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LDAP Administration Guide
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13.3. SASL Proxy Authorization

The SASL offers a feature known as proxy authorization, which allows an authenticated user to request that they act on the behalf of another user. This step occurs after the user has obtained an authentication DN, and involves sending an authorization identity to the server. The server will then make a decision on whether or not to allow the authorization to occur. If it is allowed, the user's LDAP connection is switched to have a binding DN derived from the authorization identity, and the LDAP session proceeds with the access of the new authorization DN.

The decision to allow an authorization to proceed depends on the rules and policies of the site where LDAP is running, and thus cannot be made by SASL alone. The SASL library leaves it up to the server to make the decision. The LDAP administrator sets the guidelines of who can authorize to what identity by adding information into the LDAP database entries. By default, the authorization features are disabled, and must be explicitly configured by the LDAP administrator before use.

13.3.1. Uses of Proxy Authorization

This sort of service is useful when one entity needs to act on the behalf of many other users. For example, users may be directed to a web page to make changes to their personal information in their LDAP entry. The users authenticate to the web server to establish their identity, but the web server CGI cannot authenticate to the LDAP server as that user to make changes for them. Instead, the web server authenticates itself to the LDAP server as a service identity, say,

        cn=WebUpdate,dc=example,dc=com

and then it will SASL authorize to the DN of the user. Once so authorized, the CGI makes changes to the LDAP entry of the user, and as far as the slapd server can tell for its ACLs, it is the user themself on the other end of the connection. The user could have connected to the LDAP server directly and authenticated as themself, but that would require the user to have more knowledge of LDAP clients, knowledge which the web page provides in an easier format.

Proxy authorization can also be used to limit access to an account that has greater access to the database. Such an account, perhaps even the root DN specified in slapd.conf(5), can have a strict list of people who can authorize to that DN. Changes to the LDAP database could then be only allowed by that DN, and in order to become that DN, users must first authenticate as one of the persons on the list. This allows for better auditing of who made changes to the LDAP database. If people were allowed to authenticate directly to the privileged account, possibly through the rootpw slapd.conf(5) directive or through a userPassword attribute, then auditing becomes more difficult.

Note that after a successful proxy authorization, the original authentication DN of the LDAP connection is overwritten by the new DN from the authorization request. If a service program is able to authenticate itself as its own authentication DN and then authorize to other DN's, and it is planning on switching to several different identities during one LDAP session, it will need to authenticate itself each time before authorizing to another DN (or use a different proxy authorization mechanism). The slapd server does not keep record of the service program's ability to switch to other DN's. On authentication mechanisms like Kerberos this will not require multiple connections being made to the Kerberos server, since the user's TGT and "ldap" session key are valid for multiple uses for the several hours of the ticket lifetime.

13.3.2. SASL Authorization Identities

The SASL authorization identity is sent to the LDAP server via the -X switch for ldapsearch(1) and other tools, or in the *authzid parameter to the lutil_sasl_defaults() call. The identity can be in one of two forms, either

        u:<username>

or

        dn:<dn>

In the first form, the <username> is from the same namespace as the authentication identities above. It is the user's username as it is referred to by the underlying authentication mechanism. Authorization identities of this form are converted into a DN format by the same function that the authentication process used, producing an authorization request DN of the form

        uid=<username>,cn=<realm>,cn=<mechanism>,cn=auth

That authorization request DN is then run through the same authz-regexp process to convert it into a legitimate authorization DN from the database. If it cannot be converted due to a failed search from an LDAP URL, the authorization request fails with "inappropriate access". Otherwise, the DN string is now a legitimate authorization DN ready to undergo approval.

If the authorization identity was provided in the second form, with a "dn:" prefix, the string after the prefix is already in authorization DN form, ready to undergo approval.

13.3.3. Proxy Authorization Rules

Once slapd has the authorization DN, the actual approval process begins. There are two attributes that the LDAP administrator can put into LDAP entries to allow authorization:

        authzTo
        authzFrom

Both can be multivalued. The authzTo attribute is a source rule, and it is placed into the entry associated with the authentication DN to tell what authorization DNs the authenticated DN is allowed to assume. The second attribute is a destination rule, and it is placed into the entry associated with the requested authorization DN to tell which authenticated DNs may assume it.

The choice of which authorization policy attribute to use is up to the administrator. Source rules are checked first in the person's authentication DN entry, and if none of the authzTo rules specify the authorization is permitted, the authzFrom rules in the authorization DN entry are then checked. If neither case specifies that the request be honored, the request is denied. Since the default behavior is to deny authorization requests, rules only specify that a request be allowed; there are no negative rules telling what authorizations to deny.

The value(s) in the two attributes are of the same form as the output of the replacement pattern of a authz-regexp directive: either a DN or an LDAP URL. For example, if a authzTo value is a DN, that DN is one the authenticated user can authorize to. On the other hand, if the authzTo value is an LDAP URL, the URL is used as an internal search of the LDAP database, and the authenticated user can become ANY DN returned by the search. If an LDAP entry looked like:

        dn: cn=WebUpdate,dc=example,dc=com
        authzTo: ldap:///dc=example,dc=com??sub?(objectclass=person)

then any user who authenticated as cn=WebUpdate,dc=example,dc=com could authorize to any other LDAP entry under the search base dc=example,dc=com which has an objectClass of Person.

13.3.3.1. Notes on Proxy Authorization Rules

An LDAP URL in a authzTo or authzFrom attribute will return a set of DNs. Each DN returned will be checked. Searches which return a large set can cause the authorization process to take an uncomfortably long time. Also, searches should be performed on attributes that have been indexed by slapd.

To help produce more sweeping rules for authzFrom and authzTo, the values of these attributes are allowed to be DNs with regular expression characters in them. This means a source rule like

        authzTo: dn.regex=^uid=[^,]*,dc=example,dc=com$

would allow that authenticated user to authorize to any DN that matches the regular expression pattern given. This regular expression comparison can be evaluated much faster than an LDAP search for (uid=*).

Also note that the values in an authorization rule must be one of the two forms: an LDAP URL or a DN (with or without regular expression characters). Anything that does not begin with "ldap://" is taken as a DN. It is not permissible to enter another authorization identity of the form "u:<username>" as an authorization rule.

13.3.3.2. Policy Configuration

The decision of which type of rules to use, authzFrom or authzTo, will depend on the site's situation. For example, if the set of people who may become a given identity can easily be written as a search filter, then a single destination rule could be written. If the set of people is not easily defined by a search filter, and the set of people is small, it may be better to write a source rule in the entries of each of those people who should be allowed to perform the proxy authorization.

By default, processing of proxy authorization rules is disabled. The authz-policy directive must be set in the slapd.conf(5) file to enable authorization. This directive can be set to none for no rules (the default), to for source rules, from for destination rules, or both for both source and destination rules.

Source rules are extremely powerful. If ordinary users have access to write the authzTo attribute in their own entries, then they can write rules that would allow them to authorize as anyone else. As such, when using source rules, the authzTo attribute should be protected with an ACL that only allows privileged users to set its values.

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© Copyright 2007, OpenLDAP Foundation, [email protected]
LDAP Administration Guide
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