14. LVS: identd/authd

14.1. What is authd/identd?


Jun 2002: authd clients are invoked on the realserver by services running under tcpwrappers and connect to a machine on the internet, in this case the client, before the service can complete the request. Initially we thought this was a problem unique to authd. However, we now see it as an example of an often occuring situation. See the 3-Tier LVS section for more details.)

If initial connection to your service (telnet, ftp, sendmail...) is delayed by 10secs..5mins, but after you connect everything is fine, then you have problems with identd.

You can avoid reading this section by turning off identd on your realservers.

identd is a demon run under inetd. Other services running on the server can use identd to ask the client machine for the identity of the user making the request. When a request arrives at a server for such a service (e.g. telnet, sendmail), the auth client will connect from a high port to client:auth asking "who is the owner of the process requesting this service". If the client's authd replies with a username@nodename, the reply will be optionally logged on the server (eg to syslog) and the connection request will be handed back to telnetd (or whichever service). If the reply is "root@nodename", or some null reply, or there is no authd on the client, then the server's authd will wait till a timeout before allowing connection. The delay is about 10secs for Slackware and 2mins for RedHat7.0. There is no checking of the validity of the reply and since the reply is under control of the client machine, the reply username@nodename could be bogus.

The authd is a security feature. However it doesn't get the server very much (you don't know who has made the connect request, only what they told you), while clients that fail are delayed. This may only be a nuisance for people telnet'ing in (provided they understand what's happening), but will bring mail delivery to a crawl.

If you setup an LVS with realservers that have services running inside identd, you will have to deal with identd. Any service in inetd running under tcpwrappers (probably just about every service, if tcpwrappers is installed) and sendmail (see section on sendmail) use it.

Since problems with identd affect many aspects of an LVS, there are references to identd in several places in this document.

14.2. authd/identd and other 3-Tier clients

A lot of time and effort was put into figuring out how to handle authd/identd clients running on the realservers. The best solution we came up with was to turn off authd on the realservers. At the time the authd problem appeared to be a one-off problem and we dismissed it as just one-of-those-things. Later we realised that other demons running on the realservers invoke client processes, e.g. rshd, passive ftp. Still we didn't see the whole picture. It now turns out that there is a general class of services (demons) running on the realservers which invoke client processes as part of constructing a reply to the client. These demons require you to run the LVS as a 3-Tier LVS. If you allow packets from the RIP to be routable, then it's easy for the client to connect to 0/0. The problem before was that we did not allow the RIP to be routable.

14.3. symptoms of the identd problem

There are two parts to identd on your realservers

  • Identd runs on your realservers. This isn't a problem for LVS. Identd on the realservers is for clients on your realservers connecting to services on remote machines. These clients will be connecting from the RIP and not the VIP. You aren't using this identd when setting up an LVS. However if you telnet from your realservers for some other reason, you'll need to think about what this identd is doing.

  • your LVS'ed services may (e.g. sendmail or services running inside tcpwrappers), ask the identd client on your server to connect to the identd on the client machine and ask for the identity of the person connecting to the service on the realserver. You don't want this. In general there is no way in an LVS, for the reply from the client to return to the realserver.

The problem is in the second part, i.e. if the LVS'ed service on the realserver asks for the ident client to connect to the identd on the client. (If this is confusing, remember machines can be clients and servers at the same time.)

Here's a example telnet connection through a director to a realserver where telnetd is running inside tcpwrappers. tcpwrappers uses the ident client on the remote host (the one with the telnetd) to connect to the identd on the local (telnet client) host.

client:/director/usr/src/arch# telnet lvs2
Connected to lvs2.mack.net.
Escape character is '^]'.

Welcome to Linux 2.2.19.

RS2 login:
(successful login)

14.4. comp.os.linux.security FAQ on identd

comp.os.linux.security FAQ
Daniel Swan <emphasis>swan_daniel (at) hotmail (dot) com</emphasis>
v0.1 - Last updated:  April 20, 2000

4.5) What is Identd? Can I disable it?

