Securing OTA Connect

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Posted on Jul 12, 2018 by Andy Doan

4 min read

Part three of this blog series showed how to deploy an OTA Connect service in Google Kubernetes Engine that had a few security holes. This article will describe how to secure it.

This is the final installment to a series of blogs about implementing OTA updates in the Linux microPlatform:

  • Part 1 - How we choose a software update system
  • Part 2 - What is OTA Connect
  • Part 3 - Deploying OTA Connect


You'll need an OTA Connect service deployed into GKE as documented in part three of the blog series.


As diagrammed in part two OTA Connect has four public entry points. The device gateway is the only one of those that is secured by default. The web app, repo server, and treehub all require custom code to be secured. There are many ways this can be done and they ultimately depend on how you authenticate and authorize users in your organization. The solution deployed here is done in the simplest manner possible so that it's easy for you to see exactly how and where to make your own customizations.

DNS Updates

This blog introduces a DNS change. The previous blog created a subdomain for both "treehub" and "tuf-reposerver". This example uses a single subdomain called "api" and adds location paths for each service. This gives a single entry point to focus on for security. We also need a new entry for an "oauth2" server. In short:

  • Create these records:
    • api.<ingress_dns_name>
    • oauth2.<ingress_dns_name>
  • Delete these records:
    • treehub.<ingress_dns_name> (now located at api.<ingress_dns_name>/treehub)
    • tuf-reposerver.<ingress_dns_name>(now located at api.<ingress_dns_name>/repo)

Secure the Reverse Proxy

OTA Community Edition deployments have no authentication support built into it, so securing it requires making changes to the reverse proxy we created in the previous blog. Nginx includes the ngx_http_auth_request_module for securing calls to reverse proxy servers. The approach taken in this blog is to create an authentication service to handle auth_requests.

The ota-blog-part4 GitHub branch includes a new service called oauthful (oauth + awful). It's terribly insecure, but shows in the fewest lines of code possible what you need to secure in your deployment. Deploying this is easy:

  # Change directories to your ota-community-edition repo from part 3.
  # Pull in changes from upstream repo:
  git pull

  # Check out the branch for this blog:
  git checkout ota-blog-part4

  # To look at the diffs between the 2 blogs visit:

  # Deploy changes with:
  ./contrib/gke/make start-services

  # At this point the new configuration is ready, but you'll have to restart
  # the reverse-proxy to enable it:
  ./contrib/gke/kubectl get pods | grep reverse-proxy | cut -f1 -d\  | xargs ./contrib/gke/kubectl delete pod

Verify the APIs Are Secure

  # Set the URL below to match your domain, and verify you get HTTP 401 errors:
  curl -v
  curl -v

  # Now make sure they work with the "secure token":
  curl -H "Authorization: Bearer BadT0ken5"
  curl -H "Authorization: Bearer BadT0ken5"

The web interface will also now be secured with HTTP basic authentication. The username is ignored, so you can enter anything into that value. The password is BadT0ken5. NOTE: This only works with Firefox. It seems like the Chrome browser doesn't want to send credentials over an insecure HTTP connection.


As a result of the URL changes, you now need to update your used for building and signing images. You'll need to update these files:

  cd generated/ota-ce*

  # Be sure to set <ingress_dns_name> below to match your domain
  # tufrepo.url becomes:

  # treehub.json becomes:
    "oauth2": {
      "server": "http://oauth2.<ingress_dns_name>",
      "client_id" : "7a455f3b-2234-43b5-9d13-7d8823494f21",
      "client_secret" : "OTbGcZx6my"
    "ostree": {
        "server": "http://api.<ingress_dns_name>/treehub/api/v3/"

  # You can then update your with:
  zip -u treehub.json tufrepo.url

Next Steps

The remaining steps towards an actual secure server are organization specific. You'll need to first update your Nginx configuration to use HTTPS and deploy it with matching SSL certificates. Then you'll need replace the "oauthful" service with your own OAuth2 implementation.

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