Executing stateful shell commands with Node.js – powershell, bash etc

Hoping this will be useful for others out there, I’ve posted some code that could to serve as a lower level component/building block in a node.js application who has a need to mediate interaction with command line programs on the back-end. (i.e. bash shells, powershell etc.)

The project is on github @ stateful-process-command-proxy and also available as an NPM module

This is node.js module for executing os commands against a pool of stateful child processes such as bash or powershell via stdout and stderr streams. It is important to note, that despite the use-case described below for this project’s origination, this node module can be used for proxying long-lived bash process (or any shell really) in addition to powershell etc. It works and has been tested on both *nix, osx and windows hosts running the latest version of node.

This project originated out of the need to execute various Powershell commands (at fairly high volume and frequency) against services within Office365/Azure bridged via a custom node.js implemented REST API; this was due to the lack of certain features in the REST GraphAPI for Azure/o365, that are available only in Powershell (and can maintain persistent connections over remote sessions)

If you have done any work with Powershell and o365, then you know that there is considerable overhead in both establishing a remote session and importing and downloading various needed cmdlets. This is an expensive operation and there is a lot of value in being able to keep this remote session open for longer periods of time rather than repeating this entire process for every single command that needs to be executed and then tearing everything down.

Simply doing an child_process.exec per command to launch an external process, run the command, and then killing the process is not really an option under such scenarios, as it is expensive and very singular in nature; no state can be maintained if need be. We also tried using edge.js with powershell and this simply would not work with o365 exchange commands and heavy session cmdlet imports (the entire node.js process would crash). Using this module gives you full un-fettered access to the externally connected child_process, with no restrictions other than what uid/gid (permissions) the spawned process is running under (which you really have to consider from security standpoint!)

The diagram below should conceptually give you an idea of what this module does: process pooling, custom init/destroy commands, process auto-invalidation configuration and command history retention etc. See here for full details: https://github.com/bitsofinfo/stateful-process-command-proxy

Obviously this module can expose you to some insecure situations depending on how you use it… you are providing a gateway to an external process via Node on your host os! (likely a shell in most use-cases). Here are some tips; ultimately its your responsibility to secure your system.

  • Ensure that the node process is running as a user with very limited rights
  • Make use of the uid/gid configuration appropriately to further limit the processes
  • Never expose calls to this module directly, instead you should write a wrapper layer around StatefulProcessCommandProxy that protects, analyzes and sanitizes external input that can materialize in a command statement.
  • All commands you pass to execute should be sanitized to protect from injection attacks
  • Make use of the whitelist and blacklist command features of this module
  • WRAP this service via additional code that sanitizes all arguments to protect from command injection

Hopefully this will help others out there who have a similar need: https://github.com/bitsofinfo/stateful-process-command-proxy

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5 comments

  1. Kamran (@safavid)

    I need to query windows event logs using powershell/psremoting from node.js every 15-30 min. Should I set idleTimeoutMillis greater than 30min so that the powershell.exe is always connected or should I kill the procs and start them just before I need to run the queries ? Thanks. This is very useful and interesting code 🙂

    • bitsofinfo

      Ideally yes, I think your remote ps-session idle time should be larger than your expected idle exec time between commands; if you don’t want the pool to re-establish a new process every time you invoke your command. However if the connection dies/is cut between your execution cycles, it will create a new process anyways.

      Note this functionality of pooling to maximize re-use of pre-established powershell processes is really for high-volume execution of commands; in your case it sounds like you are only executing a few commands every 30 minutes, so you might just want to set the pools idle time to less than the remote pssession idle time, so the processes will be auto-destroyed and cleaned up (your remote ps-sessions closed cleanly)

  2. Pingback: Execute Powershell commands via Node.js, REST, AngularJS | bits.of.info

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