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Using authselect on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux host

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

Understanding, selecting, modifying, and creating authselect profiles

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This documentation collection provides instructions on how to use authselect on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 host.

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Chapter 1. Using authselect

1.1. Explaining authselect

Authselect is a utility that simplifies the configuration of user authentication on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux host. Authselect offers two ready-made profiles that can be universally used with all modern identity management systems:

  • the sssd profile
  • the winbind profile

For legacy compatibility reasons, the nis profile is also available.

Red Hat recommends using authselect in semi-centralized identity management environments, for example if your company utilizes the LDAP, winbind or nis databases to authenticate users to use services in your domain.


Do not use authselect if your host is part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux Identity Management or Active Directory. The ipa-client-install command, called when joining your host to a Red Hat Identity Management domain, takes full care of configuring authentication on your host. Similarly the realm join command, called when joining your host to an Active Directory domain, takes full care of configuring authentication on your host.

The authconfig utility, used in previous Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions, created and modified many different configuration files, making troubleshooting a difficult task. Authselect makes testing and troubleshooting easy because it only modifies files in these directories:

  • /etc/nsswitch.conf
  • /etc/pam.d/* files
  • /etc/dconf/db/distro.d/* files

The Name Service Switch (NSS) configuration file, /etc/nsswitch.conf, is used by the GNU C Library and certain other applications to determine the sources from which to obtain name-service information in a range of categories, and in what order. Each category of information is identified by a database name.

Linux-PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) is a system of modules that handle the authentication tasks of applications (services) on the system. The nature of the authentication is dynamically configurable: the system administrator can choose how individual service-providing applications will authenticate users. This dynamic configuration is set by the contents of the configuration files in the /etc/pam.d/ directory, which list the PAMs that will do the authentication tasks required by this service, and the appropriate behavior of the PAM-API in the event that individual PAMs fail.

Once an authselect profile is selected for a given host, the profile will be applied to every user logging into the host.

1.2. Choosing an authselect profile

As a system administrator, you can select a profile for the authselect utility for a specific host. The profile will be applied to every user logging into the host.


  1. Select the authselect profile that is appropriate for your authentication provider. For example, for logging into the network of a company that uses LDAP, choose sssd. Run the command as root:

    # authselect select sssd
  2. Optionally, review the contents of the /etc/nsswitch.conf file:

    passwd:     sss files
    group:      sss files
    netgroup:   sss files
    automount:  sss files
    services:   sss files

    The content of the /etc/nsswitch.conf file shows that selecting the sssd profile means that the system first uses sssd if information concerning one of the first five items is requested. Only if the requested information is not found in the sssd cache and on the server providing authentication, or if sssd is not running, the system looks at the local files, that is /etc/*.

    For example, if information is requested about a user id, the user id is first searched in the sssd cache. If it is not found there, the /etc/passwd file is consulted. Analogically, if a user’s group affiliation is requested, it is first searched in the sssd cache and only if not found there, the /etc/group file is consulted.

    In practice, the local files database does not normally get consulted at all. The only exception is the case of the root user, which is never handled by sssd but by files.

  3. Optionally, review the contents of the /etc/pam.d/system-auth file:

    # Generated by authselect on Tue Sep 11 22:59:06 2018
    # Do not modify this file manually.
    auth        required
    auth        required delay=2000000
    auth        [default=1 ignore=ignore success=ok] uid >= 1000 quiet
    auth        [default=1 ignore=ignore success=ok]
    auth        sufficient nullok try_first_pass
    auth        requisite uid >= 1000 quiet_success
    auth        sufficient forward_pass
    auth        required
    account     required
    account     sufficient

    Among other things, the /etc/pam.d/system-auth file contains information about:

    • user password lockout condition
    • the possibility to authenticate with a smart card
    • the possibility to authenticate with fingerprints

      You can modify the default profile settings by adding the following options to the authselect select sssd or authselect select winbind command, for example:

      • with-faillock
      • with-smartcard
      • with-fingerprint

    To see the full list of available options, see Section 1.5, “Converting your scripts from authconfig to authselect” or the authselect-migration(7) man page.


Make sure that the configuration files that are relevant for your profile are configured properly before finishing the authselect select procedure. For example, if the sssd daemon is not configured correctly and active, running authselect select results in only local users being able to authenticate, using pam_unix.

If adjusting a ready-made profile by adding one of the authselect select command-line options described above is not enough for your use case, you can:

1.3. Modifying a ready-made authselect profile

As a system administrator, you can modify one of the default profiles, the sssd, winbind, or the nis profile, to suit your needs. You can modify any of the items in the /etc/authselect/user-nsswitch.conf file with the exception of:

  • passwd
  • group
  • netgroup
  • automount
  • services

Running authselect select profile_name afterwards will result in permissible changes to the profile being transferred from /etc/authselect/user-nsswitch.conf to the /etc/nsswitch.conf file but unacceptable changes being overwritten by the default profile configuration.