Identd identifies the username of a process owning a specific TCP/IP connection. It is usually run via inetd and listens on port 113. Identd should not be used as a method of authentication - anyone with root access can alter their identd response. Indeed, on many systems (such as FreeBSD and Windows) even a non-privledged user can specify whatever identd response they want. The protocol is most useful on multiuser systems as a method of tracking down problem users. If one of your users is causing problems on another system, that system's admin can inform you of the username of the specific user causing problems, saving you a lot of legwork. Should you run identd? That's really a judgement call. On systems with many users, the benefits could be great, but it doesn't serve any particular purpose on a single user box. Not running identd may limit your ability to connect to certain servers - many IRC and some FTP servers don't allow, or severly restrict, non-identd'd connections, for example. However, running it means leaving a service open to the outside world, with all the security risks that entails. Another thing to consider is that identd can allow attackers to find out valuable information about your system, such as whether a certain service is running as root, the operating system you are running, and the usernames of your users. Consider running identd with the -n flag, which sends userid numbers instead of usernames. See the identd manpage and /etc/identd.conf for more information about the available options. You can block access to identd by shutting it off entirely (usually done via inetd, see section on disabling services), or by using tcpwrappers and/or firewalling software to disable/restrict access. If you need identd enabled in order to connect to a certain server, you might want to consider allowing access to it only from that server. If you do choose to firewall the identd port, strongly consider using a reject policy rather than deny. Using deny may greatly increase the time it takes you to connect to servers that utilize identd, as they will wait for a response of some type before allowing you to connect.

14.5. Russ Nelson on identd

Russ Nelson (he wrote the Clarkson packet drivers for DOS, he was the 1980's version of Donald Becker) says that the only possible role for identd is to keep track of client activity at the client end. He says that your firewall should reject, not drop identd requests.

Russ also has a some links to sites that don't allow links from other sites. When you go to his site, please click on those links.

14.6. Why identd is a problem for LVS

The problem is that the identd/authd client makes a callback from the RIP (for LVS-NAT) or the VIP (LVS-DR, LVS-Tun) and LVS doesn't handle clients on realservers. For the simple case where clients call from the RIP on NAT'ed realserver see the section on running clients on realservers. There the client is independant of the LVS.

The case of clients on the realservers making call backs triggered by an LVS client's requests to an LVS'ed service is more difficult as the result has to get back to the LVS'ed service.

Normally in an LVS, the director in an LVS responds to connect requests by handing them to an arbitrary realserver. The corrollary of this is that replies to a client request initiated on a realserver, to the outside world, will not return to the realserver unless something is done to handle it. (The only solutions we have are those in the section on running clients on realservers.)

  • replies from the client which is connecting to the LVS, arriving at the director are not connect requests, and will not belong to an established connection. They will be dropped.

  • even if the director could forward these replies to a realserver, they could go to any realserver, and not neccessarily to the realserver which originated the request.

The result is that the client request will hang or timeout.

14.7. tcpdumps of connections delayed by identd

Here's the tcpdump of the client telnet'ing to a LVS-DR LVS. Telnet on the realserver is running inside tcpwrappers, client and realservers cannot connect directly i.e. they have no routing to each other.

seen from client:

telnet connect request

12:56:05.427252 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: S 1170880662:1170880662(0) win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 6539901[|tcp]> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:05.427949 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: . ack 416490630 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6539901 161874539> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:05.431752 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: P 0:27(27) ack 1 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6539902 161874539> (DF) [tos 0x10]

client replying to realserver's auth request

12:56:05.465152 client2.auth > lvs.1377: S 1159930752:1159930752(0) ack 417813448 win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 6539905[|tcp]> (DF)
12:56:05.465405 lvs.1377 > client2.auth: R 417813448:417813448(0) win 0
12:56:08.464671 client2.auth > lvs.1377: S 1162930275:1162930275(0) ack 417813448 win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 6540205[|tcp]> (DF)
12:56:08.464901 lvs.1377 > client2.auth: R 417813448:417813448(0) win 0

6 second delay then trying again

12:56:14.466048 client2.auth > lvs.1377: S 1168931649:1168931649(0) ack 417813448 win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 6540805[|tcp]> (DF)
12:56:14.466275 lvs.1377 > client2.auth: R 417813448:417813448(0) win 0

client login to LVS

12:56:15.501272 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: . ack 13 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540908 161875546> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:15.503946 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: P 27:125(98) ack 52 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540909 161875546> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:15.509024 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: P 125:128(3) ack 55 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540909 161875547> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:15.538816 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: P 128:131(3) ack 88 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540912 161875550> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:15.551836 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: . ack 90 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540914 161875550> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:56:15.571837 client2.1038 > lvs.telnet: . ack 106 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6540916 161875551> (DF) [tos 0x10]

