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LDAP authentication


This is a first draft and might not work on your system. It has been tested on a Debian 11 installation with prosody 0.11 and authenticates against an OpenLDAP directory.

If you want to authenticate your users against an LDAP directory instead of the local Prosody user database, you can use the Cyrus SASL package. Using this package you might be able to validate user-supplied credentials against other sources, such as PAM, SQL and more - but this is beyond this article.


Before following this article, make sure you have set up Prosody as described in Authentication (Secure Domain) first.

Required packages

On Debian systems you need to install some required packages:

sudo apt-get install sasl2-bin libsasl2-modules-ldap lua-cyrussasl
sudo prosodyctl install --server= mod_auth_cyrus

The first two packages are necessary for Cyrus' saslauthd and allow it to connect to an LDAP directory. The lua-cyrussasl-package allows Prosody to access Cyrus SASL.

Installing the mod_auth_cyrus module is neccessary because support for Cyrus SASL has been removed from mainline Prosody and placed in the community module repository.

Install and set up Cyrus SASL

The following options define a basic LDAP configuration. A full set of possible options can be found in LDAP_SASLAUTHD.

By default Cyrus' saslauthd searches for its LDAP configuration in /etc/saslauthd.conf. So create this file and enter something similar to define your LDAP environment:

ldap_servers: ldaps://
ldap_bind_pw: topsecret
ldap_auth_method: bind
ldap_search_base: ou=people,dc=example,dc=com

One omitted option you might want to look into is ldap_filter which defaults to uid=%u and should work for a lot of systems. If you are using a Samba or Microsoft AD instance as your LDAP server you may need to change this to ldap_filter: (sAMAccountName=%U) as uid is NULL by default many configurations. You can also use the ldap_filter to allow only specific users access. For more details on this and other options see the LDAP_SASLAUTHD document linked above.

Please note that Prosody may experience issues with usernames containing the "@"-symbol. You can work around this issue by changing uid=%u to uid=%U, which is defined as the "user portion of %u (%U = test when %u = test@domain.tld)"

Test LDAP authentication

To test if the LDAP configuration is working, you can start saslauthd in debug mode while specifying the mandatory LDAP authentication mechanism:

sudo saslauthd -d -a ldap

The test utility for the SASL authentication server can then be used in a secondary terminal. Replace user and password with credentials stored in LDAP.

sudo testsaslauthd -u user -p password
0: OK "Success."

sudo testsaslauthd -u user -p wrongpassword
0: NO "authentication failed"

After testing, you can stop saslauthd using ctrl-c.

Enable the saslauthd service

You will need to edit the /etc/default/saslauthd to enable the saslauthd service to run at boot and have it use LDAP for authentication. You can use sed to do this quickly.

sudo sed -i -e "s/START=.*/START=yes/" -e "s/MECHANISMS=.*/MECHANISMS=\"ldap\"/" /etc/default/saslauthd

This will make the following changes to /etc/default/saslauthd.

# Should saslauthd run automatically on startup? (default: no)
# Example: MECHANISMS="pam"

It is not necessary to point MECH_OPTIONS to the LDAP configuration file since this is the default for this mechanism.

Now you can start, restart and stop saslauthd using the service scripts:

sudo service saslauthd restart

If you experience issues, check /var/log/auth.log for saslauthd entries.

Cyrus SASL Configuration file

Cyrus SASL requires a configuration file in order to know how to check user credentials. For Prosody, the file is named prosody.conf by default. Its location varies by OS and distribution as shown in the following table:

Debian and Ubuntu/etc/sasl
Arch, RHEL/CentOS/etc/sasl2

So for Debian systems, create the file /etc/sasl/prosody.conf. The directory /etc/sasl might not yet exist.

sudo mkdir /etc/sasl/

cat << 'EOF' |sudo tee /etc/sasl/prosody.conf > /dev/null
pwcheck_method: saslauthd
mech_list: PLAIN

The filename prosody.conf corresponds to a value for cyrus_application_name in the Prosody config. Since we have not changed the default this has a value of prosody.

The Prosody documentation has more details on a Cyrus SASL-related setup.

Set up Prosody

If you have tested the LDAP authentication successfully and enabled the saslauthd service, you can change Prosody's authentication to the Cyrus backend by changing the authentication setting in /etc/prosody/conf.avail/$(hostname -f).cfg.lua via the command:

sed -i -E -e "/^ *VirtualHost \"$(hostname -f)\"/,/^ *VirtualHost/ {s/authentication ?=.*$/authentication = \"cyrus\"/}" /etc/prosody/conf.avail/$(hostname -f).cfg.lua

You might also have to add the allow_unencrypted_plain_auth option to allow plain-text passwords to be sent over the network. This is not recommended as it makes the setup less secure. So please try without this line first and only add it if you have problems authenticating.

        authentication = "cyrus"
allow_unencrypted_plain_auth = true

Set Permissions

Prosody will now try to access the saslauthd socket in /var/run/saslauthd/ to communicate with the authentication daemon. This folder only allows access to user root and group sasl while prosody runs as the system user/group prosody.

The easiest solution is to add the sasl group to the prosody user and restart the service.

sudo adduser prosody sasl
sudo service prosody restart