Install and Setup OpenLDAP Server on Ubuntu 20.04

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In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to install and setup OpenLDAP Server on Ubuntu 20.04. OpenLDAP Software is an open source implementation of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. LDAP is a lightweight client-server protocol for accessing directory services, specifically X. 500-based directory services.

Installing OpenLDAP Server on Ubuntu 20.04

The OpenLDAP suite include;

  • slapd – stand-alone LDAP daemon (server)
  • libraries implementing the LDAP protocol, and
  • utilities, tools, and sample clients.

Run System Update

Before you begin, ensure your system package cache is up-to-date.

apt update
apt upgrade

Want to know whether to reboot your system after upgrade? Simply install needrestart package to help you with that.

Install Stand-alone LDAP Daemon (SLAPD) on Ubuntu 20.04

To install SLAP and other LDAP utilities, run the command below;

apt install slapd ldap-utils

During the installation, you are prompted to set the OpenLDAP administrative password.

Install and Setup OpenLDAP Server on Ubuntu 20.04

Set the password and press ENTER confirm the password set.

Configuring OpenLDAP on Ubuntu 20.04

By default, the SLAPD installer doesn’t prompt you to enter the domain information settings. It however auto-populates the the DIT with sample data based on your server domain name.

dn: dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: top
objectClass: dcObject
objectClass: organization
dc: kifarunix-demo
structuralObjectClass: organization
entryUUID: 523af726-25a0-103a-8c03-87de2c08c2d4
creatorsName: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
createTimestamp: 20200508175142Z
entryCSN: 20200508175142.880878Z#000000#000#000000
modifiersName: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
modifyTimestamp: 20200508175142Z
dn: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: simpleSecurityObject
objectClass: organizationalRole
cn: admin
description: LDAP administrator
userPassword:: e1NTSEF9M1hkZ3h5SmRsK3IyclNkbkhxTzlqMXlrdS9ZWnk0Sis=
structuralObjectClass: organizationalRole
entryUUID: 523b1daa-25a0-103a-8c04-87de2c08c2d4
creatorsName: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
createTimestamp: 20200508175142Z
entryCSN: 20200508175142.881901Z#000000#000#000000
modifiersName: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
modifyTimestamp: 20200508175142Z

If you want to set your own DIT, you need to reconfigure SLAPD package.

dpkg-reconfigure slapd

When run, you are prompted on whether to omit the OpenLDAP server configuration. Select No and proceed to configure your OpenLDAP settings.

  • Set your DNS domain name for constructing the base DN of your LDAP directory.
  • Enter the name of your organization to be used in the base DN.
  • Re-enter the name of your administration password and confirm it.
  • Choose to remove SLAPD database when slapd package is removed.

In our example setup, the base DN is set to dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com, root DN is set to cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com.

ldapsearch -x -LLL -b "" -s base namingContexts
namingContexts: dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com

To view the RootDN, run the command below

ldapsearch -H ldapi:/// -Y EXTERNAL -b "cn=config" -LLL -Q | grep olcRootDN:
olcRootDN: cn=admin,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com

Configure OpenLDAP Logging on Ubuntu 20.04

Log files is the first place you might want to be checking in case something is not working out. By default, OpenLDAP logging level is set to none which is required to have high priority messages only logged.

ldapsearch -H ldapi:/// -Y EXTERNAL -b "cn=config" -LLL -Q | grep olcLogLevel:
olcLogLevel: none

If you need to change this to a different log level, say to stats level (logs connections/operations/results), run the command below;

ldapmodify -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -Q

The paste the content below to modify the log level.

dn: cn=config
changeType: modify
replace: olcLogLevel
olcLogLevel: stats

Next, press ENTER. Once you see a line, modifying entry "cn=config", then press Ctrl+d.

You can as well use LDIF files to update this information if you like.

