While working on the second edition of my first book, SELinux System Administration - Second Edition I had to test out a few commands on different Linux distributions to make sure that I don't create instructions that only work on Gentoo Linux. After all, as awesome as Gentoo might be, the Linux world is a bit bigger. So I downloaded a few live systems to run in Qemu/KVM.

Some of these systems however use cloud-init which, while interesting to use, is not set up on my system yet. And without support for cloud-init, how can I get access to the system?

Mounting qemu images on the system

To resolve this, I want to mount the image on my system, and edit the /etc/shadow file so that the root account is accessible. Once that is accomplished, I can log on through the console and start setting up the system further.

Images that are in the qcow2 format can be mounted through the nbd driver, but that would require some updates on my local SELinux policy that I am too lazy to do right now (I'll get to them eventually, but first need to finish the book). Still, if you are interested in using nbd, see these instructions or a related thread on the Gentoo Forums.

Luckily, storage is cheap (even SSD disks), so I quickly converted the qcow2 images into raw images:

~$ qemu-img convert root.qcow2 root.raw

With the image now available in raw format, I can use the loop devices to mount the image(s) on my system:

~# losetup /dev/loop0 root.raw
~# kpartx -a /dev/loop0
~# mount /dev/mapper/loop0p1 /mnt

The kpartx command will detect the partitions and ensure that those are available: the first partition becomes available at /dev/loop0p1, the second /dev/loop0p2 and so forth.

With the image now mounted, let's update the /etc/shadow file.

Placing a new password hash in the shadow file

A google search quickly revealed that the following command generates a shadow-compatible hash for a password:

~$ openssl passwd -1 MyMightyPassword
$1$BHbMVz9i$qYHmULtXIY3dqZkyfW/oO.

The challenge wasn't to find the hash though, but to edit it:

~# vim /mnt/etc/shadow
vim: Permission denied

The image that I downloaded used SELinux (of course), which meant that the shadow file was labeled with shadow_t which I am not allowed to access. And I didn't want to put SELinux in permissive mode just for this (sometimes I /do/ have some time left, apparently).

So I remounted the image, but now with the context= mount option, like so:

~# mount -o context="system_u:object_r:var_t:s0: /dev/loop0p1 /mnt

Now all files are labeled with var_t which I do have permissions to edit. But I also need to take care that the files that I edited get the proper label again. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. I chose to create a .autorelabel file in the root of the partition. Red Hat based distributions will pick this up and force a file system relabeling operation.

Unmounting the file system

After making the changes, I can now unmount the file system again:

~# umount /mnt
~# kpart -d /dev/loop0
~# losetup -d /dev/loop0

With that done, I had root access to the image and could start testing out my own set of commands.

It did trigger my interest in the cloud-init setup though...


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