While many applications can support external authentication and identity services through Oauth2, not all services can. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) has been the "universal language" of authentication for many years, with almost every application in the world being able to search and bind to LDAP. As many organisations still rely on LDAP, Kanidm can host a read-only LDAP interface for these legacy applications and services.

Kani Warning Warning!
The LDAP server in Kanidm is not a full LDAP server. This is intentional, as Kanidm wants to cover the common use cases - simple bind and search. The parts we do support are RFC compliant however.

What is LDAP

LDAP is a protocol to read data from a directory of information. It is not a server, but a way to communicate to a server. There are many famous LDAP implementations such as Active Directory, 389 Directory Server, DSEE, FreeIPA, and many others. Because it is a standard, applications can use an LDAP client library to authenticate users to LDAP, given "one account" for many applications - an IDM just like Kanidm!

Data Mapping

Kanidm entries cannot be mapped 100% to LDAP's objects. This is because LDAP types are simple key-values on objects which are all UTF8 strings (or subsets thereof) based on validation (matching) rules. Kanidm internally implements complex structured data types such as tagging on SSH keys, or multi-value credentials. These can not be represented in LDAP.

Many of the structures in Kanidm do not correlate closely to LDAP. For example Kanidm only has a GID number, where LDAP's schemas define both a UID number and a GID number.

Entries in the database also have a specific name in LDAP, related to their path in the directory tree. Kanidm is a flat model, so we have to emulate some tree-like elements, and ignore others.

For this reason, when you search the LDAP interface, Kanidm will make some mapping decisions.

  • The Kanidm domain name is used to generate the DN of the suffix by default.
  • The domain_info object becomes the suffix root.
  • All other entries are direct subordinates of the domain_info for DN purposes.
  • Distinguished Names (DNs) are generated from the spn, name, or uuid attribute.
  • Bind DNs can be remapped and rewritten, and may not even be a DN during bind.

These decisions were made to make the path as simple and effective as possible, relying more on the Kanidm query and filter system rather than attempting to generate a tree-like representation of data. As almost all clients can use filters for entry selection we don't believe this is a limitation for the consuming applications.



StartTLS is not supported due to security risks such as credential leakage and MITM attacks that are fundamental in how StartTLS works. StartTLS can not be repaired to prevent this. LDAPS is the only secure method of communicating to any LDAP server. Kanidm will use its certificates for both HTTPS and LDAPS.


LDAP's structure is too simplistic for writing to the complex entries that Kanidm internally contains. As a result, writes are rejected for all users via the LDAP interface.

Access Controls

LDAP only supports password authentication. As LDAP is used heavily in POSIX environments the LDAP bind for any DN will use its configured posix password.

As the POSIX password is not equivalent in strength to the primary credentials of Kanidm (which in most cases is multi-factor authentication), the LDAP bind does not grant rights to elevated read permissions. All binds have the permissions of "anonymous" even if the anonymous account is locked.

The exception is service accounts which can use api-tokens during an LDAP bind for elevated read permissions.

The ability to bind with the POSIX password can be disabled to prevent password bruteforce attempts. This does not prevent api-token binds.

Filtering Objects

It is recommended that client applications filter accounts that can authenticate with (class=account) and groups with (class=group).

Server Configuration

To configure Kanidm to provide LDAP, add the argument to the server.toml configuration:

ldapbindaddress = ""

You should configure TLS certificates and keys as usual - LDAP will reuse the Web server TLS material.

Showing LDAP Entries and Attribute Maps

By default Kanidm is limited in what attributes are generated or remapped into LDAP entries. However, the server internally contains a map of extended attribute mappings for application specific requests that must be satisfied.

An example is that some applications expect and require a 'CN' value, even though Kanidm does not provide it. If the application is unable to be configured to accept "name" it may be necessary to use Kanidm's mapping feature. Currently these are compiled into the server, so you may need to open an issue with your requirements for attribute maps.

To show what attribute maps exists for an entry you can use the attribute search term '+'.

