Qubes RPC internals

(This page details the current implementation of qrexec (qrexec3). A general introduction to qrexec is also available. For the implementation of qrexec2, see here.)

The qrexec framework consists of a number of processes communicating with each other using common IPC protocol (described in detail below). Components residing in the same domain (qrexec-client-vm to qrexec-agent, qrexec-client to qrexec-daemon) use local sockets as the underlying transport medium. Components in separate domains (qrexec-daemon to qrexec-agent, data channel between qrexec-agents) use vchan links. Because of vchan limitation, it is not possible to establish qrexec connection back to the source domain.

Dom0 tools implementation

qrexec-daemon

  • /usr/sbin/qrexec-daemon: One instance is required for every active domain. Responsible for:
    • Handling execution and service requests from dom0 (source: qrexec-client).
    • Handling service requests from the associated domain (source: qrexec-client-vm, then qrexec-agent).
  • Command line: qrexec-daemon domain-id domain-name [default user]
  • domain-id: Numeric Qubes ID assigned to the associated domain.
  • domain-name: Associated domain name.
  • default user: Optional. If passed, qrexec-daemon uses this user as default for all execution requests that don’t specify one.

qrexec-policy

  • /usr/bin/qrexec-policy: Internal program used to evaluate the RPC policy and deciding whether a RPC call should be allowed.

qrexec-client

  • /usr/bin/qrexec-client: Used to pass execution and service requests to qrexec-daemon. Command line parameters:
    • -d target-domain-name: Specifies the target for the execution/service request.
    • -l local-program: Optional. If present, local-program is executed and its stdout/stdin are used when sending/receiving data to/from the remote peer.
    • -e: Optional. If present, stdout/stdin are not connected to the remote peer. Only process creation status code is received.
    • -c <request-id,src-domain-name,src-domain-id>: used for connecting a VM-VM service request by qrexec-policy. Details described below in the service example.
    • cmdline: Command line to pass to qrexec-daemon as the execution/service request. Service request format is described below in the service example.

Note: None of the above tools are designed to be used by users directly.

VM tools implementation

qrexec-agent: One instance runs in each active domain. Responsible for:

  • Handling service requests from qrexec-client-vm and passing them to connected qrexec-daemon in dom0.
  • Executing associated qrexec-daemon execution/service requests.
  • Command line parameters: none.

qrexec-client-vm: Runs in an active domain. Used to pass service requests to qrexec-agent.

  • Command line: qrexec-client-vm target-domain-name service-name local-program [local program arguments]
  • target-domain-name: Target domain for the service request. Source is the current domain.
  • service-name: Requested service name.
  • local-program: local-program is executed locally and its stdin/stdout are connected to the remote service endpoint.

Qrexec protocol details

The qrexec protocol is message-based. All messages share a common header followed by an optional data packet.

/* uniform for all peers, data type depends on message type */
struct msg_header {
   uint32_t type;           /* message type */
   uint32_t len;            /* data length */
};

When two peers establish connection, the server sends MSG_HELLO followed by peer_info struct:

struct peer_info {
   uint32_t version; /* qrexec protocol version */
};

The client then should reply with its own MSG_HELLO and peer_info. The lower of two versions define protocol used for this connection. If either side does not support this version, the connection is closed.

Details of all possible use cases and the messages involved are described below.

dom0: request execution of some_command in domX and pass stdin/stdout

  • dom0: qrexec-client is invoked in dom0 as follows:

    qrexec-client -d domX [-l local_program] user:some_command`
    

    user may be substituted with the literal DEFAULT. In that case, default Qubes user will be used to execute some_command.

  • dom0: qrexec-client sets QREXEC_REMOTE_DOMAIN environment variable to domX.
  • dom0: If local_program is set, qrexec-client executes it and uses that child’s stdin/stdout in place of its own when exchanging data with qrexec-agent later.
  • dom0: qrexec-client connects to domX’s qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: qrexec-daemon sends MSG_HELLO header followed by peer_info to qrexec-client.
  • dom0: qrexec-client replies with MSG_HELLO header followed by peer_info to qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: qrexec-client sends MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params to qrexec-daemon.

      /* variable size */
      struct exec_params {
         uint32_t connect_domain; /* target domain id */
         uint32_t connect_port;   /* target vchan port for i/o exchange */
         char cmdline[0];         /* command line to execute, size = msg_header.len - sizeof(struct exec_params) */
      };
    

    In this case, connect_domain and connect_port are set to 0.

