Securing Raspberry Pi Security Camera (or UIs) using Apache Knox

3 minute read

I was able to get my hands on the Raspberry Pi Zero W and decided to put it to use by building a motion activated security camera. I had three simple requirements:

  • The camera should have a live feed.
  • It should alert me (email/text) when motion is detected.
  • It should be secure.

I stumbeled on a great tutorial by Mark West, Building a Motion Activated Security Camera with Raspberry Pi Zero. By following the tuorial, I was able to achieve two of my requirements and I was somewhat happy about my setup. There were however some things that I thought needed to be worked out:

  • Security
  • Network Layout
  • Image Detection enhancements

In this blog post I will cover Securing Raspberry Pi Motion Web Interface using Opensource tool called Apache Knox (disclamer: I am a committer for Apache Knox project)

I am assuming that Motion is configure to get live feeds from Raspberry Pi camera module, I will not go into the details as they are covered in detail by Mark West in his excellent blog post mentioned above. It should be noted that any Web Interface can be secured using Apache Knox, I am using Motion as an example here.

Why Apache Knox ?

  • Authentication: Authenticates the users.
  • Authorization: Make access decisions i.e. which services are accessible for which user.
  • Audit: Gives the ability to determine what actions were taken by whom during some period of time.
  • SSL
  • Lightweight: Has low memory and disk requirement.

Setup user and hostname

We will create a seperate user for authentication. This user will be created on the system where Apache Knox is installed. Apache Knox uses this user for authentication and access control (using PAM) so it makes sense to keep it seperate from other system users. We will use this user exclusively to access our Motion setup from outside.

Setting up user with username - myuser and password - strongpassword

sudo useradd -m myuser -G sudo
sudo passwd myuser

Add user to shadow group

sudo usermod -a -G shadow myuser

Update hostname so that in multiple node deployments each raspberry pi can be accessed, choose a hostname you like and update in these files

# update here
sudo nano /etc/hosts
sudo nano /etc/hostname
# commit changes
sudo /etc/init.d/
sudo reboot

Setup Apache Knox

Download Apache Knox


Unzip it to /knox directory

unzip -d /knox

Create a link to PAM library under /knox/ext/native

cd /knox/knox-0.12.0/ext/native
sudo ln -s /lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/


nano /knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/
Make sure the APP_JAVA_LIB_PATH parameter is correctly set

Optional: Update gateway port from default 8443 to something else in /knox/conf/gateway-site.xml

Update Knox config files

Now we update the knox topology file (sandbox.xml) to use PAM authentication, for Motion running locally on port 8081. replace /knox/knox-0.12.0/conf/topologies/sandbox.xml with

Note: Update the user (myuser) in authorization provider in sandbox.xml file

  		  <!-- if you have a different user update here -->

If Motion is running on another machine then update the following code snippet in sandbox.xml file with the hostname and port where Motion is running.


Under /knox/knox-0.12.0/data/services create a folder structure as follows /knox/knox-0.12.0/data/services/motion/0.0.1/

Copy rewrite.xml and service.xml files from to /knox/data/services/motion/0.0.1/ i.e.


Install Java (might not be needed)

Check whether you already have java installed by typing java -version if you see something like the following output

java version "1.8.0_121"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_121-b13)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.121-b13, mixed mode)

Then you need not install Java, else run the following command to install Oracle Java 8

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-jdk

Make Knox scripts executable

sudo chmod +x /knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/

sudo chmod +x /knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/knoxcl

Create Knox master secret

/knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/ create-master

If you are having permissions issues writing to the security directory you can update the permissions as follows

sudo chmod -R g=+rwx /knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/../data/security/

Start Apache Knox

To start apache knox run the folowing command

/knox/knox-0.12.0/bin/ start

Note: Knox should not be run as root ! if you are having issues with permissions starting knox you can update them as follows

sudo chown -R root:users /knox/knox-0.12.0/

You can access Knox at https://<knox-host>:8443/gateway/sandbox/

Find the relevant Knox logs in /knox/logs/ directory.

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