5.3. Using LDAP Directories for Authentication and Authorization

Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of an entity who attempts to access a server. JBoss ON uses simple authentication, meaning it uses simple username-password pairs to verify identity.
By default, JBoss ON stores authentication information in its internal database. JBoss ON can also use an external LDAP repository to store this user information. With LDAP authentication, the JBoss ON server sends all login requests to the LDAP directory to process.
First, the JBoss ON server searches the LDAP directory for a matching username, and then it attempts to log into (bind to) the LDAP server using the given username and password. If the bind attempt is successful, then the user is successfully authenticated to the JBoss ON server.
After the JBoss ON server is configured to use LDAP for authentication, all login attempts are authenticated against the LDAP server.


When the JBoss ON server is reconfigured to use LDAP for authentication, the LDAP information isn't validated yet. Any errors with the LDAP authentication configuration won't show up until a user attempts to log into the UI.


The LDAP directory can't create JBoss ON users automatically. However, using LDAP for authentication allows new users to register themselves to JBoss ON. A new user can authenticate to JBoss ON as long as they have an LDAP account. At their first login attempt, they're redirected to a registration page which records the additional JBoss ON user information.
The JBoss ON server constructs the LDAP entry name to look for based on the JBoss ON username and information about the LDAP directory, like the parent distinguished name in the directory tree and the naming attribute used for user entries; from there, it dynamically constructs a search filter every time someone logs into JBoss ON. Custom attributes can be added to the LDAP schema, such as JONUser=true, which can make it easier and more precise to locate entries.
JBoss ON can use major directory servers for authentication:
  • Red Hat Directory Server 8.1
  • Microsoft Active Directory 2003
  • Microsoft Active Directory 2008
The LDAP directory only verifies the login credentials. The LDAP server doesn't store any other JBoss ON user data, and it doesn't create, delete, or edit entries in JBoss ON. Likewise, JBoss ON doesn't create, delete, or edit entries in the LDAP directory. The only attributes in the LDAP database that relate to JBoss ON user accounts are the username and password. Other settings in the JBoss ON user entry are stored in the JBoss ON internal database (like the user's first name and surname, email address, and role assignments).


The LDAP directory is used only to check the login credentials — it doesn't store any other information about the JBoss ON users, including role assignments, and it cannot create a JBoss ON user. The JBoss ON server also cannot create LDAP users, so the LDAP user has to be created separately.
Because the LDAP directory doesn't store other attributes related to JBoss ON, it can't store a user certificate. This means that JBoss ON cannot use an LDAP directory for certificate-based authentication.
Authentication is the process of verifying someone's identity. Authorization is the process of determining what access permissions that identity has. Users are authorized to perform tasks based on their role assignments.
Any time user attempts to log in, that request — with the username and password — is simply forwarded to the specified LDAP directory to see if the credentials are correct.
That same LDAP directory can also be used to pull in group members in LDAP groups. The group is associated with a JBoss ON role and then the group members are authorized to do whatever the JBoss ON role is configured to allow.
JBoss ON can use two major directory servers for group authorization:
  • Microsoft Active Directory 2003
  • Red Hat Directory Server 8.1
Many LDAP directories already contain organizational groups with users who will need to access resource in JBoss ON. Configuring JBoss ON to connect to these directories allows JBoss ON to assign LDAP groups to roles and then pull in those member lists dynamically, so the roles are populated with pre-existing member lists. All of the LDAP users automatically inherit the permissions of that role.
In the role details page, these LDAP user groups are separated from the resource groups, so it's easy to distinguish which types of group are being added to the role.
JBoss ON determines what LDAP groups a user belongs to with a simple search. Whenever a user logs into JBoss ON and an LDAP connection is configured, JBoss ON maps that JBoss ON username to a user entry in the LDAP directory. The specific LDAP distinguished name (DN) for the user can be used as part of a search to find matching member attributes in LDAP group entries. That is, the LDAP server can check the member lists in group entries to see what groups the person with that DN belongs to.
For LDAP groups to be added to roles, three things are required:
  • An LDAP directory connection has to be configured.
  • There has to be an LDAP attribute given to search for group entries.
    For Active Directory, this is generally the group object class. For Red Hat Directory Server, this is generally groupOfUniqueNames. Other standard object classes are available, and it is also possible to use a custom, even JBoss ON-specific, object class.
  • There has to be an LDAP attribute given to identify members in the group.
    Common member attributes are member and uniqueMember.
JBoss ON constructs an LDAP search based on the group object class and member attribute in the server configuration, plus the DN of the user given when the user logs in.
For example, this looks for the member attribute on an Active Directory group:
ldapsearch -h server.example.com -x -D "cn=Administrator,cn=Users,dc=example,dc=com" -W -b "dc=example,dc=com" -x '(&(objectclass=group)(member=CN=John Smith,CN=Users,DC=example,DC=com))'
Red Hat Directory Server uses the uniqueMember attribute on groupOfUniqueNames groups more commonly than member and group. For example:
/usr/lib64/mozldap6/ldapsearch -D "cn=directory manager" -w secret -p 389 -h server.example.com -b "ou=People,dc=example,dc=com" -s sub "(&(objectclass=groupOfUniqueNames)(uniqueMember=uid=jsmith,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com))"
This search returns a list of all groups to which the user is a member. If any of these LDAP groups is assigned to a JBoss ON role, then that user is also automatically a member of that JBoss ON role.


Using custom LDAP group object classes can allow you to be very specific about which groups to use for JBoss ON roles.