How to securely install Parsec on Linux

Parsec can be built and installed as a Linux daemon using systemd. The daemon is a systemd user daemon run by the parsec user. Some manual steps are needed to make sure that permissions are set up correctly so that Parsec is installed respecting the operational mitigations of our threat model.

If your Linux system uses systemd to manage daemons, you can follow these steps. $DESIRED_FEATURES can be a space or comma-separated subset of *-provider and *-authenticator features. Choose the providers you want to install depending on what is available on the platform. Only one authenticator can be chosen at runtime, the Unix Peer Credentials one is compiled in by default.

This guide will assume that an authenticator is used. If you wish to install Parsec with Direct Authentication and mutually trusted clients, please follow this guide first and then go to the dedicated section for the subsequent steps. You will need to add the direct-authenticator feature to your $DESIRED_FEATURES variable.

From an admin user with privileges

Create the parsec user with a strong password.

sudo useradd -m parsec
sudo passwd parsec

Create the following Parsec directories, with good permissions:

  • /var/lib/parsec for storing persistent data like the mappings folder.
  • /etc/parsec to contain the configuration file.
  • /usr/libexec/parsec to contain the parsec executable binary file.
  • /run/parsec to contain the socket file.


sudo mkdir /var/lib/parsec
sudo chown parsec /var/lib/parsec
sudo chmod 700 /var/lib/parsec
sudo mkdir /etc/parsec
sudo chown parsec /etc/parsec
sudo chmod 700 /etc/parsec
sudo mkdir /usr/libexec/parsec
sudo chown parsec /usr/libexec/parsec
sudo chmod 700 /usr/libexec/parsec
sudo mkdir /run/parsec
sudo chown parsec /run/parsec
sudo chmod 755 /run/parsec

From the parsec user

Log in to parsec.

su --login parsec

Depending on which features of Parsec the parsec user is going to use, it might need to be given more privileges in order to access some resources on the system. Refer to the Providers page for more information.

In its home directory, clone and compile Parsec. If a Rust toolchain is not available widely on the system, it will need to be installed for that specific user.

Below is an example with Parsec 0.6.0, update with the version you want!

git clone --branch 0.6.0
cargo build --manifest-path parsec/Cargo.toml --features $DESIRED_FEATURES --release
cp parsec/target/release/parsec /usr/libexec/parsec

Adapt and copy the configuration you want to use. Particulary, add and configure the providers you set in the $DESIRED_FEATURES.

cp parsec/config.toml /etc/parsec/config.toml

Warning: do not set "Direct" for auth_type as this will make Parsec insecure. If you would like to use Direct Authentication with mutually trusted clients, please continue the steps described below and then go to the dedicated section.

Install the systemd unit files and activate the Parsec socket.

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user
cp -r parsec/systemd-daemon/parsec.service ~/.config/systemd/user
systemctl --user enable parsec
systemctl --user start parsec

Check the Parsec logs with:

journalctl --user -u parsec

If later you change the configuration file, you can reload the service with:

systemctl --user kill -s HUP parsec

From a Parsec client

The definition of a client will depend on the authenticator that you configured Parsec with.

Clients can now use Parsec! They can test it by installing the parsec-tool:

$ parsec-tool ping
[INFO] Pinging Parsec service...
[SUCCESS] Service wire protocol version is 1.0.

Using Direct Authentication

Using this authentication method, clients will be able to declare their own identity. Clients using Parsec with this authentication need to be mutually trusted and part of the parsec-clients group.

Warning: you must only follow those steps if Parsec is not currently storing any keys.

As the parsec user, stop the service.

systemctl --user stop parsec

As the admin, add the parsec-clients group and restrict the visibility of the socket folder to that group.

sudo groupadd parsec-clients
sudo chown parsec:parsec-clients /run/parsec
sudo chmod 750 /run/parsec

Add mutually trusted clients to the parsec-clients group. For example, adding the imaginary parsec-client-1 user to the parsec-clients group:

sudo usermod -a -G parsec-clients parsec-client-1

Users just added to that group might need to log-out and log-in again to make sure the change apply. They can also try the newgrp command with no parameters to re-initialize their environment.

Modify the auth_type in /etc/parsec to "Direct".

auth_type = "Direct"

As the parsec user, start the service again.

systemctl --user start parsec

parsec-clients users can now use Parsec! You can test it (having logged in a parsec-clients user) by installing the parsec-tool:

$ parsec-tool ping
[INFO] Pinging Parsec service...
[SUCCESS] Service wire protocol version is 1.0.

Note: if you encounter a "Permission Denied" error while executing the end-to-end tests, make sure that the group change has taken effect. You can check it by calling groups with no arguments. If you do not see parsec-clients, please try logging the user out and in again to apply the change.

Copyright 2019 Contributors to the Parsec project.