External Authentication

Normally, a client needs to authenticate themselves against the MongoDB server user database before doing any work or reading any data from a mongod or mongos instance. External authentication allows the MongoDB server to verify the client’s user name and password against a separate service, such as OpenLDAP or Active Directory. This allows users accessing the database with the same credentials they use for their emails or workstations.

Percona Server for MongoDB supports the following external authentication mechanisms:

LDAP authentication using SASL


The following components are necessary for external authentication to work:

  • LDAP Server: Remotely stores all user credentials (i.e. user name and associated password).
  • SASL Daemon: Used as a MongoDB server-local proxy for the remote LDAP service.
  • SASL Library: Used by the MongoDB client and server to create data necessary for the authentication mechanism.

The following image illustrates this architecture:


An authentication session uses the following sequence:

  1. A mongo client connects to a running mongod instance.
  2. The client creates a PLAIN authentication request using the SASL library.
  3. The client then sends this SASL request to the server as a special Mongo command.
  4. The mongod server receives this SASL Message, with its authentication request payload.
  5. The server then creates a SASL session scoped to this client, using its own reference to the SASL library.
  6. Then the server passes the authentication payload to the SASL library, which in turn passes it on to the saslauthd daemon.
  7. The saslauthd daemon passes the payload on to the LDAP service to get a YES or NO authentication response (in other words, does this user exist and is the password correct).
  8. The YES/NO response moves back from saslauthd, through the SASL library, to mongod.
  9. The mongod server uses this YES/NO response to authenticate the client or reject the request.
  10. If successful, the client has authenticated and can proceed.

Environment setup and configuration

This section describes an example configuration suitable only to test out the external authentication functionality in a non-production environment. Use common sense to adapt these guidelines to your production.

The following components are required:

  • slapd: OpenLDAP server.
  • libsasl2 version 2.1.25 or later.
  • saslauthd: SASL Authentication Daemon (distinct from libsasl2).

The following steps will help you configure your environment:


Before we move on to the configuration steps, we assume the following:

  1. You have the LDAP server up and running. The LDAP server is accessible to the server with the Percona Server for MongoDB installed.
  2. You must place these two servers behind a firewall as the communications between them will be in plain text. This is because the SASL mechanism of PLAIN can only be used when authenticating and credentials will be sent in plain text.
  3. You have sudo privilege to the server with the Percona Server for MongoDB installed.

Configuring saslauthd

  1. Install the SASL packages. Depending on your OS, use the following command:

    For RedHat and CentOS:

    $ sudo yum install -y cyrus-sasl cyrus-sasl-plain

    For Debian and Ubuntu:

    $ sudo apt-get install -y sasl2-bin
  2. Configure SASL to use ldap as the authentication mechanism.


    Back up the original configuration file before making changes.

    For RedHat/CentOS, specify the ldap value for the --MECH option using the following command:

    $ sudo sed -i -e s/^MECH=pam/MECH=ldap/g /etc/sysconfig/saslauthd

    Alternatively, you can edit the /etc/sysconfig/saslauthd configuration file:


    For Debian/Ubuntu, use the following commands to enable the saslauthd to auto-run on startup and to set the ldap value for the --MECHANISMS option:

    $ sudo sed -i -e s/^MECH=pam/MECH=ldap/g /etc/sysconfig/saslauthdsudo sed -i -e s/^MECHANISMS="pam"/MECHANISMS="ldap"/g /etc/default/saslauthd
    $ sudo sed -i -e s/^START=no/START=yes/g /etc/default/saslauthd

    Alternatively, you can edit the /etc/default/sysconfig/saslauthd configuration file:

  3. Create the /etc/saslauthd.conf configuration file and specify these settings required for saslauthd to connect to a local OpenLDAP service (the server address MUST match the OpenLDAP installation):

    ldap_servers: ldap://localhost
    ldap_mech: PLAIN
    ldap_search_base: dc=example,dc=com
    ldap_filter: (cn=%u)
    ldap_bind_dn: cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com
    ldap_password: secret

    Note the LDAP password and bind domain name. This allows the saslauthd service to connect to the LDAP service as root. In production, this would not be the case; users should not store administrative passwords in unencrypted files.

Microsoft Windows Active Directory

In order for LDAP operations to be performed against a Windows Active Directory server, a user record must be created to perform the lookups.

The following example shows configuration parameters for saslauthd to communicate with an Active Directory server:

ldap_servers: ldap://localhost
ldap_mech: PLAIN
ldap_search_base: CN=Users,DC=example,DC=com
ldap_filter: (sAMAccountName=%ucn=%u)
ldap_bind_dn: CN=ldapmgr,CN=Users,DC=<AD Domain>,DC=<AD TLD>
ldap_password: ld@pmgr_Pa55word

In order to determine and test the correct search base and filter for your Active Directory installation, the Microsoft LDP GUI Tool can be used to bind and search the LDAP-compatible directory.

