Centralized user/group/whatever management

Victor Sudakov vas at sibptus.ru
Sun Mar 15 16:41:01 UTC 2020

Chris Gordon wrote:
> >> LDAP and Kerberos are common solutions for this.  There are many ways you could do this, both or just one of them depending on your specific needs.  You could:
> >> - Setup servers yourself.  For instance setting up OpenLDAP
> >> - Use some "pre-integrated" solutions:
> >> 	- FreeIPA.  Underneath, this is just LDAP, Kerberos, DNS, etc.  You don't have to use SSSD to use FreeIPA as an auth source.  Not sure what "features" may or may not be there.
> >> 	- Active Directory.  Yes, you could use a Windows solution.  It's fundamentally LDAP, Kerberos, DNS, etc.  Note that FreeIPA is an attempt to re-create AD with Open Source components -- if they state that or not, it's what it is.
> >> 	- Samba acting as an AD server
> > 
> > There is one missing link which was never mentioned in the thread.
> > What's the bridge between nsswitch framework (or some other replacement
> > of getpwent(), getgrent() and friends) to be used with all those LDAP
> > solutions mentioned above?
> > 
> > Kerberos is fine of course, when we have a user already. I use FreeBSD's
> > build-in Heimdal a lot for SSH access, SVN access (duh!) and some other
> > things.
> https://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/ldap-auth/index.html
> If the above doesn't cover sufficiently for you, a quick search of the
> web with your favorite search engine will turn up many different
> articles, tutorials and discussions.  I just put in "freebsd ldap
> client" into Google and found the above.

Thanks, a useful article. Matthew Seaman also mentioned
net/nss-pam-ldapd in this context, because it's supposed to be better
than security/pam_ldap+net/nss_ldap. But the idea is clear now.

> > You could also look at using signed SSH keys.  There are some articles
> >> about some of the hyper scale sites doing this to address the failure
> >> points and scalability problems you get with a centralized directory
> >> service.  It's on my list to read up on, but I haven't gotten to it
> >> yet.
> > 
> > I did not quite understand how you can use SSH keys to create/delete users
> > and manage group memberships. Could you elaborate or give a link?
> Like I said, I haven't read the details of how this works.  "signed
> ssh keys" in Google gives a link to an article from Facebook
> engineering on the subject:
> https://engineering.fb.com/security/scalable-and-secure-access-with-ssh/.
> From what I recall when I heard about this, a similar solution is used
> and discussed by a number of other hyper-scale companies.  As I've not
> had time to research this myself, I'll leave it as an exercise to the
> reader.

I've perused the article, it's useful in its own way. I've been looking
for a good example of using SSH certificates *with* *authorization*,
that is exactly it. For the bastion hosts however the author says they
use LDAP and/or Kerberos, and later they access the internal hosts as
the local "root" users (provided a person is authorized to by the SSH

> > I was of course interested in modern best practices and personal success
> > stories rather than in "you can implement this or that thing I've read
> > about."
> > 
> > If any person who replied in this thread is using a centralized user
> > database, please share what *you* *particularly* use and why.
> > 
> > I've already shared mine: I use NIS (yp*) but want to migrate from it,
> > for the reasons I stated in the first mail.


> Now maybe I'm overreaching in what you want.  If you just want to hear
> about specific cases of implementations from those that have them,

Kind of, yes. That was my intention from the start.

> then please disregard my entire email.  

Disregarding your entire email would be unwise because you gave at least
to useful links :-)

> I hope that helps some.

It did, thank you.

Victor Sudakov,  VAS4-RIPE, VAS47-RIPN
2:5005/49 at fidonet http://vas.tomsk.ru/
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