Copyright 2005-2010, 2014-2015, 2017 Russ Allbery firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2009-2011 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Copyright 2005 Andres Salomon email@example.com. Copyright 1999-2000 Frank Cusack firstname.lastname@example.org. This software is distributed under a BSD-style license. Please see the section License below for more information.
pam-krb5 is a Kerberos PAM module for either MIT Kerberos or Heimdal. It supports ticket refreshing by screen savers, configurable authorization handling, authentication of non-local accounts for network services, password changing, and password expiration, as well as all the standard expected PAM features. It works correctly with OpenSSH, even with ChallengeResponseAuthentication and PrivilegeSeparation enabled, and supports extensive configuration either by PAM options or in krb5.conf or both. PKINIT is supported with recent versions of both MIT Kerberos and Heimdal and FAST is supported with recent MIT Kerberos.
pam-krb5 provides a Kerberos PAM module that supports authentication, user ticket cache handling, simple authorization (via .k5login or checking Kerberos principals against local usernames), and password changing. It can be configured through either options in the PAM configuration itself or through entries in the system krb5.conf file, and it tries to work around PAM implementation flaws in commonly-used PAM-enabled applications such as OpenSSH and xdm. It supports both PKINIT and FAST to the extent that the underlying Kerberos libraries support these features.
This is not the Kerberos PAM module maintained on Sourceforge and used on Red Hat systems. It is an independent implementation that, if it ever shared any common code, diverged long ago. It supports some features that the Sourceforge module does not (particularly around authorization), and does not support some options (particularly ones not directly related to Kerberos) that it does. This module will never support Kerberos v4 or AFS. For an AFS session module that works with this module (or any other Kerberos PAM module), see pam-afs-session.
If there are other options besides AFS and Kerberos v4 support from the Sourceforge PAM module that you're missing in this module, please let me know.
Either MIT Kerberos (or Kerberos implementations based on it) or Heimdal are supported. MIT Keberos 1.3 or later may be required; this module has not been tested with earlier versions.
For PKINIT support, Heimdal 0.8rc1 or later or MIT Kerberos 1.6.3 or later are required. Earlier MIT Kerberos 1.6 releases have a bug in their handling of PKINIT options.
For FAST (Flexible Authentication Secure Tunneling) support, MIT Kerberos 1.7 or higher is required. For anonymous FAST support, anonymous authentication (generally anonymous PKINIT) support is required in both the Kerberos libraries and in the local KDC.
This module should work on Linux and Solaris (and build with gcc, clang, or the Sun C compiler), but has been far more heavily tested on Linux. There is beta-quality support for the AIX NAS Kerberos implementation. Other PAM implementations will probably require some porting, although untested build system support is present for FreeBSD, Mac OS X, and HP-UX. I personally can only test on Linux and rely on others to report problems on other operating systems.
Old versions of OpenSSH are known to call
pam_authenticate followed by
pam_setcred(PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED) without first calling
pam_open_session, thereby requesting that an existing ticket cache be
renewed (similar to what a screensaver would want) rather than requesting
a new ticket cache be created. Since this behavior is indistinguishable
at the PAM level from a screensaver, pam-krb5 when used with these old
versions of OpenSSH will refresh the ticket cache of the OpenSSH daemon
rather than setting up a new ticket cache for the user. The resulting
ticket cache will have the correct permissions (this is not a security
concern), but will not be named correctly or referenced in the user's
environment and will be overwritten by the next user login. The best
solution to this problem is to upgrade OpenSSH. I'm not sure exactly when
this problem was fixed, but at the very least OpenSSH 4.3 and later do not
To bootstrap from a Git checkout, or if you change the Automake files and need to regenerate Makefile.in, you will need Automake 1.11 or later. For bootstrap or if you change configure.ac or any of the m4 files it includes and need to regenerate configure or config.h.in, you will need Autoconf 2.64 or later. Perl is also required to generate manual pages from a fresh Git checkout.
