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LDAP Administration Guide
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5.3. Access Control

Access to slapd entries and attributes is controlled by the olcAccess attribute, whose values are a sequence of access directives. The general form of the olcAccess configuration is:

        olcAccess: <access directive>
        <access directive> ::= to <what>
                [by <who> [<access>] [<control>] ]+
        <what> ::= * |
                [dn[.<basic-style>]=<regex> | dn.<scope-style>=<DN>]
                [filter=<ldapfilter>] [attrs=<attrlist>]
        <basic-style> ::= regex | exact
        <scope-style> ::= base | one | subtree | children
        <attrlist> ::= <attr> [val[.<basic-style>]=<regex>] | <attr> , <attrlist>
        <attr> ::= <attrname> | entry | children
        <who> ::= * | [anonymous | users | self
                        | dn[.<basic-style>]=<regex> | dn.<scope-style>=<DN>]
        <access> ::= [self]{<level>|<priv>}
        <level> ::= none | disclose | auth | compare | search | read | write | manage
        <priv> ::= {=|+|-}{m|w|r|s|c|x|d|0}+
        <control> ::= [stop | continue | break]

where the <what> part selects the entries and/or attributes to which the access applies, the <who> part specifies which entities are granted access, and the <access> part specifies the access granted. Multiple <who> <access> <control> triplets are supported, allowing many entities to be granted different access to the same set of entries and attributes. Not all of these access control options are described here; for more details see the slapd.access(5) man page.

5.3.1. What to control access to

The <what> part of an access specification determines the entries and attributes to which the access control applies. Entries are commonly selected in two ways: by DN and by filter. The following qualifiers select entries by DN:

        to *
        to dn[.<basic-style>]=<regex>
        to dn.<scope-style>=<DN>

The first form is used to select all entries. The second form may be used to select entries by matching a regular expression against the target entry's normalized DN. (The second form is not discussed further in this document.) The third form is used to select entries which are within the requested scope of DN. The <DN> is a string representation of the Distinguished Name, as described in RFC4514.

The scope can be either base, one, subtree, or children. Where base matches only the entry with provided DN, one matches the entries whose parent is the provided DN, subtree matches all entries in the subtree whose root is the provided DN, and children matches all entries under the DN (but not the entry named by the DN).

For example, if the directory contained entries named:

        0: o=suffix
        1: cn=Manager,o=suffix
        2: ou=people,o=suffix
        3: uid=kdz,ou=people,o=suffix
        4: cn=addresses,uid=kdz,ou=people,o=suffix
        5: uid=hyc,ou=people,o=suffix


    dn.base="ou=people,o=suffix" match 2;"ou=people,o=suffix" match 3, and 5;
    dn.subtree="ou=people,o=suffix" match 2, 3, 4, and 5; and
    dn.children="ou=people,o=suffix" match 3, 4, and 5.

Entries may also be selected using a filter:

        to filter=<ldap filter>

where <ldap filter> is a string representation of an LDAP search filter, as described in RFC4515. For example:

        to filter=(objectClass=person)

Note that entries may be selected by both DN and filter by including both qualifiers in the <what> clause.

        to"ou=people,o=suffix" filter=(objectClass=person)

Attributes within an entry are selected by including a comma-separated list of attribute names in the <what> selector:

        attrs=<attribute list>

A specific value of an attribute is selected by using a single attribute name and also using a value selector:

        attrs=<attribute> val[.<style>]=<regex>

There are two special pseudo attributes entry and children. To read (and hence return) a target entry, the subject must have read access to the target's entry attribute. To add or delete an entry, the subject must have write access to the entry's entry attribute AND must have write access to the entry's parent's children attribute. To rename an entry, the subject must have write access to entry's entry attribute AND have write access to both the old parent's and new parent's children attributes. The complete examples at the end of this section should help clear things up.

