Automating Backups

I would like to implement a backup solution which copies data from various directories from a Web server (WebServer) to a local backup server (BackupServer). The backup should run unattended and therefore I would like to use a key based authentication with a passwordless private key.

Privileged Rsync

The directories I want to backup are only readable by a privileged user. I would like to use rsync to copy the files. I created a dedicated backup-user and allow the user to execute rsync with sudo without being prompted for a password with the visudo rule:

backup-user ALL = NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/rsync

Security Considerations

I would like to improve security by restricting the commands the backup user can execute by adding a list of commands to the authorized_keys file of the WebServer. I installed rrsync as mentioned in this post.

command="/usr/bin/rrsync",no-agent-forwarding,no-port-forwarding,no-pty,no-user-rc,no-X11-forwarding ssh-rsa AAAA134143NzaC1yc...

Rrsync expects a subdirectory

In contrast to the normal rsync, the rrsync expects a subdirectory to be provided in the authorized key file, as described in this blog post

command="/usr/share/rsync/rrsync  /var/backup/client1/",no-agent-forwarding,no-port-forwarding,no-pty,no-user-rc,no-X11-forwarding ssh-rsa 

This restriction works but it only allows me to backup one specific directory namely the /var/backup/client1/

I would like to provide the directories I want to backup from the BackupServer in the rsync command. Is there a possibility to use rrsync exactly like rsync, e.g.:

rsync -avze ssh --rsync-path='sudo rrsync' backupuser@  /backups/Server/

Additional Clarification

I am aware that the command="..." part in authorized_hosts does limit the executable commands for this user to exactly the ones provided, but with the normal rsync, I can do something like this to provide the path I want to backup as a parameter:

command="/usr/bin/rsync --server --sender -vlogDtpre.is . ${SSH_ORIGINAL_COMMAND//* \//\/}"

This does not work with rrsync.

Accepted Solution

Although technically not the definitive answer to the question, I think the solution posted by Gilles is a very nice approach. I created a root folder for all the views of the actual directory that I want to backup. For this reason I can safely restrict the authentication to rrsync only.

One time todo

    sudo mkdir /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly
    sudo chown -R rsync-backup /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly
    sudo mkdir /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/VAR-WWW
    sudo mkdir /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/MySQL-Backups
    sudo setfacl -m u:rsync-backup:rx /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/
    sudo setfacl -m u:rsync-backup:rx /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/MySQL-Backups
    sudo setfacl -m u:rsync-backup:rx /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/VAR-WWW

Create views (gone after reboot)

    sudo bindfs -o perms=0000:u=rD,force-user=rsync-backup /var/www /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/VAR-WWW
    sudo bindfs -o perms=0000:u=rD,force-user=rsync-backup /MySQL-Dumps /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/MySQL-Backups

Fstab version

    /home/stefan/Scans    /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly/VAR-WWW fuse.bindfs perms=0000:u=rD,force-user=rsync-backup 0   0


command="/usr/bin/rrsync -ro /mnt/Backups-Rsync-Readonly",from="",no-pty,no-agent-forwarding,no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding ssh-rsa AAAAB
  • And the question is? command= option in authorized_keys accepts only one command that is run. That is it.
    – Jakuje
    Apr 13, 2016 at 15:46
  • I tried to clarify the question
    – Stefan
    Apr 14, 2016 at 6:20

1 Answer 1


One possibility would be to create a read-only view of the directories you want that dedicated user to be able to back up, with bindfs. Do not use sudo at all; make rrsync the only command that's allowed to this user. One-time setup:

mkdir /somewhere/backup-views /somewhere/backup-views/dir1 /somewhere/backup-views/dir2
chmod 700 /somewhere/backup-views
setfacl -m u:rx:backup-user /somewhere/backup-views

Setup after each boot:

bindfs -o perms=a+r-w /actual/dir1 /somewhere/backup-views/dir1
bindfs -o perms=a+r-w /actual/dir2 /somewhere/backup-views/dir2

Or corresponding lines in /etc/fstab:

/actual/dir1 /somewhere/backup-views/dir1 bindfs perms=a+r-w
/actual/dir2 /somewhere/backup-views/dir2 bindfs perms=a+r-w

Then set up the backup user to run rsync on /somewhere/backup-views.


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