Repository Server

By default, every user of Kopia repository directly connects to an underlying storage using read-write access. If the users who share the repository do not entirely trust each other, some malicious actors can delete repository data structures, causing data loss for others.

Repository Server allows an instance of Kopia to proxy access to the underlying storage and has Kopia clients proxy all access through it, only requiring a username and password to talk to the server without any knowledge of repository storage credentials.

In repository server mode, each user is limited to seeing their own snapshots and policy manifest without being able to access those from another user account.

NOTE: Only snapshot and policy manifests are access-controlled, not the underlying contents. If two users share the same file, it will be backed using identical content IDs. The consequence is that if a third user can guess the content ID of files in the repository, they can access the files. Because content IDs are one-way salted hashes of contents, it should be impossible to guess content ID without possessing original content.

Starting Repository Server

Before starting the repository server, we must first create and configure a repository. Finally, we must create a list of usernames and passwords that will be allowed to access it. The repository server should be started in a location where:

  • all kopia clients can connect directly to the server;
  • the latency between the client and the server is low;
  • theres is sufficient bandwidth between the client and the server.

Configuring Allowed Users

Starting in Kopia v0.8, allowed repository users can be configured using kopia server user commands. Each user is identified by its lowercase username@hostname where hostname by default is the name of the computer the client is connecting from (without domain name suffix).

To add a user:

$ kopia server user add myuser@mylaptop
Enter new password for user myuser@mylaptop: 
Re-enter new password for verification: 

Updated user credentials will take effect in 5-10 minutes or when the server is restarted.
To refresh credentials in a running server use 'kopia server refresh' command.

Other commands are also available:

  • kopia server user list - lists user accounts
  • kopia server user set - changes password
  • kopia server user delete - deletes user account

Auto-Generated TLS Certificate

To start repository server with auto-generated TLS certificate for the first time:

KOPIA_PASSWORD="<password-for-the-repository>" \
KOPIA_SERVER_CONTROL_PASSWORD="<server-control-password>" \
  kopia server start \
    --tls-generate-cert \
    --tls-cert-file ~/my.cert \
    --tls-key-file ~/my.key \
    --address \
    --server-control-username control

This will generate TLS certificate and key files and store them in the provided paths (~/my.cert and ~/my.key respectively). It will also print certificate SHA256 fingerprint, which will be used later:

SERVER CERT SHA256: 48537cce585fed39fb26c639eb8ef38143592ba4b4e7677a84a31916398d40f7

Note that when starting the server again the --tls-generate-cert must be omitted, otherwise the server will fail to start.

Custom TLS Certificates

If a user has obtained a custom certificate (for example, from LetsEncrypt or another CA), using it is simply a matter of providing a PEM-formatted certificate and key files on server startup.

To get the SHA256 digest of an existing certificate file, use:

$ openssl x509 -in ~/my.cert -noout -fingerprint -sha256 | sed 's/://g' | cut -f 2 -d =

On Client Computer

Assuming we’re on another machine running as user1@host1, we can now run the following command to connect to the repository (notice we’re using fingerprint obtained before without : separators)

kopia repository connect server --url https://<address>:51515 \
  --server-cert-fingerprint 48537cce585fed39fb26c639eb8ef38143592ba4b4e7677a84a31916398d40f7

Once connected, all snapshot and policy kopia commands should work for the current user, but low-level commands such as repo status will fail:

$ kopia repository status
kopia: error: operation supported only on direct repository, try --help

You can override username and hostname with this command :

$ kopia repo connect server --url= --override-username=johndoe --override-hostname=my-laptop

Server Access Control (ACL)

Kopia server will check permissions when users try to access contents and manifests based on rules we call ACLs (access control list).

Starting in Kopia v0.8, the ACLs can be controlled by using kopia server acl commands.

If no ACLs are explicitly defined, Kopia will use a set of built-in access control rules, which grants all authenticated users identified by username@hostname ability to:

  • read and write policies for username@hostname and username@hostname:/path,
  • read and write snapshots for username@hostname:/path,
  • read global policy,
  • read host-level policies for their own hostname,
  • read and write user-level policies for their own username@hostname,
  • read and write their own user account username@hostname (to be able to change password),
  • read objects if they know their object IDs
  • write new content to the repository

Access control for individual files or directories

Kopia does not currently perform access control checks to verify that a user trying to access a file or directory by object ID is the original owner of the file (because of Kopia’s deduplication, two different users who have the same file will get the same object ID when snapshotting it).

This means that any user who knows of a valid object ID will be able to restore its contents (by kopia restore <object-id> or kopia show <object-id>, etc.).

Users who currently are (or previously were) in possession of a file can easily determine its object ID from one of the snapshot manifests. However, it is unlikely to guess 128-bit or 256-bit object identifiers for other users.

On the flip side, this allows easy sharing of files between users simply by exchanging object IDs and letting another user restore the object (either a single file or an entire directory) from the repository.

Customizing ACL rules

Sometimes, we want to be able to customize those rules, for example, to allow some users to modify global or host-level policies, to let one user see another user’s snapshots.

