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Use MySQL Without a Password (And Still Be Secure)

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Use MySQL Without a Password (And Still Be Secure)

Keep your database secure (without a password?!)

· Database Zone ·
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Some say that the best password is the one you don’t have to remember. That’s possible with MySQL, thanks to the auth_socket plugin and its MariaDB version unix_socket.

Neither of these plugins is new, but while reviewing what’s new with MariaDB 10.4, I saw that the unix_socket now comes installed by default and is one of the authentication methods (one of them, because, in MariaDB 10.4, a single user can have more than one authentication plugin, as explained in the Authentication from MariaDB 10.4 document).

You may also like: You Should Be Aware of These 10 Most Prevalent MySQL Mistakes.

As already mentioned, this is not news, and even when one installs MySQL using the .deb packages maintained by the Debian team, the root user is created, so it uses the socket authentication. This is true for both MySQL and MariaDB:

root@app:~# apt-cache show mysql-server-5.7 | grep -i maintainers
Original-Maintainer: Debian MySQL Maintainers <pkg-mysql-maint@lists.alioth.debian.org>
Original-Maintainer: Debian MySQL Maintainers <pkg-mysql-maint@lists.alioth.debian.org>


Using the Debian packages of MySQL, the root is authenticated as follows:

root@app:~# whoami
root=
root@app:~# mysql
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 4
Server version: 5.7.27-0ubuntu0.16.04.1 (Ubuntu)

Copyright (c) 2000, 2019, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation and/or its
affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective
owners.

Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.

mysql> select user, host, plugin, authentication_string from mysql.user where user = 'root';
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| user | host      | plugin | authentication_string |
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| root | localhost | auth_socket |                       |
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
1 row in set (0.01 sec)


Same for the MariaDB .deb package:

10.0.38-MariaDB-0ubuntu0.16.04.1 Ubuntu 16.04

MariaDB [(none)]> show grants;
+------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Grants for root@localhost                                                                      |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO 'root'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED VIA unix_socket WITH GRANT OPTION |
| GRANT PROXY ON ''@'%' TO 'root'@'localhost' WITH GRANT OPTION                                  |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)


For the Percona Server, the .deb packages from the official Percona Repo are also setting the root user authentication to auth_socket. Here is an example of Percona Server for MySQL 8.0.16-7 and Ubuntu 16.04:

root@app:~# whoami
root
root@app:~# mysql
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 9
Server version: 8.0.16-7 Percona Server (GPL), Release '7', Revision '613e312'

Copyright (c) 2009-2019 Percona LLC and/or its affiliates
Copyright (c) 2000, 2019, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation and/or its
affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective
owners.

Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.

mysql> select user, host, plugin, authentication_string from mysql.user where user ='root';
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| user | host      | plugin | authentication_string |
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| root | localhost | auth_socket |                       |
+------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)


So, what’s the magic? The plugin checks that the Linux user matches the MySQL user using the SO_PEERCRED socket option to obtain information about the user running the client program. Thus, the plugin can be used only on systems that support the SO_PEERCRED option, such as Linux.

The SO_PEERCRED socket option allows retrieving the uid of the process that is connected to the socket. It is then able to get the user name associated with that uid.

Here’s an example with the user “vagrant”:

vagrant@mysql1:~$ whoami
vagrant
vagrant@mysql1:~$ mysql
ERROR 1698 (28000): Access denied for user 'vagrant'@'localhost'


Since no user “vagrant” exists in MySQL, the access is denied. Let’s create the user and try again:

MariaDB [(none)]> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO 'vagrant'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED VIA unix_socket;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

vagrant@mysql1:~$ mysql
Welcome to the MariaDB monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MariaDB connection id is 45
Server version: 10.0.38-MariaDB-0ubuntu0.16.04.1 Ubuntu 16.04
Copyright (c) 2000, 2018, Oracle, MariaDB Corporation Ab and others.
Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.

MariaDB [(none)]> show grants;
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Grants for vagrant@localhost                                                    |
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO 'vagrant'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED VIA unix_socket |
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)


Success!

Now, what about on a non-debian distro, where this is not the default? Let’s try it on the Percona Server for MySQL 8 installed on a CentOS 7:

mysql> show variables like '%version%comment';
+-----------------+---------------------------------------------------+
| Variable_name   | Value                                   |
+-----------------+---------------------------------------------------+
| version_comment | Percona Server (GPL), Release 7, Revision 613e312 |
+-----------------+---------------------------------------------------+
1 row in set (0.01 sec)

mysql> CREATE USER 'percona'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED WITH auth_socket;
ERROR 1524 (HY000): Plugin 'auth_socket' is not loaded


It failed. What is missing? The plugin is not loaded:

mysql> pager grep socket
PAGER set to 'grep socket'
mysql> show plugins;
47 rows in set (0.00 sec)


Let’s add the plugin in runtime:

mysql> nopager
PAGER set to stdout
mysql> INSTALL PLUGIN auth_socket SONAME 'auth_socket.so';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> pager grep socket; show plugins;
PAGER set to 'grep socket'
| auth_socket                     | ACTIVE | AUTHENTICATION | auth_socket.so | GPL     |
48 rows in set (0.00 sec)


We have all we need now. Let’s try again:

mysql> CREATE USER 'percona'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED WITH auth_socket;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)
mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO 'percona'@'localhost';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)


And now we can log in as the OS user “percona.”

[percona@ip-192-168-1-111 ~]$ whoami
percona
[percona@ip-192-168-1-111 ~]$ mysql -upercona
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 19
Server version: 8.0.16-7 Percona Server (GPL), Release 7, Revision 613e312


Copyright (c) 2009-2019 Percona LLC and/or its affiliates
Copyright (c) 2000, 2019, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.


Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation and/or its
affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective
owners.


Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.


mysql> select user, host, plugin, authentication_string from mysql.user where user ='percona';
+---------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| user    | host   | plugin   | authentication_string |
+---------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
| percona | localhost | auth_socket |                       |
+---------+-----------+-------------+-----------------------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)


Success again!

Question: Can I try to log as the user percona from another user?

[percona@ip-192-168-1-111 ~]$ logout
[root@ip-192-168-1-111 ~]# mysql -upercona
ERROR 1698 (28000): Access denied for user 'percona'@'localhost'


No, you can’t.

Conclusion

MySQL is flexible enough in several aspects, one being the authentication methods. As we see in this post, one can achieve access without passwords by relying on OS users. This is helpful in several scenarios, but just to mention one: when migrating from RDS/Aurora to regular MySQL and using IAM Database Authentication to keep getting access without using passwords.


Further Reading

Topics:
database ,maridb ,mysql ,root access ,authentication ,security ,authorization ,tutorial

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