Mapping local users to Kerberos principals with SSSD

Thu 16 July 2015 by Lars Kellogg-Stedman Tags sssd kerberos

I work for an organization that follows the common model of assigning people systematically generated user ids. Like most technically inclined employees of this organization, I have local accounts on my workstation that don't bear any relation to the generated account ids. For the most part this isn't a problem, except that our organization uses Kerberos to authenticate access to a variety of resources (such as the mailserver and a variety of web applications).

In the past, I've gotten along by running an explicit kinit lkellogg@EXAMPLE.COM on the command line once in a while, and that works, but it's not particularly graceful.

I'm running Fedora, which of course ships with SSSD. Two of the neat features available through SSSD are (a) you can have it acquire a token for you automatically when you authenticate and (b) renew that token periodically, assuming that you have a renewable token.

There are two problems that were preventing me from taking advantage of this service.

Combining Kerberos with local accounts

The first problem is that there is a general assumption that if you're using Kerberos for authentication, you are also using some sort of enterprise-wide identity service like LDAP. The practical evidence of this in SSSD is that you can't use Kerberos as an auth_provider if you are using the local id_provider. If you attempt a naive configuration that includes the following:

id_provider = local
auth_provider = krb5

You'll get:

(Thu Jul 16 22:19:44:802460 2015) [sssd] [confdb_get_domain_internal]
(0x0010): Local ID provider does not support [krb5] as an AUTH provider.

It turns out that you can work around this limitation with a "proxy" identity provider. With this method, SSSD proxies identity requests to an existing NSS library. This can, for example, be used to get SSSD to interoperate with a legacy NIS environment, as in this example:

auth_provider = krb5
krb5_server =
krb5_realm = EXAMPLE.COM

id_provider = proxy
proxy_lib_name = nis
enumerate = true
cache_credentials = true

The proxy_lib_name setting identifies the particular NSS provider to use for identity information. This would make use of the nis NSS module ( for identity information while using Kerberos for authentication.

For my own use case I want to use my local accounts for identity information, which means I need to use the files NSS provider:

id_provider = proxy
proxy_lib_name = files
auth_provider = krb5

Mapping a local username to a Kerberos principal

The second problem I had been struggling with was how to map my local username (lars) to the organizational Kerberos principal (lkellogg@EXAMPLE.COM). I had originally been looking at solutions involving kinit, but despite promising verbage in the k5identity(5 man page, I wasn't meeting with much success.

It turns out that SSSD has the krb5_map_user option for exactly this purpose; the syntax looks like:

krb5_map_user = <local name>:<principal name>

So, for me:

krb5_map_user = lars:lkellogg

Automatic ticket renewal

SSSD is able to automatically renew your Kerberos tickets for you, provided that you're able to acquire a renewable ticket. You can check for this by running klist and seeing if your ticket has a renew until date in the future, as in the following example:

Ticket cache: KEYRING:persistent:1000:krb_ccache_rOS6mR8
Default principal: lkellogg@REDHAT.COM

Valid starting       Expires              Service principal
07/17/2015 11:02:31  07/17/2015 21:02:31  krbtgt/REDHAT.COM@REDHAT.COM
  renew until 07/24/2015 11:02:31

If you meet this criteria, then you can add the following configuration options to your domain configuration:

krb5_renewable_lifetime = 7d
krb5_renew_interval = 30m

The first (krb5_renewable_lifetime) specifies the renewable lifetime to request when requesting a ticket, and the second (krb5_renew_interval) indicates how often SSSD should check to see if the ticket should be renewed.

An example configuration

This is approximately (names of been changed to protect the innocent) configuration that I am currently using with SSSD:

cache_credentials = True

config_file_version = 2
reconnection_retries = 3
sbus_timeout = 30
services = nss, pam
domains =

filter_groups = root
filter_users = root
reconnection_retries = 3

reconnection_retries = 3

id_provider = proxy
proxy_lib_name = files
enumerate = True
auth_provider = krb5
krb5_server =
krb5_realm = EXAMPLE.COM
cache_credentials = True
krb5_store_password_if_offline = True
krb5_map_user = lars:lkellogg
chpass_provider = krb5
krb5_kpasswd =
offline_credentials_expiration = 0
krb5_renewable_lifetime = 7d
krb5_renew_interval = 30m

Configuring PAM

You're not done yet! Once you have SSSD configured correctly, you need to configure your system to make use of it for authentication. First, you'll want to ensure that your /etc/nsswitch.conf file is configured to use SSSD. You'll want at least the passwd, shadow, and group databases configured to use SSSD:

passwd:     files sss
shadow:     files sss
group:      files sss

Next, you'll want configure PAM. On my system, I need to change two configuration files:

  • /etc/pam.d/system-auth, which is the default for many services, and
  • /etc/pam.d/password-auth, which provides defaults for other services, including sshd.

In my case, both files actually end up having identical content, which looks like this (largely cribbed from the Fedora documentation):

# This file is auto-generated.
# User changes will be destroyed the next time authconfig is run.
auth        required
auth        sufficient nullok try_first_pass
auth        requisite uid >= 1000 quiet_success
auth        sufficient use_first_pass
auth        required

account     required
account     sufficient
account     sufficient uid < 1000 quiet
account     [default=bad success=ok user_unknown=ignore]
account     required

password    requisite try_first_pass local_users_only retry=3 authtok_type=
password    sufficient sha512 shadow nullok try_first_pass use_authtok
password    sufficient use_authtok
password    required

session     optional revoke
session     required
-session     optional
session     [success=1 default=ignore] service in crond quiet use_uid
session     optional
session     required

Note the entries for in each stanza.

The proof in the pudding

I start on my local system with no Kerberos tickets:

$ klist
klist: Credentials cache keyring 'persistent:1000:krb_ccache_Pzo4C6u' not found

Then I lock my screen and unlock it using my Kerberos password, and now:

$ klist
Ticket cache: KEYRING:persistent:1000:krb_ccache_rOS6mR8
Default principal: lkellogg@EXAMPLE.COM

Valid starting       Expires              Service principal
07/16/2015 22:45:43  07/17/2015 08:45:43  krbtgt/EXAMPLE.COM@EXAMPLE.COM
  renew until 07/23/2015 22:45:43


I found the easiest way to troubleshoot SSSD was to stop the service:

# systemctl stop sssd

And then run sssd on the command line in debug mode:

# sssd -d 5 -i

This generates logs on stderr and helped me identity problems in my configuration.


Thanks to Jakub Hrozek for suggesting the use of the a proxy identity provider to overcome the limitation on combining Kerberos with the local provider.