Home > Authentication, Directory Server, ForgeRock, OpenAM, OpenDJ > Understanding OpenAM and OpenDJ Account Lockout Behaviors

Understanding OpenAM and OpenDJ Account Lockout Behaviors

The OpenAM Authentication Service can be configured to lock a user’s account after a defined number of log in attempts has failed.  Account Lockout is disabled by default, but when configured properly, this feature can be useful in fending off brute force attacks against OpenAM login screens.

If your OpenAM environment includes an LDAP server (such as OpenDJ) as an authentication database, then you have options on how (and where) you can configure Account Lockout settings.  This can be performed in either OpenAM (as mentioned above) or in the LDAP server, itself.  But the behavior is different based on where this is configured.  There are benefits and drawbacks towards configuring Account Lockout in either product and knowing the difference is essential.

Note:  Configuring Account Lockout simultaneously in both products can lead to confusing results and should be avoided unless you have a firm understanding of how each product works.  See the scenario at the end of this article for a deeper dive on Account Lockout from an attribute perspective. 

The OpenAM Approach

You can configure Account Lockout in OpenAM either globally or for a particular realm.  To access the Account Lockout settings for the global configuration,

  1. Log in to OpenAM Console
  2. Navigate to:  Configuration > Authentication > Core
  3. Scroll down to Account Lockout section

To access Account Lockout settings for a particular realm,

  1. Log in to OpenAM Console
  2. Navigate to:  Access Control > realm > Authentication > All Core Settings
  3. Scroll down to Account Lockout section

In either location you will see various parameters for controlling Account Lockout as follows:

 

OpenAM Account Lockout Parameters

Configuring Account Lockout in OpenAM

 

Account Lockout is disabled by default; you need to select the “Login Failure Lockout Mode” checkbox to enable this feature.  Once it is enabled, you configure the number of attempts before an account is locked and even if a warning message is displayed to the user before their account is locked.  You can configure how long the account is locked and even the duration between successive lockouts (which can increase if you set the duration multiplier).  You can configure the attributes to use to store the account lockout information in addition to the default attributes configured in the Data Store.

Enabling Account Lockout affects the following Data Store attributes:  inetUserStatus and sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData.  By default, the value of the inetUserStatus attribute is either Active or Inactive, but this can be configured to use another attribute and another attribute value.  This can be configured in the User Configuration section of the Data Store configuration as follows:

 

AcctLockoutDataStoreConfig

Data Store Account Lockout Attributes

 

These attributes are updated in the Data Store configuration for the realm.  A benefit of implementing Account Lockout in OpenAM is that you can use any LDAPv3 directory, Active Directory, or even a relational database – but you do need to have a Data Store configured to provide OpenAM with somewhere to write these values.  An additional benefit is that OpenAM is already configured with error messages that can be easily displayed when a user’s account is about to be locked or has become locked.  Configuring Account Lockout within OpenAM, however, may not provide the level of granularity that you might need and as such, you may need to configure it in the authentication database (such as OpenDJ).

The OpenDJ Approach

OpenDJ can be configured to lock accounts as well.  This is defined in a password policy and can be configured globally (the entire OpenDJ instance) or it may be applied to a subentry (a group of users or a specific user).  Similar to OpenAM, a user’s account can be locked after a number of invalid authentication attempts have been made.  And similar to OpenAM, you have several additional settings that can be configured to control the lockout period, whether warnings should be sent, and even who to notify when the account has been locked.

But while configuring Account Lockout in OpenAM may recognize invalid password attempts in your SSO environment, configuring it in OpenDJ will recognize invalid attempts for any application that is using OpenDJ as an authentication database.  This is more of a centralized approach and can recognize attacks from several vectors.

Configuring Account Lockout in OpenDJ affects the following OpenDJ attributes:  pwdFailureTime (a multivalued attribute consisting of the timestamp of each invalid password attempt) and pwdAccountLockedTime (a timestamp indicating when the account was locked).

Another benefit of implementing Account Lockout in OpenDJ is the ability to configure Account Lockout for different types of users.  This is helpful when you want to have different password policies for users, administrators, or even service accounts.  This is accomplished by assigning different password polices directly to those users or indirectly through groups or virtual attributes.  A drawback to this approach, however, is that OpenAM doesn’t necessarily recognize the circumstances behind error messages returned from OpenDJ when a user is unable to log in.  A scrambled password in OpenDJ, for instance, simply displays as an Authentication failed error message in the OpenAM login screen.

