Symas OpenLDAP Knowledge Base

Access Control Lists (ACLs)

Broadly, an ACL associates

  • What is being operated on?
  • Who is requesting the operation?
  • What type of operation is requested?

See slapd.access man page for details

The general form of a permission statement is “Access to by ”.


    attrs=<attrlist> [val[/matchingRule][.attrstyle]=<attrval>]
        = all entries
    <dnstyle> = (base|one|sub|children|regex)


  • *-everyone
  • anonymous = unauthenticated clients
  • users = all authenticated clients
  • self = users whose DN matches the target entry
  • dn = explicit DN
  • dnattr = an DN-valued attribute in the entry
  • group = the list of members in a group entry
  • peername = the socket address of the client
  • sockname = the socket address of the server listener
  • domain = the DNS name of the client
  • sockurl = the URL of the server listener
  • set = ACL sets
  • ssf = overall security strength factor
  • transport_ssf = transport level SSF
  • tls_ssf = tls-specific SSF
  • sasl_ssf = SASL-specific SSF

SSF - Security Strength Factor

The server uses Security Strength Factors (SSF) to indicate the relative strength of protection. A SSF of zero (0) indicates no protections are in place. A SSF of one (1) indicates integrity protection are in place. A SSF greater than one (>1) roughly correlates to the effective encryption key length. For example:

    DES = 56
    3DES = 112
    AES = 128, 192, or 256

A number of administrative controls rely on SSFs associated with TLS and SASL protection in place on an LDAP session. Security controls disallow operations when appropriate protections are not in place.

For example:

    security ssf=1 update_ssf=112

This requires integrity protection for all operations and encryption protection, 3DES equivalent, for update operations (e.g. add, delete, modify, etc.).

Privilege Access Level

Characters in parenthesis are accepted abbreviations and can be used in place of their respective full-word identifiers.

    1. none = no access
    1. disclose = information disclosure on error (default)
    1. auth = authentication
    1. compare = Compare operations
    1. search = search filter evaluation
    1. read = search results
    1. write = modifications
    1. manage = all access including administrative access

Each level includes the preceding ones

Modify Privilege Rights

  • Use (+ | - | =) modifiers to add, remove, or replace rights. > Note: +0 is standalone and cannot be combined with any other access privileges.


ACLs are evaluated in the order in which they appear in the configuration

  • Most specific rules must appear before general rules
  • Evaluation usually stops at the first match

Additional controls may be specified to alter the evaluation sequence Evaluation controls * Stop = stops evaluation at the current rule * Continue = keep examining other clauses within the same rule * Break = keep examining other rules

Example for slapd.conf

    access to dn.subtree="dc=example,dc=com" 
      by * =cs break
    access to dn.subtree="ou=people,dc=example,dc=com" 
      by * +r
  • Gives Compare and Search access to all entries in the tree to all users
  • Adds Read access for all entries in the “ou=people” subtree

Example for slapd.d

    olcAccess: to dn.subtree="dc=example,dc=com" by * =cs break
    olcAccess: to dn.subtree="ou=people,dc=example,dc=com" by * +r

Service-Type ACLs

Access rules for replication or service-type accounts. Since the rule is very specific and in the case of the replication user, will be evaluated often, this rule should be near the top of the ACL.

Common Directory Structure/Entries

      + cn=replicator
      + cn=updater
      + cn=read_all
        member: cn=replicator,ou=admin,dc=example,dc=com
      + cn=write_all
        member: cn=updater,ou=admin,dc=example,dc=com

Replication/Service Account ACL

    access to * 
by group=“cn=read_all,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com” read stop Read access to everything by members of the cn=read_all group
by group=“cn=write_all,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com” write stop Write access to everything by members of the cn=write_all group
—————————————————————— —————————————————————–
by * break What doesn’t match will be evaluated by the next rule
————- ——————————————————–

Examples (slapd.conf vs. slapd.d)

NOTE: slapd.d examples may word wrap

SLAPD.CONF (default)

    access to dn="" by * read
    access to *
      by self write
      by users read
      by anonymous auth
      by sockurl="^ldapi:///$" write 

SLAPD.D (default)

    olcAccess: {0}to dn.base="" by * read 
    olcAccess: {1}to * by self write by users read by anonymous 
      auth by sockurl.exact="^ldapi:///$" write:
  • Allow all to read rootDSE
  • Entries can write to self
  • Authenticated users may read
  • Unauthenticated users may use attributes for authentication
  • Unix domain sockets may write


    Access to attrs=userPassword
      by self write
      by anonymous auth
      by dn="cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com" write 
      by * none
    Access to dn.base=""
      by dn="cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com" read 
    Access to *
      by dn="cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com" write 
    Access to dn.subtree="dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com"
      by dn="cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com" read 
      by * break
    Access to dn.children="dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com"
      by self write
      by dn="cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com" write 
      by dn.children="dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com" read 

SLAPD.D olcAccess: {0}to * by dn.exact=gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0, cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth manage by * break olcAccess: {1}to attrs=userPassword by self write by anonymous auth by dn=“cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com” write by * none olcAccess: {2}to dn.base=“” by dn=“cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com” read olcAccess: {3}to * by dn=“cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com” write olcAccess: {4}to dn.subtree=“dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com by dn=”cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com” read by * break olcAccess: {5}to dn.children=“dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com” by self write by dn=“cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com” write by dn.children=“dc=qa, dc=example,dc=com” read

  • Every authenticated user can change their own password
  • The user cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com can read the base DN
  • The user cn= admin,dc=example,dc=com can modify everything everywhere
  • The user cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com can read the subtree dc=qa DN
  • All dc=qa members can modify themselves
  • The user cn=admin,dc=qa,dc=example,dc=com can modify all subtree dc=qa content
  • All dc=qa members can read the subtree dc=qa content

ACL Creation Suggestion

Print a copy of the DIT from Apache Directory Studio. Use multiple colored pens to identify who you want to have what kind of access to what portion of the DIT. Note any areas that overlap as additional ACLs will be required to clearly define those areas.