To confirm the changes;

ldapsearch -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -b cn=config "(objectClass=olcGlobal)" olcLogLevel -LLL -Q
dn: cn=config
olcLogLevel: stats

Next, you need to specify the log file for OpenLDAP on Rsyslog configuration. By default, OpenLDAP logs to local4 facility, hence, to configure it to log to /var/log/slapd.log for example, execute the command below;

echo "local4.* /var/log/slapd.log" >> /etc/rsyslog.d/51-slapd.conf

Restart Rsyslog and SLAPD service

systemctl restart rsyslog slapd

You should now be able to read the LDAP logs on, /var/log/slapd.log.

You can as well configure log rotation;

vim /etc/logrotate.d/slapd
        rotate 7

Restart log rotation service;

systemctl restart logrotate

Configure LDAP with SSL/TLS Certificates

LDAP supports two methods to encrypt communications using SSL/TLS:

  • LDAPS: LDAPS communication usually occurs over a special port, commonly 636.
  • STARTTLS: STARTTLS connections begin as a plaintext over the standard LDAP port (389), and that connection is then upgraded to SSL/TLS. It is also known as TLS upgrade operation.

In this demo, we are using self-signed certificates. Follow the link below to configure OpenLDAP server with SSL/TLS certificates.

How to Configure OpenLDAP server with Signed SSL/TLS certificates

If while updating the TLS certificates you get the error below;

modifying entry "cn=config"
ldap_modify: Other (e.g., implementation specific) error (80)

And checking the syslog files, you find AppArmor denying read access to the the certificate and key files;

May 9 12:54:08 ldap kernel: [ 3785.915065] audit: type=1400 audit(1589028848.345:137): apparmor="DENIED" operation="open" profile="/usr/sbin/slapd" name="/etc/ssl/openldap/certs/cacert.pem" pid=5141 comm="slapd" requested_mask="r" denied_mask="r" fsuid=112 ouid=112

You need to update the AppArmor to give slapd read access to the certificates and key files by editing the SLAPD AppArmor profile and adding the lines below;

vim /etc/apparmor.d/usr.sbin.slapd
  # Site-specific additions and overrides. See local/README for details.

  /etc/ssl/openldap/certs/ r,
  /etc/ssl/openldap/certs/* r,
  /etc/ssl/openldap/private/ r,
  /etc/ssl/openldap/private/* r,

Replace the paths to certificate files and keys accordingly. Save and exit the file and reload SLAPD AppArmor profile;

apparmor_parser -r /etc/apparmor.d/usr.sbin.slapd

Note, if you are using standard certificate and keys path, then the AppArmor changes might not be necessary.

Once that is done, retry to update SLAPD database with TLS certificates.

To verify that the files are in place;

slapcat -b "cn=config" | grep "olcTLS"
olcTLSCACertificateFile: /etc/ssl/openldap/certs/cacert.pem
olcTLSCertificateFile: /etc/ssl/openldap/certs/ldapserver-cert.crt
olcTLSCertificateKeyFile: /etc/ssl/openldap/private/ldapserver-key.key

Next, update the path to CA certificate file on /etc/ldap/ldap.conf.

sed -i 's|certs/ca-certificates.crt|openldap/certs/cacert.pem|' /etc/ldap/ldap.conf

Configure OpenLDAP to Provide SUDO Access for Users

To enable OpenLDAP to provide sudo access for users, proceed as follows;

Install OpenLDAP sudo package;

apt install sudo-ldap

Create OpenLDAP SUDO schema;

Copy the sample OpenLDAP sudo schema to OpenLDAP schemas directory

cp /usr/share/doc/sudo-ldap/schema.OpenLDAP /etc/ldap/schema/sudo.schema

Configure OpenLDAP to include SUDO schema in its database.

