Section 8.3. Creating a User Directory

8.3. Creating a User Directory

Once the server is running, you must populate the directory with information about your network's users. To do this, you must understand distinguished name notation. Understanding at least the basics of LDIF files, which can be used to enter information into the directory, is also a necessity. With these pieces of information, you can actually begin populating the directory with user accounts.

8.3.1. Distinguished Names

Distinguished Names (DNs) are the pointers to data in a directory. They're similar in many ways to filenames in hard-disk filesystems. For example, the Linux filename /etc/X11/xdm/Xaccess refers to the Xaccess file in the /etc/X11/xdm directory, which in turn can be broken down into a series of subdirectories leading to the root directory of the Linux directory tree. Similarly, DNs are typically composed of multiple elements that enable an LDAP implementation to quickly locate the data. In the case of DNs, though, these elements are labeled according to type. Common types in an LDAP directory used for authentication include Domain Class (DC), Common Name (CN), User ID (UID, which is equivalent to a username rather than a numeric UID), and sometimes Organizational Unit (OU). Each abbreviation is converted to lowercase and separated from its value by an equal sign; these are then strung together with commas and identified as a DN by using the dn code and a colon:

dn: cn=Carl Linnaeus,dc=pangaea,dc=edu

This example refers to an entry for the common name Carl Linnaeus in the domain. You may have noticed that this notation is similar to the one for the rootdn item in the slapd.conf file, as illustrated in Example 8-1. This is no accident; the rootdn enTRy identifies a DN for a user with special privileges on the server.

Although the DC components of DN frequently combine to form an Internet domain name that's associated with the LDAP server, this isn't a requirement.

Occasionally, variants on this notation are necessary. One of these occurs when the CN for a user is not unique. For instance, suppose your organization has two users named Carl Linnaeus, one in the Botany department and one in the Genetics department. You might then create two DNs that add the appropriate OUs:

dn: cn=Carl Linnaeus+ou=Botany,dc=pangaea,dc=edu dn: cn=Carl Linnaeus+ou=Genetics,dc=pangaea,dc=edu

In practice, you'll create these DNs in files with intervening lines that specify other account characteristics, as described in Section 8.3.2.

In this example, the DN begins with a Relative Distinguished Name (RDN)cn=Carl Linnaeus+ou=Botany or cn=Carl Linnaeus+ou=Genetics. An RDN uses a plus sign (+) to separate two attributes, neither of which is unique by itself. In this example, two users named Carl Linnaeus exist, and presumably both the Botany and Genetics OUs host other users.

The use of the plus sign to separate RDN components means that this symbol can't be used within an element without taking special steps. Specifically, if an element must contain a plus sign, the plus sign should be preceded by a backslash (\). Other special characters that should be preceded by a backslash include a hash mark (#) at the start of a string, a space at the end of a string, a comma (,), a double quote ("), a backslash, a semicolon (;), and angle brackets (< or >). Chances are you won't need to use any of these symbols in the DN elements for a Unix-based account database, although spaces are common in databases that originate on Windows systems.

DNs are usually case-insensitive, but case is preserved in storing them. Thus, cn=carl linnaeus,dc=pangaea,dc=edu is equivalent to cn=Carl Linnaeus,dc=pangaea,dc=EDU. This characteristic is based on matching rules defined in the schema, though, so it's not always true.

8.3.2. Understanding LDIF

Behind the scenes, OpenLDAP may use any of several databases for data storage; but to examine and modify data, a common plain-text format is desirable. This is where LDIF comes into the picture; it represents LDAP directory entries that are invariant across OpenLDAP backends, and even across LDAP implementations. For the most part, it consists of a series of attribute names and values, separated by colons. Entries begin with the DN entry, as described earlier. Subsequent entries' content depend on the schemas a directory uses. The NIS schema defines several object classes, each of which defines several attributes. For the purposes of this chapter, the posixAccount object class is one of the most important of these object classes. This object class's attributes roughly correspond to entries in the traditional Linux /etc/passwd file, as shown in Figure 8-2.

Figure 8-2. The posixAccount object class defines data traditionally found in /etc/passwd

Every field in the /etc/passwd file maps to an attribute in the posixAccount object class, although the names aren't always intuitive. In particular, the uid attribute maps to the Linux username; the uidNumber attribute holds the Linux UID number. The posixAccount object class also defines two attributes, cn and description, that aren't present in /etc/passwd. Of these, cn is required and typically holds the user's real name.

