Securing Elasticsearch with Shield

Elasticsearch makes storing, searching, and analyzing your Liferay DXP search data easy. When it comes to securing that data, use Elasticsearch’s Shield plugin. To use Shield with Liferay DXP, you need the Enterprise Search-Standard subscription. This subscription gives you access to an adapter plugin for configuring Liferay DXP for Shield.

With Shield you can prevent unauthorized users from accessing the Elasticsearch cluster, preserve data integrity, and create an audit trail to inspect suspicious activity. This guide shows you the basics of how to install and configure Shield, and then how to configure Liferay DXP for Shield, using a convenient Shield adapter plugin.

Here’s the process for configuring Shield:

  • Install the Shield plugin on Elasticsearch.
  • Create a user for Liferay DXP, with user name and password.
  • Install your Shield license.
  • Install Liferay DXP’s Shield adapter plugin and configure it.
  • Enable Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt your connection between Liferay DXP and Elasticsearch.

These terms will be useful to understand as you read this guide:

  • Elasticsearch Home refers to the root folder of your unzipped Elasticsearch installation (for example, elasticsearch-2.4.0).
  • Liferay Home refers to the root folder of your Liferay DXP installation. It contains the osgi, deploy, data, and license folders.

Installing Shield on Elasticsearch

First install the Shield plugin on your Elasticsearch cluster.

  1. Navigate to Elasticsearch Home and install the license plugin and the Shield   plugin by executing.

     ./bin/plugin install license

    and then

     ./bin/plugin install shield
  2. Next, you need to prepare for Shield to authenticate requests.

    Users making requests to an Elasticsearch installation protected by Shield must be part of the realm, a user database configured for Shield. You can use the native user management system built into Shield, called esusers, or you can use an external system like LDAP.

    Roles for Shield are defined in [Elasticsearch_Home]/config/shield/roles.yml and include these:

    admin: Has permission to perform any cluster or index action.

    power_user: Has permission to monitor the cluster and perform any index action.

    user: Has permission to perform read actions on any index.

    So who is the user you need to configure for Liferay? It’s Liferay itself, and it needs the admin role. Liferay DXP’s Elasticsearch client sends its authentication token (in other words, its user name and password) to Shield. Since Shield also has the authentication token stored in its user database, Liferay is a recognized user and has no problems communicating with the Elasticsearch cluster.

    From Elasticsearch Home, add an admin user named liferay to the esusers database:

     ./bin/shield/esusers useradd liferay -r admin

    When prompted, enter the password liferay.

    Note: Of course you can change these values if desired. Consider naming the user shieldy_mcshieldface, for example.1

  3. Start Elasticsearch.

  4. Install your license file:

     curl -XPUT -u liferay 'http://localhost:9200/license?acknowledge=true' -d @license.json

    Enter the password you configured, and you’ll get a confirmation message that looks like this:

  5. To test that you have access to Elasticsearch, enter

     curl -u liferay:liferay -XGET 'http://localhost:9200/'

    and you’ll see the Elasticsearch node information printed in the console:

       "name" : "Amphibius",
       "cluster_name" : "LiferayElasticsearchCluster",
       "version" : {
         "number" : "2.4.0",
         "build_hash" : "8ff36d139e16f8720f2947ef62c8167a888992fe",
         "build_timestamp" : "2016-01-27T13:32:39Z",
         "build_snapshot" : false,
         "lucene_version" : "5.5.2"
       "tagline" : "You Know, for Search"

For more information on installing Shield, see the Elasticsearch documentation.

Once Shield is installed, you can configure Liferay DXP’s Shield adapter.

Installing and Configuring Liferay DXP’s Shield Adapter

On the Liferay DXP side of the equation, you need to configure the authentication token for the liferay Shield user you created in the previous section. Liferay DXP has a Shield adapter plugin for this purpose.