By default, all users in OpenDJ are automatically assigned a generic (rather lenient) password policy that is aptly named:  Default Password Policy.  The definition of this policy can be seen as follows:

 

dn: cn=Default Password Policy,cn=Password Policies,cn=config
objectClass: ds-cfg-password-policy
objectClass: top
objectClass: ds-cfg-authentication-policy
ds-cfg-skip-validation-for-administrators: false
ds-cfg-force-change-on-add: false
ds-cfg-state-update-failure-policy: reactive
ds-cfg-password-history-count: 0
ds-cfg-password-history-duration: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-allow-multiple-password-values: false
ds-cfg-lockout-failure-expiration-interval: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-lockout-failure-count: 0
ds-cfg-max-password-reset-age: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-max-password-age: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-idle-lockout-interval: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-java-class: org.opends.server.core.PasswordPolicyFactory
ds-cfg-lockout-duration: 0 seconds
ds-cfg-grace-login-count: 0
ds-cfg-force-change-on-reset: false
ds-cfg-default-password-storage-scheme: cn=Salted SHA-1,cn=Password Storage 
  Schemes,cn=config
ds-cfg-allow-user-password-changes: true
ds-cfg-allow-pre-encoded-passwords: false
ds-cfg-require-secure-password-changes: false
cn: Default Password Policy
ds-cfg-require-secure-authentication: false
ds-cfg-expire-passwords-without-warning: false
ds-cfg-password-change-requires-current-password: false
ds-cfg-password-generator: cn=Random Password Generator,cn=Password Generators,
  cn=config
ds-cfg-password-expiration-warning-interval: 5 days
ds-cfg-allow-expired-password-changes: false
ds-cfg-password-attribute: userPassword
ds-cfg-min-password-age: 0 seconds

 

The value of the ds-cfg-lockout-failure-count attribute is 0; which means that user accounts are not locked by default – no matter how many incorrect attempts are made.  This is one of the many security settings that you can configure in a password policy and while many of these mimic what is available in OpenAM, others go quite deeper.

You can use the OpenDJ dsconfig command to change the Default Password Policy as follows:

 

dsconfig set-password-policy-prop --policy-name "Default Password Policy" --set 
lockout-failure-count:3 --hostname localhost --port 4444 --trustAll --bindDN 
"cn=Directory Manager" --bindPassword ****** --no-prompt

 

Rather than modifying the Default Password Policy, a preferred method is to create a new password policy and apply your own specific settings to the new policy.  This policy can then be applied to a specific set of users.

The syntax for using the OpenDJ dsconfig command to create a new password policy can be seen below.

 

dsconfig create-password-policy --set default-password-storage-scheme:"Salted 
  SHA-1" --set password-attribute:userpassword --set lockout-failure-count:3 
  --type password-policy --policy-name "Example Corp User Password Policy" 
  --hostname localhost --port 4444 --trustAll --bindDN cn="Directory Manager" 
  --bindPassword ****** --no-prompt

 

Note:  This example contains a minimum number of settings (default-password-storage-scheme, password-attribute, and lockout-failure-count).  Consider adding additional settings to customize your password policy as desired.

You can now assign the password policy to an individual user by adding the following attribute as a subentry to the user’s object:

 

ds-pwp-password-policy-dn:  cn=Example Corp User Password Policy,cn=Password 
  Policies, cn=config

 

This can be performed using any LDAP client where you have write permissions to a user’s entry.  The following example uses the ldapmodify command in an interactive mode to perform this operation:

 

$ ldapmodify -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** <ENTER>
dn: uid=bnelson,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com <ENTER>
changetype: modify <ENTER>
replace: ds-pwp-password-policy-dn <ENTER>
ds-pwp-password-policy-dn: cn=Example Corp User Password Policy,
  cn=Password Policies,cn=config <ENTER>
<ENTER>

 

Another method of setting this password policy is through the use of a dynamically created virtual attribute (i.e. one that is not persisted in the OpenDJ database backend).  The following definition automatically assigns this new password policy to all users that exist beneath the ou=people container (the scope of the virtual attribute).

 

dn: cn=Example Corp User Password Policy Assignment,cn=Virtual 
  Attributes,cn=config
objectClass: ds-cfg-virtual-attribute
objectClass: ds-cfg-user-defined-virtual-attribute
objectClass: top
ds-cfg-base-dn: ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
cn: Example Corp User Password Policy Assignment
ds-cfg-attribute-type: ds-pwp-password-policy-dn
ds-cfg-enabled: true
ds-cfg-java-class: 
  org.opends.server.extensions.UserDefinedVirtualAttributeProvider
ds-cfg-filter: (objectclass=sbacperson)
ds-cfg-value: cn=Example Corp User Password Policy,cn=Password 
  Policies,cn=config

 

Note:  You can also use filters to create very granular results on how password polices are applied.

