Sources Management

While user management enables you to control user authorization, security sources provide an interface for managing means of authentication. If you create users and grant them access to some or all of Riak TS’s functionality as described in the User Management section, you will need to define security sources required for authentication.

Available Sources

There are four available authentication sources in Riak TS Security:

Source Description
trusted networks (trust) Always authenticate successfully if access has been granted to a user or all users on the specified CIDR range
password (password) Check the user’s password against the PBKFD2-hashed password stored in Riak TS
pluggable authentication modules (PAM) (pam) Authenticate against the given pluggable authentication module (PAM) service
certificates (certificate) Authenticate using a client certificate

Add a Source

Riak TS security sources may be applied to a specific user, multiple users, or all users (all).

In general, the add-source command takes the following form:

riak-admin security add-source all|<users> <CIDR> <source> [<option>=<value>[...]]

Using all indicates that the authentication source can be added to all users. A source can be added to a specific user, for example add-source superuser, or to a list of users separated by commas, for example add-source jane,bill,admin.

The examples in the following sections will assume that the network in question is and that a Riak TS user named riakuser has been created and that security has been enabled.

Trust-based Authentication

This form of authentication (trust) enables you to specify trusted CIDRs from which all clients will be authenticated by default.

Let’s say that we want to give all users trusted access to securables (without a password) when requests come from localhost:

riak-admin security add-source all trust

At that point, the riak-admin security print-sources command would print the following:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source  | options  |
|        all         ||  trust   |    []    |

You can also specify users as trusted users, as in the following example:

riak-admin security add-source riakuser trust

Now, riakuser can interact with Riak TS without providing credentials. Running the riak-admin security print-sources command would print:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source   | options  |
|      riakuser      ||   trust   |    []    |
|        all         ||   trust   |    []    |

Password-based Authentication

Authenticating with the password source requires that our riakuser be given a password. riakuser can be assigned a password upon creation, as in this example:

riak-admin security add-user riakuser password=captheorem4life

Or a password can be assigned to an already existing user by modifying that user’s characteristics:

riak-admin security alter-user riakuser password=captheorem4life

Running the riak-admin security print-sources command would print:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source  | options  |
|      riakuser      || password |    []    |

You can specify that all users must authenticate themselves via password when connecting to Riak from localhost:

riak-admin security add-source all password

Or you can specify that any number of specific users must do so:

riak-admin security add-source riakuser password
riak-admin security add-source otheruser password

Now, our riakuser must enter a username and password to have any access to Riak TS. We can check this by using the riak-admin security print-sources command:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source  | options  |
|      riakuser      || password |    []    |
|      otheruser     || password |    []    |
|        all         || password |    []    |

Certificate-based Authentication

This form of authentication (certificate) requires that Riak TS and a specified client (or clients) interacting with Riak TS have certificates signed by the same Root Certificate Authority.

Let’s specify that our user riakuser is going to be authenticated using a certificate on localhost:

riak-admin security add-source riakuser certificate

When the certificate source is used, riakuser must also be entered as the common name, aka CN, that you specified when you generated your certificate, as in the following OpenSSL example:

openssl req -new ... '/CN=riakuser'

You can add a certificate source to any number of clients, as long as their CN and Riak TS username match.

On the server side, you need to configure Riak TS by specifying a path to your certificates. First, copy all relevant files to your Riak TS cluster. The default directory for certificates is /etc. You can specify a different directory in your riak.conf by either uncommenting those lines (if you choose to use the defaults) or setting the paths yourself:

ssl.certfile = /path/to/cert.pem
ssl.keyfile = /path/to/key.pem
ssl.cacertfile = /path/to/cacert.pem

In the client-side example above, the client’s CN and Riak TS username needed to match. On the server (i.e. Riak TS) side, the CN specified on each node must match the node’s name as registered by Riak TS.

You can find the node’s name in riak.conf under the parameter nodename. And so if the nodename for a cluster is riakts-node-1, you would need to generate your certificate with that in mind, as in this OpenSSL example:

openssl req -new ... '/CN=riakts-node-1'

Once certificates have been generated and configured on all the nodes in your Riak TS cluster, you need to perform a rolling restart. Once that process is complete, you can use the client certificate that you generated for the user riakuser.

How to use Riak TS clients in conjunction with OpenSSL and other certificates varies from client library to client library. We strongly recommend checking the documentation of your client library for further information.

PAM-based Authentication

This section assumes you have set up a pluggable authentication module (PAM) service bearing the name riak_pam, either by creating a pam.d/riak_pam service definition specifying auth or other PAM services set up to authenticate a user named riakuser.

As in the certificate-based authentication example above, the user’s name must be the same in both your authentication module and in Riak TS Security.

If we want the user riakuser to use this PAM service on localhost, we need to add a pam security source in Riak and specify the name of the service:

riak-admin security add-source all pam service=riak_pam

Note: If you do not specify a name for your PAM service, Riak will use the default, which is riak.

