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Migrating from pam_krb5 to sssd

pam_krb5 was a Pluggable Authentication Module (PAM) for performing user session authentication against Kerberos (specifically, krb5). Red Hat formally announced its deprecation in the RHEL-7.4 release.

System Security Services Daemon (sssd) is a broader toolsuite for managing authentication mechanisms and remote directories. It includes a PAM module, pam_sss, which can perform the tasks for which pam_krb5 was previously used.

Architecturally, pam_krb5 was a monolithic module which performed all needed tasks within itself. sssd is set up differently: the module pam_sss calls out to the running sssd itself for most functionality.

Note: sssd does not currently handle the AFS capabilities of pam_krb5. If you would like such functionality, please contact Red Hat Support.

Core functionality

We will first show an example migration, and then provide detailed information about specific options.

pam_krb5 had both PAM configuration and a snippet in krb5.conf. The PAM configuration would have looked similar to

auth required /lib64/security/
session optional /lib64/security/
account sufficient /lib64/security/
password sufficient /lib64/security/

and krb5.conf:

    pam = {
        validate = true
        ccache_dir = /var/tmp
        TEST.EXAMPLE.COM = {
            debug = true
            keytab = FILE:/etc/krb5.keytab

The PAM configuration for sssd is very similar:

auth required
session optional
account sufficient
password sufficient

and in sssd.conf we would add:

    services = nss, pam
    domains = TEST.EXAMPLE.COM

    id_provider = files # set to ldap if LDAP is in use, etc.
    auth_provider = krb5
    krb5_realm = TEST.EXAMPLE.COM
    debug_level = 5
    krb5_validate = true
    krb5_ccachedir = /var/tmp # note that RHEL-7 default to KERNEL ccaches, which are preferred in most cases to FILE
    krb5_keytab = /etc/krb5.keytab

Detailed options (by type)

Wholly deprecated (no replacement)

The following pam_krb5 options have no replacement due to only being useful for AFS: afs_cells, external, ignore_afs, null_afs, tokens, tokens_strategy.


Debugging in pam_krb5 was controlled by the debug, debug_sensitive, and trace options. The debugging of pam_sss is not configurable (everything is logged and can be filtered appropriately). Debugging sssd itself is controlled by the debug_level parameter of sssd.conf, and can also be adjusted dynamically using sss_debuglevel. At higher levels, krb5 tracing is enabled. Sensitive messages are not forwarded from the daemon to the PAM application unless the value of pam_verbosity is increased above the default.


pam_krb5 used the options banner, chpw_prompt, and pwhelp to display custom messages to the user when prompting for input. There is no direct replacement for these; however, an expiration messsage (pam_account_expired_message) and account lockout message (pam_account_locked_message) can be set. See documentation on pam_verbosity (in sssd.conf(5)) for more information on when these are displayed.

pam_krb’s prompting options (chpw_prompt, initial_prompt, no_initial_prompt, subsequent_prompt, no_subsequent_prompt, use_first_pass, try_first_pass, and use_authtok) are replaced by controls in pam_sss. In particular, use_authtok and use_first_pass keep name and functionality. The behavior coded by try_first_pass is the sssd default. All other prompting is can be enabled by setting prompt_always. For more information, see pam_sss(8).

Credential management

The pam_krb5 ccache_dir, ccname_template, keytab, and validate / no_validate options map to the sssd.conf options krb5_ccachedir, krb5_ccname_template, krb5_keytab, and krb5_validate, respectively. By default, validation is not enabled, unless the Kerberos provider is IPA or Active Directory. See sssd-krb5(5) for more information.

pam_krb5’s validate_user_user, multiple_ccaches, and cred_session options have no sssd equivalent. Please contact Red Hat Support if you would like such functionality.

Localauth / .k5login

sssd and pam_krb5 have different approaches here. In order to enable .k5login-based access control, set access_provider to krb5 in sssd.conf. sssd also includes its own localauth plugin (which is typically enabled using a configuration snippet in /etc/krb5.conf.d). This replaces the always_allow_localname and **ignore_k5login* settings from pam_krb5.

pam_krb5’s mappings rules are replaced by krb5_map_user rules in sssd. Note that sssd does not support the use of regular expressions for these rules. Since in both cases it is typically necessary to configure auth_to_local in krb5.conf with the inverse, it is recommended to keep these mappings simple.

sssd refuses to admit users that do not exist (i.e., that cannot be resolved through its NSS interface). Therefore, the no_user_check option from pam_krb5 (previously marked as potentially dangerous) has no sssd analogue.


pam_krb5’s ignore_unknown_principals, ignore_unknown_spn, and ignore_unknown_upn options are united as the pam_sss ignore_unknown_user option. However, as above, note that sssd will not authenticate users that cannot be resolved. Additionally, for users whose information cannot be obtained from LDAP (or who do not exist in LDAP), sssd falls back to “username@REALM”.

minimum_uid is called min_id in sssd.conf. Additionally, sssd.conf allows max_id to limit the maximum UID to check. Note that this also affects NSS user resolution.

preauth_options is superseded by the certmap rules; see sss-certmap(5) for more information.

armor is superseded by sssd’s krb5_use_fast option. The armor_strategy option has no direct equivalent in sssd; sssd’s behavior is comparable to that which would have been configured by setting armor_strategy to keytab.

use_shmem does not apply to sssd due to architectural differences.


pam_krb5 also included four binaries. Three of them were useful only for AFS-related work, and no replacement is provided: afs5log, pagsh, and pam_newpag.

The fourth, pam_krb5_cchelper, was intended as an internal tool for pam_krb5’s use. sssd has its own internal management that is not exposed to end users. pam_krb5_cchelper’s functionality can be replicated using kinit -c or kdestroy -c, and calling chown and chgrp as needed.