Do not modify the /etc/nsswitch.conf file directly.


  1. Select an authselect profile, for example:

    # authselect select sssd
  2. Edit the /etc/authselect/user-nsswitch.conf file.
  3. Apply the changes from the /etc/authselect/user-nsswitch.conf file:

    # authselect apply-changes
  4. Optionally, review the /etc/nsswitch.conf file to verify that the changes from /etc/authselect/user-nsswitch.conf have been propagated there.

1.4. Creating and deploying your own custom authselect profile

As a system administrator, you can create and deploy a custom profile by customizing one of the default profiles, the sssd, winbind, or the nis profile. This is particularly useful if Section 1.3, “Modifying a ready-made authselect profile” is not enough for your needs. When you deploy a custom profile, the profile is applied to every user logging into the given host.


  1. Create your custom profile by using the authselect create-profile command. For example, to create a custom profile called user-profile based on the ready-made sssd profile but one in which you can configure the items in the /etc/nsswitch.conf file yourself:

    # authselect create-profile user-profile -b sssd --symlink-meta --symlink-pam
    New profile was created at /etc/authselect/custom/user-profile

    Including the --symlink-pam option in the command means that PAM templates will be symbolic links to the origin profile files instead of their copy; including the --symlink-meta option means that meta files, such as README and REQUIREMENTS will be symbolic links to the origin profile files instead of their copy. This ensures that all future updates to the PAM templates and meta files in the original profile will be reflected in your custom profile, too.

    The command has created a copy of the /etc/nsswitch.conf file in the /etc/authselect/custom/user-profile/ directory.

  2. Configure the /etc/authselect/custom/user-profile/nsswitch.conf file.
  3. Select the custom profile by running the authselect select command, and adding custom/name_of_the_profile as a parameter. For example, to select the user-profile profile:

    # authselect select custom/user-profile

    Selecting the user-profile profile for your machine means that if the sssd profile is subsequently updated by Red Hat, you will benefit from all the updates with the exception of updates made to the /etc/nsswitch.conf file.


The following procedure shows how to create a profile based on the sssd profile which only consults the local static table lookup for hostnames in the /etc/hosts file, not in the dns or myhostname databases.

  1. Edit the /etc/nsswitch.conf file by editing the following line:

    hosts:      files
  2. Create a custom profile based on sssd that excludes changes to /etc/nsswitch.conf:

    # authselect create-profile user-profile -b sssd --symlink-meta --symlink-pam
  3. Select the profile:

    # authselect select custom/user-profile
  4. Optionally, check that selecting the custom profile has

    • created the /etc/pam.d/system-auth file according to the chosen sssd profile
    • left the configuration in the /etc/nsswitch.conf unchanged:

      hosts:      files

      Running authselect select sssd would, in contrast, result in

      hosts:      files dns myhostname

1.5. Converting your scripts from authconfig to authselect

If you use ipa-client-install or realm join to join a domain, you can safely remove any authconfig call in your scripts. If this is not possible, replace each authconfig call with its equivalent authselect call. In doing that, select the correct profile and the appropriate options. In addition, edit the necessary configuration files:

  • /etc/krb5.conf
  • /etc/sssd/sssd.conf (for the sssd profile) or /etc/samba/smb.conf (for the winbind profile)

Table 1.1, “Relation of authconfig options to authselect profiles” and Table 1.2, “Authselect profile option equivalents of authconfig options” show the authselect equivalents of authconfig options.

Table 1.1. Relation of authconfig options to authselect profiles

Authconfig options

Authselect profile

--enableldap --enableldapauth


--enablesssd --enablesssdauth




--enablewinbind --enablewinbindauth




Table 1.2. Authselect profile option equivalents of authconfig options

Authconfig option

Authselect profile feature

















Table 1.3, “Examples of authselect commands equivalents to authconfig commands” shows example transformations of Kickstart calls to authconfig into Kickstart calls to authselect.

Table 1.3. Examples of authselect commands equivalents to authconfig commands

authconfig command

authselect equivalent

authconfig --enableldap --enableldapauth --enablefaillock --updateall

authselect select sssd with-faillock

authconfig --enablesssd --enablesssdauth --enablesmartcard --smartcardmodule=sssd --updateall

authselect select sssd with-smartcard

authconfig --enableecryptfs --enablepamaccess --updateall

authselect select sssd with-ecryptfs with-pamaccess

authconfig --enablewinbind --enablewinbindauth --winbindjoin=Administrator --updateall

realm join -U Administrator --client-software=winbind WINBINDDOMAIN

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