Authenticating and populating users in Django using a Windows Active Directory and SASL

I’ve been trying to get some Django stuff running that can securely authenticate users against Windows Active Directory and also populate some info (first/last name, email address, maybe groups etc.). There are lots of resources out there but nothing was fully complete or modern and it took me some figuring/hacking to get it done.

Resources I found include:

  • django-auth-ldap — the normal LDAP plugin. Problem: It does not natively support SASL and simple binds would send clear-text passwords. I think normal people would just activate TLS in this case but I didn’t want to do that
  • A relevant SO post — with an answer linking to a useful snippet that no longer works on recent django versions.
  • django-auth-ldap-ad — Someone’s entire different ldap plugin made specifically for this purpose. But it isn’t being maintained, is GPL-2, and doesn’t work directly in Python 3 or recent django.

I worked hard on that last one and actually got it running in Python 3, Django 2.1. But it still needed work (Needed a different signature in the authenticate method, bytes vs. strings issues, etc.).

In the end I made a custom subclass of the LDAPBackend in django-auth-ldap.

Activate the custom subclass and specify some settings:

Make the custom authenticator subclass in Note that this is heavily based on the original class in the library. I did a few things with this that weren’t awesome but worked:

  • Copy/pasted lots of code with _LDAPUser switched to my new subclass of that user. A better solution would be to change the library code to use a factory method and just update that. This subclass would shrink dramatically with that change.
  • Overrode the attempt to know the DN before authenticating. SASL works fine with just the username.
  • Eliminated re-binding when getting the connection. It was grabbing that through a property and failing authentication all the time because the auth_tokens weren’t cached anywhere. Another option would have been to cache the auth tokens.

And boom, it works! Users get authenticated and name/email gets populated. Quite glorious. I haven’t messed with groups much but that’s the next step.

Moving forward, I’ll consider cleaning this up and contributing it to django-auth-ldap.


2 thoughts on “Authenticating and populating users in Django using a Windows Active Directory and SASL”

  1. Looking forward to giving this a crack over the next couple of days for something I’m working on. Is this still pretty reliable?


    1. Hi, Please help me about, How to integrate Windows Active Directory authentication with DJANGO 2.2

      Please provide me the steps. Thanks for your previous valuable information.

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