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Authorization and ACLs


Kafka ships with a pluggable Authorizer and an out-of-box authorizer implementation that uses ZooKeeper to store all the ACLs. It is important to set ACLs because otherwise access to resources is limited to super users when an authorizer is configured. The default behavior is such that if a resource has no associated ACLs, then no one is allowed to access the resource, except super users. It is possible to change this behavior, as we discuss below.

Kafka ACLs are defined in the general format of “Principal P is [Allowed/Denied] Operation O From Host H On Resource R”. The following table describes the relationship between operations, resources and APIs:

Operation Resource API
ALTER Topic Will be introduced in a future release
CLUSTER_ACTION Cluster LeaderAndIsr
CLUSTER_ACTION Cluster StopReplica
CLUSTER_ACTION Cluster UpdateMetadata
CLUSTER_ACTION Cluster ControlledShutdown
CREATE Cluster Will be introduced in a future release
CREATE Topic Metadata if auto.create.topics.enable
CREATE Topic Will be introduced in a future release
DELETE Topic Will be introduced in a future release
DESCRIBE Topic Offsets
DESCRIBE Topic Metadata
DESCRIBE Cluster Will be introduced in a future release
READ ConsumerGroup GroupCoordinator
READ ConsumerGroup Heartbeat
READ ConsumerGroup JoinGroup
READ ConsumerGroup LeaveGroup
READ ConsumerGroup OffsetCommit
READ ConsumerGroup OffsetFetch
READ ConsumerGroup SyncGroup
READ Topic Fetch
READ Topic GroupCoordinator
READ Topic OffsetCommit
READ Topic OffsetFetch
WRITE Topic Produce

The operations in this table are both for clients (producers, consumers, admin) and inter-broker operations of a cluster. In a secure cluster, both client requests and inter-broker operations require authorization. The inter-broker operations can be split into two classes: cluster and topic. Cluster operations refer to operations necessary for the management of the cluster, like updating broker and partition metadata, changing the leader and the set of in-sync replicas of a partition, and triggering a controlled shutdown.

Because of the way replication of topic partitions work internally, it is also important to grant topic access to brokers. Brokers replicating a partition will need to be authorized for both READ and DESCRIBE on that topic. DESCRIBE is granted by default with the READ authorization.

There are two convenient ways to avoid having to set ACLs per topic for the servers:

  • Make the server principal a super user (see below). By configuring the cluster this way, servers can automatically access all resources, including the cluster resource.
  • Use the wildcard for topics so that you just need to set it once, but in this case, you will need to set an ACL for the cluster resource separately.

Producers and consumers need to be authorized to perform operations on topics, but they should be configured with different principals compared to the servers. The main operations that producers need authorization to execute are WRITE and READ. We also need to keep in mind that admin users are able to execute command line tools and require authorization. Operations that an admin user might need authorization for are DELETE, CREATE, and ALTER (not yet available).

Common cases:

  • create a topic, the principal of the client will require the CREATE and DESCRIBE operations on the topic resource (via the Metadata API with auto.create.topics.enable).
  • produce to a topic, the principal of the producer will require the WRITE operation on the topic resource.
  • consume from a topic, the principal of the consumer will require the READ operation on the topic and consumer-group resources.

Note that to be able to create, produce, and consume, the servers need to be configured with the appropriate ACLs. The servers need authorization to update metadata (CLUSTER_ACTION) and to read from a topic (READ) for replication purposes.

Further configuration:

To enable ACLs, we need to configure an authorizer. Kafka provides a simple authorizer implementation, and to use it, you can add the following to

By default, if a Resource R has no associated ACLs, no one other than super users is allowed to access R. If you want to change that behavior, you can include the following in

One can also add super users in like the following (note that the delimiter is semicolon since SSL user names may contain comma):


By default, the SSL user name will be of the form “CN=writeuser,OU=Unknown,O=Unknown,L=Unknown,ST=Unknown,C=Unknown”. One can change that by setting a customized PrincipalBuilder in like the following:


By default, the SASL user name will be the primary part of the Kerberos principal. One can change that by setting to a customized rule in

In the event that SSL is enabled but client authentication is not configured, clients will connect anonymously via the SSL port and will appear to the server with the user name ANONYMOUS. Such a configuration provides encryption and server authentication, but clients will connect anonymously. The other case in which the server will see the ANONYMOUS user is if the PLAINTEXT security protocol is being used. By giving read/write permission to the ANONYMOUS user, you are allowing anyone to access the brokers without authentication. As such, you typically do not want to give access to ANONYMOUS users unless the intention is to give everyone the permission.

