RANCID and IOS 15.2 – blank config and how to work around newer file privileges

In or around IOS 15.2 apparently a privilege structural change was made that breaks non-priv-15 users from being able to copy the running config, useful for RANCID and other tools.  And either the RANCID/Oxidized community simply uses privilege 15 users in their configs, which I refuse to do on priciple, or my google-fu is poor because I have not found this info in any explicit form.

In any case, the symptom of the typical config allowing to download a running config without having level-15 privileges on Cisco IOS has always been documented as:

username rancidbackup privilege 10 secret [md5-pass]
privilege exec level 10 show running-config view full
privilege exec level 10 show running-config view
privilege exec level 10 show running-config
privilege exec all level 1 show

 

the above in IOS <= 15.1 was always enough to allow user “rancidbackup” to issue a “show running-config view full” and the CLI would output the current configuration.  Under IOS 15.2, behaviour appears to have changed.  Some folks receive a “permission denied” error while others, such as my experience, a simple empty config would be output.  As an example:

ssh -l rancidbackup 10.0.255.1

Password: 

Router#show running-config view full
[...nothing...]
Router#show running-config
[...nothing...]          
Router#

This annoying behaviour can be worked around in two different ways.

The first, is to cave and allow the rancid backup user to obtain level-15 privileges upon login.  The academic risk of compromise by this admin-level user can be mitigated by limiting the IP addresses used for login via ACL:  example:

username rancidbackup access-class 99 privilege 15 secret [md5-pass]
!
access-list 99 remark RANCID-ONLY
access-list 99 permit host 10.0.1.25 any
!

By adding access-class to the username definition, it is possible to avoid this user being used from other sources.  This might even be recommendable for any scenario where scripting/tools are used for access to the device.  However, this method still requires that user to have admin level-15 privileges.

 

I was pointed to https://supportforums.cisco.com/discussion/11691446/error-opening-nvramstartup-config-permission-denied as a possible second solution.  Apparently there is a mecanism to allow file access (which includes running-config, apparently…), with the command “file privilege [level]”

In our case, by issuing “file privilege 10”, we are able to see via “show running-config view full” (and not just show running-config) the info we seek to backup with our tool, in this case RANCID (as you can see, “show running config” is useless but “show running-config view full” outputs what we need):

 

Router#show running-config 

Building configuration...
Current configuration : 261 bytes
!
! Last configuration change at 22:04:36 EDT Mon May 30 2016 by user
! NVRAM config last updated at 13:15:46 EDT Thu May 26 2016 by user
! NVRAM config last updated at 13:15:46 EDT Thu May 26 2016 by user
boot-start-marker
boot-end-marker
!
!
!
!
!
!
!
end

Router#show running-config view full 
Building configuration...
Current configuration : 90474 bytes
!
! Last configuration change at 22:04:36 EDT Mon May 30 2016 by user
! NVRAM config last updated at 13:15:46 EDT Thu May 26 2016 by user
! NVRAM config last updated at 13:15:46 EDT Thu May 26 2016 by user
upgrade fpd auto
version 15.2
.... etc etc
!

huzzah!

I am still researching secondary implications from setting “file privilege” to anything other than level-15.  I haven’t found a way, using a privilege 10 user, to modify/delete the files so use at your own risk (!).  But combining the two above mecanisms I believe provides a sufficient means to allow non-privileged, read-only access to the configuration for use with config management and other scripting tools.