SQL SERVER – Importance of User Without Login

Posted by pinaldave on SQL Authority See other posts from SQL Authority or by pinaldave
Published on Sat, 29 Sep 2012 01:30:07 +0000 Indexed on 2012/09/29 3:43 UTC
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Some questions are very open ended and it is very hard to come up with exact requirements. Here is one question I was asked in recent User Group Meeting.

Question: “In recent version of SQL Server we can create user without login. What is the use of it?”

Great question indeed. Let me first attempt to answer this question but after reading my answer I need your help. I want you to help him as well with adding more value to it.

Answer:

Let us visualize a scenario. An application has lots of different operations and many of them are very sensitive operations. The common practice was to do give application specific role which has more permissions and access level. When a regular user login (not system admin), he/she might have very restrictive permissions. The application itself had a user name and password which means applications can directly login into the database and perform the operation. Developers were well aware of the username and password as it was embedded in the application. When developer leaves the organization or when the password was changed, the part of the application had to be changed where the same username and passwords were used. Additionally, developers were able to use the same username and password and login directly to the same application.

In earlier version of SQL Server there were application roles. The same is later on replaced by “User without Login”. Now let us recreate the above scenario using this new “User without Login”. In this case, User will have to login using their own credentials into SQL Server. This means that the user who is logged in will have his/her own username and password. Once the login is done in SQL Server, the user will be able to use the application. Now the database should have another User without Login which has all the necessary permissions and rights to execute various operations. Now, Application will be able to execute the script by impersonating “user without login – with more permissions”.

Here there is assumed that user login does not have enough permissions and another user (without login) there are more rights. If a user knows how the application is using the database and their various operations, he can switch the context to user without login making him enable for doing further modification. Make sure to explicitly DENY view definition permission on the database. This will make things further difficult for user as he will have to know exact details to get additional permissions.

If a user is System Admin all the details which I just mentioned in above three paragraphs does not apply as admin always have access to everything. Additionally, the method describes above is just one of the architecture and if someone is attempting to damage the system, they will still be able to figure out a workaround. You will have to put further auditing and policy based management to prevent such incidents and accidents.

I guess this is my answer. I read it multiple times but I still feel that I am missing something. There should be more to this concept than what I have just described. I have merely described one scenario but there will be many more scenarios where this situation will be useful. Now is your turn to help – please leave a comment with the additional suggestion where exactly “User without Login” will be useful as well did I miss anything when I described above scenario.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)


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