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Essential System Administration, 3rd Edition by Æleen Frisch

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LDAP: Using a Directory Service for User Authentication

For several years now, every time anyone put together a list of hot system administration topics, LDAP was sure to be near the top. Many sites are beginning to use LDAP for storing employee information, including user account information, and as a means for performing enterprise-wide user authentication. In this way, LDAP-based account data and authentication can replace separate, per-system logins and network-based authentication schemes like NIS.

In this closing section of the chapter, we’ll take a brief look at LDAP—and specifically, the OpenLDAP environment—and consider how it may be used for user authentication.

About LDAP

LDAP, as its fully expanded name—Lightweight Directory Access Protocol—indicates, is a protocol that supports a directory service. The best analogy for a directory service is the phone company’s directory assistance. Directory assistance is a mechanism for customers to find information that they need quickly. Traditionally, human operators provided the (hopefully friendly) interface between the user (customer) and the database (the list of phone numbers). Directory assistance is not a means for customers to change their phone number, indicate whether their phone number should be listed or unlisted, or to obtain new telephone service.

A computer-based directory service provides similar functionality. It is a database and means of accessing information within it. Specifically, the directory service database ...

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