Network security

Communication between servers and nodes uses two channels:

  • HTTPS from nodes to servers

  • Custom protocol wrapped in TLS on tcp/5309, from nodes to server to download policies and (optionally) from server to nodes to trigger runs.

Both enforce using TLS 1.2+.

We recommend using a VPN for all communications between node and server if on a public network. If it’s not the case, it’s necessary to follow the following guide to improve security level.

Authentication mechanisms


On all agents and relays, and servers:

  • /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/localhost.priv, the node’s private key, that allows the node to download its policies. It is a 4096-bit RSA key.

  • /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/, the node’s public key

  • /opt/rudder/etc/agent.cert, the node’s certificate. It is embedded in inventories and signs inventories and compliance reports.

Only on servers and relays:

  • /opt/rudder/etc/rudder.key, the HTTP server’s private key. It is a 2048-bit RSA key by default.

  • /opt/rudder/etc/rudder.crt, the HTTP server’s certificate chain. It is generated as a self-signed certificate at server installation. See procedure below to replace it by a valid one.

Policy update and remote run (tcp/443)

This protocol is used for:

  • Policy download on Linux and AIX nodes

  • Remote run from policy servers to nodes

It uses the key pairs in /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/ to authenticate the node and server during communication.

Server authentication

The server is trusted by the node at first connection ("Trust On First Use") by default, but you can provide a public key to pre-establish trust (see guide below).

Agent authentication

The first inventory sent by the node contains it’s public key (apart of its certificates). Once accepted, it’s policies are only available to a node having the matching private key.


HTTPS is used for:

  • Sending inventories and reports from nodes to policy servers

  • Remote-run trigger between root server and relays

  • File sharing between nodes and policy server

  • Policies and shared-files downloads on Windows nodes

Server authentication

Our HTTPS setup uses standard certificates, that are self-signed by default, and nodes do not verify their policy server’s certificate when sending an inventory or a report.

Follow the guide below to replace them by valid certificates and enable certificate validation.

Agent authentication

Inventories and reports are sent without client authentication at HTTP level, but they are signed the node’s certificate, and checked on central server before being processed.

For Windows policy and file download, HTTPS client authentication is done using the agent.cert node’s certificate for allow allow access to the node with the matching private key.

Secure setup

The following steps allows configuring Rudder to enforce certificate validation and establishing trust with pre-shared information during agent provisioning.

Setup root server

To enforce secure communications with the nodes, follow these steps on the root server.


Check that the reporting protocol is set to HTTPS only, as it enforces only accepting signed reports.


Replace the default self-signed certificate by a valid one (i.e. recognized by the nodes) certificate in place in:

  • /opt/rudder/etc/ssl/rudder.key

  • /opt/rudder/etc/ssl/rudder.crt

You need to make sure all nodes use a hostname that matches this certificate as their configured policy server.

You can for example use Let’s Encrypt to get free certificates if your server has an access to the Internet.

In this case you should copy fullchain.pem into rudder.crt and privkey.pem into rudder.key, and automate this copy to allow automatic renewal.

Then enable Enforce validation of policy server certificate for inventory and reporting in Settings → General → Certificate validation. This will make nodes require a valid certificate to send reports and inventories.

Once enabled, all nodes will check the server’s certificate before sending reports or inventories (after the first successful policy update). Next step will do the same for the first agent run, with initial policies.

Initial policies

To enforce certificate verification from agent install (and not only after first generation and policy update), we need to modify initial policies served by the root server.

Currently initial policies are not configurable, so this change needs to be done after each upgrade.

On the root server, in /var/rudder/cfengine-community/masterfiles/

      "rudder_verify_certs"    expression => strcmp("", "true");

# should be replaced by
      "rudder_verify_certs"    expression => "true";

and in /var/rudder/cfengine-community/masterfiles/rudder.json:

# add

After these changes all new nodes will validate certificates from first run.

Provisioning an agent with pre-established trust

This section expects that the server-side setup has been done. At allows going a bit further by providing a hash of the server key at installation to validate the server identity from the first connection, and avoid trusting the first host it connects to.

It requires providing local changes to the agent as part of the provisioning process. Here policy server’s refers to you node’s server, it can be a relay or a root server.

Compute policy server’s hash key with:

cf-key -p /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/

Copy /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/ from the policy server server on each provisioned node to /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/root-${HASH}.pub

So that it looks like:

# cat /var/rudder/cfengine-community/ppkeys/root-MD5\

Now you can set your policy server with rudder agent policy-server mypolicyserver and the agent will only accept the connection if it matches the provided key hash.

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