# To show Kanidm attributes
ldapsearch ... -x '(name=admin)' '*'

# To show all attribute maps
ldapsearch ... -x '(name=admin)' '+'

Attributes that are in the map can be requested explicitly, and this can be combined with requesting Kanidm native attributes.

ldapsearch ... -x '(name=admin)' cn objectClass displayname memberof

Group Memberships

Group membership is defined in rfc2307bis or Active Directory style. This means groups are determined from the "memberof" attribute which contains a DN to a group.

People Accounts

Persons can bind (authenticate) to the LDAP server if they are configured as a posix account and have a valid posix password set.

When a person is bound to the directory, they inherit the permissions of anonymous - not their account. This is because a posix password as single factor authentication is not as secure and should not grant the same privileges as the accounts standard credentials.

Service Accounts

If you have issued api tokens for a service account they can be used to gain extended read permissions for those service accounts.

Api tokens can also be used to gain extended search permissions with LDAP. To do this you can bind with a dn of dn=token and provide the api token in the password.

NOTE The dn=token keyword is guaranteed to not be used by any other entry, which is why it was chosen as the keyword to initiate api token binds.

ldapwhoami -H ldaps://URL -x -D "dn=token" -w "TOKEN"
ldapwhoami -H ldaps://idm.example.com -x -D "dn=token" -w "..."
# u: demo_service@idm.example.com

Changing the Basedn

By default the basedn of the LDAP server is derived from the domain name. For example a domain name of idm.example.com will become dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com.

However, you may wish to change this to something shorter or at a higher level within your domain name.

Kani Warning Warning!
Changing the LDAP Basedn will require you to reconfigure your client applications so they search the correct basedn. Be careful when changing this value!

As an admin you can change the domain ldap basedn with:

kanidm system domain set-ldap-basedn <new basedn>
kanidm system domain set-ldap-basedn o=kanidm -D admin

Basedns are validated to ensure they are either dc=, ou= or o=. They must have one or more of these components and must only contain alphanumeric characters.

After the basedn is changed, the new value will take effect after a server restart. If you have a replicated topology, you must restart all servers.

Disable POSIX Password Binds

If you do not have applications that require LDAP password binds, then you should disable this function to limit access.

kanidm system domain set-ldap-allow-unix-password-bind [true|false]
kanidm system domain set-ldap-allow-unix-password-bind -D admin false


Given a default install with domain "idm.example.com" the configured LDAP DN will be "dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com".

# from server.toml
ldapbindaddress = "[::]:3636"

This can be queried with:

LDAPTLS_CACERT=ca.pem ldapsearch \
    -H ldaps:// \
    -b 'dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com' \
    -x '(name=test1)'

# test1@example.com, idm.example.com
dn: spn=test1@idm.example.com,dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com
objectclass: account
objectclass: memberof
objectclass: object
objectclass: person
objectclass: posixaccount
displayname: Test User
gidnumber: 12345
memberof: spn=group240@idm.example.com,dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com
name: test1
spn: test1@idm.example.com
entryuuid: 22a65b6c-80c8-4e1a-9b76-3f3afdff8400

LDAP binds can use any unique identifier of the account. The following are all valid bind DNs for the object listed above.

ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'name=test1'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'spn=test1@idm.example.com'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'test1@idm.example.com'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'test1'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D '22a65b6c-80c8-4e1a-9b76-3f3afdff8400'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'spn=test1@idm.example.com,dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com'
ldapwhoami ... -x -D 'name=test1,dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com'


Can't contact LDAP Server (-1)

Most LDAP clients are very picky about TLS, and can be very hard to debug or display errors. For example these commands:

ldapsearch -H ldaps:// -b 'dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com' -x '(name=test1)'
ldapsearch -H ldap:// -b 'dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com' -x '(name=test1)'
ldapsearch -H ldap:// -b 'dc=idm,dc=example,dc=com' -x '(name=test1)'

All give the same error:

ldap_sasl_bind(SIMPLE): Can't contact LDAP server (-1)

This is despite the fact:

  • The first command is a certificate validation error.
  • The second is a missing LDAPS on a TLS port.
  • The third is an incorrect port.

To diagnose errors like this, you may need to add "-d 1" to your LDAP commands or client.