KVM Virtualization Integrating Libvirt and VNC Authentication with Kerberos in IPA


The ‘default’ behaviour of KVM with libvirt is to use a UNIX socket rather than network and to only allow root read/write access to the system session with others only having user-session access read/write and the system session being read only - with this controlled via PolicyKit.

Leveraging the SASL mechanisms in libvirt allows GSSAPI for an authentication mechanism (X509 certificates are also possible but since ‘user certificates’ are not yet in IPA and I’ve not tested that in this workplace I’ll leave that out of scope of this document).

The prerequisites to work through this guide are a working IPA topology and a working libvirt/kvm server (which only needs to allow root to manage the guests) that has been joined to the IPA domain.

For the purposes of this document the IPA server will be in the realm EXAMPLE.COM, the virtualization server will be and the guest will be

Creating the services and obtaining the keytabs#

In order to allow for all this to work keytabs need to be arranged for libvirt and VNC. On (or any system with ipa-admintools installed or the GUI):

ipa service-add libvirt/
ipa service-add vnc/

On the KVM host server:

ipa-getkeytab -s -p libvirt/ -k /etc/libvirt/
ipa-getkeytab -s -p vnc/ -k /etc/qemu/


  • On CentOS 7, the VNC keytab should be located in /etc/qemu-kvm instead of /etc/qemu.

  • The keytabs are 600 root:root for libvirt and 600 qemu:root for qemu.

  • The standard etc_t selinux type appeared to work fine.

With the keytabs in place libvirt and qemu now need to be configured to make use of them and enable TCP connections.

Configuring libvirt to use kerberos via SASL#

In order to tell kerberos that GSSAPI is an available mechanism and to allow connections over tcp the following configuration needs to be carried out:

The appropriate changes in /etc/libvirt/libvirtd.conf are:

listen_tls = 0
listen_tcp = 1
auth_tcp = "sasl"
sasl_allowed_username_list = ["\*@EXAMPLE.COM" ]

To configure the SASL auth for libvirtd following this make sure you have the following in /etc/sasl2/libvirt.conf:

mech_list: gssapi
keytab: /etc/libvirt/

Finally listening on TCP needs to be enabled in /etc/sysconfig/libvirtd:

`` LIBVIRTD_ARGS=”–listen”``

Configuring qemu to allow SASL authentication for VNC#

With libvirt listening qemu needs to be configured to allow connections to console. This part of things it’s the qemu process running the guest rather than the overall libvirt daemon that’s responsible.

To enable the VNC side of things edit /etc/libvirt/qemu.conf:

vnc_listen = ""
vnc_tls = 0
vnc_sasl = 1

If SELinux is enabled on the host, it may prevent qemu to use GSSAPI. This is the case with CentOS 7.1.1503, but other distributions may be impacted. Either disable SELinux completely or add the following line to /etc/libvirt/qemu.conf to disable SELinux integration:

`` secure_driver = “none”``

Then configure SASL2 appropriately in /etc/sasl2/qemu.conf:

mech_list: gssapi
keytab: /etc/qemu/

On CentOS 7, the file is named /etc/sasl2/qemu-kvm.conf, and the keytab location is different:

mech_list: gssapi
keytab: /etc/qemu-kvm/

On CentOS 7, qemu will try to read VNC SASL configuration from the file /etc/sasl2/spice.conf. Other distributions may exhibit the same behaviour. In that case, just create a symbolic link /etc/sasl2/spice.conf pointing to /etc/sasl2/qemu-kvm.conf:

cd /etc/sasl2
ln -s qemu-kvm.conf spice.conf

The final note to make is an outstanding bug that affects this setup currently where the kerberos key cache that gets made by libvirt has the range set to the guest VM being connected to and then consequently connecting to another guest on the same host fails due to the selinux range on the file preventing it from being read.

As a workaround until the bug is fixed, as an example, I have the following in cron:

`` */5 * * * * chcon -l s0 /var/tmp/vnc_*``

This will set the range to s0 and thus all VMs can then use this replay cache for the credentials.

Firewall configuration#

Although libvirtd should now be listening remotely at this point iptables should still be blocking connections. Assuming default ports for libvirt and VNC the following lines should be put in /etc/sysconfig/iptables:

-A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 5900:5999 -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 16509 -j ACCEPT

If you don’t want to deal with iptables directly, you may use firewall-cmd instead. Assuming your network interface is bound to the ‘public’ zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=libvirt
firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=libvirt --permanent
firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=5900:5999/tcp
firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=5900:5999/tcp --permanent

This should be the only requirement left for connectivity.

Client usage#

At this point everything should be functional. Either a remote connection should be possible or ssh -X to and then opening virt-manager.

To connect to libvirt over TCP use a connection string such as :

`` virsh -c qemu+tcp:// ``

In the alternative add the environment variable to the client (useful on the server itself where it won’t need to vary) of:

`` LIBVIRT_DEFAULT_URI=”qemu+tcp://”``

To connect to the VNC instance a client that is capable of GSSAPI for VNC should be used such as virt-viewer or the console view of virt-manager.


If all the steps have been followed then as long as there is a valid kerberos token in the realm EXAMPLE.COM connecting with a libvirt client to the libvirt daemon should work without any additional credentials being requested.