Fedora: Encrypting Your Home Directory

There are a number of steps for encrypting your home directory in Fedora, and enabling system applications like GDM to decrypt your files on login. I’ll walk through the process of how I got this set up on my own machine.

First, make sure you have ecryptfs and related packages installed:

# yum install keyutils ecryptfs-utils pam_mount

Then you can either go the easy way:

    # authconfig --enableecryptfs --updateall
    # usermod -aG ecryptfs USER
    # ecryptfs-migrate-home -u USER
    # su - USER
    $ ecryptfs-unwrap-passphrase ~/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase (write this down for safe keeping)
    $ ecryptfs-insert-wrapped-passphrase-into-keyring ~/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase

[All done! Now you can log in via GDM or the console (“su – user” will not work without running ecryptfs-mount-private)]

OR the hard way, which I followed. There are some benefits of going this route. It is a much more configurable install which allows you to select the cipher and key strength:

First enable ecryptfs:

# authconfig --enableecryptfs --updateall

Move your home directory out of the way, and make a new one:

# mv /home/user /home/user.old
# mkdir -m 700 /home/user
# chown user:user /home/user
# usermod -d /home/user.old user

Make a nice random-ish passphrase for your encryption:

# < /dev/urandom tr -cd \[:graph:\] | fold -w 64 | head -n 1 > /root/ecryptfs-passphrase

Mount the new /home/user with ecryptfs:

# mount -t ecryptfs /home/user /home/user
(choose passphrase, any cipher, any strength, plain text pass through, and encrypt file names)
# mount | grep ecryptfs < /root/ecryptfs_mount_options

Add to the /etc/fstab (with the mount options from ecryptfs_mount_options above) like so:

/home/syncomm /home/syncomm ecryptfs rw,user,noauto,exec,relatime,ecryptfs_fnek_sig=113c5eeef8a05729,ecryptfs_sig=113c5e8ef7a05729,ecryptfs_cipher=aes,ecryptfs_key_bytes=32,ecryptfs_passthrough,ecryptfs_unlink_sigs 0 0

Wrap up the passphrase with the users login:

# ecryptfs-wrap-passphrase /root/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase</div>

Copy over files to the new home dir:

# su - user
$ rsync -aP /home/user.old/ /home/user/</div>

Unmount /home/user and set up the initial files for ecryptfs and pam_mount:

# umount /home/user
# usermod -d /home/user user
# mkdir /home/user/.ecryptfs
# cp /root/.ecryptfs/sig-cache.txt /home/user/.ecryptfs
# cp /root/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase /home/user/.ecryptfs
# touch /home/user/.ecryptfs/auto-mount
# touch /home/user/.ecryptfs/auto-umount
# chown -R user:user /home/user/.ecryptfs
# su - user -c "ecryptfs-insert-wrapped-passphrase-into-keyring /home/user/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase"

Now it gets interesting! Edit /etc/pam.d/postlogin and add the highlighted lines:

# This file is auto-generated.
# User changes will be destroyed the next time authconfig is run.
auth        optional      pam_ecryptfs.so unwrap
auth        optional      pam_permit.so
auth        optional      pam_mount.so
password    optional      pam_ecryptfs.so unwrap
session     optional      pam_ecryptfs.so unwrap
session     [success=1 default=ignore] pam_succeed_if.so service !~ gdm* service !~ su* quiet
session     [default=1]   pam_lastlog.so nowtmp silent
session     optional      pam_lastlog.so silent noupdate showfailed
session     optional      pam_mount.so

Edit /etc/security/pam_mount.conf.xml and replace the whole file with:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″ ?>
<!DOCTYPE pam_mount SYSTEM “pam_mount.conf.xml.dtd”>
<debug enable=”0″ />
<luserconf name=”.pam_mount.conf.xml” />
<mntoptions allow=”*” />
<mntoptions require=”” />
<logout wait=”0″ hup=”0″ term=”0″ kill=”0″ />
<lclmount>/bin/mount -i %(VOLUME) “%(before=\”-o\” OPTIONS)”</lclmount>


# su - user -c "vi /home/user/.pam_mount.conf.xml"

And add this:

<volume noroot=”1″ fstype=”ecryptfs” path=”/home/user” />

Now you can login and see your decrypted files! (“su – user” will not work without running ecryptfs-mount-private.)

You should setup swap encryption for both of these methods with:

# ecryptfs-setup-swap

If you want to go that extra mile, you can symbolically link your /home/user/.ecryptfs/wrapped-passphrase  to a flash drive and mount it at boot, or use autofs or some scripting to mount it on login (and just in time for PAM to access it.) However, if you are going to go that far you should look into more CIA level disk encryption, like TrueCrypt.

About syncomm

Gregory S. Hayes has 17 years of experience in enterprise IT, specializing in OpenStack, Linux, and Open Source. Currently he is a Lead Cloud Architect with Wells Fargo, principally working on next-generation enterprise cloud initiatives. Previously he served at Red Hat as a Cloud Infrastructure Solutions Architect working with a number of strategic enterprise accounts to enable cloud transformation, workload migration, and cloud governance. Prior to joining Red Hat, he also served as a Senior Cloud Architect for Hewlett-Packard. Gregory has led the way in these organizations with regard to cloud enablement and infrastructure automation. He has been involved in the OpenSource community since 1995, and considers himself an evangelist for the next generation of cloud technologies based on OpenStack.
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