8.4. Access Control

Newer releases of Apache HBase (>= 0.92) support optional access control list (ACL-) based protection of resources on a column family and/or table basis.

This describes how to set up Secure HBase for access control, with an example of granting and revoking user permission on table resources provided.

8.4.1. Prerequisites

You must configure HBase for secure or simple user access operation. Refer to the Secure Client Access to HBase or Simple User Access to HBase sections and complete all of the steps described there.

For secure access, you must also configure ZooKeeper for secure operation. Changes to ACLs are synchronized throughout the cluster using ZooKeeper. Secure authentication to ZooKeeper must be enabled or otherwise it will be possible to subvert HBase access control via direct client access to ZooKeeper. Refer to the section on secure ZooKeeper configuration and complete all of the steps described there.

8.4.2. Overview

With Secure RPC and Access Control enabled, client access to HBase is authenticated and user data is private unless access has been explicitly granted. Access to data can be granted at a table or per column family basis.

However, the following items have been left out of the initial implementation for simplicity:

  1. Row-level or per value (cell): Using Tags in HFile V3

  2. Push down of file ownership to HDFS: HBase is not designed for the case where files may have different permissions than the HBase system principal. Pushing file ownership down into HDFS would necessitate changes to core code. Also, while HDFS file ownership would make applying quotas easy, and possibly make bulk imports more straightforward, it is not clear that it would offer a more secure setup.

  3. HBase managed "roles" as collections of permissions: We will not model "roles" internally in HBase to begin with. We instead allow group names to be granted permissions, which allows external modeling of roles via group membership. Groups are created and manipulated externally to HBase, via the Hadoop group mapping service.

Access control mechanisms are mature and fairly standardized in the relational database world. The HBase implementation approximates current convention, but HBase has a simpler feature set than relational databases, especially in terms of client operations. We don't distinguish between an insert (new record) and update (of existing record), for example, as both collapse down into a Put. Accordingly, the important operations condense to four permissions: READ, WRITE, CREATE, and ADMIN.

Table 8.1. Operation To Permission Mapping

 Bulk Load
 Major Compact

Permissions can be granted in any of the following scopes, though CREATE and ADMIN permissions are effective only at table scope.

  • Table

    • Read: User can read from any column family in table

    • Write: User can write to any column family in table

    • Create: User can alter table attributes; add, alter, or drop column families; and drop the table.

    • Admin: User can alter table attributes; add, alter, or drop column families; and enable, disable, or drop the table. User can also trigger region (re)assignments or relocation.

  • Column Family

    • Read: User can read from the column family

    • Write: User can write to the column family

There is also an implicit global scope for the superuser.

The superuser is a principal, specified in the HBase site configuration file, that has equivalent access to HBase as the 'root' user would on a UNIX derived system. Normally this is the principal that the HBase processes themselves authenticate as. Although future versions of HBase Access Control may support multiple superusers, the superuser privilege will always include the principal used to run the HMaster process. Only the superuser is allowed to create tables, switch the balancer on or off, or take other actions with global consequence. Furthermore, the superuser has an implicit grant of all permissions to all resources.

Tables have a new metadata attribute: OWNER, the user principal who owns the table. By default this will be set to the user principal who creates the table, though it may be changed at table creation time or during an alter operation by setting or changing the OWNER table attribute. Only a single user principal can own a table at a given time. A table owner will have all permissions over a given table.

8.4.3. Server-side Configuration for Access Control

Enable the AccessController coprocessor in the cluster configuration and restart HBase. The restart can be a rolling one. Complete the restart of all Master and RegionServer processes before setting up ACLs.

To enable the AccessController, modify the hbase-site.xml file on every server machine in the cluster to look like:


8.4.4. Cell level Access Control using Tags

Prior to HBase 0.98 access control was restricted to table and column family level. Thanks to tags feature in 0.98 that allows Access control on a cell level. The existing Access Controller coprocessor helps in achieving cell level access control also. For details on configuring it refer to Access Control section.

The ACLs can be specified for every mutation using the APIs

Mutation.setACL(String user, Permission perms)
Mutation.setACL(Map<String, Permission> perms)

For example, to provide read permission to an user ‘user1’ then

put.setACL(“user1”, new Permission(Permission.Action.READ))

Generally the ACL applied on the table and CF takes precedence over Cell level ACL. In order to make the cell level ACL to take precedence use the following API,

Mutation.setACLStrategy(boolean cellFirstStrategy)

Please note that inorder to use this feature, HFile V3 version should be turned on.


Note that deletes with ACLs do not have any effect. To keep things simple the ACLs applied on the current Put does not change the ACL of any previous Put in the sense that the ACL on the current put does not affect older versions of Put for the same row.

8.4.5. Shell Enhancements for Access Control

The HBase shell has been extended to provide simple commands for editing and updating user permissions. The following commands have been added for access control list management:

Example 8.1. Grant

grant <user|@group> <permissions> [ <table> [ <column family> [ <column qualifier> ] ] ]

<user|@group> is user or group (start with character '@'), Groups are created and manipulated via the Hadoop group mapping service.

<permissions> is zero or more letters from the set "RWCA": READ('R'), WRITE('W'), CREATE('C'), ADMIN('A').

Note: Grants and revocations of individual permissions on a resource are both accomplished using the grant command. A separate revoke command is also provided by the shell, but this is for fast revocation of all of a user's access rights to a given resource only.

Example 8.2. Revoke

revoke <user|@group> [ <table> [ <column family> [ <column qualifier> ] ] ]

Example 8.3. Alter

The alter command has been extended to allow ownership assignment:

alter 'tablename', {OWNER => 'username|@group'}

Example 8.4. User Permission

The user_permission command shows all access permissions for the current user for a given table:

user_permission <table>

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