Here's what it looks like on the realserver (this is a different connection from the above sample, so the times are not the same).

realserver receives telnet request on VIP
12:50:58.049909 client2.1040 > lvs.telnet: S 1605709966:1605709966(0) win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 6580274[|tcp]> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:50:58.051263 lvs.telnet > client2.1040: S 862075007:862075007(0) ack 1605709967 win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 161914907[|tcp]> (DF)
12:50:58.051661 client2.1040 > lvs.telnet: . ack 1 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6580274 161914907> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:50:58.052819 client2.1040 > lvs.telnet: P 1:28(27) ack 1 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6580274 161914907> (DF) [tos 0x10]
12:50:58.053036 lvs.telnet > client2.1040: . ack 28 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 161914907 6580274> (DF)

realserver initiates auth request from VIP to client:auth

12:50:58.088510 lvs.1379 > client2.auth: S 852509908:852509908(0) win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 161914911[|tcp]> (DF)
12:51:01.083659 lvs.1379 > client2.auth: S 852509908:852509908(0) win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 161915211[|tcp]> (DF)

realserver waits for timeout (about 8secs), sends final request to client:auth

12:51:07.083164 lvs.1379 > client2.auth: S 852509908:852509908(0) win 32120 <mss 1460,sackOK,timestamp 161915811[|tcp]> (DF)

telnet replies from realserver continue, login occurs

12:51:08.117727 lvs.telnet > client2.1040: P 1:13(12) ack 28 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 161915914 6580274> (DF)
12:51:08.118142 client2.1040 > lvs.telnet: . ack 13 win 32120 <nop,nop,timestamp 6581281 161915914> (DF) [tos 0x10]

14.8. There are solutions to identd problem in some cases

14.8.1. Director is LVS-NAT

In an LVS, authd on the realserver will be able to connect to the client if -

LVS-NAT, the realservers are on public IPs (not likely, since you usually hide the realservers from public view and they'll be on 192.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x networks)

LVS-NAT, and high ports are nat'ed out with a command like

director:/etc/lvs# ipchains -A forward -j MASQ -s -d

You usually don't want to blanket masquerade all ports. You really only want to masquerade ports that are being LVS'ed (so you can still get to the other services) in which case, for each service being LVS'ed, you to use ipchains rules like

director:# ipchains -A forward -p tcp -j MASQ -s realserver1 telnet -d

Since the auth client (on your telnet server) is connecting from a high port on the server, a better ipchains rule which will allow auth to work when the realservers are on private IPs.

director:# ipchains -A forward -p tcp -j MASQ -s realserver1 1024:65535 -d

14.8.2. LVS-DR, LVS-Tun, 2.2.x kernel directors

There is no solution for LVS-DR for 2.2.x directors. The auth client on the realserver initiates the connection from the VIP. There is no way for a packet from VIP:high port to get a reply through the LVS because

  • the incoming packet from the client on the internet is destined for a non-LVS'ed high port

  • the incoming packet is not a connect request.

  • the incoming packet is not associated with an established connection.

The reply from the LVS client will be dropped.

14.8.3. LVS-DR, LVS-Tun, 2.4.x kernel directors

Transparent proxy in 2.4 is different to 2.2 (see section on identd with 2.4 TP). You should be able to masquerade the identd client's request on the realserver.

14.9. Turn off tcpwrappers

One cure is to turn off tcpwrappers. inetd.conf will have a line like

telnet stream tcp nowait root /usr/sbin/tcpd in.telnetd

change this to

telnet stream tcp nowait root /usr/sbin/in.telnetd in.telnetd

and re-HUP inetd.

14.10. using iptables to handle identd

Graeme Fowler graeme (at) graemef (dot) net 19 Dec 2008

Make sure you REJECT rather than DROP ident lookups on the director, or even better configure the realservers to REJECT them in the OUTPUT chain on the outgoing interface. If they get DROPped, then the calling process will exhibit the exact hangup you're seeing. This is very, very common in SMTP systems using ident lookups with badly configured firewalls.

David Merhar merhar (at) arlut (dot) utexas (dot) edu 19 Dec 2008

Nice. This about does the trick on the realservers:

iptables - A OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 113 -j REJECT

This reduces the wait to 3 seconds as opposed to 30 seconds. However it also increases the delay of connecting to the RIP from 0 to 3 seconds.