Figure 8-3 shows a mapping of the shadowAccount object class to entries traditionally found in /etc/shadow. All these entries except uid are optional. This attribute, though, as well as the userPassword and description attributes, are in fact shared with the posixAccount object class. Specifying values for all the required attributes in these two object classes creates a user account.

Figure 8-3. The shadowAccount object class defines data traditionally found in /etc/shadow

In traditional Linux accounts, using shadow passwords and the /etc/shadow file increases security. The equivalent use of the shadowAccount object class in LDAP does not have this effect, though. When properly configured, an LDAP account directory should be at least as secure as a Linux shadow passwords system, whether or not you place data in the shadowAccount structures. What shadowAccount does provide is a place to store password aging and expiration information.

Between these two object classes, you can define an account. To do so in an LDIF file, you create one line per attribute, plus a few objectClass attributes pointing to the objects upon which the posixAccount and shadowAccount objects rely. The result looks something like this:

dn: uid=linnaeus,ou=People,dc=pangaea,dc=edu uid: linnaeus cn: Carl Linnaeus objectClass: account objectClass: posixAccount objectClass: top objectClass: shadowAccount userPassword: {crypt}KpP.s/mnFoEoI shadowLastChange: 12561 shadowMax: 99999 shadowWarning: 7 loginShell: /bin/bash uidNumber: 780 gidNumber: 100 homeDirectory: /home/linnaeus gecos: Carl Linnaeus

Don't start generating accounts by copying this entry. As described in Section 8.3.3, there are easier ways to populate your directory than creating LDIF files by hand.

Figure 8-4 shows a mapping of the posixGroup object class to entries traditionally found in /etc/group. These entries are necessary if the server is to deliver group information as well as account information to clients. Note that these objects are not directly related to accounts, although they do refer to accounts; the memberUid attribute points to user accounts. (Likewise, the gidNumber field in the posixAccount object class points to a posixGroup via its gidNumber field.)

Figure 8-4. The posixGroup object class defines data traditionally found in /etc/group

The NIS schema file defines several object classes in addition to those described here. These object classes enable an LDAP server to deliver information that's traditionally contained in /etc/fstab, /etc/hosts, /etc/protocols, and morein short, the data that's normally delivered by an NIS server. Configuring OpenLDAP to deliver this information is similar to configuring it to deliver account and group information, but such configurations are beyond the scope of this chapter.

8.3.3. Creating the Directory

The simplest way to populate an OpenLDAP directory with account and group information is to convert this information from existing account and group files. You can perform this task with scripts available on the Internet. If you're not migrating accounts directly, you may want to use these tools on a dummy password file to create a template you can use to create new accounts in piecemeal fashion.

The scripts you use to migrate an existing set of Linux accounts can be obtained from The download links at the bottom of this page retrieve a file called MigrationTools.tgz. This tarball contains a series of Perl scripts, each of which reads the contents of one or more system configuration files and creates an equivalent LDIF file.

The migration tools package described here has a project version number of 45, as revealed in the CVSVersionInfo.txt file. If you obtain a more recent version, you may find that some of the details have changed.

Before running the conversion scripts, you must edit one of them ( so that it holds appropriate site-specific information. Specifically, change the $DEFAULT_MAIL_DOMAIN and $DEFAULT_BASE variables, defined on lines 71 and 74, to point to your DNS domain and your directory's base. For instance, to conform to the options shown in Example 8-1, set these options as follows:

$DEFAULT_MAIL_DOMAIN = ""; $DEFAULT_BASE = "dc=pangaea,dc=edu";

Once this task is done, you can create LDIF files using the appropriate scripts. Of particular interest are the and scripts, which migrate your account database (including both /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow) and your /etc/group file, respectively. Both scripts accept the name of the source file (just /etc/passwd in the case of followed by an output file:

# ./ /etc/passwd passwd.ldif # ./ /etc/group group.ldif

You can examine the contents of these LDIF files, if you like. At a minimum, you might want to perform a quick check to verify that all your users have entries in the password file. You might also want to eliminate system accounts that don't require authentication and those that you don't want to be authenticated via the LDAP server. If you eliminate such accounts, though, be sure that they either exist in your clients' local account databases or aren't required by your clients.

The migration scripts can't decrypt the already encrypted passwords in the password database. Therefore, they're entered into the LDIF file using the {crypt} encoding notation.