Lastly, there is a special entry selector "*" that is used to select any entry. It is used when no other <what> selector has been provided. It's equivalent to "dn=.*"

5.3.2. Who to grant access to

The <who> part identifies the entity or entities being granted access. Note that access is granted to "entities" not "entries." The following table summarizes entity specifiers:

Table 5.3: Access Entity Specifiers
Specifier Entities
* All, including anonymous and authenticated users
anonymous Anonymous (non-authenticated) users
users Authenticated users
self User associated with target entry
dn[.<basic-style>]=<regex> Users matching a regular expression
dn.<scope-style>=<DN> Users within scope of a DN

The DN specifier behaves much like <what> clause DN specifiers.

Other control factors are also supported. For example, a <who> can be restricted by an entry listed in a DN-valued attribute in the entry to which the access applies:

        dnattr=<dn-valued attribute name>

The dnattr specification is used to give access to an entry whose DN is listed in an attribute of the entry (e.g., give access to a group entry to whoever is listed as the owner of the group entry).

Some factors may not be appropriate in all environments (or any). For example, the domain factor relies on IP to domain name lookups. As these can easily spoofed, the domain factor should not be avoided.

5.3.3. The access to grant

The kind of <access> granted can be one of the following:

Table 5.4: Access Levels
Level Privileges Description
none =0 no access
disclose =d needed for information disclosure on error
auth =dx needed to authenticate (bind)
compare =cdx needed to compare
search =scdx needed to apply search filters
read =rscdx needed to read search results
write =wrscdx needed to modify/rename
manage =mwrscdx needed to manage

Each level implies all lower levels of access. So, for example, granting someone write access to an entry also grants them read, search, compare, auth and disclose access. However, one may use the privileges specifier to grant specific permissions.

5.3.4. Access Control Evaluation

When evaluating whether some requester should be given access to an entry and/or attribute, slapd compares the entry and/or attribute to the <what> selectors given in the configuration. For each entry, access controls provided in the database which holds the entry (or the first database if not held in any database) apply first, followed by the global access directives (which are held in the frontend database definition). Within this priority, access directives are examined in the order in which they appear in the configuration attribute. Slapd stops with the first <what> selector that matches the entry and/or attribute. The corresponding access directive is the one slapd will use to evaluate access.

Next, slapd compares the entity requesting access to the <who> selectors within the access directive selected above in the order in which they appear. It stops with the first <who> selector that matches the requester. This determines the access the entity requesting access has to the entry and/or attribute.

Finally, slapd compares the access granted in the selected <access> clause to the access requested by the client. If it allows greater or equal access, access is granted. Otherwise, access is denied.

The order of evaluation of access directives makes their placement in the configuration file important. If one access directive is more specific than another in terms of the entries it selects, it should appear first in the configuration. Similarly, if one <who> selector is more specific than another it should come first in the access directive. The access control examples given below should help make this clear.

5.3.5. Access Control Examples

The access control facility described above is quite powerful. This section shows some examples of its use for descriptive purposes.

A simple example:

        olcAccess: to * by * read

This access directive grants read access to everyone.

        olcAccess: to *
                by self write
                by anonymous auth
                by * read

This directive allows the user to modify their entry, allows anonymous to authenticate against these entries, and allows all others to read these entries. Note that only the first by <who> clause which matches applies. Hence, the anonymous users are granted auth, not read. The last clause could just as well have been "by users read".

It is often desirable to restrict operations based upon the level of protection in place. The following shows how security strength factors (SSF) can be used.

        olcAccess: to *
                by ssf=128 self write
                by ssf=64 anonymous auth
                by ssf=64 users read

This directive allows users to modify their own entries if security protections of strength 128 or better have been established, allows authentication access to anonymous users, and read access when strength 64 or better security protections have been established. If the client has not establish sufficient security protections, the implicit by * none clause would be applied.

The following example shows the use of style specifiers to select the entries by DN in two access directives where ordering is significant.

