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ZFS on Linux mount encrypted dataset on boot

Recently ZFS on Linux merged encryption. There is plenty to be read here, about the Arch Linux package here, on github here and someone else playing around with it here.

A lot of information to get digest, but once you got it all setup and working like me, you may run into the issue that encrypted datasets won’t automatically mount after a reboot and as a result, not shared. This is not unexpected …

I guess having encrypted datasets mounted and shared automatically kind of defeats the purpose of encrypting them in the first place.

Here’s my reasoning behind wanting it anyway. I want to play with it. Period. Fiddling around with this shit is fun. Also, I want to figure out how to do encrypted send/receives with ZFS over SSH to and from a friend of mine. We will store my encrypted backups on his server and he stores his on mine. We don’t want to be able to read each other’s data. I could fiddle around with pipes and on-the-fly-encryption, but let’s be honest, it’s a hassle. Native ZFS encryption is much easier and the proper way to do this. FWIW, he seems think so too ;).

Another reason is that I’m not too worried about unauthorized people gaining access to my server and data or my server being stolen.

Let’s go.

To import a pool with one or more encrypted datasets, zpool needs access to a key, or provided a passphrase. If you took the time to read the links I posted above, you’ll recognize this from Philipp Heckel’s blog:

$ zfs create \
-o encryption= \
-o keysource=, \
-o pbkdf2iters= \

Keysource can be specified as raw, hex or passphrase, either with a promptor a specified file . You can review the current settings with:

$ sudo zfs get  [-r] 

I have created my datasets with the following options:

sudo zfs create \ -o compression=on \ -o encryption=on \ -o keyformat=raw \ -o keylocation=file:///some/loc/some.filename.raw pool/dataset

Again, if you’ve read the links I provided you’ve read that the keyfile can be created using the following command:

$ dd if=/dev/urandom of=some.filename.raw bs=1 count=32

This file should obviously reside in a secure location only accessible by root and chmod 0400. Might be a good idea to set immutable, too:

$ sudo chattr +i /some/loc/some.filename.raw

As said, to get encrypted datasets to mount, ZFS needs to be provided with the key. When importing a pool manually, you can do:

$ sudo zpool import -l 

If the property keylocation is set, this will do the trick and the keys will be loaded. The command:

$ sudo zfs mount -a

should mount all your encrypted datasets for which a key is provided.

However, during boot the keys are not read. The unit file for importing pools is zfs-import-cache and does not contain [-l] to load the keys:

Description=Import ZFS pools by cache file

ExecStartPre=/sbin/modprobe zfs
ExecStart=/usr/bin/zpool import -c /etc/zfs/zpool.cache -aN


The reason it’s not in there is because you cannot specify [-l] on the ExecStart because [-l] is incompatible with [-N] . I found that out because I thought I was smart and put it in there without thinking twice.

When that didn’t work I fixed it by stopping and disabling zfs-mount.service , and making a copy of the unit file:

$ sudo cp /usr/lib/systemd/system/zfs-mount.service /usr/lib/systemd/system/zfs-mount-enc.service

Edited it as follows:

Description=Mount ZFS filesystems

ExecStartPre=/usr/bin/zfs load-key -r 
ExecStart=/usr/bin/zfs mount -a


Enabled it and rebooted.

After the reboot, all was mounted, shared and no errors in my logs. If you see errors, investigate journalctl -b , systemctl status zfs-mount-enc.service and zfs-share.service .

Leave a comment if you have questions.


So, what do you think ?

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