Control System Admin Access to VMware Cloud Director

When VMware Cloud Director is deployed in public environment setup it is a good practice to restrict the system admin access only for specific networks so no brute force attack can be triggered against the publicly available UI/API end points.

There is actually a relatively easy way to achieve this via any web application firewall (WAF) with URI access filter. The strategy is to protect only the provider authentication end points which is much easier than to try to distinguish between provider and tenant URIs.

As the access (attack) can be done either through UI or API the solution should address both. Let us first talk about the UI. The tenants and provider use specific URL to access their system/org context but we do not really need to care about this at all. The UI is actually using (public) APIs so there is nothing needed to harden the UI specifically if we harder the API endpoint. Well, the OAuth and SAML logins are exception so let me tackle them separately.

So how can you authenticate to VCD via API?

Integrated Authentication

The integrated basic authentication consisting of login/password is used for VCD local accounts and LDAP accounts. The system admin (provider context) uses /cloudapi/1.0.0/sessions/provider API endpoint while the tenants use /cloudapi/1.0.0/sessions.

The legacy (common for both providers and tenant) API endpoint /api/sessions has been deprecated since API version 33.0 (introduced in VCD 10.0). Note that deprecated does not mean removed and it is still available even with API version 36.x so you can expect to be around for some time as VCD keeps backward compatible APIs for few years.

You might notice that there is in a Feature Flags section the possibility to enable “Legacy Login Removal”.

Feature Flags

Enabling this feature will disable legacy login both for tenants and providers however only if you use alpha API version (in the case of VCD 10.3.3.1 it is 37.0.0-alpha-1652216327). So this is really only useful for testing your own tooling where you can force the usage of that particular API version. The UI and any 3rd party tooling will still use the main (supported) API versions where the legacy endpoint will still work.

However, you can forcefully disable it for provider context for any API version with the following CMT command (run from any cell, no need to restart the services):

/opt/vmware/vcloud-director/bin/cell-management-tool manage-config -n vcloud.api.legacy.nonprovideronly -v true

The providers will need to use only the new cloudapi/1.0.0/providers/session endpoint. So be careful as it might break some legacy tools!

API Access Token Authentication

This is a fairly new method of authentication to VCD (introduced in version 10.3.1) that uses once generated secret token for API authentication. It is mainly used by automation or orchestration tools. The actual method of generating session token requires access to the tenant or provider oauth API endpoints:

/oauth/tenant/<tenant_name>/token

/oauth/provider/token

This makes it easy to disable provider context via URI filter.

SAML/OAuth Authentication via UI

Here we must distinguish the API and UI behavior. For SAML, the UI is using /login/org/<org-name>/… endpoint. The provider context is using the default SYSTEM org as the org name. So we must filter URI starting with /login/org/SYSTEM.

For OAuth the UI is using the same endpoint as API access token authentication /oauth/tenant vs /oauth/provider. /login/oauth?service=provider

For API SAML/OAuth logins cloudapi/1.0.0/sessions vs cloudapi/1.0.0/sessions/provider endpoints are used.

WAF Filtering Example

Here is an example how to set up URI filtering with VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer.

  1. We need to obviously set up VCD cell (SSL) pool and Virtual Service for the external IP and port 443 (SSL).
  2. The virtual service application profile must be set to System-Secure-HTTP as we need to terminate SSL sessions on the load balancer in order to inspect the URI. That means the public SSL certificate must be uploaded to load balancer as well. The cells can actually use self signed certs especially if you use the new console proxy that does not require SSL pass through and works on port 443.
  3. In the virtual service go to Policies > HTTP Request and create following rules:
    Rule Name: Provider Access
    Client IP Address: Is Not: <admin subnets>
    Path: Criteria – Begins with:
    /cloudapi/1.0.0/sessions/provider
    /oauth/provider
    /login/oauth?service=provider
    /login/org/SYSTEM
    Content Switch: Local response – Status Code: 403.
WAF Access Rule

And this is what you can observe when trying to log in via integrated authentication from non-authorized subnets:

And here is an example of SAML login:

One thought on “Control System Admin Access to VMware Cloud Director

  1. Hello Tomas,

    Thank you for your blog post on how to restrict access as provider on public internet.

    But what about path “/login?service=provider” which I believe is a valid path and should be blocked as well?

    Also, there is a path for “/socket” which is something that a tenant also has no need to access and should be blocked?

    Thanks

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