  • dom0: qrexec-daemon replies to qrexec-client with MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params, but with empty cmdline field. connect_domain is set to Qubes ID of domX and connect_port is set to a vchan port allocated by qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: qrexec-daemon sends MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params to the associated domX qrexec-agent over vchan. connect_domain is set to 0 (dom0), connect_port is the same as sent to qrexec-client. cmdline is unchanged except that the literal DEFAULT is replaced with actual user name, if present.
  • dom0: qrexec-client disconnects from qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: qrexec-client starts a vchan server using the details received from qrexec-daemon and waits for connection from domX’s qrexec-agent.
  • domX: qrexec-agent receives MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params from qrexec-daemon over vchan.
  • domX: qrexec-agent connects to qrexec-client over vchan using the details from exec_params.
  • domX: qrexec-agent executes some_command in domX and connects the child’s stdin/stdout to the data vchan. If the process creation fails, qrexec-agent sends MSG_DATA_EXIT_CODE to qrexec-client followed by the status code (int) and disconnects from the data vchan.
  • Data read from some_command’s stdout is sent to the data vchan using MSG_DATA_STDOUT by qrexec-agent. qrexec-client passes data received as MSG_DATA_STDOUT to its own stdout (or to local_program’s stdin if used).
  • qrexec-client sends data read from local stdin (or local_program’s stdout if used) to qrexec-agent over the data vchan using MSG_DATA_STDIN. qrexec-agent passes data received as MSG_DATA_STDIN to some_command’s stdin.
  • MSG_DATA_STDOUT or MSG_DATA_STDIN with data len field set to 0 in msg_header is an EOF marker. Peer receiving such message should close the associated input/output pipe.
  • When some_command terminates, domX’s qrexec-agent sends MSG_DATA_EXIT_CODE header to qrexec-client followed by the exit code (int). qrexec-agent then disconnects from the data vchan.

domY: invoke execution of qubes service qubes.SomeRpc in domX and pass stdin/stdout

  • domY: qrexec-client-vm is invoked as follows:

    qrexec-client-vm domX qubes.SomeRpc local_program [params]
    
  • domY: qrexec-client-vm connects to qrexec-agent (via local socket/named pipe).
  • domY: qrexec-client-vm sends trigger_service_params data to qrexec-agent (without filling the request_id field):

       struct trigger_service_params {
          char service_name[64];
          char target_domain[32];
          struct service_params request_id; /* service request id */
       };
    
       struct service_params {
          char ident[32];
      };
    
  • domY: qrexec-agent allocates a locally-unique (for this domain) request_id (let’s say 13) and fills it in the trigger_service_params struct received from qrexec-client-vm.
  • domY: qrexec-agent sends MSG_TRIGGER_SERVICE header followed by trigger_service_params to qrexec-daemon in dom0 via vchan.
  • dom0: domY’s qrexec-daemon executes qrexec-policy: qrexec-policy domY_id domY domX qubes.SomeRpc 13.
  • dom0: qrexec-policy evaluates if the RPC should be allowed or denied. If the action is allowed it returns 0, if the action is denied it returns 1.
  • dom0: domY’s qrexec-daemon checks the exit code of qrexec-policy.
    • If qrexec-policy returned not 0: domY’s qrexec-daemon sends MSG_SERVICE_REFUSED header followed by service_params to domY’s qrexec-agent. service_params.ident is identical to the one received. domY’s qrexec-agent disconnects its qrexec-client-vm and RPC processing is finished.
    • If qrexec-policy returned 0, RPC processing continues.
  • dom0: if qrexec-policy allowed the RPC, it executed qrexec-client -d domX -c 13,domY,domY_id user:QUBESRPC qubes.SomeRpc domY.
  • dom0: qrexec-client sets QREXEC_REMOTE_DOMAIN environment variable to domX.
  • dom0: qrexec-client connects to domX’s qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: domX’s qrexec-daemon sends MSG_HELLO header followed by peer_info to qrexec-client.
  • dom0: qrexec-client replies with MSG_HELLO header followed by peer_info to domX’sqrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: qrexec-client sends MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params to domX’sqrexec-daemon

      /* variable size */
      struct exec_params {
         uint32_t connect_domain; /* target domain id */
         uint32_t connect_port;   /* target vchan port for i/o exchange */
         char cmdline[0];         /* command line to execute, size = msg_header.len - sizeof(struct exec_params) */
      };
    

    In this case, connect_domain is set to id of domY (from the -c parameter) and connect_port is set to 0. cmdline field contains the RPC to execute, in this case user:QUBESRPC qubes.SomeRpc domY.

  • dom0: domX’s qrexec-daemon replies to qrexec-client with MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params, but with empty cmdline field. connect_domain is set to Qubes ID of domX and connect_port is set to a vchan port allocated by domX’s qrexec-daemon.
  • dom0: domX’s qrexec-daemon sends MSG_EXEC_CMDLINE header followed by exec_params to domX’s qrexec-agent. connect_domain and connect_port fields are the same as in the step above. cmdline is set to the one received from qrexec-client, in this case user:QUBESRPC qubes.SomeRpc domY.
  • dom0: qrexec-client disconnects from domX’s qrexec-daemon after receiving connection details.
  • dom0: qrexec-client connects to domY’s qrexec-daemon and exchanges MSG_HELLO as usual.
  • dom0: qrexec-client sends MSG_SERVICE_CONNECT header followed by exec_params to domY’s qrexec-daemon. connect_domain is set to ID of domX (received from domX’s qrexec-daemon) and connect_port is the one received as well. cmdline is set to request ID (13 in this case).
  • dom0: domY’s qrexec-daemon sends MSG_SERVICE_CONNECT header followed by exec_params to domY’s qrexec-agent. Data fields are unchanged from the step above.
  • domY: qrexec-agent starts a vchan server on the port received in the step above. It acts as a qrexec-client in this case because this is a VM-VM connection.
  • domX: qrexec-agent connects to the vchan server of domY’s qrexec-agent (connection details were received before from domX’s qrexec-daemon).
  • After that, connection follows the flow of the previous example (dom0-VM).