Accounts and groups

Accounts and Groups are the primary reasons for Kanidm to exist. Kanidm is optimised as a repository for these data. As a result, there are many concepts and important details to understand.

Service Accounts vs Person Accounts

Kanidm seperates accounts into two types. Person accounts (or persons) are intended for use by humans that will access the system in an interactive way. Service accounts are intended for use by computers or services that need to identify themself to Kanidm. Generally a person or group of persons will be responsible for and will manage service accounts. Because of this distinction these classes of accounts have different properties and methods of authentication and management.


Groups represent a collection of entities. This generally is a collection of persons or service accounts. Groups are commonly used to assign privileges to the accounts that are members of a group. This allows easier administration over larger systems where privileges can be assigned to groups in a logical manner, and then only membership of the groups need administration, rather than needing to assign privileges to each entity directly and uniquely.

Groups may also be nested, where a group can contain another group as a member. This allows hierarchies to be created again for easier administration.

Default Accounts and Groups

Kanidm ships with a number of default service accounts and groups. This is to give you the best out-of-box experience possible, as well as supplying best practice examples related to modern Identity Management (IDM) systems.

There are two builtin system administration accounts.

admin is the default service account which has privileges to configure and administer kanidm as a whole. This account can manage access controls, schema, integrations and more. However the admin can not manage persons by default to seperate the priviliges. As this is a service account is is intended for limited use.

idm_admin is the default service account which has privileges to create persons and to manage these accounts and groups. They can perform credential resets and more.

Both the admin and the idm_admin user should NOT be used for daily activities - they exist for initial system configuration, and for disaster recovery scenarios. You should delegate permissions as required to named user accounts instead.

The majority of the builtin groups are privilige groups that provide rights over Kanidm administrative actions. These include groups for account management, person management (personal and sensitive data), group management, and more.

Recovering the Initial Admin Accounts

By default the admin and idm_admin accounts have no password, and can not be accessed. They need to be "recovered" from the server that is running the kanidmd server.

Kani Warning Warning!
The server must not be running at this point, as it requires exclusive access to the database.
kanidmd recover_account admin -c /etc/kanidm/server.toml
# Successfully recovered account 'admin' - password reset to -> j9YUv...

To do this with Docker, you'll need to stop the existing container and use the "command" argument to access the kanidmd binary.

docker run --rm -it \
    --name kanidmd \
    --hostname kanidmd \
    kanidm/server:latest \
    kanidmd recover_account admin -c /data/server.toml

After the recovery is complete the server can be started again.

Once you have access to the admin account, it is able to reset the credentials of the idm_admin account.

kanidm login -D admin
kanidm service-account credential generate-pw -D admin idm_admin
# Success: wJX...

These accounts will be used through the remainder of this document for managing the server.

Viewing Default Groups

You should take some time to inspect the default groups which are related to default permissions. These can be viewed with:

kanidm group list
kanidm group get <name>

Creating Person Accounts

By default idm_admin has the privileges to create new persons in the system.

kanidm login --name idm_admin
kanidm account create demo_user "Demonstration User" --name idm_admin
kanidm account get demo_user --name idm_admin

kanidm group create demo_group --name idm_admin
kanidm group add_members demo_group demo_user --name idm_admin
kanidm group list_members demo_group --name idm_admin

You can also use anonymous to view accounts and groups - note that you won't see certain fields due to the limits of the access control anonymous access profile.

kanidm login --name anonymous
kanidm account get demo_user --name anonymous

Kanidm allows person accounts to include human related attributes, such as their legal name and email address.

Initially, a person does not have these attributes. If desired, a person may be modified to have these attributes.

# Note, both the --legalname and --mail flags may be omitted
kanidm account person update demo_user --legalname "initial name" --mail "initial@email.address"
Kani Warning Warning!
Persons may change their own displayname, name, and legal name at any time. You MUST NOT use these values as primary keys in external systems. You MUST use the `uuid` attribute present on all entries as an external primary key.

Resetting Person Account Credentials

Members of the idm_account_manage_priv group have the rights to manage person and service accounts security and login aspects. This includes resetting account credentials.

You can perform a password reset on the demo_user, for example as the idm_admin user, who is a default member of this group. The lines below prefixed with # are the interactive credential update interface.

kanidm account credential update demo_user --name idm_admin
# spn:
# Name: Demonstration User
# Primary Credential:
# uuid: 0e19cd08-f943-489e-8ff2-69f9eacb1f31
# generated password: set
# Can Commit: true
# cred update (? for help) # : pass
# New password: 
# New password: [hidden]
# Confirm password: 
# Confirm password: [hidden]
# success
# cred update (? for help) # : commit
# Do you want to commit your changes? yes
# success
kanidm login --name demo_user
kanidm self whoami --name demo_user

Creating Service Accounts

The admin service account can be used to create service accounts.

kanidm service-account create demo_service "Demonstration Service" --name admin
kanidm service-account get demo_service --name admin

Using API Tokens with Service Accounts

Service accounts can have api tokens generated and associated with them. These tokens can be used for identification of the service account, and for granting extended access rights where the service account may previously have not had the access. Additionally service accounts can have expiry times and other auditing information attached.

