Users and roles

The Security plugin includes an internal user database. Use this database in place of or in addition to an external authentication system such as LDAP or Active Directory.

Roles are the core way of controlling access to your cluster. Roles contain any combination of cluster-wide permissions, index-specific permissions, document- and field-level security, and tenants. Then you map users to these roles so that users gain those permissions.

Unless you need to create new read-only or hidden users, we highly recommend using Kibana or the REST API to create new users, roles, and role mappings. The .yml files are for initial setup, not ongoing use.

Table of contents

  1. Create users
    1. Kibana
    2. internal_users.yml
    3. REST API
  2. Create roles
    1. Kibana
    2. roles.yml
    3. REST API
  3. Map users to roles
    1. Kibana
    2. roles_mapping.yml
    3. REST API
  4. Predefined roles

Create users

You can create users using Kibana, internal_users.yml, or the REST API.


  1. Choose Security, Internal User Database, and Add a new internal user.
  2. Provide a username and password. The Security plugin automatically hashes the password and stores it in the .opendistro_security index.
  3. If desired, specify backend roles and attributes.

    Backend roles differ from security roles. Backend roles are external roles that come from an external authentication system (e.g. LDAP/Active Directory). If you aren’t using an external system, you can ignore backend roles.

    Attributes are optional user properties that you can use for variable substitution in index permissions or document-level security.

  4. Choose Submit.


See YAML files.


See Create user.

Create roles

Just like users, you can create roles using Kibana, roles.yml, or the REST API.


  1. Choose Security, Roles, and Add a new role.
  2. Provide a name for the role.
  3. Then add permissions as desired.

    For example, you might give a role no cluster permissions, read permissions to two indices, unlimited permissions to a third index, and read permissions to the analysts tenant.

  4. Choose Submit.


See YAML files.


See Create role.

Map users to roles

After creating roles, you map users (or backend roles) to them. Intuitively, people often think of this process as giving a user one or more roles, but in the Security plugin, the process is reversed; you select a role and then map one or more users to it.

Just like users and roles, you create role mappings using Kibana, roles_mapping.yml, or the REST API.


  1. Choose Security, Role Mappings, and Add a new role mapping.
  2. Select the role. If a role is greyed-out, a mapping for it already exists. Return to the Role Mappings screen and edit the existing mapping.
  3. Specify users, backend roles (roles from from LDAP or Active Directory), and hosts (e.g. * as desired.
  4. Choose Submit.


See YAML files.


See Create role mapping.

Predefined roles

The Security plugin includes several predefined roles that serve as useful defaults.

Role Description
all_access Grants full access to the cluster: all cluster-wide operations, write to all indices, write to all tenants.
kibana_read_only A special role that prevents users from making changes to visualizations, dashboards, and other Kibana objects. See opendistro_security.readonly_mode.roles in kibana.yml. Pair with the kibana_user role.
kibana_user Grants permissions to use Kibana: cluster-wide searches, index monitoring, and write to various Kibana indices.
logstash Grants permissions for Logstash to interact with the cluster: cluster-wide searches, cluster monitoring, and write to the various Logstash indices.
manage_snapshots Grants permissions to manage snapshot repositories, take snapshots, and restore snapshots.
readall Grants permissions for cluster-wide searches like msearch and search permissions for all indices.
readall_and_monitor Same as readall, but with added cluster monitoring permissions.
security_rest_api_access A special role that allows access to the REST API. See opendistro_security.restapi.roles_enabled in elasticsearch.yml and Access control for the API.

For more detailed summaries of the permissions for each role, reference their action groups against the descriptions in Default action groups.