Kafka SSL – Custom Principal Builder

I just pushed a repository on Github with code for a Custom Principal Builder when exposing Kafka brokers with SSL only.

The motivation behind this code is the following: some producers/consumers might not be able to use Kerberos to authenticate against Kafka brokers and, consequently, you can’t use SASL_PLAINTEXT or SASL_SSL. Since PLAINTEXT is not an option (for obvious security reasons), it remains SSL.

When configuring a broker to use SSL, you will have authentication AND encryption if and only if 2-ways SSL is configured (by setting ssl.client.auth=required). It is strongly recommended to always set this property to required. (For additional information: https://docs.confluent.io/current/kafka/authentication_ssl.html#ssl-overview).

When 2-ways SSL is enabled, the client will be authenticated using the Subject of the client certificate used to perform the handshake. It means that if the Subject is: CN=kafkaClient, OU=OrgUnit, O=My Company, you will have to set your topic ACLs to allow this user to consume/publish data.

When using Apache Ranger to manage authorizations for your Kafka brokers, it’s not great to have this kind of username… That’s why we want to define a custom principal builder to extract a username from the Subject of the certificate.

In the provided code, I want to expose two properties: a pattern that will be used to match the Subject and extract any capture group I want, and a value to construct the username using the capture groups. I added the two below properties in the server.properties configuration file on brokers side:


In this case, I only want to extract the CN part of the Subject and use it as the username of the client. If needed, I could use more complex patterns but with my previous example, my client would be authenticated with kafkaClient as username. It’s now easier to define the authorizations on my topic using built-in ACLs or using Apache Ranger.

Note: with Kafka 1.0+, the implementation changed a bit. Even though this code remains valid, there is a new interface that is much easier to implement (https://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/KAFKA/KIP-189%3A+Improve+principal+builder+interface+and+add+support+for+SASL) and it also provides the possibility to implement the principal builder when using SASL. For a Kafka 1.x version of this code, have a look on this branch.

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