To show api tokens for a service account:

kanidm service-account api-token status --name admin ACCOUNT_ID
kanidm service-account api-token status --name admin demo_service

By default api tokens are issued to be "read only", so they are unable to make changes on behalf of the service account they represent. To generate a new read only api token:

kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin ACCOUNT_ID LABEL [EXPIRY]
kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin demo_service "Test Token"
kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin demo_service "Test Token" 2020-09-25T11:22:02+10:00

If you wish to issue a token that is able to make changes on behalf of the service account, you must add the "--rw" flag during the generate command. It is recommended you only add --rw when the api-token is performing writes to Kanidm.

kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin ACCOUNT_ID LABEL [EXPIRY] --rw
kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin demo_service "Test Token" --rw
kanidm service-account api-token generate --name admin demo_service "Test Token" 2020-09-25T11:22:02+10:00 --rw

To destroy (revoke) an api token you will need it's token id. This can be shown with the "status" command.

kanidm service-account api-token destroy --name admin ACCOUNT_ID TOKEN_ID
kanidm service-account api-token destroy --name admin demo_service 4de2a4e9-e06a-4c5e-8a1b-33f4e7dd5dc7

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

ldapwhoami -H ldaps://URL -x -D "" -w "TOKEN"
ldapwhoami -H ldaps:// -x -D "" -w "..."
# u:

Resetting Service Account Credentials (Deprecated)

Kani Warning
Api Tokens are a better method to manage credentials for service accounts, and passwords may be removed in the future!

Service accounts can not have their credentials interactively updated in the same manner as persons. Service accounts may only have server side generated high entropy passwords.

To re-generate this password to an account

kanidm service-account credential generate-pw demo_service --name admin

Nested Groups

Kanidm supports groups being members of groups, allowing nested groups. These nesting relationships are shown through the "memberof" attribute on groups and accounts.

Kanidm makes all group membership determinations by inspecting an entry's "memberof" attribute.

An example can be easily shown with:

kanidm group create group_1 --name idm_admin
kanidm group create group_2 --name idm_admin
kanidm account create nest_example "Nesting Account Example" --name idm_admin
kanidm group add_members group_1 group_2 --name idm_admin
kanidm group add_members group_2 nest_example --name idm_admin
kanidm account get nest_example --name anonymous

Account Validity

Kanidm supports accounts that are only able to authenticate between a pair of dates and times; the "valid from" and "expires" timestamps define these points in time.

This can be displayed with:

kanidm account validity show demo_user --name idm_admin
valid after: 2020-09-25T21:22:04+10:00
expire: 2020-09-25T01:22:04+10:00

These datetimes are stored in the server as UTC, but presented according to your local system time to aid correct understanding of when the events will occur.

To set the values, an account with account management permission is required (for example, idm_admin).

You may set these time and date values in any timezone you wish (such as your local timezone), and the server will transform these to UTC. These time values are in iso8601 format, and you should specify this as:

Year-Month-Day T hour:minutes:seconds Z +- timezone offset

Set the earliest time the account can start authenticating:

kanidm account validity begin_from demo_user '2020-09-25T11:22:04+00:00' --name idm_admin

Set the expiry or end date of the account:

kanidm account validity expire_at demo_user '2020-09-25T11:22:04+00:00' --name idm_admin

To unset or remove these values the following can be used, where any|clear means you may use either any or clear.

kanidm account validity begin_from demo_user any|clear --name idm_admin
kanidm account validity expire_at demo_user never|clear --name idm_admin

To "lock" an account, you can set the expire_at value to the past, or unix epoch. Even in the situation where the "valid from" is after the expire_at, the expire_at will be respected.

kanidm account validity expire_at demo_user 1970-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 --name idm_admin

These validity settings impact all authentication functions of the account (kanidm, ldap, radius).

Allowing people accounts to change their mail attribute

By default, Kanidm allows an account to change some attributes, but not their mail address.

Adding the user to the idm_people_self_write_mail group, as shown below, allows the user to edit their own mail.

kanidm group add_members idm_people_self_write_mail_priv demo_user --name idm_admin

Why Can't I Change admin With idm_admin?

As a security mechanism there is a distinction between "accounts" and "high permission accounts". This is to help prevent elevation attacks, where say a member of a service desk could attempt to reset the password of idm_admin or admin, or even a member of HR or System Admin teams to move laterally.

Generally, membership of a "privilege" group that ships with Kanidm, such as:

  • idm_account_manage_priv
  • idm_people_read_priv
  • idm_schema_manage_priv
  • many more ...

...indirectly grants you membership to "idm_high_privilege". If you are a member of this group, the standard "account" and "people" rights groups are NOT able to alter, read or manage these accounts. To manage these accounts higher rights are required, such as those held by the admin account are required.

Further, groups that are considered "idm_high_privilege" can NOT be managed by the standard "idm_group_manage_priv" group.

Management of high privilege accounts and groups is granted through the the "hp" variants of all privileges. A non-conclusive list:

  • idm_hp_account_read_priv
  • idm_hp_account_manage_priv
  • idm_hp_account_write_priv
  • idm_hp_group_manage_priv
  • idm_hp_group_write_priv

Membership of any of these groups should be considered to be equivalent to system administration rights in the directory, and by extension, over all network resources that trust Kanidm.

All groups that are flagged as "idm_high_privilege" should be audited and monitored to ensure that they are not altered.