Building and Installation
You can build and install pam-krb5 with the standard commands:
./configure make make install
If you are building from a Git clone, first run
./bootstrap in the
source directory to generate the build files.
make install will
probably have to be done as root. Building outside of the source
directory is also supported, if you wish, by creating an empty directory
and then running configure with the correct relative path.
The module will be installed in
/usr/local/lib/security by default,
except on 64-bit versions of Linux which will use
/usr/local/lib64/security to match the default PAM configuration. You
can change the installation locations with the
--libdir options to configure. The module will always be installed in a
security under the specified libdir. On Linux, use
--prefix=/usr to install the man page into
/usr/share/man and the PAM
Normally, configure will use
krb5-config to determine the flags to use
to compile with your Kerberos libraries. To specify a particular
krb5-config script to use, either set the
variable or pass it to configure like:
krb5-config isn't found, configure will look for the standard
Kerberos libraries in locations already searched by your compiler. If the
krb5-config script first in your path is not the one corresponding
to the Kerberos libraries you want to use, or if your Kerberos libraries
and includes aren't in a location searched by default by your compiler,
you need to specify a different Kerberos installation root via
--with-krb5=PATH. For example:
You can also individually set the paths to the include directory and the
library directory with
may need to do this if Autoconf can't figure out whether to use lib,
lib32, or lib64 on your platform.
To not use krb5-config and force library probing even if there is a krb5-config script on your path, set PATH_KRB5_CONFIG to a nonexistent path:
krb5-config is not used and library probing is always done if either
--with-krb5-lib are given.
--enable-silent-rules to configure for a quieter build (similar to
the Linux kernel). Use
make warnings instead of
make to build with
full GCC compiler warnings (requires a relatively current version of GCC).
You can pass the
--enable-reduced-depends flag to configure to try to
minimize the shared library dependencies encoded in the binaries. This
omits from the link line all the libraries included solely because other
libraries depend on them and instead links the programs only against
libraries whose APIs are called directly. This will only work with shared
libraries and will only work on platforms where shared libraries properly
encode their own dependencies (this includes most modern platforms such as
all Linux). It is intended primarily for building packages for Linux
distributions to avoid encoding unnecessary shared library dependencies
that make shared library migrations more difficult. If none of the above
made any sense to you, don't bother with this flag.
pam-krb5 comes with a comprehensive test suite, but it requires some configuration in order to test anything other than low-level utility functions. For the full test suite, you will need to have a running KDC in which you can create two test accounts, one with admin access to the other. Using a test KDC environment, if you have one, is recommended.
Follow the instructions in
tests/config/README to configure the test
Now, you can run the test suite with:
If a test fails, you can run a single test with verbose output via:
tests/runtests -o <name-of-test>
Do this instead of running the test program directly since it will ensure that necessary environment variables are set up.
The default libkadm5clnt library on the system must match the implementation of your KDC for the module/expired test to work, since the two kadmin protocols are not compatible. If you use the MIT library against a Heimdal server, the test will be skipped; if you use the Heimdal library against an MIT server, the test suite may hang.
module/expired tests are expected to fail with Heimdal 1.5 due
to a bug in Heimdal with reauthenticating immediately after a
library-mediated password change of an expired password. This is fixed in
later releases of Heimdal.
Just installing the module does not enable it or change anything about your system authentication configuration. To use the module for all system authentication on Debian systems, put something like:
auth sufficient pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=1000 auth required pam_unix.so try_first_pass nullok_secure
/etc/pam.d/common-auth, something like:
session optional pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=1000 session required pam_unix.so
/etc/pam.d/common-session, and something like:
account required pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=1000 account required pam_unix.so
minimum_uid setting tells the PAM
module to pass on any users with a UID lower than 1000, thereby bypassing
Kerberos authentication for the root account and any system accounts. You
normally want to do this since otherwise, if the network is down, the
Kerberos authentication can time out and make it difficult to log in as
root and fix matters. This also avoids problems with Kerberos principals
that happen to match system accounts accidentally getting access to those
Be sure to include the module in the session group as well as the auth group. Without the session entry, the user's ticket cache will not be created properly for ssh logins (among possibly others).
