Searching admin-only fields

https://blueprints.launchpad.net/searchlight/+spec/index-level-role-separation

Our aim is to allow all fields to be searchable and available in facets but only for users where that is appropriate; as such, we introduced the idea of filtering search results based on whether or not a user has the admin role.

The flaw that we discovered towards the end of Liberty is described in https://bugs.launchpad.net/searchlight/+bug/1504399, but very briefly, merely removing fields from the result is not sufficient. It is possible to ‘fish’ for values for known fields by running searches against them and examining whether results come back; an attacker might use range or wildcard queries to reduce the time it takes to locate values that return results.

Problem Description

We wish to allow plugins to define fields (whether in code or in configuration) that cannot be seen by non-administrative users, be that in search results, visible in facets or by searching for values for a field. Administrators should be subject to none of these restrictions.

Prior to the fix in bug #1504399 Searchlight fulfilled the first two of these criteria. Unfortunately the fix (which was under a very tight time restriction) prevented even administrators from searching fields. The problem, therefore, is to ensure these conditions.

Proposed Change

Role-based filtering

This solution involves indexing twice and adding a field to all resources that can be used to filter a search based on a user’s role. For instance, taking a heavily cut-down Nova server definition:

{
  "_id": "aaaaabbbb-1111-4444-2222-eeee",
  "_type": "OS::Nova::Server",
  "_source": {
     "status", "ACTIVE",
     "OS-EXT-ATTR-SOMETHING": "admin only data"
  }
}

This is turned into two documents, identical except that: * the admin-only document has an additional field ‘user-role’: ‘admin’ * the user document has an additional field ‘user-role’: ‘user’ * the user document does not contain the OS-EXT-ATTR-SOMETHING field * the ids for each document have a role added (111111-4444-2222-eeee:ADMIN)

Indexing

Indexing operations are unchanged except that two operations (or one bulk operation) are needed. Admin-only fields would be stripped from the serialized source document for the non-admin copy:

{
  "_id": "aaaaabbbb-1111-4444-2222-eeee_ADMIN",
  "_type": "OS::Nova::Server",
  "_source": {
    "status", "ACTIVE",
    "OS-EXT-ATTR-SOMETHING": "admin only data",
    "_searchlight_user_role": "admin"
  }
},
{
  "_id": "aaaaabbbb-1111-4444-2222-eeee_USER",
  "_type": "OS::Nova::Server",
  "_source": {
    "status", "ACTIVE",
    "_searchlight-user-role": "user"
  }
}

This solution allows resources that don’t need an admin/user separation to index a single document with both roles:

{
  "_id": "abcdefa-1222",
  "_type": "OS::Designate::Zone",
  "_source": {
    "_searchlight-user-role": ["admin", "user"]
  }
}

Searches

The server can apply a non-analyzed (term) filter on _searchlight-user-role based on the request context:

{
  "query": {... },
  "filter": {"term": {"_searchlight-user-role": "admin"}}
}

Filters are cached and very fast. An alternative, once we switch to using aliases (see the zero downtime spec proposal), is applying the filter on the alias:

{
  "index": "searchlight-<timestamp>",
  "alias": "searchlight-admin",
  "filter": {"term": {"_searchlight-user-role": "admin"}}
}

The search API would query against searchlight-admin or searchlight-user as appropriate. There is some precedent for this; it’s a common way to make data appear to be segmented based on a field (‘index per user’ - Reference) without the overhead of multiple lucene indices.

Second choice - Separate indexes

Note

This began as my frontrunner, but the added maintenance headache has pushed me towards filter-based separation.

Another solution is to maintain separate indices for admin and non-admin users. While this seems offensive from a duplication point of view, it’s very common in non-relational-databases to store information based on the kinds of queries you want to run. There will be an impact on indexing speed and data storage, though I believe the volume and throughput of data we store makes this impact insignificant. The major downside is the increased maintenance overhead (at a minimum, two indices would be required at least for those plugins requiring it).

Technically, introducing a pair of indices isn’t terribly complicated; all write operations become two, and searches determine which index they’re using before running. As far as a user sees, there will be no impact (except that admins will once again be able to run searches against admin-only fields).

Indexing

Information in the -users index can be restricted with dynamic_mapping template (that can tell Elasticsearch not to store or index matching fields with index:no and include_in_all:no). Along with result filtering (or _source filtering or removing these fields from the indexed document) this achieves all three requirements.

Some plugins do not have admin-only fields, and those plugins could run against the same index. I believe, though, that it would be necessary to use a separate shared index in that case, because otherwise a query could potentially run against (say) OS::Nova::Server in both indices. For example, the structure below assumes OS::Something::Else doesn’t need two indices, and all data is in the user index:

searchlight-admin:
   OS::Nova::Server
searchlight-user:
   OS::Nova::Server
   OS::Something::Else

An admin query against both types would have to run against both indices, running the risk of duplicate results for OS::Nova::Server resources. This might need more discussion, but safer would be to either mandate storing information twice for all types, or:

searchlight-admin:
   OS::Nova::Server
searchlight-user:
   OS::Nova::Server
searchlight-all:
   OS::Something::Else

Searches

Little would change as far as a user is concerned. The search code would have some extra conditionals in it to determine which index to use. This would be complicated if an index contains both admin- and non-admin- data.

Alternatives

There are two other alternatives I’m aware of.

  1. Elasticsearch Shield. Shield adds a number of features to Elasticsearch, all aimed at security and authentication. One of those features (supported only by Elasticsearch 2.0) is field level access control. This requires an inclusive list of fields to be given in configuration on a per-index basis, and also requires Shield’s authentication to be enabled (there are various plugins available). It disables the _all field for users who are subject to field level restrictions.

    Most importantly, Shield is a commercial, closed-source product that runs on the server, and so is able to do things we are not (since it has access to the parsed query).

  2. Modify or reject incoming queries. We already strip certain fields from search results for non-admin users, and in theory we could restrict searches in the same way (or raise Not Authorized exceptions). While naively this seems straightforward, in reality it becomes complex quite quickly. Imagine the following queries against Nova for a protected field called hypervisor_id:

    {"query": {"term": {"hypervisor_id": "abcd1"}}}
    {"query": {"query_string": {"query": "hypervisor_id:abcd1"}}}
    {"query": {"multi_match": {"query": "abcd1", "fields": ["hypervisor_id"]}}}
    {"query": {"query_string": {"query": "abcd1"}}}
    

    Constructing filters to catch those queries isn’t impossible, but becomes increasingly complex; we would essentially need to parse the query, and we’d need to do so for each plugin type.

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