Configuring Account Lockout in OpenDJ has more flexibility and as such may be considered to be more powerful than OpenAM in this area.  The potential confusion, however, comes when attempting to unlock a user’s account when they have been locked out of both OpenAM and OpenDJ.  This is described in the following example.

A Deeper Dive into Account Lockout

Consider an environment where OpenAM is configured with the LDAP authentication module and that module has been configured to use an OpenDJ instance as the authentication database.

 

SSOComponents

OpenDJ Configured as AuthN Database

 

OpenAM and OpenDJ have both been configured to lock a user’s account after 3 invalid password attempts.  What kind of behavior can you expect?  Let’s walk through each step of an Account Lockout process and observe the behavior on Account Lockout specific attributes.

 

Step 1:  Query Account Lockout Specific Attributes for the Test User

 


$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
inetuserstatus: Active

 

The user is currently active and Account Lockout specific attributes are empty.

 

Step 2:  Open the OpenAM Console and access the login screen for the realm where Account Lockout has been configured.

 

OpenAMLoginScreen

OpenAM Login Page

 

Step 3:  Enter an invalid password for this user

 

OpenAMAuthNFailed

OpenAM Authentication Failure Message

 

Step 4:  Query Account Lockout Specific Attributes for the Test User

 

$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData:: PEludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD48SW52YWxpZENvdW50PjE8L0
  ludmFsaWRDb3VudD48TGFzdEludmFsaWRBdD4xMzk4MTcxNTAwMDE4PC9MYXN0SW52YWxpZEF0P
  jxMb2NrZWRvdXRBdD4wPC9Mb2NrZWRvdXRBdD48QWN0dWFsTG9ja291dER1cmF0aW9uPjA8L0Fj
  dHVhbExvY2tvdXREdXJhdGlvbj48L0ludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD4=
inetuserstatus: Active
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125819.918Z

 

You now see that there is a value for the pwdFailureTime.  This is the timestamp of when the first password failure occurred.  This attribute was populated by OpenDJ.

The sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData attribute is populated by OpenAM.  This is a base64 encoded value that contains valuable information regarding the invalid password attempt.  Run this through a base64 decoder and you will see that this attribute contains the following information:

 

<InvalidPassword><InvalidCount>1</InvalidCount><LastInvalidAt>1398171500018
  </LastInvalidAt><LockedoutAt>0</LockedoutAt><ActualLockoutDuration>0
  </ActualLockoutDuration></InvalidPassword>

 

Step 5:  Repeat Steps 2 and 3.  (This is the second password failure.)

 

Step 6:  Query Account Lockout Specific Attributes for the Test User

 

$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData:: PEludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD48SW52YWxpZENvdW50PjI8L0
  ludmFsaWRDb3VudD48TGFzdEludmFsaWRBdD4xMzk4MTcxNTUzMzUwPC9MYXN0SW52YWxpZEF0P
  jxMb2NrZWRvdXRBdD4wPC9Mb2NrZWRvdXRBdD48QWN0dWFsTG9ja291dER1cmF0aW9uPjA8L0Fj
  dHVhbExvY2tvdXREdXJhdGlvbj48L0ludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD4=
inetuserstatus: Active
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125819.918Z
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125913.151Z

 

There are now two values for the pwdFailureTime attribute – one for each password failure.  The sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData attribute has been updated as follows:

 

<InvalidPassword><InvalidCount>2</InvalidCount><LastInvalidAt>1398171553350
  </LastInvalidAt><LockedoutAt>0</LockedoutAt><ActualLockoutDuration>0
  </ActualLockoutDuration></InvalidPassword>

 

Step 7:  Repeat Steps 2 and 3.  (This is the third and final password failure.)

 

OpenAMAcctLocked

OpenAM Inactive User Page

 

OpenAM displays an error message indicating that the user’s account is not active.  This is OpenAM’s way of acknowledging that the user’s account has been locked.