14.11. Identd and smtp/pop/qmail

(This is from the early days of the mailing list when the problem first came up)

Problem: In the case of identd, the smtpd on a realserver says to identd "give me the name of the owner of the process on IP:port that is asking me to accept mail". If identd thinks it is running on the RIP rather than the VIP and, as is most likely, RIP is not routable from the outside world, mail on the realserver will hang. If identd is running on the VIP, then replies will probably return to another realserver and mail will still hang.

The converse case, of sending mail from the LVS, has the smtp server out in internetland asking the LVS for the name of the owner of the process running on the VIP sending him mail. If identd is clustered, then the request will in all probability go to another realserver. This seems equally intractable at the moment.

Originally the problem was raised by

Chris Kennedy <emphasis>ckennedy (at) iland (dot) net</emphasis>
Subject: SMTP, POP3 using Qmail and Ident, also using Solaris as realservers

I have setup a virtual server using the Linux 2.2 patch and 3 Sun Ultras as the actual servers. It has crashed twice, though possibly from running bind on the Virtual Server, since it was right when I started it up (bind) that the virtual server would crash.

The major problem I am having is a timeout for Ident requests on POP3 and SMTP ports which seem to be confused. When looking at the problem with tcpdump on the virtual server and the real servers the vserver seems to do the following:

13:41:48.635985 > vserver.net.smtp: . ack 2764990963 win 8760
13:41:48.636030 > vserver.net.smtp: . ack 1 win 8760
13:41:48.658875 > vserver.net.48981: R 0:0(0) ack 2765099549
win 0  <<<<<<
13:41:52.143790 > vserver.net.48981: R 0:0(0) ack 1 win 0
13:41:58.144210 > vserver.net.48981: R 0:0(0) ack 1 win 0

The Ident, or auth port on the client machine trying to connect back to the vserver is where it will pause for about 10-15 seconds then connect just fine. I believe this may be qmail specific since a server funning sendmail will not have this problem and ident seems to be used by qmail more than it or something.

No-one answered, then months later...


I currently have HTTP loadbalanced just fine with the LinuxDirector. I've setup SMTP in the same fashion, and I don't have as much luck.


Check if your system (tcpwrapper or sendmail) is doing a NS lookup before accepting the connection or trying to connect to ident.

Chris Kennedy <emphasis>ckennedy (at) iland (dot) net</emphasis>
Subject: Re: SMTP -- very slow connection

I had the same problem with the Direct Routing and SMTP and POP3. It looked like a problem with the Ident lookup to the server by the client, it was what always was occurring during that time out period. I saw this while doing tcpdumps on the virtual server where the client would just keep asking for Ident lookups to the Virtual IP address which are from the client port 113 to a random port above 1023 on the virtual server. I can see how this is tricky with the direct routing method since this traffic should be sent on to the realserver but is not. I sort of gave up on Direct Routing for now since this looks pretty hard to fix if it really is Ident and the client requirements getting in the way.


I'm connecting directly to the IP. But just to be sure, I'll add an entry to the nameserver for that particular IP -- in both forward and reverse lookups...........done.....

And it still does the same thing. :(

Understand that the thirty seconds are *AFTER* the connection... Telnet connects, gives me the escape character, and sits. If it was a nameservice thing, I'd imagine it'd sit before it connected. I'd actually be happier if it wasn't connecting. :) Then I'd know there was definitely something I needed to fix between me and the real machine. But when it connects and THEN has trouble... I'm lost. :(

Michael Baird mike (at) tc3net (dot) com

Sound's like an issue with ident lookup's, you probably aren't clustering IDENT, you can 1) cluster identd, or edit your sendmail.cf file and set the value

0 Timeout.ident=0


Great idea. That was it. I turned off ident in sendmail and things worked fine. However, I don't want to turn of ident in sendmail, and I figure other things might want ident too... so I want to cluster ident. Clustering ident didn't help. I clustered tcp port 113 to both servers. (I even tried "loadbalancing" 25 and 113 just to ONE server -- that way it'd always hit the same server)... And that didn't work. I got the same results -- telnet to port 25... connect... thirty seconds... and then sendmail would enter command mode.

Any ideas? Do I have to loadbalance anything else besides tcp 113 for identd to work?

Why is identd run with smtp (any other reason other than wanting to know who is sending me the mail?) Do you have to turn identd off in smtp to get LVS smtp to work? Has anyone LVS'ed identd? (I'd imagine you wouldnt neccessarily get the ident from the same machine running the process for which you want the ident)