If your users should normally all use Kerberos passwords exclusively, putting something like:
password sufficient pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=1000 password required pam_unix.so try_first_pass obscure md5
/etc/pam.d/common-password will change users' passwords in Kerberos
by default and then only fall back on Unix if that doesn't work. (You can
make this tighter by using the more complex new-style PAM configuration.)
If you instead want to synchronize local and Kerberos passwords and change
them both at the same time, you can do something like:
password required pam_unix.so obscure sha512 password required pam_krb5.so use_authtok minimum_uid=1000
If you have multiple environments that you want to synchronize and you
don't want password changes to continue if the Kerberos password change
fails, use the
clear_on_fail option. For example:
password required pam_krb5.so clear_on_fail minimum_uid=1000 password required pam_unix.so use_authtok obscure sha512 password required pam_smbpass.so use_authtok
In this case, if
pam_krb5 cannot change the password (due to password
strength rules on the KDC, for example), it will clear the stored password
(because of the
clear_on_fail option), and since
pam_smbpass are both configured with
use_authtok, they will both fail.
clear_on_fail is not the default because it would interfere with the
more common pattern of falling back to local passwords if the user doesn't
exist in Kerberos.
If you use a more complex configuration with the Linux PAM
 syntax for
the session and account groups, note that
pam_krb5 returns a status of
ignore, not success, if the user didn't log on with Kerberos. You may
need to handle that explicitly with
ignore=ignore in your action list.
There are many, many other possibilities. See the Linux PAM documentation for all the configuration options.
On Red Hat systems, modify
/etc/pam.d/system-auth instead, which
contains all of the configuration for the different stacks.
You can also use pam-krb5 only for specific services. In that case,
modify the files in
/etc/pam.d for that particular service to use
pam_krb5.so for authentication. For services that are using passwords
over TLS to authenticate users, you may want to use the
no_ccache options to the authenticate module.
authorization is only meaningful for local accounts and ticket caches are
usually (although not always) only useful for interactive sessions.
Configuring the module for Solaris is both simpler and less flexible,
since Solaris (at least Solaris 8 and 9, which are the last versions of
Solaris with which this module was extensively tested) use a single
/etc/pam.conf file that contains configuration for all programs. For
console login on Solaris, try something like:
login auth sufficient /usr/local/lib/security/pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=100 login auth required /usr/lib/security/pam_unix_auth.so.1 use_first_pass login account required /usr/local/lib/security/pam_krb5.so minimum_uid=100 login account required /usr/lib/security/pam_unix_account.so.1 login session required /usr/local/lib/security/pam_krb5.so retain_after_close minimum_uid=100 login session required /usr/lib/security/pam_unix_session.so.1
A similar configuration could be used for other services, such as ssh.
See the pam.conf(5) man page for more information. When using this module
with Solaris login (at least on Solaris 8 and 9), you will probably also
need to add
retain_after_close to the PAM configuration to avoid having
the user's credentials deleted before they are logged in.
The Solaris Kerberos library reportedly does not support prompting for a
password change of an expired account during authentication. Supporting
password change for expired accounts on Solaris with native Kerberos may
therefore require setting the
for selected login applications. See the description and warnings about
that option in the pam_krb5(5) man page.
Some configuration options may be put in the
krb5.conf file used by your
Kerberos libraries (usually
/usr/local/etc/krb5.conf) instead or in addition to the PAM
configuration. See the man page for more details.
The Kerberos library, via pam-krb5, will prompt the user to change their
password if their password is expired, but when using OpenSSH, this will
only work when
ChallengeResponseAuthentication is enabled. Unless this
option is enabled, OpenSSH doesn't pass PAM messages to the user and can
only respond to a simple password prompt.
