Elasticsearch Implementing Robust Authentication in Elasticsearch

By Opster Team

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

| 2 min read


Elasticsearch, a highly scalable open-source full-text search and analytics engine, is widely used for log and event data analysis. However, securing Elasticsearch is crucial to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive data. This article will delve into the advanced aspects of Elasticsearch authentication, focusing on how to implement robust security measures. If you want to learn about authentication of elastic was terminated by realm reserved – how to solve related issues, check out this guide. 

Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user, machine, or system. In Elasticsearch, it’s the first step in securing your cluster. It’s crucial to ensure that only authenticated users can access Elasticsearch resources.

Elasticsearch supports various types of authentication, including native, LDAP, Active Directory, SAML, PKI, Kerberos, and OpenID Connect. Each method has its own configuration process and use cases.

Native authentication

Native authentication is one of the most commonly used methods. It uses the internal Elasticsearch API to create and manage users. If you are on Elasticsearch 8+, security is enabled by default, and hence, native authentication is configured automatically for you. If you’re on an older version, here’s how to configure native authentication:

  1. Enable the security feature by setting `xpack.security.enabled` to `true` in the `elasticsearch.yml` file.
  2. Restart Elasticsearch.
  3. Use the `elasticsearch-setup-passwords` command to set passwords for built-in users.

LDAP and Active Directory

LDAP and Active Directory are popular for enterprises with many users. They allow Elasticsearch to delegate authentication to an external directory service. To configure LDAP or Active Directory:

1. Enable the security feature as described above.

2. Define a realm in the `elasticsearch.yml` file.

3. Specify the URL of the LDAP server and the user DN (Distinguished Name) patterns.

4. Restart Elasticsearch.

SAML, PKI, Kerberos, and OpenID Connect

SAML, PKI, Kerberos, and OpenID Connect are more advanced authentication methods. They provide single sign-on (SSO) capabilities and are suitable for large organizations with complex security requirements.

SAML and OpenID Connect require a third-party identity provider (IdP). The IdP sends a SAML assertion or an OpenID Connect ID token to Elasticsearch, which verifies the assertion or token and authenticates the user.

PKI authentication uses client certificates to authenticate users. When a user sends a request to Elasticsearch, the user includes a client certificate. Elasticsearch verifies the certificate and authenticates the user.

Kerberos is a network authentication protocol. It uses secret-key cryptography to authenticate users to network services. To use Kerberos with Elasticsearch, you need to configure a Kerberos realm.

In addition to these methods, Elasticsearch also supports API key authentication. API keys are base64-encoded strings that you can use as credentials for automation or to grant limited access to Elasticsearch.

To create an API key:

1. Send a POST request to the `_security/api_key` endpoint.

2. Specify the role descriptors in the request body to define the permissions of the API key.


In conclusion, Elasticsearch provides a wide range of authentication methods to secure your cluster. Depending on your security requirements and infrastructure, you can choose the most suitable method and configure it accordingly. Remember, securing your Elasticsearch cluster is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires regular review and updates.

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