Looking up users without authenticationedit

Elasticsearch realms exist primarily to support user authentication. Some realms authenticate users with a password (such as the native and ldap realms), and other realms use more complex authentication protocols (such as the saml and oidc realms). In each case, the primary purpose of the realm is to establish the identity of the user who has made a request to the Elasticsearch API.

However, some Elasticsearch features need to look up a user without using their credentials.

  • The run_as feature executes requests on behalf of another user. An authenticated user with run_as privileges can perform requests on behalf of another unauthenticated user.
  • The delegated authorization feature links two realms together so that a user who authenticates against one realm can have the roles and metadata associated with a user from a different realm.

In each of these cases, a user must first authenticate to one realm and then Elasticsearch will query the second realm to find another user. The authenticated user credentials are used to authenticate in the first realm only, The user in the second realm is retrieved by username, without needing credentials.

When Elasticsearch resolves a user using their credentials (as performed in the first realm), it is known as user authentication.

When Elasticsearch resolves a user using the username only (as performed in the second realm), it is known as user lookup.

See the run_as and delegated authorization documentation to learn more about these features, including which realms and authentication methods support run_as or delegated authorization. In both cases, only the following realms can be used for the user lookup:

  • The reserved, native and file realms always support user lookup.
  • The ldap realm supports user lookup when the realm is configured in user search mode. User lookup is not support when the realm is configured with user_dn_templates.
  • User lookup support in the active_directory realm requires that the realm be configured with a bind_dn and a bind password.

The pki, saml, oidc, kerberos and jwt realms do not support user lookup.

If you want to use a realm only for user lookup and prevent users from authenticating against that realm, you can configure the realm and set authentication.enabled to false

The user lookup feature is an internal capability that is used to implement the run-as and delegated authorization features - there are no APIs for user lookup. If you wish to test your user lookup configuration, then you can do this with run_as. Use the Authenticate API, authenticate as a superuser (e.g. the builtin elastic user) and specify the es-security-runas-user request header.

The Get users API and User profiles feature are alternative ways to retrieve information about a Elastic Stack user. Those APIs are not related to the user lookup feature.