If you are using MIT Kerberos, be aware that users whose passwords are
expired will not be prompted to change their password unless the KDC
configuration for your realm in
krb5.conf contains a
master_kdc setting or, if using DNS SRV records, you have a DNS entry
_kerberos-master as well as
The first step when debugging any problems with this module is to add
debug to the PAM options for the module (either in the PAM configuration
krb5.conf). This will significantly increase the logging from the
module and should provide a trace of exactly what failed and any available
Many Kerberos authentication problems are due to configuration issues in
krb5.conf. If pam-krb5 doesn't work, first check that
kinit works on
the same system. That will test your basic Kerberos configuration. If
the system has a keytab file installed that's readable by the process
doing authentication via PAM, make sure that the keytab is current and
contains a key for
host/<system> where is the fully-qualified
hostname. pam-krb5 prevents KDC spoofing by checking the user's
credentials when possible, but this means that if a keytab is present it
must be correct or authentication will fail. You can check the keytab
klist -k and
Be sure that all libraries and modules, including PAM modules, loaded by a program use the same Kerberos libraries. Sometimes programs that use PAM, such as current versions of OpenSSH, also link against Kerberos directly. If your sshd is linked against one set of Kerberos libraries and pam-krb5 is linked against a different set of Kerberos libraries, this will often cause problems (such as segmentation faults, bus errors, assertions, or other strange behavior). Similar issues apply to the com_err library or any other library used by both modules and shared libraries and by the application that loads them. If your OS ships Kerberos libraries, it's usually best if possible to build all Kerberos software on the system against those libraries.
The normal sequence of actions taken for a user login is:
pam_authenticate pam_setcred(PAM_ESTABLISH_CRED) pam_open_session pam_acct_mgmt
and then at logout:
followed by closing the open PAM session. The corresponding
functions in this module are called when an application calls those public
interface functions. Not all applications call all of those functions, or
in particularly that order, although
pam_authenticate is always first
and has to be.
pam_authenticate is called, pam-krb5 creates a temporary ticket
/tmp and sets the PAM environment variable
point to it. This ticket cache will be automatically destroyed when the
PAM session is closed and is there only to pass the initial credentials to
the call to
pam_setcred. The module would use a memory cache, but
memory caches will only work if the application preserves the PAM
environment between the calls to
Most do, but OpenSSH notoriously does not and calls
a subprocess, so this method is used to pass the tickets to the
pam_setcred call in a different process.
pam_authenticate does a complete authentication, including checking the
resulting TGT by obtaining a service ticket for the local host if
possible, but this requires read access to the system keytab. If the
keytab doesn't exist, can't be read, or doesn't include the appropriate
credentials, the default is to accept the authentication. This can be
controlled by setting
verify_ap_req_nofail to true in
pam_authenticate also does a basic authorization
check, by default calling
krb5_kuserok (which uses
available and falls back to checking that the principal corresponds to the
account name). This can be customized with several options documented in
the pam_krb5(5) man page.
as synonymous, as some applications call one and some call the other.
Both copy the initial credentials from the temporary cache into a
permanent cache for this session and set
KRB5CCNAME in the environment.
It will remember when the credential cache has been established and then
avoid doing any duplicate work afterwards, since some applications call
pam_open_session multiple times (most notably X.Org 7
and earlier xdm, which also throws away the module settings the last time
it calls them).
pam_acct_mgmt finds the ticket cache, reads it in to obtain the
authenticated principal, and then does is another authorization check
.k5login or the local account name as described above.
After the call to
pam_open_session, the ticket cache
will be destroyed whenever the calling application either destroys the PAM
environment or calls
pam_close_session, which it should do on user
The normal sequence of events when refreshing a ticket cache (such as inside a screensaver) is:
pam_authenticate pam_setcred(PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED) pam_acct_mgmt
PAM_REFRESH_CRED may be used instead.) Authentication proceeds as
above. At the
pam_setcred stage, rather than creating a new ticket
cache, the module instead finds the current ticket cache (from the
KRB5CCNAME environment variable or the default ticket cache location
from the Kerberos library) and then reinitializes it with the credentials
from the temporary
pam_authenticate ticket cache. When refreshing a
ticket cache, the application should not open a session. Calling
pam_acct_mgmt is optional; pam-krb5 doesn't do anything different when
it's called in this case.
pam_authenticate apparently didn't succeed, or if an account was
configured to be ignored via
PAM_IGNORE, which tells the PAM library to proceed as if that module
wasn't listed in the PAM configuration at all.
