Realmd and SSSD Active Directory Authentication

Introduction to SSSD and Realmd

Starting from Red Hat 7 and CentOS 7, SSSD or ‘System Security Services Daemon’  and realmd have been introduced. SSSD’s main function is to access a remote identity and authentication resource through a common framework that provides caching and offline support to the system. SSSD provides PAM and NSS integration and a database to store local users, as well as core and extended user data retrieved from a central server. 

The main reason to transition from Winbind to SSSD is that SSSD can be used for both direct and indirect integration and allows to switch from one integration approach to another without significant migration costs. The most convenient way to configure SSSD or Winbind in order to directly integrate a Linux system with AD is to use the realmd service. Because it allows callers to configure network authentication and domain membership in a standard way. The realmd service automatically discovers information about accessible domains and realms and does not require advanced configuration to join a domain or realm.

The realmd system provides a clear and simple way to discover and join identity domains. It does not connect to the domain itself but configures underlying Linux system services, such as SSSD or Winbind, to connect to the domain.

Realmd Pam SSSD

Please read through this Windows integration guide from Red Hat if you want more information. This extensive guide contains a lot of useful information about more complex situations.

Realmd / SSSD Use Cases

How to join an Active Directory domain?

  1. First of all start you will need to install the required packages:
  2. Configure ntp to prevent time sync issues:
  3. Join the server to the domain:
  4. Also add the default domain suffix to the sssd configuration file:

    Add the following beneath [sssd]

  5. Finally move the computer object to an organizational unit in Active Directory.

How to leave an Active Directory domain?

I saw multiple times that although the computer object was created in Active Directory it was still not possible to login with an ad account. The solution was each time to remove the server from the domain and then just add it back.

How to permit only one Active Directory group to logon

As it can be very useful to only allow one Active Directory group. For example a group with Linux system administrators.

 How to give sudo permissions to an Active Directory group



Example sssd.conf Configuration

The following is an example sshd.conf configuration file. I’ve seen it happen once that somehow access_provider was set to ad. I haven’t got the chance to play with that setting, as simple worked almost every time for now.

Required security permissions in AD

A few months ago, we had a problem where some users were no longer able to authenticate. After an extended search we discovered the reason was a hardening change in permissions on some ou’s in our AD. My colleague Jenne and I discovered that the Linux server computer objects need minimal permissions on the ou which contains the users that want to authenticate on your Linux servers. After testing almost all obvious permissions, we came to the conclusions that the computer objects need “Read remote access information”!


How to debug SSSD and realmd?

The logfile which contains information about successful or failed login attempts is /var/log/secure. It contains information related to authentication and authorization privileges. For example, sshd logs all the messages there, including unsuccessful login. Be sure to check that logfile if you experience problems logging in with an Active Directory user. 

How to clear the SSSD cache?

As suggested by AP in the comments, you can manage your cache with the sss_cache command.  It can be used to clear the cache and update all records:

The sss_cache command can also clear all cached entries for a particular domain:
If the administrator knows that a specific record (user, group, or netgroup) has been updated, then sss_cachecan purge the records for that specific account and leave the rest of the cache intact:

Please refer to the official documentation for more information.

In case the above doesn’t help, you can also remove the cache ‘hte hard way’:

Just wanted to add this command which also helped me in one case somehow. 

Final Words

I hope this guide helps people towards a better Windows Linux integration. Let me know if you think there is a better way to do the above or if you have some useful information you think I should add to this guide.



Linux Vulnerabilities Overview


Linux is considered to be much more secure then Windows. Over the last years however, several big Linux vulnerabilities were discovered . This definitely doesn’t mean that Linux is suddenly an insecure operating system. What it does mean is that you need to monitor and patch your systems. The same goes of course for Windows server, but I’l try to go into detail about WSUS updates in another post.

When you look at the latest Red Hat security advisories, it becomes very clear that you need to implement a system which automatically installs security updates. Doing this manually on 500+ servers would be crazy and a big waste of time. You also need make sure you always have a recent snapshot or backup in place, preferably right before the time the security updates are installed.

RunDeck allows you to do such a thing. After adding your Linux server as nodes to RunDeck, you can easily schedule a job containing a workflow where a VMware snapshot could be taken after which the installation of the security updates can be started safely.

I’ll try to go over the most famous Linux vulnerabilities and summarize some very basic information abut them.


Security bug disclosed 01/04/2014 by Neel Mehta (Google) in the OpenSSL cryptography library, qualified as a buffer over-read situation where more data can be read than should be allowed.

  • CVE-2014-0160

Linux vulnerabilities Hearthbleed

Shellshock (Bashdoor)

Everybody must have heard of Heartbleed, discovered 24/09/14 by Stephane Chazelas. Shellshock allows attackers to execute any kind of code, smuggled in environment variables. Anything that invokes the flawed open-source shell and passes in malicious variables, which seems to be surprisingly easy to do, is vulnerable to being hijacked.

Just in case specific CGI scripts are vulnerable, you could use Shellshock Tester or Shellshock Test Tool.

  • CVE-2014-6271
  • CVE-2014-6277
  • CVE-2014-6278
  • CVE-2014-7169
  • CVE-2014-7186
  • CVE-2014-7187

Linux vulnerabilities Shellshock


The last critical security flaw to hit the news 16/01/2016 was Ghost. It’s a stack-based buffer overflow in the glibc DNS client-side resolver that puts Linux machines at risk for remote code execution. It was discovered by a Google engineer. The glibc maintainers had previously been alerted of the issue via their bug tracker in July 2015. The issue was solved by a combined effort of two engineers o the Red Hat team, the Google team and the glibc team. Check out the Google blogpost.

  • CVE-2015-7547: glibc getaddrinfo stack-based buffer overflow

Linux vulnerabilities Ghost

Kernel Zero-Day Flaw

19/01/2016 a new critical zero-day Linux vulnerability has been found in the kernel that could allow attackers to gain root privileges. It has been discovered by a research group named Perception Point. The issue was apparently present since 2012 and is the result of a reference leak in the keyrings facility built into Linux. The keyrings facility is a way to encrypt and store login data, encryption keys and certificates and make them available to applications. 

A PoC was released on GitHub with an example exploit code.

  • CVE-2016-0728

Patch your impacted systems against Linux vulnerabilities

Ensure that you are running the latest patch level. If it’s a virtual machine, take a VMware snapshot first, so that in worst case scenario, you can go back.

CentOS / Red Hat / Fedora

Ubuntu / Debian

You can schedule this easily with for example Nagios Reactor. It allows you execute commands over SSH on scheduled intervals. In combination with the VMware snapshot chain, you easily create a robust patching ecosystem. Please note that Nagios reactor is completely free, but is still in beta. It also only seems to work on CentOS 6.


You can use an inline script such as this to start a yum update on your Linux serves:

The job only requires one variable and that I called reboot. This can be set to true or false.

This is a screenshot of the Log Output of a RunDeck job:

DAF Linux Yum