Security domains are a method of grouping multiple realms under the same domain so that the Elastic Stack can recognize when a single user authenticates with these realms. Users can authenticate with any of the realms in the domain group, and have access to the same set of resources regardless of which realm they authenticated with.
For example, a single user profile is associated with a user, enabling preferences, notifications, and other user data to be shared across realms. The user can view results from an asynchronous search request or a scrolling search across realms. If the user has the necessary privileges, they can also view and manage API keys across realms.
Some types of resources in Elasticsearch are owned by a single user, such as async search contexts, API keys, and user profiles. When a user creates a resource, Elasticsearch captures the user’s username and realm information as part of the resource’s metadata. Likewise, if a user updates a resource, such as an API key, Elasticsearch automatically re-captures the user’s current realm information.
When a user later attempts to access the resource, Elasticsearch compares the captured username and realm information against those from the accessing user. Elasticsearch will deny access unless both the realm and username match. If Elasticsearch detects that a username from two different realms is attempting to access a resource, Elasticsearch assumes that these users are distinct and doesn’t allow resources to be shared between those users.
However, there are cases where the same user can authenticate with multiple realms and needs to share the same set of resources across realms. For example, an LDAP realm and a SAML realm can be backed by the same directory service. Additionally, authorization delegation allows one realm to delegate authorization to another realm. If both realms authenticate users with the same username, it’s reasonable to treat these users as the same user from a resource ownership perspective.
Security domains make resource sharing across realms possible by grouping those
realms under the same domain. Elasticsearch always enforces the privileges that are
associated with the currently authenticated user, which remains true with
security domains. Security domains don’t bypass
user authorization when resource sharing requires them. For
example, a user requires the
manage_own_api_key privilege to manage their own
API keys. If that user doesn’t have this privilege when authenticating with one
realm, they won’t be able to manage API keys while authenticating with another
Elasticsearch provides multiple ways to consistently apply roles across realms. For example, you can use authorization delegation to ensure that a user is assigned the same roles from multiple realms. You can also manually configure multiple realms that are backed by the same directory service. Though it’s possible to configure different roles for the same user when authenticating with different realms, it is not recommended.
Security domains must be configured consistently across all nodes in cluster. Inconsistent configuration can lead to issues such as:
- Duplicated user profiles
- Different ownership of resources depending on the authenticating node’s configuration
To configure a security domain:
Add a security domain configuration to
This configuration defines a security domain called
my_domain, which contains two realms named
The specified realms must be defined in
elasticsearch.yml, but do not need to be enabled.
Elasticsearch can fail to start if the domain configuration is invalid, such as:
- The same realm is configured under multiple domains.
- Any undefined realm, synthetic realm, or the reserved realm is configured to be under a domain.
Apply the same configuration across all nodes in the cluster before performing operations related to security domains, including creating and managing resources such as user profiles, API keys, and async search.
When adding realms to a security domain, avoid authenticating with a newly-added realm until changes are fully applied to all nodes.
Removing realms from a security domain can lead to unexpected behaviors and is not recommended. Resources created or updated before the removal can be owned by different users depending on the resource type:
- User profiles are owned by the user for whom the profile was last activated. For users whose realms are no longer in the same domain as the owner user, a new user profile will be created for them next time the activate user profile API is called.
- An API key is owned by the user who originally created or last updated it. Users, including the original creator of the API key, will lose ownership if their realms are no longer in the same domain as those of the current API key owner.
- Resources such as async search contexts are owned by the user who originally created them.
Instead of removing realms, consider disabling them and keeping them as part of the security domain. Under all circumstances, resource sharing across realms is only possible between users with the same username.