however, returns failure in the ignored user case by default, since
otherwise a configuration using
ignore_root with pam-krb5 as the only
PAM module would allow anyone to log in as root without a password. There
doesn't appear to be a case where returning
PAM_IGNORE instead would
improve the module's behavior, but if you know of a case, please let me
pam_authenticate intentionally does not follow the PAM
standard for handling expired accounts and instead returns failure from
pam_authenticate unless the Kerberos libraries are able to change the
account password during authentication. Too many applications either do
pam_acct_mgmt or ignore its exit status. The fully correct PAM
behavior (returning success from
pam_acct_mgmt) can be enabled with the
defer_pwchange option is unfortunately somewhat tricky to implement.
In this case, the calling sequence is:
pam_authenticate pam_acct_mgmt pam_chauthtok pam_setcred pam_open_session
During the first
pam_authenticate, we can't obtain credentials and
therefore a ticket cache since the password is expired. But
pam_authenticate isn't called again after
pam_chauthtok has to create a ticket cache. We however don't want it to
do this for the normal password change (
What we do is set a flag in our PAM data structure saying that we're
processing an expired password, and
pam_chauthtok, if it sees that flag,
redoes the authentication with password prompting disabled after it
finishes changing the password.
Unfortunately, when handling password changes this way,
will always have to prompt the user for their current password again even
though they just typed it. This is because the saved authentication
tokens are cleared after
pam_authenticate returns, for security reasons.
We could hack around this by saving the password in our PAM data
structure, but this would let the application gain access to it (exactly
what the clearing is intended to prevent) and breaks a PAM library
guarantee. We could also work around this by having
kadmin/changepw authenticator in the expired password case and
store it for
pam_chauthtok, but it doesn't seem worth the hassle.
History and Acknowledgements
Originally written by Frank Cusack email@example.com, with the following acknowledgement:
Thanks to Naomaru Itoi firstname.lastname@example.org, Curtis King email@example.com, and Derrick Brashear firstname.lastname@example.org, all of whom have written and made available Kerberos 4/5 modules. Although no code in this module is directly from these author's modules, (except the get_user_info() routine in support.c; derived from whichever of these authors originally wrote the first module the other 2 copied from), it was extremely helpful to look over their code which aided in my design.
The module was then patched for the FreeBSD ports collection with additional modifications by unknown maintainers and then was modified by Joel Kociolek email@example.com to be usable with Debian GNU/Linux.
It was packaged by Sam Hartman as the Kerberos v5 PAM module for Debian and improved and modified by him and later by Russ Allbery to fix bugs and add additional features. It was then adopted by Andres Salomon, who added support for refreshing credentials.
The current distribution is maintained by Russ Allbery, who also added
support for reading configuration from
krb5.conf, added many features
for compatibility with the Sourceforge module, commented and standardized
the formatting of the code, and overhauled the documentation.
Thanks to Douglas E. Engert for the initial implementation of PKINIT support. I have since modified and reworked it extensively, so any bugs or compilation problems are my fault.
Thanks to Markus Moeller for lots of debugging and multiple patches and suggestions for improved portability.
Thanks to Booker Bense for the implementation of the
Thanks to Sam Hartman for the FAST support implementation.
The pam-krb5 web page will always have the current version of this package, the current documentation, and pointers to any additional resources.
For bug tracking, use the issue tracker on GitHub. However, please be aware that I tend to be extremely busy and work projects often take priority. I'll save your report and get to it as soon as I can, but it may take me a couple of months.
pam-krb5 is maintained using Git. You can access the current source on GitHub or by cloning the repository at:
The eyrie.org repository is the canonical one, maintained by the author, but using GitHub is probably more convenient for most purposes. Pull requests are gratefully reviewed and normally accepted.
The pam-krb5 package as a whole is covered by the following copyright statement and license:
Copyright 2005-2010, 2014-2015, 2017 Russ Allbery firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2009-2011 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
Copyright 2005 Andres Salomon email@example.com
Copyright 1999-2000 Frank Cusack firstname.lastname@example.org
Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:
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