For this, we will create a temporary directory from where we will convert the sudo schema to LDIF before we can configure SLAPD to include it in its database.

mkdir /tmp/ldap-sudo
echo "include /etc/ldap/schema/sudo.schema" > /tmp/ldap-sudo/ldapsudo.conf
cd /tmp/ldap-sudo

Generate SUDO LDIF file from the schema;

slaptest -f ldapsudo.conf -F .
config file testing succeeded

The sudo LDIF file should now be located under the cn\=config/cn\=schema/

ls cn\=config/cn\=schema/

Edit the LDAP SUDO LDIF file and REMOVE comment lines (Lines beginning with #) at the top and update the lines;

dn: cn={0}sudo
objectClass: olcSchemaConfig
cn: {0}sudo

such that they look like;

dn: cn=sudo,cn=schema,cn=config
objectClass: olcSchemaConfig
cn: sudo

Also, REMOVE these lines at the bottom;

structuralObjectClass: olcSchemaConfig
entryUUID: a0db89da-2646-103a-83d7-df36427f181e
creatorsName: cn=config
createTimestamp: 20200509134211Z
entryCSN: 20200509134211.249833Z#000000#000#000000
modifiersName: cn=config
modifyTimestamp: 20200509134211Z

Once done editing the sudo LDIF file, update the SLAPD database to include SUDO schema;

ldapadd -Q -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f 'cn=config/cn=schema/cn={0}sudo.ldif'

You should see a line;

adding new entry "cn=sudo,cn=schema,cn=config"

Enable sudo user and host indexing;

ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -Q

When the command runs, paste te content below and press ENTER.

dn: olcDatabase={1}mdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
add: olcDbIndex
olcDbIndex: sudoUser,sudoHost pres,eq

Once you see the line, modifying entry "olcDatabase={1}mdb,cn=config", press ctrl+d.

To verify indexing;

slapcat -n 0 | grep olcDbIndex
olcDbIndex: objectClass eq
olcDbIndex: cn,uid eq
olcDbIndex: uidNumber,gidNumber eq
olcDbIndex: member,memberUid eq
olcDbIndex: sudoUser,sudoHost pres,eq

Your OpenLDAP should now be able to provide SUDO access for users. This is subject to further configuration, however. Follow the link below to complete on this;

How to Configure SUDO access via OpenLDAP Server

Create OpenLDAP User Accounts

Before we can create OpenLDAP user accounts, we need to create the organization unit containers for storing users and their group information. See our example below. Be sure to make the relevant changes as per your environment setup.

vim users-ou.ldif
dn: ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
objectClass: top
ou: people

dn: ou=groups,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
objectClass: top
ou: groups

Before you can be able to update the database with the users OU information above, you need to adjust the SLAPD database access controls;

vim update-mdb-acl.ldif
dn: olcDatabase={1}mdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
replace: olcAccess
olcAccess: to attrs=userPassword,shadowLastChange,shadowExpire
  by self write
  by anonymous auth
  by dn.subtree="gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth" manage 
  by dn.exact="cn=readonly,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com" read 
  by * none
olcAccess: to dn.exact="cn=readonly,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com" by dn.subtree="gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth" manage by * none
olcAccess: to dn.subtree="dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com" by dn.subtree="gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth" manage
  by users read 
  by * none

Save and exit the file.

Note that we have included the access controls for the Read Only Bind DN user that we will create later in this guide.

Update database ACL with the above information by running the command below;

ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f update-mdb-acl.ldif

Once that is done, you should now be able, as the admin, to create the users OU as shown above. Therefore, to update the database with the user OU information above, run the command below;

ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f users-ou.ldif
adding new entry "ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"
adding new entry "ou=groups,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"

Once you have the user OU containers created, you can now add user accounts. In this demo, we will create a user called johndoe in our OpenLDAP database.

vim johndoe.ldif
dn: uid=johndoe,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: inetOrgPerson
objectClass: posixAccount
objectClass: shadowAccount
uid: johndoe
cn: John
sn: Doe
loginShell: /bin/bash
uidNumber: 10000
gidNumber: 10000
homeDirectory: /home/johndoe
shadowMax: 60
shadowMin: 1
shadowWarning: 7
shadowInactive: 7
shadowLastChange: 0

dn: cn=johndoe,ou=groups,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: posixGroup
cn: johndoe
gidNumber: 10000
memberUid: johndoe

To add the user johndoe to the database using the information above, run the command below;

ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f johndoe.ldif
adding new entry "uid=johndoe,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"
adding new entry "cn=johndoe,ou=groups,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"

Setting Password for LDAP User

If you noticed, in the above, we didn’t set any password for the user. To set/reset the password for the user, run the command below;

ldappasswd -H ldapi:/// -Y EXTERNAL -S "uid=johndoe,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"

To verify user’s password;

ldapwhoami -h -x -D "uid=johndoe,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com" -W

If the password is correct, you should see the user’s DN;



There are two OpenLDAP BIND DNs;

  • Administrator Bind DN: defines admin username and password. It is used only for querying the directory server and so this user must have privileges to search the directory.
  • User Bind DN: defines the user username and password is used for authentication and password change operations.

