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Configuring a CentOS 7 Kerberos KDC

By September 5, 2015September 12th, 2022No Comments


Configuring a CentOS 7 Kerberos KDC

We will now configure a Kerberos KDC that we can use for authentication. In this tutorial we will configure a CentOS 7.1 host as a KDC and also use it as a Kerberos client to authenticate SSH logins. In a later tutorial we will add in a second client server. By the end of this tutorial you will be comfortable with configuring a CentOS 7 Kerberos KDC.

What is Kerberos

Kerberos is an authentication mechanism. Once authenticated to the Kerberos server a client is issued a token. This token can be used to authenticate the client to Kerberized Services such as SSH. In this way we can login to the Kerberos server once and use the token for password-less logins. In practice this means when using SSH to remotely manage many servers I can login once a day to the KDC and use the token to authenticate to all the others servers without the need of further passwords. By default a token lasts 24 hours but is adjustable.


Time services will need to be configured on the KDC and the servers that make use of it. In my scenario the servers that I will use are on the same VM host and will then share the same time. We will also need to resolve host names through DNS or in the demonstration we will use local host files. In this demo we will use just the one server but in the next tutorial we ill introduce the 2nd client server. The KDC will be and the 2nd server will be On both servers I have host file entries for both servers.

Install Software on KDC

# yum install -y krb5-server krb5-workstation pam_krb5

Edit Server Configuration Files

The configuration files for the server are located in the directory /var/kerberos/krb5kdc . We have two files to edit so we will move to this directory:

cd  /var/kerberos/krb5kdc

There will be two files in this directory:

  • kdc.conf
  • kadm5.acl

The conf file is the server configuration and the acl file, well the ACL. The ACL grants all privileges to anyone one with the admin role. In each file we need to change the Kerberos realm from EXAMPLE.COM to your own realm name. In out case this is TUP.COM.

The kadm5.acl is listed in the following screenshot:

kadmThe kdc.conf file is shown below:

kdcEdit the Client Configuration

The server that we are using as the KDC will also be a Kerberos client, allowing users to authenticate via Kerberos to services that is hosts. For this we edit the file: /etc/krb5.conf. In this file we remove the comment (#) at the start of any of the lines. We then again replace all instances of EXAMPLE.COM with our own realm. In my case TUP.COM. We do this both for the DNS name in lower-case and the realm name in upper-case. My file is shown in the following screenshot:

krb5confTake care in editing the file to ensure all changes have been made. This file can act as the default for any new file added to the realm. We simply copy this file to the next client.

Create the KDC Database

When creating the KDC database we will need an entropy pool of random data. Please check that your rngd service is running correctly as it does not by default in CentOS 7 or 7.1. you can read my post on setting this up here. You will be prompted to set a secure password to the database key when you run the following command.

kdb5_util create -s -r TUP.COM

Start and Enable Kerberos

We are now ready to start and enable the two services:

systemctl start krb5kdc kadmin
systemctl enable krb5kdc kadmin

Create Principals

Objects in the KDC database are known as principals and can be users or hosts. We will assign root admin rights and are standard user tux will be added in as a user so they can use Kerberized services:

# kadmin.local
kadmin.local: addprinc root/admin
kadmin.local: addprinc tup
kadmin.local: quit

We will now add in the host so that it may host Kerberized services. We must add principals for each user and server that will use Kerberos. We will also copy the  encrypted Kerberos keytab file to the new host.

# kadmin.local
kadmin.local: addprinc -randkey host/
kadmin.local: ktadd host/
kadmin.local: quit

Configure SSH Client

On the Kerberos client server we need to edit the SSH Client file to allow all clients by default to use Kerberos authentication. To do this edit the file /etc/ssh/ssh_config and add the lines:

GSSAPIAuthentication yes
GSSAPIDelegateCredentials yes

Allow Kerberos Authentication to the Server

From the command line we can allow Kerberos authentication either using authconfig-tui or simply with the command:

# authconfig  --enablekrb5 --update

This will make the changes tot he PAM configuration. I would also reload SSH at this stage to be certain everything is in place:

# systemctl reload sshd

I have now firewall in place but if you use a host based firewall you will need to open port 88 on TCP and UDP.

Test SSH Authentication Using Kerberos

Login to as a the standard user you added to the Kerberos database. In may case this was the user tux. Connect to the KDC and authenticate to receive a token with the following command:

$ kinit

You can list your token with klist:

$ klist

The output from klist is shown in the following screenshot:


You will now be able to authenticate using Kerberos to the SSH server:

$ ssh

You may have to accept the public key if this is the first connect but you will not be prompted for a password. If we have more SSH servers in the realm then the behavior would be the same. We would run kinit just the once and we would be able to access all of the servers in the realm with the one the single password authentication.

The following video can step you through the process:

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