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Secure Consul


In the current EdgeX architecture, Consul is pre-wired as the default agent service for Service Configuration, Service Registry, and Service Health Check purposes. Prior to EdgeX's Ireland release, the communication to Consul uses plain HTTP calls without any access control (ACL) token header and thus are insecure. With the Ireland release, that situation is now improved by adding required ACL token header X-Consul-Token in any HTTP calls. Moreover, Consul itself is now bootstrapped and started with its ACL system enabled and thus provides better authentication and authorization security features for services. In other words, with the required Consul's ACL token for accessing Consul, assets inside Consul like EdgeX's configuration items in Key-Value (KV) store are now better protected.

In this documentation, we will highlight some major features incorporated into EdgeX framework system for Securing Consul, including how the Consul token is generated via the integration of secret store management system Vault with Consul via Vault's Consul Secrets Engine APIs. Also a brief overview on how Consul token is governed by Vault using Consul's ACL policy associated with a Vault role for that token is given. Finally, EdgeX provides an easy way for getting Consul token from edgex-compose's compose-builder utility for better developer experiences.

Consul access token with Vault integration

In order to reduce another token generation system to maintain, we utilize the Vault's feature of Consul Secrets Engine APIs, governed by Vault itself, and integrated with Consul. Consul service itself provides ACL system and is enabled via Consul's configuration settings like:

acl = {
    enabled = true
    default_policy = "deny"
    enable_token_persistence = true

and this is set as part of EdgeX security-bootstrapper service's process. Note that the default ACL policy is set to "deny" so that anything is not listed in the ACL list will get access denied by nature. The flag enable_token_persistence is related to the persistence of Consul's agent token and is set to true so as to re-use the same agent token when EdgeX system restarts again.

During the process of Consul bootstrapping, the first main step of security-bootstrapper for Consul is to bootstrap Consul's ACL system with Consul's API endpoint /acl/bootstrap.

Once Consul's ACL is successfully bootstrapped, security-bootstrapper stores the Consul's ACL bootstrap token onto the pre-configured folder under /tmp/edgex/secrets/consul-acl-token.

As part of security-bootstrapper process for Consul, Consul service's agent token is also set via Consul's sub-command: consul acl set-agent-token agent or Consul's HTTP API endpoint /agent/token/<agent_token> using Consul's ACL bootstrap token for the authentication. This agent token provides the identity for Consul service itself and access control for any agent-based API calls from client and thus provides better security.

The management token provides the identity for Consul service itself and access control for remote configuration from client and thus provides better security. It's created and stored onto the pre-configured folder under /tmp/edgex/secrets/consul-acl-token.

security-bootstrapper service also uses Consul's bootstrap token to generate Vault's role based from Consul Secrets Engine API /consul/role/<role_name> for all internal default EdgeX services and add-on services via environment variable EDGEX_ADD_REGISTRY_ACL_ROLES. Please see more details and some examples in Configuring Add-on Service documentation section for how to configure add-on services' ACL roles.

security-bootstrapper then automatically associated with Consul's ACL policy rules with this provided ACL role so that Consul token will be created or generated with that ACL rules and hence enforced access controls by Consul when the service is communicating with it.

Note that Consul token is generated via Vault's /consul/creds/<role_name> API with Vault's secretstore token and hence the generated Consul token is inherited the time-restriction nature from Vault system itself. Thus Consul token will be revoked by Vault if Vault's token used to generate it expires or is revoked. Currently in EdgeX we utilize the auto-renewal feature of Vault's token implemented in go-mod-secrets to keep Consul token alive and not expire.

How to get Consul ACL token

Consul's access token can be obtained from the compose-builder of edgex-compose repository via command make get-consul-acl-token. One example of this will be like:

$ make get-consul-acl-token 

This output token is Consul's ACL management token and thus one can use it to login and access Consul service's features from Consul's GUI on http://localhost:8500/ui.

From the upper right-hand corner of Consul's GUI or the "Log in" button in the center, one can login with the obtained Consul token in order to access Consul's GUI features:



If the end user wants to access consul from the command line and since by default now Consul is running in ACL enabled mode, any API call to Consul's endpoints will requires the access token and thus one needs to give the access token into the header X-Consul-Token of HTTP calls.

One example using curl command with Consul access token to do local Consul KV store is given as follows:

curl -v -H "X-Consul-Token:8775c1db-9340-d07b-ac95-bc6a1fa5fe57" -X PUT --data 'TestKey="My key values"' \

where the Consul access token is passed into the header X-Consul-Token and assuming it has write permission for accessing and updating data in Consul's KV store.