To enable ACL mode, run:

$ kopia server acl enable

This will install ACL entries matching the default rules. Let’s take a look at the rules installed:

$ kopia server acl list
id:c95e5a13b0b0fc874e550677f5e89262 user:*@* access:APPEND target:type=content
id:633f998af93e00c715e6417cb41df0af user:*@* access:READ target:type=policy,policyType=global
id:de21ac7a55ec1d9cf939b4cb158cc85a user:*@* access:READ target:type=policy,hostname=OWN_HOST,policyType=host
id:2314795d54060ab84cdc7fcb6e6953c8 user:*@* access:FULL target:type=policy,username=OWN_USER,hostname=OWN_HOST
id:0245e5bc1eca296e775e137a9587d09e user:*@* access:FULL target:type=snapshot,hostname=OWN_HOST,username=OWN_USER
id:fb043d9e77299e182e9297d0f4601d9b user:*@* access:FULL target:type=user,username=OWN_USER@OWN_HOST

As you can see, all rules have unique identifiers (different for each repository) and each rule defines:

  • The user the rule applies to (could be a wildcard pattern containing an asterisk (*) instead of username or hostname)

  • The access level:

    • READ - allows reading but not writing
    • APPEND - allows reading and writing, but not deleting
    • FULL - allows full read/write/delete access
  • The target, which specifies the manifests the rule applies to.

    The target specification consists of key=value pairs, which must match the corresponding manifest labels. Each target must have a type label and (optionally) other labels that are type-specific.

Supported types are:

  • snapshot with optional labels username, hostname and path
  • policy with optional labels username, hostname, path and policyType (which must be one of global, user, host or path)
  • user with optional label username
  • acl

Only labels specified will be matched. The label values can be literals or one of two special values:

  • OWN_USER - the user’s own username
  • OWN_HOST - the user’s own hostname

Defining ACL rules

To define an ACL rule use:

$ kopia server acl add --user U --access A --target T

For example:

  1. To grant user alice@wonderland the ability to modify global policy:
$ kopia server acl add --user alice@wonderland \
      --access FULL --target type=policy,policyType=global
  1. To allow all users to see all snapshots in the system:
$ kopia server acl add --user "*@*" --access READ --target type=snapshot
  1. To give princess@tall-tower the ability to modify that hosts’ policy:
$ kopia server acl add --user "princess@tall-tower" --access FULL \
    --target type=policy,policyType=host,hostname=tall-tower
  1. To give admin@somehost the ability to add new user accounts and change passwords for existing users:
$ kopia server acl add --user "admin@somehost" --access FULL --target type=user
  1. To give superadmin@somehost the ability to define new ACLs:
$ kopia server acl add --user "superadmin@somehost" \
    --access FULL --target type=acl

Deleting ACL rules

To delete a single ACL rule, use kopia server acl remove passing the identifier of the entry:

$ kopia server acl remove 77fb0a5706ddbd9848294b36aae47079

To delete all ACL rules and revert to default set of rules, use:

$ kopia server acl remove --all

Both commands default to preview mode and must be confirmed by passing --delete for safety.

Reloading server configuration

Kopia server will refresh its configuration by fetching it from repository periodically. To speed up this process after changing access control rules, adding or modifying users or to simply force server to discover new snapshots or policies, you may want to run:

$ kopia server refresh \
  --address=https://server:port [--server-cert-fingerprint=FINGERPRINT] \
  --server-username=control \

To authenticate, pass any valid username and password configured on the server.

Alternatively on Linux/macOS you can send SIGHUP signal to a running Kopia process to trigger a refresh.

$ ps awx | grep kopia
74189 s003  U+     0:19.19 kopia server start ...

$ kill -SIGHUP 74189

or simply:

$ killall -SIGHUP kopia

Kopia behind a reverse proxy

Kopia server can be run behind a reverse proxy. Here a working example for nginx.

server {
  listen 443 ssl http2;

  ssl_certificate_key /path/to/your/key.key;
  ssl_certificate /path/to/your/cert.crt;

  client_max_body_size 0;  # Allow unlimited upload size

  location / {
   grpc_pass grpcs://localhost:51515; # Adapt if your kopia is running on another server

Make sure you use a recent nginx version (>=1.16) and you start your kopia server with a certificate (--insecure does not work, as GRPC needs TLS, which is used by Repository Server), e.g.

kopia server start --address --tls-cert-file ~/my.cert --tls-key-file ~/my.key

You can now connect to your kopia server via reverse proxy with your domain:

Alternatively here is an example nginx/kopia configuration using unix domain sockets:

upstream socket {
    server unix:///tmp/kopia.sock;
server {
  listen 443 ssl http2;

  ssl_certificate_key /path/to/your/key.key;
  ssl_certificate /path/to/your/cert.crt;

  client_max_body_size 0;  # Allow unlimited upload size

  location / {
   grpc_pass grpcs://socket; # Adapt if your kopia is running on another server
kopia server start --address unix:/tmp/kopia.sock --tls-cert-file ~/my.cert --tls-key-file ~/my.key

Kopia with systemd

Kopia can be run as a socket-activated systemd service. While socket activation is not typically needed for Kopia, it can be helpful to run it in a rootless Podman container or to control the permissions of the unix-domain-socket when running behind a reverse proxy.

Kopia will detect socket activation when present and ignore the –address switch.

When using socket activation with Kopia server, it is generally desirable to enable both the socket and the service so that the service starts immediately instead of on-demand (so that the maintenance can run).

An example kopia.socket file using unix domain sockets and permission control may look like:




Kopia v0.8 usage notes

Configuring Allowed Users

Prior to Kopia v0.8, the user list must be put in a text file formatted using the htpasswd utility from Apache. This method is still supported in v0.8, but it’s recommended to use kopia server user to manage users instead. To create password file for two users:

$ htpasswd -c password.txt user1@host1
New password: 
Re-type new password: 
Adding password for user user1@host1

$ htpasswd password.txt user2@host1
New password: 
Re-type new password: 
Adding password for user user2@host1

Auto-Generated TLS Certificate

Prior to Kopia v0.8, the command line for kopia server start also needs --htpasswd-file ~/password.txt

Server Access Control (ACL)

Prior to Kopia v0.8, the rules were non-configurable and each user could only read and write their own snapshot manifests.