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Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2015 14:04:02 -0500
From: Jan Schaumann <>
Subject: Chef: knife bootstrap leaks validator privkey into system logs


In Opscode Chef, when you 'knife bootstrap' a node, the validator.pem
private RSA key is leaked into the system logs /var/log/messages.

The reason is that 'knife bootstrap' constructs a shell command to run
on the node from a template, filling the private key in as a here-doc
This command is invoked via (more or less):

ssh node 'sudo sh -c full-command-goes-here'

As a result, the private key ends up on the command-line, in the process
table, and, by way of sudo command logging on most reasonable systems,
in the system logs. The logs may also be forwarded to other places
(possibly in clear text), and possible stored on other systems, making
the private validator key not quite so private any more.

This issue was reported to Opscode here:

Opscode has elected not to request a CVE for this issue (nor fixed it;
a work-around using so-called validatorless bootstrapping exists).  I
think it would still be useful to have a CVE identifier for this issue.


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