Linux authentication with Active Directory using Kerberos 5

Building Realms

The default_realm line in the [libdefaults] section sets up a realm called KDC.EXAMPLE.ORG as the default for Kerberos applications. If you are using multiple realms, you can add another expression to the [realms] section. The [domain_realm] section sets the domain name/realm link in the Kerberos library. If you want the Kerberos library to establish a connection to a remote host, the library needs to know the realm in which the host resides. Entries that start with a dot assign all hosts with the following suffix to the specified Kerberos realm. To ensure trouble-free communications with the Kerberos server, it is important to use uppercase characters for the realm name.

With the use of this configuration, you can test communications with the Kerberos server. The kinit command requests a TGT. If you do not specify any additional parameters, the program attempts to secure a TGT for the principal with the same name as the logged on user. To allow this to happen, the user needs to enter a password once only.

The kinit program now sends an unencrypted TGT request to the authentication server; the request includes the name of the principal (among other things). The response sent to the client includes the encrypted TGT, which kinit decrypts and stores locally.

The output from the klist command in Listing 2 includes the validity data for the TGT that was just issued. If the command output shows the ticket, you can assume that the Linux client configuration is complete. To destroy the test TGT, use kdestroy.

Listing 2

klist Showing Tickets



The next step is to add the Linux client as a member of the Active Directory domain. To allow this to happen, you need to install Samba version 3.0.14a or newer and the Winbind program package for centralized user management in Windows and Linux. Winbind uses a Unix implementation of Microsoft's RPC calls, the Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM), and the Name Service Switch (NSS) to let users with Linux clients log in to the Windows domain and work as local users.

Samba is configured in the smb.conf file, which is typically found below /etc/samba/. A complete sample configuration, which implements an Active Directory domain member server with the required Winbind configuration, is shown in Listing 3.

Listing 3



The security = ads parameter in line 5 tells Winbind not to look for the password in the local user database but to pass the request on to an Active Directory domain controller. The domain controller then decides whether the password is legitimate.

If you have a Windows 2003 AD domain controller, you need to set client schannel = no in the [global] section. Before the client becomes a domain member, the admin tells it (in line 6) which Kerberos realm the principal belongs to.

Centralized User Management

Membership in a domain only removes the need for the Linux system to manage passwords; it does not remove the need to manage user entries. Domain users are still an unknown property on the system at this point. Unix-style operating systems need the winbindd daemon to ensure visibility. The Samba suite component program uses the Name Service Switch (NSS) to resolve domain user's identities and serve them up to Linux as if they were local credentials.

While Winbind is running, it temporarily transfers all the users and groups in Active Directory to the Linux system. This substantially reduces the administrative overhead for user management. Winbind is configured centrally in the [global] section of smb.conf (lines 15 through 20).

The workgroup = kdc instruction in line 3 is noteworthy: Samba uses workgroup to define both a workgroup and a domain. The Samba program decides what to configure later in the configuration process. The AD domain is stored in NT4 syntax here; in other words, if you have a Windows 2003 domain of, Samba will expect kdc.

The Samba parameter in line 6 configures the realm; this is normally the domain controller's DNS name, but in upper case letters – that is, KDC.EXAMPLE.ORG in this case.

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