file. You next will need to log in into the VM and remove the previous public key. When a VM is redeployed all the public keys from the authorized_keys file will provide access after the redeployment. In a later blog post we will focus on what happens behind the scenes when a VM is redeployed in Azure. In another upcoming blog post we will discuss how you can switch from password access to a VM to access to a VM with a public key.


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