Command Line Interface

The following examples show we can use bin/kafka-acls (the Kafka Authorizer CLI) to add, remove or list ACLs. Please run bin/kafka-acls --help for detailed information on the supported options. Note that ACLs are stored in ZooKeeper and they are propagated to the brokers asynchronously so there may be a delay before the change takes effect even after the command returns.

Adding ACLs

Suppose you want to add an ACL “Principals User:Bob and User:Alice are allowed to perform Operation Read and Write on Topic Test-Topic from IP and IP”. You can do that by executing the following:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 --add \
   --allow-principal User:Bob --allow-principal User:Alice \
   --allow-host --allow-host --operation Read --operation Write --topic Test-topic

By default all principals that don’t have an explicit ACL allowing an operation to access a resource are denied. In rare cases where an ACL that allows access to all but some principal is desired, --deny-principal and --deny-host options can be used. For example, if we want to allow all users to Read from Test-topic but only deny User:BadBob from IP we can do so using the following command:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 --add \
   --allow-principal User:* --allow-host * --deny-principal User:BadBob --deny-host \
   --operation Read --topic Test-topic

Note that --allow-host and deny-host only support IP addresses (hostnames are not supported).

The examples above add ACLs to a topic by specifying --topic [topic-name] as the resource option. Similarly, one can add ACLs to a cluster by specifying --cluster and to a consumer group by specifying --group [group-name]. In the event that you want to grant permission to all consumer groups, you may do so by specifying --group=* as shown in the following command:

bin/ --authorizer \
   --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 --add \
   --allow-principal User:* --operation read --topic test --group=*

Removing ACLs

Removing ACLs is similar, but the --remove option should be specified instead of --add. To remove the ACLs added in the first example above we can execute the following:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 --remove \
   --allow-principal User:Bob --allow-principal User:Alice \
   --allow-host --allow-host \
   --operation Read --operation Write --topic Test-topic

List ACLs

We can list the ACLs for a given resource by specifying the --list option and the resource. For example, to list all ACLs for Test-topic we can execute the following:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 \
   --list --topic Test-topic

Adding or Removing a Principal as Producer or Consumer

The most common use cases for ACL management are adding/removing a principal as a producer or consumer so we added convenience options to handle these cases. In order to add User:Bob as a producer of Test-topic we can execute the following:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 \
   --add --allow-principal User:Bob \
   --producer --topic Test-topic

Similarly to add Alice as a consumer of Test-topic with consumer group Group-1 we specify the --consumer and --group options:

bin/kafka-acls --authorizer-properties zookeeper.connect=localhost:2181 \
   --add --allow-principal User:Bob \
   --consumer --topic test-topic --group Group-1

In order to remove a principal from a producer or consumer role we just need to specify the --remove option.

Enabling Authorizer Logging for Debugging

It’s possible to run with authorizer logs in DEBUG mode by making some changes to the file. If you’re using the default file in the Confluent Platform or above, you simply need to change the following line to DEBUG mode instead of WARN:

log4j.logger.kafka.authorizer.logger=WARN, authorizerAppender

The file can be found in the Kafka config directory at /etc/kafka/ In the event that you’re using an earlier version of the Confluent Platform, or if you’re using your own file, you’ll need to add the following lines to the config:

log4j.appender.authorizerAppender.layout.ConversionPattern=[%d] %p %m (%c)%n

log4j.logger.kafka.authorizer.logger=DEBUG, authorizerAppender

You’ll need to restart the broker before it will take effect. This will log every request being authorized and its associated user name. The log can be found in $kafka_logs_dir/kafka-authorizer.log. The location of the logs depends on the packaging format - kafka_logs_dir will be in /var/log/kafka in rpm/debian and $base_dir/logs in the archive format.