Filter Syntax Validation

This is the process of verifying that filter components (for example, uid=foo) request attributes that are present in the current schema of the directory. If these are unknown we have a number of options to handle these:

To understand why this is important, we need to understand how Directory Server has historically handled filters for attributes that were not in the schema in the past.

Unknown Attributes / Attribute Indexing

When a filter is evaluated, we attempt to load an index for each component. For example:


This would attempt to load equality indexes for uid= and name=, and then based on these indexes these are combined with logical and to create the result set.

If a value is unindexed, this will return “ALLIDS” or an unindexed result. This is especially bad for performance with OR queries:


The reason this is bad is that if any member of an OR is unindexed, we must treat the full OR as unindexed, leading to a full table scan. Despite limits in the directory to prevent these, they are still costly.

When an attribute is not in the schema (such as objects that use extensible object), or the filter is requesting something that doesn’t exist (MS AD attributes against FreeIPA), then the queries have no choice but to become “unindexed”. This leads to the following risks:


To reduce the risk of these attacks, the LDAP RFC 4511 section states:

A filter item evaluates to Undefined when the server would not be
able to determine whether the assertion value matches an entry.
For example, if a server did not recognize the attribute type
shoeSize, the filters (shoeSize=*), (shoeSize=12), (shoeSize>=12),
and (shoeSize<=12) would each evaluate to Undefined.

A server MUST evaluate filters according to the three-valued logic of
[X.511] (1993), Clause 7.8.1.  In summary, a filter is evaluated to
TRUE", "FALSE", or "Undefined".  
If the filter evaluates to FALSE or Undefined, then the entry is ignored for the Search.

In technical terms for 389 Directory Server’s indexing subsystem, this means that filter components should become idl_alloc(0) if the attribute is NOT found in the cn=schema partition.

Configuration Settings

This feature defines a single configartion value:

dn: cn=config
nsslapd-verify-filter-schema: [off,warn,warn-strict,strict]

Security Notes

process-safe, and reject-invalid are the “only” two secure settings. Setting this value to warn-invalid or off may expose you to trivially exploitable denial of service attacks unless you have tuned your directory to reject full table scans for large searches.

It may also expose you to scaling issues where queries that appear to work in test environments will fail once you have a number of entries greater than the lookthrough limit in the directory.

If you set warn-invalid or off, it is recommended you also set:

dn: cn=config,cn=ldbm database,cn=plugins,cn=config
nsslapd-lookthroughlimit: 16

This will allow some smaller partially unindexed queries to continue, but will reject large fulltable scans to prevent denial of service.

Known issue

In version 1.4.1 the configuration option shipped only as:

nsslapd-verify-filter-schema: [off,warn,strict]

Where “warn” behaved as “process-safe”.

Last modified on 16 December 2019