Developer’s Corner: Introducing Database Level Security in GeoServer

During our work we support manu GeoServer Enterprise installations which pull data from a spatial database of some sort, normally via a connection pool, a tool that keeps database connections around so that we don’t have to open and close them at every request (something that could be very expensive).
The pool accesses the database via a shared user, that all GeoServer requests end up using. Some requests only require data reading (WMS GetMap), others modify data (WFS Transaction), some even create new tables (RESTConfig data uploading for example).
The pool user must be able to perform all and any of the operations that GeoServer needs, meaning that more often than not it has very wide powers of what it can do on the database.
GeoServer built in security, as well as extensions such as GeoRepository, allow to control what specific users can do and shield the database from security issues.
However in some enviroment the preferred security management policy is to have security restrictions operate at the database level instead, with the pool user being given minimal rights (normally, to list and describe the tables, but without any actual access to them). This has some advantages:
  • the security is setup just once for the variety of applications that might access the database
  • each user can actually perform only the operations that he/she was allowed to, regardless of eventual bugs/security holes in the application level software
  • leverages the DBA expertise
GeoSolutions recently implemented the ability to use DBMS session startup and teardown scripts that can be used to alter the user accessing the database for the duration of the current request, turning back to the pool user when the request is complete.
These commands can be specified in the configuration User Interface while setting up the data store. For example, if we wanted to have each and every PostgreSQL session use the credentials of the current GeoServer user we’d use the following setup:
Different databases will of course use different commands, or custom, in house package calls, to setup the current session user. See the GeoServer documentation for more details on how this new functionality can be used.
We’d like to thank Astrium GEO-Information Services for sponsoring this improvement and sharing it with the GeoServer and GeoTools communities.
Application security is certainly one of the topics we like to deal with. There is of course a lot more to explore and improve, this topic is both rich and interesting. Want for example CAS or Shibboleth security in your GeoServer intallation? Maybe integration with Active Directory? Talk to us first!
The GeoSolutions team,