        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com"
                by * search
        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=com"
                by * read

Read access is granted to entries under the dc=com subtree, except for those entries under the dc=example,dc=com subtree, to which search access is granted. No access is granted to dc=com as neither access directive matches this DN. If the order of these access directives was reversed, the trailing directive would never be reached, since all entries under dc=example,dc=com are also under dc=com entries.

Also note that if no olcAccess: to directive matches or no by <who> clause, access is denied. That is, every olcAccess: to directive ends with an implicit by * none clause and every access list ends with an implicit olcAccess: to * by * none directive.

The next example again shows the importance of ordering, both of the access directives and the by <who> clauses. It also shows the use of an attribute selector to grant access to a specific attribute and various <who> selectors.

        olcAccess: to dn.subtree="dc=example,dc=com" attrs=homePhone
                by self write
                by dn.children=dc=example,dc=com" search
                by peername.regex=IP:10\..+ read
        olcAccess: to dn.subtree="dc=example,dc=com"
                by self write
                by dn.children="dc=example,dc=com" search
                by anonymous auth

This example applies to entries in the "dc=example,dc=com" subtree. To all attributes except homePhone, an entry can write to itself, entries under entries can search by them, anybody else has no access (implicit by * none) excepting for authentication/authorization (which is always done anonymously). The homePhone attribute is writable by the entry, searchable by entries under, readable by clients connecting from network 10, and otherwise not readable (implicit by * none). All other access is denied by the implicit access to * by * none.

Sometimes it is useful to permit a particular DN to add or remove itself from an attribute. For example, if you would like to create a group and allow people to add and remove only their own DN from the member attribute, you could accomplish it with an access directive like this:

        olcAccess: to attrs=member,entry
                by dnattr=member selfwrite

The dnattr <who> selector says that the access applies to entries listed in the member attribute. The selfwrite access selector says that such members can only add or delete their own DN from the attribute, not other values. The addition of the entry attribute is required because access to the entry is required to access any of the entry's attributes.

5.3.6. Access Control Ordering

Since the ordering of olcAccess directives is essential to their proper evaluation, but LDAP attributes normally do not preserve the ordering of their values, OpenLDAP uses a custom schema extension to maintain a fixed ordering of these values. This ordering is maintained by prepending a "{X}" numeric index to each value, similarly to the approach used for ordering the configuration entries. These index tags are maintained automatically by slapd and do not need to be specified when originally defining the values. For example, when you create the settings

        olcAccess: to attrs=member,entry
                by dnattr=member selfwrite
        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com"
                by * search
        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=com"
                by * read

when you read them back using slapcat or ldapsearch they will contain

        olcAccess: {0}to attrs=member,entry
                by dnattr=member selfwrite
        olcAccess: {1}to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com"
                by * search
        olcAccess: {2}to dn.children="dc=com"
                by * read

The numeric index may be used to specify a particular value to change when using ldapmodify to edit the access rules. This index can be used instead of (or in addition to) the actual access value. Using this numeric index is very helpful when multiple access rules are being managed.

For example, if we needed to change the second rule above to grant write access instead of search, we could try this LDIF:

        changetype: modify
        delete: olcAccess
        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com" by * search
        add: olcAccess
        olcAccess: to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com" by * write

But this example will not guarantee that the existing values remain in their original order, so it will most likely yield a broken security configuration. Instead, the numeric index should be used:

        changetype: modify
        delete: olcAccess
        olcAccess: {1}
        add: olcAccess
        olcAccess: {1}to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com" by * write

This example deletes whatever rule is in value #1 of the olcAccess attribute (regardless of its value) and adds a new value that is explicitly inserted as value #1. The result will be

        olcAccess: {0}to attrs=member,entry
                by dnattr=member selfwrite
        olcAccess: {1}to dn.children="dc=example,dc=com"
                by * write
        olcAccess: {2}to dn.children="dc=com"
                by * read

which is exactly what was intended.

LDAP Administration Guide
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