To verify that the source has been properly specified:

riak-admin security print-sources

That command should output the following:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source  |        options         |
|      riakuser      ||   pam    |[{"service","riak_pam"}]|

Delete Source

If we wish to remove the trust source that we granted to all in the example above, we can simply use the del-source command and specify the CIDR.

riak-admin security del-source all

Note that this does not require that you specify which type of source is being deleted. You only need to specify the user(s) or all, because only one source can be applied to a user or all at any given time.

The following command would remove the source for riakuser on localhost, regardless of which source is being used:

riak-admin security del-source riakuser
Note on Removing Sources

If you apply a security source both to all and to specific users and then wish to remove that source, you will need to do so in separate steps. The riak-admin security del-source all ... command by itself is not sufficient.

For example, if you have assigned the source password to both all and to the user riakuser on the network, the following two-step process would be required to fully remove the source:

riak-admin security del-source all password
riak-admin security del-source riakuser password

Security Ciphers

To view a list of currently available security ciphers or change Riak’s preferences, use the ciphers command:

riak-admin security ciphers

That command by itself will return a large list of available ciphers:

Configured ciphers


Valid ciphers(35)


Unknown/Unsupported ciphers(32)


To alter the list, i.e. to constrain it and/or to set preferred ciphers higher in the list:

riak-admin security ciphers DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:AES128-GCM-SHA256

The list of configured ciphers should now look like this:

Configured ciphers


Valid ciphers(1)


Unknown/Unsupported ciphers(1)


A list of available ciphers on a server can be obtained using the openssl command:

openssl ciphers

That should return a list structured like this:


Riak’s cipher preferences were taken from Mozilla’s Server-Side TLS documentation.

Client vs. Server Cipher Order

By default, Riak TS prefers the cipher order setting, honor_cipher_order, to be set to on. If you prefer, however, that clients’ preferred cipher order dictate which cipher is chosen, set honor_cipher_order to off.

Enabling SSL

SSL is disabled by default. In order to use any authentication or authorization features, you must enable SSL for Riak TS.

Enabling SSL on a given node requires you to specify a host and port for the node:

listener.protobuf.$name = {"",8087}

As well as specify a certification configuration.

TLS Settings

When using Riak TS security, you can choose which versions of SSL/TLS are allowed. By default, only TLS 1.2 is allowed, but this version can be disabled and others enabled by setting the following configurable parameters to on or off:

  • tls_protocols.tlsv1
  • tls_protocols.tlsv1.1
  • tls_protocols.tlsv1.2
  • tls_protocols.sslv3

Three things to note:

  • Among the four available options, only TLS version 1.2 is enabled by default
  • You can enable more than one protocol at a time
  • We strongly recommend that you do NOT use SSL version 3 unless absolutely necessary

Certificate Configuration

If you are using any of the available security sources, including trust-based authentication, you will need to do so over a secure SSL connection.

In order to establish a secure connection, ensure that each Riak TS node’s configuration files point to the proper paths for your generated certs. By default, Riak TS assumes that all certs are stored in each node’s /etc directory.

If you are using the newer, riak.conf-based configuration system, you can change the location of the /etc directory by modifying the platform_etc_dir:

Type Parameter Default
Signing authority ssl.cacertfile #(platform_etc_dir)/cacertfile.pem
Cert ssl.certfile #(platform_etc_dir)/cert.pem
Key file ssl.keyfile #(platform_etc_dir)/key.pem

Referer Checks and Certificate Revocation Lists

In order to provide safeguards against cross-site-scripting (XSS) and request-forgery attacks, Riak TS performs secure referer checks by default. Those checks make it impossible to serve data directly from Riak TS. To disable those checks, set the secure_referer_check parameter to off.

If you are using certificate-based authentication, Riak TS will check the certificate revocation list (CRL) of connecting clients’ certificate by default. To disable this behavior, set the check_crl parameter to off.

How Sources Are Applied

When managing security sources—any of the sources explained above—you always have the option of applying a source to either a single user, multiple users, or all users (all). If specific users and all have no sources in common, this presents no difficulty. But what happens if one source is applied to all and a different source is applied to a specific user?

The more-specifically assigned source (i.e. the source applied to the user) will be considered a user’s security source. We’ll illustrate that with the following example, in which the certificate source is assigned to all, but the password source is assigned to riakuser:

riak-admin security add-source all certificate
riak-admin security add-source riakuser password

If we run riak-admin security print-sources, we’ll get the following output:

|       users        |    cidr    |  source   | options  |
|      riakuser      || password  |    []    |
|                    ||certificate|    []    |
|        all         ||certificate|    []    |

As we can see, password is set as the security source for riakuser, whereas everyone else will authenticate using certificate.