Using mod_auth_mysql as a single sign-on tool

Scott StultsFebruary 5, 2007

I recently migrated our Subversion repositories and trac sites from one server to another. This gave me the chance to reorganize our layout and authentication mechanism. I chose to replace our existing .htaccess files with mod_auth_mysql because it fit two key criteria:

  • It’s easy to administer – Logging into the server and running htpasswd every time I need to add a user or change a password is a PITA
  • Most of the applications we use offer MySQL authentication functions, so I can grant access to several things at once.

The docs on how to set it up were fairly clear, with one exception: I would have liked to have seen an example of how to use multiple tables for group membership. After a little more Googling I ran across such an example, taken from Integration of Jira User Management with Apache. Common database normalization techniques suggest that users and passwords go into one table, groups in another, and a third table should be used to join the two by ID’s. This is what I was after, and that’s what Jira’s integration doc showed me. It was also confirmation that I had chosen an appropriate central authentication mechanism.

Eric was nice enough to whip up a Rails CRUD utility to manage the tables (which will be posted soon) and from there it was a simple matter to instruct Apache to use those tables whenever it needed authentication. By the way, a great way to do that is with a separate file such as “mysql-auth.inc” and just use the Apache Include directive to include that file wherever you need authentication.




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