 

Step 8:  Query Account Lockout Specific Attributes for the Test User

 

$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \ 
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData:: PEludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD48SW52YWxpZENvdW50PjA8L0
  ludmFsaWRDb3VudD48TGFzdEludmFsaWRBdD4wPC9MYXN0SW52YWxpZEF0PjxMb2NrZWRvdXRBd
  D4wPC9Mb2NrZWRvdXRBdD48QWN0dWFsTG9ja291dER1cmF0aW9uPjA8L0FjdHVhbExvY2tvdXRE
  dXJhdGlvbj48L0ludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD4=
inetuserstatus: Inactive
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125819.918Z
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125913.151Z
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125944.771Z
pwdAccountLockedTime: 20140422125944.771Z

 

There are now three values for the pwdFailureTime attribute – one for each password failure.  The sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData attribute has been updated as follows:

 

<InvalidPassword><InvalidCount>0</InvalidCount><LastInvalidAt>0</LastInvalidAt>
  <LockedoutAt>0</LockedoutAt><ActualLockoutDuration>0</ActualLockoutDuration>
  </InvalidPassword>

 

You will note that the counters have all been reset to zero.  That is because the user’s account has been inactivated by OpenAM by setting the value of the inetuserstatus attribute to Inactive.  Additionally, the third invalid password caused OpenDJ to lock the account by setting the value of the pwdAccountLockedTime attribute to the value of the last password failure.

Now that the account is locked out, how do you unlock it?  The natural thing for an OpenAM administrator to do is to reset the value of the inetuserstatus attribute and they would most likely use the OpenAM Console to do this as follows:

 

EditUser

OpenAM Edit User Page (Change User Status)

 

The problem with this approach is that while the user’s status in OpenAM is now made active, the status in OpenDJ remains locked.

 

$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData:: PEludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD48SW52YWxpZENvdW50PjA8L0
  ludmFsaWRDb3VudD48TGFzdEludmFsaWRBdD4wPC9MYXN0SW52YWxpZEF0PjxMb2NrZWRvdXRBd
  D4wPC9Mb2NrZWRvdXRBdD48QWN0dWFsTG9ja291dER1cmF0aW9uPjA8L0FjdHVhbExvY2tvdXRE
  dXJhdGlvbj48L0ludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD4=
inetuserstatus: Active
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125819.918Z
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125913.151Z
pwdFailureTime: 20140422125944.771Z
pwdAccountLockedTime: 20140422125944.771Z

 

Attempting to log in to OpenAM with this user’s account yields an authentication error that would make most OpenAM administrators scratch their head; especially after just resetting the user’s status.

 

OpenAMAuthNFailed

OpenAM Authentication Failure Message

 

The trick to fixing this is to clear the pwdAccountLockedTime and pwdFailureTime attributes and the way to do this is by modifying the user’s password.  Once again, the ldapmodify command can be used as follows:

 

$ ldapmodify -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** <ENTER>
dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com <ENTER>
changetype: modify <ENTER>
replace: userPassword <ENTER>
userPassword: newpassword <ENTER>
<ENTER>
$ ldapsearch -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w ****** uid=testuser1 inetuserstatus \
  sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData pwdFailureTime pwdAccountLockedTime

dn: uid=testuser1,ou=test,dc=example,dc=com
sunAMAuthInvalidAttemptsData:: PEludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD48SW52YWxpZENvdW50PjA8L0
  ludmFsaWRDb3VudD48TGFzdEludmFsaWRBdD4wPC9MYXN0SW52YWxpZEF0PjxMb2NrZWRvdXRBd
  D4wPC9Mb2NrZWRvdXRBdD48QWN0dWFsTG9ja291dER1cmF0aW9uPjA8L0FjdHVhbExvY2tvdXRE
  dXJhdGlvbj48L0ludmFsaWRQYXNzd29yZD4=
inetuserstatus: Active
pwdChangedTime: 20140422172242.676Z

 

This, however, requires two different interfaces for managing the user’s account.  An easier method is to combine the changes into one interface.  You can modify the inetuserstatus attribute using ldapmodify or if you are using the OpenAM Console, simply change the password while you are updating the user’s status.

 

EditUser2

OpenAM Edit User Page (Change Password)

 

There are other ways to update one attribute by simply modifying the other.  This can range in complexity from a simple virtual attribute to a more complex yet powerful custom OpenDJ plugin.   But in the words of Voltaire, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

So go forth and wield your new found power; but do it in a responsible manner.

  1. gingerbull
    January 26, 2015 at 5:18 am

    Thanks Bill, this article was really useful on my current project.

    • idmdude
      March 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

      You are welcome. I hope that it was helpful!

  2. July 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Just came across this. Pure gold!

    • idmdude
      July 21, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks, @warrenstrange. Coming from you, that is a huge complement.

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