libvirt + kvm TLS authentication on Ubuntu karmic

I have a number of Windows Server 2008 hosts running under KVM in a remote datacenter and using virt-manager to access libvirt+kvm over SSH for a remote console was disappointly slow, so I set out to try libvirt+kvm over SSL/TLS for comparison. In the process of which I had to upgrade virt-manager to 0.8.0 on my workstation to remove a VNC lag issue in the viewer built into virt-manager on karmic. In the end, I’m quite happy with the end result.

Creating Certificates

The available documentation for configuring TLS authentication for libvirt is a little daunting. My chosen references were these documents for libvirtd and virt-manager.

First create two certificates, one with the hostname for your server (SERVER.EXAMPLE.ORG below) and one for your workstation (CLIENT.EXAMPLE.ORG below), setting the fully qualified domain name (FQDN, the hostname including the domain name) as the Common Name, or CN, when prompted.
openssl genrsa -des3 -out
openssl rsa -in -out
openssl req -new -key -out

Providing the CSR to your local CA should present you with a signed certificate ( Be sure it is in Base64 format (text) and not DER (binary) if interacting with a Microsoft CA. If you are unfamiliar with this process, you’ll want to go and read up a bit first, it’s a useful hoop to learn to jump through.

Installing Certificates

# Libvirt Server
mkdir -p /etc/pki/CA
mkdir -p /etc/pki/libvirt/private
mkdir -p /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc
cp CA.EXAMPLE.ORG /etc/pki/CA/cacert.pem
cp CA.EXAMPLE.ORG /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/ca-cert.pem
cp SERVER.EXAMPLE.ORG.key /etc/pki/libvirt/private/serverkey.pem
cp SERVER.EXAMPLE.ORG.key /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/server-key.pem
cp SERVER.EXAMPLE.ORG.cer /etc/pki/libvirt/servercert.pem
cp SERVER.EXAMPLE.ORG.cer /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/server-cert.pem

# Virt-manager client
# notice the lack of dashes in clientcert.pem
mkdir -p /etc/pki/CA
mkdir -p /etc/pki/libvirt/private
mkdir -p /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc
cp CA.EXAMPLE.ORG /etc/pki/CA/cacert.pem
cp CA.EXAMPLE.ORG /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/ca-cert.pem
cp CLIENT.EXAMPLE.ORG.key /etc/pki/libvirt/private/clientkey.pem
cp CLIENT.EXAMPLE.ORG.key /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/clientkey.pem
cp CLIENT.EXAMPLE.ORG.cer /etc/pki/libvirt/clientcert.pem
cp CLIENT.EXAMPLE.ORG.cer /etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/clientcert.pem

Apparmor Fixes

If libvirtd fails to start (which it likely will without these fixes) you’ll see errors in ‘/var/log/user.log’ such as:

Nov 17 17:08:09 lasvirt01 kernel: [69476.008895] type=1503 audit(1258506489.178:77): operation=”open” pid=17104 parent=1 profile=”libvirt-600d5dae-6373-107e-5f1b-5010aff3ffed” requested_mask=”r::” denied_mask=”r::” fsuid=0 ouid=0 name=”/etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/ca-cert.pem”

You’ll need to patch up the apparmor definitions a little:

  • Due to Bug# 462000, upgrade to libvirt-bin=0.7.0-1ubuntu13.1 from karmic-proposed (unless it has made it to karmic-updates when you read this)
  • Due to Bug #484562, Add “/etc/pki/libvirt-vnc/** r,” to “/etc/apparmor.d/abstractions/libvirt-qemu”
  • run /etc/init.d/apparmor reload

Server Configuration

By default libvirt and VNC don’t allow remote connections and rely on unix sockets for connections. You’ll need to enable

  • Add “–listen” to “libvirtd_opts” in /etc/default/libvirt-bin
  • Uncomment “vnc_tls = 1” and “vnc_tls_x509_verify = 1” in “/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf”
  • Edit your guests (virsh edit GUEST) and add “listen=’′” to the graphics element
  • run /etc/init.d/libvirt-bin restart
  • cold boot any running guests (full stop, not a restart, to pick up guest xml definition changes)

Virt-manager Configuration

Add a new connection, choosing ‘QEMU/KVM’ as the Hypervisor and ‘Remote SSL/TLS with x509 certificate’ as the Connection, with the full hostname of the remote server and choose Connect. Otherwise operate like you used to.

VNC Lag Caveat

I had an issue where the display was lagging every view seconds on the VNC session via virt-manager, but when I connected directly using virt-viewer (virt-viewer –connect qemu://HOST.EXAMPLE.ORG/system GUEST_DOMAIN) there was no lag. Interestingly, when you kept both open at the same and ran a command like ‘ls -lR /’ you could easily see the difference. To correct this, I had to backport virt-manager=0.8.0-2 from debian sid, including ‘virtinst’ and ‘libvirt’, the latter requiring a change of ‘libxen3-dev’ to ‘libxen-dev’ in the Build-Depends. This is a somewhat complicated task for those unfamiliar with debian packaging.


I found most of my apparmor related errors by running ‘tail -f /var/log/user.log’. A lot of documentation recommended uncommenting ‘vnc_listen’ in ‘/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf’ but I found that the aforementioned listen xml attribute in the guest configuration overrode that by looking at the ‘-vnc’ options passed to kvm by libvirt by running ‘ps ax’. I’ve had libvirtd on the host segfault a couple times when connecting, perusing the Changelog in the version of libvirt I backported on my desktop noted some fixes that may be relevant to that.

2 thoughts on “libvirt + kvm TLS authentication on Ubuntu karmic

  1. Pingback: andy (thesethings) 's status on Thursday, 19-Nov-09 07:59:41 UTC -

  2. Anthony Goddard

    Thanks for the note, just setup TLS on 10.04 and came across the same problem with documentation..
    In 10.04, Upstart has moved things around, so it seems the arguments that used to go in /etc/defaults/libvirt-bin now go in /etc/init/libvirt-bin.conf

    The following is an inline comment in that file:

    # If you used to set $libvirtd_opts in /etc/default/libvirt-bin,
    # change the ‘exec’ line here instead.
    exec /usr/sbin/libvirtd -d

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