In this demo, we will create a user Bind DN called readonly for read operations.

Generate the password hash for the bind DN user;

New password: password
Re-enter new password: password

Copy the hash above and replace it with the value of userPassword below;

vim readonly-user.ldif
dn: cn=readonly,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalRole
objectClass: simpleSecurityObject
cn: readonly
userPassword: {SSHA}qUwFrgsseX1ztrJ64wq63SNqGuSnLics
description: Bind DN user for LDAP Operations

Add the bind user to the LDAP database;

ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f readonly-user.ldif
adding new entry "cn=readonly,ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com"

Define the access controls for the user bind DN. See what we have in our ACL file above. Or simply run the command below to check the ACLs defined;

ldapsearch -Q -LLL -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -b cn=config '(olcDatabase={1}mdb)' olcAccess

Allow OpenLDAP Service on Firewall

If UFW is running, allow OpenLDAP (both LDAP and LDAPS) external access;

ufw allow "OpenLDAP LDAP"
ufw allow "OpenLDAP LDAPS"

Authenticate Via OpenLDAP Server

The basic installation and configuration of OpenLDAP server on Ubuntu 20.04 is done. All you can do now is to configure your clients to authenticate via OpenLDAP;

Follow the link below to learn how to configure SSSD for OpenLDAP authentication on Ubuntu 20.04;

Configure SSSD for LDAP Authentication on Ubuntu 20.04

Install and Setup OpenLDAP on CentOS 8

Install and Configure OpenLDAP Server on Debian 9 Stretch

Setup OpenLDAP Server with SSL/TLS on Debian 10

Configure SSSD for OpenLDAP Authentication on Ubuntu 18.04


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8 thoughts on “Install and Setup OpenLDAP Server on Ubuntu 20.04”

  1. Definitely the most complete ldap tutorial I ever have seen… amazing.

    Thanks for this amazing how-to.

    best regards
    Vitor Jr

  2. I have a problem at this step :
    ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f users-ou.ldif

    I get SASL/EXTERNAL authentication started
    SASL username: gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth
    SASL SSF: 0
    adding new entry “ou=people,dc=kifarunix-demo,dc=com”
    ldap_add: Server is unwilling to perform (53)
    additional info: no global superior knowledge

    • Hi Seb,
      the error, additional info: no global superior knowledge sounds like you are using different domain component.
      Be sure to replace kifarunix-demo, with your domain name.

  3. The section named “Configure OpenLDAP to Provide SUDO Access for Users” should come *after* the section called “Create OpenLDAP User Accounts” because:

    (1) The section called “Configure OpenLDAP to Provide SUDO Access for Users” ends with a link to “How to Configure SUDO access via OpenLDAP Server”.
    (2) If you natturally follow the link, one of the last commands is as follows:

    ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f sudoersou.ldif

    (3) This command fails with the error:
    SASL/EXTERNAL authentication started
    SASL username: gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth
    SASL SSF: 0
    adding new entry “ou=SUDOers,dc=XXXXX,dc=XXXXX”
    ldap_add: Insufficient access (50)
    additional info: no write access to parent

    (4) The above command fails because the guide relies on the following command already have been run but this is only documented in the subsequent section “Create OpenLDAP User Accounts” of this guide…

    Update database ACL with the above information by running the command below;
    ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f update-mdb-acl.ldif

    (5) If this guide is updated so that section “Create OpenLDAP User Accounts” is *before* section “Configure OpenLDAP to Provide SUDO Access for Users” then there shouldn’t be this error.

  4. Great guide!
    Can you please consider adding a section on configuring centralised home directories (NFS/autofs) for the LDAP users?


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