Running programs as a non-root user is must in security sensitive environments. However, these programs sometimes need to publish their service on privileged ports like port 80 – which cannot be used by local users. Systemd offers a simple way to solve this problem.
Running services as non-root users is a quite obvious: if it is attacked and a malicious user gets control of the service, the rest of the system should still be secure in terms of access rights.
At the same time plenty programs need to publish their service at ports like 80 or 443 since these are the default ports for http communication and thus for interfaces like REST. But these ports are not available to non-root users.
Problem shown at the example gitea
To show how to solve this with systemd, we take the self hosted git service gitea as an example. Currently there are hardly any available packages, so most people end up installing it from source, for example as the user
git. A proper sysmted unit file for such an installation in a local path, running the service as a local user, is:
$ cat /etc/systemd/system/gitea.service [Unit] Description=Gitea (Git with a cup of tea) After=syslog.target After=network.target After=postgresql.service [Service] RestartSec=2s Type=simple User=git Group=git WorkingDirectory=/home/git/go/src/code.gitea.io/gitea ExecStart=/home/git/go/src/code.gitea.io/gitea/gitea web Restart=always Environment=USER=git HOME=/home/git [Install] WantedBy=multi-user.target
If this service is started, and the application configuration is set to port 80, it fails during the startup with a bind error:
Jan 04 09:12:47 gitea.qxyz.de gitea: 2018/01/04 09:12:47 [I] Listen: http://0.0.0.0:80 Jan 04 09:12:47 gitea.qxyz.de gitea: 2018/01/04 09:12:47 [....io/gitea/cmd/web.go:179 runWeb()] [E] Failed to start server: listen tcp 0.0.0.0:80: bind: permission denied
One way to tackle this would be a reverse proxy, running on port 80 and forwarding traffic to a non-privileged port like 8080. However, it is much more simple to add an additional systemd socket which listens on port 80:
$ cat /etc/systemd/system/gitea.socket [Unit] Description=Gitea socket [Socket] ListenStream=80 NoDelay=true
As shown above, the definition of a socket is straight forward, and hardly needs any special configuration. We use
NoDelay here since this is a default for Go on sockets it opens, and we want to imitate that.
Given this socket definition, we add the socket as requirement to the service definition:
[Unit] Description=Gitea (Git with a cup of tea) Requires=gitea.socket After=syslog.target After=network.target After=postgresql.service [Service] RestartSec=2s Type=simple User=git Group=git WorkingDirectory=/home/git/go/src/code.gitea.io/gitea ExecStart=/home/git/go/src/code.gitea.io/gitea/gitea web Restart=always Environment=USER=git HOME=/home/git NonBlocking=true [Install] WantedBy=multi-user.target
As seen above, the unit definition hardly changes, only the requirement for the socket is added – and
NonBlocking as well, to imitate Go behavior.
That’s it! Now the service starts up properly and everything is fine:
[...] Jan 04 09:21:02 gitea.qxyz.de gitea: 2018/01/04 09:21:02 Listening on init activated [::]:80 Jan 04 09:21:02 gitea.qxyz.de gitea: 2018/01/04 09:21:02 [I] Listen: http://0.0.0.0:80 Jan 04 09:21:08 gitea.qxyz.de gitea: [Macaron] 2018-01-04 09:21:08: Started GET / for 192.168.122.1 [...]
Sources, further reading
- systemd for Developers I, especially the examples at the end
- systemd socket activation in Go, the Go specific options are explained there