Intergration and Deployment with cfengine

I recently required a larger deployment of OSSEC-HIDS without too much manual intervention. Almost every OSSEC-HIDS tutorial I’ve across says this is possible, yet I was unable to find a tutorial demonstrating it. So, in the spirit of open source, I’m contributing a brief overview.


In order to facilitate the key request, I chose to generate a file with the relevant information and copy it back to my cfmaster server. I developed the following tutorial to demonstrate a cfengine copy back scenario: Copy Back with cfengine.

Configuring the cfengine clients:

I added a group to my cfagent.conf for my ossec server named: hg_ossec_server (host group). I then created an containing the following:

  • control

My control sections sets up the variables I’ll be using in the rest of the file.

    ossec_key_dir = (/usr/local/cfkeys/ossec)
    ossec_req_dir = ( $(util_updir)/ossec )
  • package

I’m using yum to automatically install OSSEC-HIDS from my local RPM Repository.

      ossec-hids                  action=install
      ossec-hids-client           action=install
  • links

The Links section just links ossec-agent.conf to ossec.conf on the clients.

    /var/ossec/etc/ossec.conf -> /var/ossec/etc/ossec-agent.conf
  • copy

I manage the ossec-agent.conf in cfengine, because my cfengine configurations are all stored in a subversion repository. The first stanza in copy just pushes the most recent copy of the ossec-agent.conf file to my network, setting the dynamic class dc_restart_ossec if the copy occurs.

      $(distribute)/ossec-agent.conf      dest=/var/ossec/etc/ossec-agent.conf

This second stanza in the copy section copies a file from our ossec key directory to the client.keys file on the client. This copy only happens if the two files are different. It also sets dc_restart_ossec if the copy occurs.

$(ossec_key_dir)/$(host).ossec    dest=/var/ossec/etc/client.keys
  • processes

My processes block checks to ensure that OSSEC-HIDS is running the correct daemons.

      "ossec-agentd" elsedefine=dc_restart_ossec
      "ossec-remoted" elsedefine=dc_restart_ossec
  • shellcommands

This section is where the certificate request occurs through some devious mechanisms I designed for no other reason than to amuse myself. Hopefully, it amuses others as well. The first thing it does is issue a command that echo’s the client eth0 ipv4 address to a file named ‘’host.ossec’’ in the ossec request directory I defined. The hg_ossec_server class will use this to generate a cert to place in the aforementioned copy block.

      "/usr/bin/ssh util@$(policyhost) -i $(util_privkey) 'echo $(global.ipv4[eth0]) > $(ossec_req_dir)/$(host).ossec'"

The last statement checks to see if anyone defined dc_restart_ossec, and restart ossec-hids if it was defined.

    "/sbin/service ossec-hids restart"

Ok, so who cares?

Well, now, our clients are setup to install, configure, and run OSSEC-HIDS as well as issuing a request for their certificate. However, the certificate directory on the server is empty and so none of them will actually run. This is a problem.

Configuring the OSSEC Server w/cfengine

The cfengine part of this was a pain for me because of the order of the actions I had defined and the extent of work I had done incorrectly in the past. I could have figured out an interesting way to handle this, but I didn’t want to scrap my entire cfengine config and start from scratch. So I created a perl script that allowed me to use the manage_agents script without interaction. It does require the & Regexp::Common from CPAN, but is otherwise stock Perl 5.8.x. I also wrote a shell script wrapper to handle running the perl script and culminating the results. I saved these two scripts in /root/security, so if you put them elsewhere, make sure to update the shell script wrapper.

The scripts for managing keys can be downloaded `here <>`_

The cfengine bit was really simple, it just had to call my wrapper shell script and set the class. I did this with a control block:

   AddClasses = ( ExecResult(/root/security/ )

The combination of the two scripts and this one line in the cfengine configuration handle creating, removing, and exporting the keys, as well as configuring the dc_restart_ossec class if there have been changes.