In my previous post “An important Hadoop security configuration parameter you may have missed” I was talking about importance of the configuration parameter and promised to provide some solutions using this parameter.

I want to focus on a couple of practical use examples in this post, and if you want to learn more about this, here are links to the existing documentation:

The overall idea is there are two major types of principals coming in your Hadoop ecosystems:

  1. Three-parts principals: <user>/<host/service>@<domain>, e.g. hdfs/
  2. Two-parts principals: <user>@<DOMAIN>, e.g. bob@MY.DOMAIN

Rules for these two types are defined separately. Hadoop needs to convert these principals into usernames, and this is where auth_to_local rules are used. By default these rules just remove everything but the part for the current (default) domain. I spoke about the negative consequences of leaving this default in my previous post. In short, they are:

  1. Users are not uniquely mapped to their UIDs (aka ‘users overloading’) - e.g. if user bob@MY.DOMAIN has a confidential data stored in Hadoop cluster with no access to anyone but Bob, still there can be another user created with principal bob/<anything>@MY.DOMAIN which will be translated by default into ‘bob’ user, too, and will get access to all Bob’s data.

  2. Superusers (hdfs, yarn, hive, mapred, hue etc.) are shared between clusters in the same domain (e.g. if at all of your clusters, namenode runs as local ‘hdfs’ user, then hdfs@<DOMAIN> user is de-facto the superuser at all your clusters). Also, e.g. datanode user at Cluster1 is still a legal user (and in Cloudera distribution, superuser) at Cluster2 and all other clusters in the same domain (and if it users hdfs/<node>@<DOMAIN> principal, then it’s also an HDFS superuser at all your clusters).

  3. Any user of type <user>@<DOMAIN> with the <user> part being equal to the OS user which has started a Hadoop process is de-facto the superuser of this process (e.g. hdfs@<DOMAIN> becomes superuser at all clusters in the same domain in most installations that I saw, same with hive@, hue@ etc.)

To solve these issues, the following auth_to_local rules can be applied:

  1. Rule to prevent any unwanted users coming in to this cluster:


    What this rule does: it converts any Kerberos principal of type <user>/<something>@<DOMAIN> into a nobody user. It works like a firewall rule ‘Block All’ and must be placed at the end of your auth_to_local rules.

  2. Since the rule above blocks all 3-part principals, which are generally used by Hadoop service users (e.g. HDFS NN / DN or YARN RM / NM etc), we now need to whitelist these users. For each of your services, create a line(s) using the following template:


    Example for a 8-nodes cluster with YARN and HDFS, will have the following rules:


    Note the yarn/yarnrm principal - it’s used by YARN RM to renew auth tokens. You also can replace the regex node[1-8] with a number of lines for each node at your cluster, this is useful if regex can’t be used to list all cluster nodes, e.g.:

    RULE:\[2:$1/$2@$0\](^hdfs/$)s/^.\*$/hdfs/ ...
  3. Please also note that majority of Hadoop ecosystem daemons will accept any user with the same name as the local OS user that runs this principal. as a superuser. So users below are de-facto the default superusers for the corresponding services in most default Hadoop installs:

    • hdfs@<DOMAIN>
    • yarn@<DOMAIN>
    • hive@<DOMAIN>
    • etc.

    These users never exist in my Hadoop cluster setups: all my superusers are managed through groups. In clusters managed by me, those only will be human users, members of Admin groups (ping me if you want more information on how to setup this, but it’s widely available in the Internet and at Apache website), and some specific technical users (for example, in Cloudera CDH which I use, it is required that Hue user is part of the HDFS and Hive admin group etc). Since technical users come in as 3-part Kerberos principals in form of <user>/<node>@<DOMAIN>, they will be converted into corresponding superusers by the rules above, e.g. hdfs/ -> hdfs (same username as NN daemons runs as, and therefore is HDFS superuser). But we want to prevent a scenario when someone creates a user hdfs@MY.DOMAIN, which automatically becomes the HDFS superuser at all clusters of the same domain, so we need to block those users using the rules below:


    These rules should include all the local OS users that start services at your cluster, and in my case, the example below includes the default configuration of a CDH cluster which has Hue, Sentry, Hive, Oozie, YARN, HDFS and ZooKeeper installed.

That’s pretty much it. The 3 solutions above will help ensure that you can have any number of secure clusters in the same domain managed by different teams or one team as required.

Since I use Cloudera distribution and direct integration of my Hadoop clusters with Active Directory (via Kerberos and LDAP group mappings), I slightly change the rules from #2 above to rename Cloudera Manager’s automatically generated default principals into usernames that are unique for each Hadoop cluster I have. I then can easily implement any kind of granular access lists and group membership by just creating these users in Active Directory and assigning them to the required groups and ACLS:

Cluster1 (nodes 1-4):


Cluster2 (nodes 5-8):



Please note that HTTP principal is part of Kerberos convention, and must remain HTTP at all times.

Please feel free to ping me at any time with any questions you might have, or if you need help securing your Hadoop clusters.