These scripts don't create entries for the top-level DNs. If you haven't created them already, you should add them to the start of each file. For the password file, the entries for the example domain are these:

dn: dc=pangaea,dc=edu objectClass: domain dc: pangaea dn: ou=People,dc=pangaea,dc=edu objectClass: organizationalUnit ou: People

The entry to add to the start of the groups file is similar:

dn: ou=Group,dc=pangaea,dc=edu objectClass: organizationalUnit ou: Group

Of course, in both cases, you must make changes to the dn and dc lines suitable for your organization. Once you've done this, you're ready to add the LDIF files to your LDAP directory. You can do this with either the ldapadd command or the slapadd command, using the -f or -l parameters (respectively) to pass the name of the LDIF file you want to add. You might also want to use -v, which provides feedback on the success of the operations. (If you use ldapadd, though, you'll first need to perform additional client configurations, as described in the next section.) For instance, these commands add both the files created earlier:

# slapadd -v -l passwd.ldif # slapadd -v -l group.ldif

8.3.4. Account Maintenance

Account maintenance on an OpenLDAP server uses various utilities whose names begin with ldap, as described earlier. Of particular interest are ldapadd, which adds accounts; ldapmodify, which modifies existing accounts; and ldapdelete, which deletes accounts. You can run these commands on any LDAP client computer (including the LDAP server itself, if it's properly configured as a client); they use the network protocol to communicate with the server.

These tools rely on the /etc/openldap/ldap.conf configuration file. Before you can use these tools, therefore, you should edit this file. Normally, you must set the BASE and URI options, and possibly point the system to a certificate file:

BASE        dc=pangaea,dc=edu URI         ldaps:// TLS_CACERT  /etc/openldap/ssl/certs/slapd-cert.crt

The first of these entries should be familiar by now; it's the root of the LDAP directory you'll be using. The URI entry points to the LDAP server, using a URI format similar to that used to express web addresses, except that it begins with the ldaps:// keyword. You can use ldap:// rather than ldaps:// if you don't want to require the use of SSL encryption. (The system may still negotiate TLS encryption during the session, however.) If you specify an LDAPS port in the URI, you must point the server to a file that contains certificates (via TLS_CACERT) or to a directory that contains certificate files (via TLS_CACERTDIR). You must copy the certificate you generated on the server to this location. If you don't, the client tools will refuse to communicate with the server.

In order to perform most account maintenance tasks, you must access the server with sufficient privileges; by default, the LDAP utilities perform anonymous accesses. You can specify a suitable high-privilege DN with the -D option. When you do, you must also include the -W option to have the utility prompt you for a password. You can use the administrative DN and password you specified in your slapd.conf.

To add an account, you should prepare an LDIF file. You can use an entry from an LDIF file created from /etc/passwd using as a model, if you like. You can then pass this file to ldapadd:

$ ldapadd -D cn=manager,dc=pangaea,dc=edu -W -f acct.ldif

Because you're passing the authentication information to the server, you don't need type this command as root.

The ldapmodify command works in much the same way, except that the file you pass to the utility contains modifications to an existing entry rather than new account information. To delete an account, you use the ldapdelete command, omit the -f parameter, and instead pass the DN of the account you want to delete:

$ ldapdelete -D cn=manager,dc=pangaea,dc=edu -W uid=linnaeus,ou=People, dc=pangaea,dc=edu

This example deletes the linnaeus account in the People unit on the LDAP server. Changing a password is similar, but you must also pass the -S option to be prompted for the new password, as well as changing the name of the tool:

$ ldappasswd -D cn=manager,dc=pangaea,dc=edu -S -W uid=linnaeus,ou=People, dc=pangaea,dc=edu New password: Re-enter new password: Enter LDAP Password: Result: Success (0)

Unlike the standard Linux passwd command, ldappasswd prompts for the new password before prompting for the administrative LDAP password. As with most password-handling tools, this one doesn't echo the passwords to the screen.

The ldappasswd command isn't intended as a full replacement for passwd. If you configure the /etc/pam.d/passwd file to use LDAP, as described in Section 8.4.4 and Appendix A, the standard Linux passwd command will change users' passwords on the LDAP server instead of or in addition to changing the local password when an ordinary user calls this tool. The ldappasswd command is useful mainly when a user has forgotten a password; you can use your LDAP administrative access to replace the forgotten password.

If you're used to normal Linux account maintenance tools such as useradd and userdel, these LDAP account maintenance tools may seem awkward at first. If you keep a template LDIF file handy and prepare scripts with the necessary options, DNs can save you a lot of typing and make using these tools far more intuitive.

Various additional tools exist that help manage LDAP accounts. For instance, phpLDAPadmin ( is a web-based tool that provides a point-and-click interface to your account database. You could also write some scripts yourself to help simplify these tasks.

    Linux in a Windows World
    Linux in a Windows World
    ISBN: 0596007582
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 152

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