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NetAuth is itself a server and a set of command line tools to manage that server. It provides a system of record for identity and authentication information. This system can then be used as a root of trust for other downstream systems that speak standard protocols such as LDAPv3, OAuth 2.0, or other well known protocols.

NetAuth is written in Go and has strict rules surrounding code testing and release stability. The releases attempt to follow Semantic Versioning, but some allowances are made given that gRPC is very resiliant to missing fields.

Comprehensive documentation is available here, but this page provides enough to get up and running to evaluate NetAuth.


NetAuth is not available in compiled form from the project directly, you may compile it yourself or obtain it from your distribution’s package manager. On Debian derived systems ensure that you are getting a recent vresion as the NetAuth project does not offer security backports.

To compile NetAuth you’ll need a working Golang compiler at version 1.10 or better. You’ll also need dep, the Go package manager.

$ mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/
$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ git clone -b <version>
$ cd NetAuth
$ dep ensure
$ go build -o netauthd cmd/netauthd/main.go
$ go build -o netauth cmd/netauth/main.go

This will produce a pair of executable files netauth and netauthd. Per convention, netauthd is the server executable. You may copy these to where your system keeps user installed applications for secure use, usually /usr/local/sbin.


Configuration is really best left to the manual linked above, but for a quickstart there’s two important things to note:

A config file for this demo should be created with the following content:

  pwn_me = true


Remember that NetAuth is dealing with secure information. This information must be protected while in transit, and NetAuth uses TLS to ensure this security. While TLS is a must for a production setup, it can be annoying to deal with while doing a local demo or otherwise just trying out NetAuth. If you want to turn off TLS and understand the risks that are associated with this the -tls.PWN_ME flag can be used to disable TLS.

This flag is no joke, you will be sending passwords in the clear. Anyone on your network with the knowhow to do so can sniff these passwords and use them. Don’t run without TLS for anything more than a toy demo, and even then consider against it since tools like cfssl make it very easy to generate certificates!

5 Minute Demo

Lets do a 5 minute demo where we start a NetAuth server, add an entity and a group, and authenticate as that entity:

Starting the server

Open a terminal and start the NetAuth server with the options as shown:

$ netauthd --tls.PWN_ME --token.jwt.generate --server.bootstrap root:password

This will start your server and generate a set of keys that can be used for issuing tokens. The server is bootstrapped with an entity of ID ‘root’ and authenticated with the secret ‘password’. An important note to make here is that the ID ‘root’ will collide with the administrative user on most Linux systems. To combat this collision if you want to use the ID ‘root’ it is recommended to instead use ‘_root’ which will not collide. The log scroll should look something like the following:

2018/09/25 21:21:59 NetAuth server is starting!
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Server bound on localhost:8080
2018/09/25 21:21:59 ===================================================================
2018/09/25 21:21:59 ===================================================================
2018/09/25 21:21:59
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Launching without TLS! Your passwords will be shipped in the clear!
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Seriously, the option is --PWN_ME for a reason, you're trusting the
2018/09/25 21:21:59 network fabric with your authentication information, and this is a
2018/09/25 21:21:59 bad idea.  Anyone on your local network can get passwords, tokens,
2018/09/25 21:21:59 and other secure information.  You should instead obtain a
2018/09/25 21:21:59 certificate and key and start the server with those.
2018/09/25 21:21:59
2018/09/25 21:21:59 ===================================================================
2018/09/25 21:21:59 ===================================================================
2018/09/25 21:21:59 The following DB backends are registered:
2018/09/25 21:21:59   ProtoDB
2018/09/25 21:21:59 The following crypto implementations are registered:
2018/09/25 21:21:59   bcrypt
2018/09/25 21:21:59 The following token services are registered:
2018/09/25 21:21:59   jwt-rsa
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Initializing new Entity Tree with ProtoDB and bcrypt
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Initialized new Entity Manager
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Initializing token service
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Warning: No token implementation selected, using only registered option...
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Loading public key from token.pem
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Blob at token.pem contains no key!
2018/09/25 21:21:59 Generating keys
2018/09/25 21:22:00 Keys successfully generated
2018/09/25 21:22:00 Commencing Bootstrap
2018/09/25 21:22:00 No entity with ID 'root' exists!  Creating...
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Secret set for 'root'
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Created entity 'root'
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Set capability GLOBAL_ROOT on entity 'root'
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Bootstrap phase complete
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Disabling bootstrap
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Bootstrap disabled
2018/09/25 21:22:04 Ready to Serve...

Using NetAuth

Now we’ll do a few things with the server that’s running. As long as you run from the same directory that contains yoru config.toml, this demo will work. Otherwise you will encounter errors that your server does not support TLS. Since your user locally likely doesn’t match the bootstrap user (don’t run this demo as root!), create the following alias in the terminal you’ll do the rest of the demo in:

alias netauth="netauth --entity root"

Now we’ll add an entity and get information on them:

$ netauth entity create myuser
Initial Secret for myuser:
New entity created successfully

$ netauth entity info myuser
ID: myuser
Number: 2

Now lets add a group and get information on it:

$ netauth group create mygroup --display-name "My First Group"
New group created successfully

$ netauth group info mygroup
Name: mygroup
Display Name: My First Group
Number: 1

Now we will put myuser into mygroup and see the membership shows the entity myuser as a member:

$ netauth entity membership myuser add mygroup
Membership updated successfully

$ netauth group members mygroup
ID: myuser
Number: 2

Finally we can authenticate as myuser and inspect the resulting token:

$ netauth --entity myuser auth get-token
Token obtained

$ netauth --entity myuser auth inspect-token
{myuser [] 5}

You can see the token was obtained and the token contents dumped in machine format.

Wrapping Up

From the server’s perspective, here’s what happened:

2019/03/25 21:31:58 Authenticating root (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:34:02 Token requested for root (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:34:13 New entity 'myuser' created by 'root' (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:34:41 Info requested on 'myuser' (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:36:33 New Group 'mygroup' created by 'root' (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:38:31 Information on mygroup requested (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:41:17 Entity 'myuser' added to 'mygroup' by 'root' (netauth@theGibson)
2019/03/25 21:44:30 Token requested for myuser (netauth@theGibson)

There’s plenty more that NetAuth is capable of, this is just a 5 minute demo that shows basic usage. For more information, read the complete docs at