  1. Give write permissions to the /run/saslauthd folder for the mongod. Either change permissions to the /run/saslauthd folder:

    $ sudo chmod 755 /run/saslauthd

    Or add the mongod user to the sasl group:

    $ sudo usermod -a -G sasl mongod

Sanity check

Verify that the saslauthd service can authenticate against the users created in the LDAP service:

$ testsaslauthd -u christian -p secret  -f /var/run/saslauthd/mux

This should return 0:OK "Success". If it doesn’t, then either the user name and password are not in the LDAP service, or sasaluthd is not configured properly.

Configuring libsasl2

The mongod also uses the SASL library for communications. To configure the SASL library, create a configuration file.

The configuration file must be named mongodb.conf and placed in a directory where libsasl2 can find and read it. libsasl2 is hard-coded to look in certain directories at build time. This location may be different depending on the installation method.

In the configuration file, specify the following:

pwcheck_method: saslauthd
saslauthd_path: /var/run/saslauthd/mux
log_level: 5
mech_list: plain

The first two entries (pwcheck_method and saslauthd_path) are required for mongod to successfully use the saslauthd service. The log_level is optional but may help determine configuration errors.

Configuring mongod Server

To enable external authentication, you must create a user with the root privileges in the admin database. If you have already created this user, skip this step. Otherwise, run the following command to create the admin user:

> use admin
switched to db admin
> db.createUser({"user": "admin", "pwd": "$3cr3tP4ssw0rd", "roles": ["root"]})
Successfully added user: { "user" : "admin", "roles" : [ "root" ] }

Edit the etc/mongod.conf configuration file to enable the external authentication:

  authorization: enabled

  authenticationMechanisms: PLAIN,SCRAM-SHA-1

Restart the mongod service:

$ sudo systemctl restart mongod

When everything is configured properly, you can use the External Authentication Commands.

External Authentication Commands

Use the following command to add an external user to the mongod server:

> db.getSiblingDB("$external").createUser( {user : "christian", roles: [ {role: "read", db: "test"} ]} );

The previous example assumes that you have set up the server-wide admin user/role and have successfully authenticated as that user locally.


External users cannot have roles assigned in the admin database.

When running the mongo client, a user can authenticate against a given database using the following command:

> db.getSiblingDB("$external").auth({ mechanism:"PLAIN", user:"christian", pwd:"secret", digestPassword:false})

Based on the material from Percona Database Performance Blog

This section is based on the blog post Percona Server for MongoDB Authentication Using Active Directory by Doug Duncan:

Authentication and Authorization with Direct Binding to LDAP

This feature has been supported in MongoDB Enterprise since its version 3.4.

As of version 4.4.2-4, Percona Server for MongoDB supports LDAP referrals as defined in RFC 4511 4.1.10. For security reasons, LDAP referrals are disabled by default. Double-check that using referrals is safe before enabling them.

To enable LDAP referrals, set the ldapFollowReferrals server parameter to true either using the setParameter command or editing the configuration file.

   ldapFollowReferrals: true

Connection pool

As of version 4.4.2-4, Percona Server for MongoDB always uses a connection pool to LDAP server to process authentication requests. The connection pool is enabled by default. The default connection pool size is 2 connections.

You can change the connection pool size either at the server startup or dynamically by specifying the value for the ldapConnectionPoolSizePerHost server parameter.

For example, to set the number of connections in the pool to 5, use the setParameter command:

$ db.adminCommand( { setParameter: 1, ldapConnectionPoolSizePerHost: 5  } )

Alternatively, edit the configuration file:

  ldapConnectionPoolSizePerHost: 5

Support for multiple LDAP servers

As of version 4.4.3-5, you can specify multiple LDAP servers for failover. Percona Server for MongoDB sends authentication requests to the first server defined in the list. When this server is down or unavailable, it sends requests to the next server and so on. Note that Percona Server for MongoDB keeps sending requests to this server even after the unavailable server recovers.

Specify the LDAP servers as a comma-separated list in the format <host>:<port> for the –ldapServers option.

You can define the option value at the server startup by editing the configuration file.

  authorization: "enabled"
    servers: "ldap1.example.net,ldap2.example.net"

You can change ldapServers dynamically at runtime using the setParameter.

$ db.adminCommand( { setParameter: 1, ldapServers:"localhost,ldap1.example.net,ldap2.example.net"} )
{ "was" : "ldap1.example.net,ldap2.example.net", "ok" : 1 }

Kerberos Authentication

Percona Server for MongoDB supports Kerberos authentication starting from release 4.2.6-6. It is implemented the same way as in MongoDB Enterprise.

See also

MongoDB Documentation:

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