First install the Shield adapter plugin (called Liferay DXP 7.0 Search Elasticsearch Shield). Once the plugin is installed, there’s a new Shield Configuration entry in the System Settings application (Control PanelConfigurationSystem Settings), under the Foundation heading. Configure it so that its user name and password match the liferay user you added to Shield.

You can configure the Shield adapter in the System Settings section in the Control panel, or through an OSGi configuration file.

Follow these steps to configure the Shield adapter using an OSGi configuration file:

  1. Create a file named in [Liferay_Home]/osgi/configs.

  2. Add this content:


    For a description of all the Shield adapter’s configuration options, see the section Available Shield Adapter Configurations.

  3. Start Liferay DXP.

Follow these steps to configure the Shield adapter using System Settings:

  1. Navigate to Control PanelConfigurationSystem Settings, and click on the Foundation heading. Navigate to, or search for, the Shield Configuration entry and click on it.

  2. Set the password to liferay, check the Requires authentication box, uncheck the Requires SSL box, and make sure the user name is liferay. Click Update when you’re done.

    Note: If you set a different user name and password while configuring Shield, make sure those match the user name and password you configure here.

    Figure 1: You can configure the Liferay DXP 7.0 Search Elasticsearch Shield plugin from System Settings.

    Figure 1: You can configure the Liferay DXP 7.0 Search Elasticsearch Shield plugin from System Settings.

  3. Now you can re-index against Elasticsearch, and your data is secured by Shield. To re-index, go to the Control Panel’s Configuration section and click Server Administration. Find the Index Actions heading and click Execute next to Reindex all search indexes.

For a complete list of the Shield adapter’s available configuration options, see here.

Encrypting Elasticsearch Connections

Your Elasticsearch connection now uses Shield to require authentication, but the authentication token is sent in plain text. For additional security, enable Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption.

These instructions set up a wildcard certificate to be used across the entire cluster. See the Elasticsearch documentation for alternative configuration approaches and more information.

Note that for Elasticsearch to access your keystore, it must be placed under the config directory. Run the following commands under Elasticsearch_Home/config to configure SSL with an Elasticsearch cluster running on localhost, for example.

  1. Stop Liferay DXP and Elasticsearch.

  2. Set up a Certificate Authority (CA) for Shield. Refer to Elastic’s article on Setting Up a Certificate Authority for the details.

    Note for Windows: In step 2 of the linked documentation on setting up a certificate, ensure that the serial file contains 01 with no quotation marks. Otherwise you’ll encounter errors when you follow the steps below on signing the CSR.


  3. Use the Java keytool command to create a new Java Keystore, import the CA that will issue the wildcard certificate:

     keytool -importcert -keystore es-ssl.keystore.jks -file certs/cacert.pem -trustcacerts -storepass liferay -alias ca_cert
  4. Create a private key in the Java Keystore:

     keytool -storepass liferay -genkey -alias es-shield -keystore es-ssl.keystore.jks -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 3650 -dname "cn=localhost"
  5. Create a certificate signing request (CSR) for requesting a certificate from the issuing CA:

     keytool -storepass liferay -certreq -alias es-shield -keystore es-ssl.keystore.jks -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 3650 -dname "cn=localhost" > es-ssl.keystore.csr
  6. Sign the CSR using Elastic’s guide.

  7. Once the CA has signed the CSR and returned the certificate in PEM format, import it into the Java Keystore:

     keytool -storepass liferay -importcert -keystore es-ssl.keystore.jks -alias es-shield -file certs/01.pem
  8. Add the following lines to [Elasticsearch_Home]/config/elasticsearch.yml:

     shield.ssl.keystore.path: /path/to/es-ssl.keystore.jks
     shield.ssl.keystore.password: liferay
     shield.ssl.keystore.key_password: liferay
     shield.transport.ssl: true
     shield.http.ssl: true

    Here you’re configuring Shield’s SSL properties, including pointing to the keystore file you just generated. For more information on these settings, read here and here.

  9. Update the Shield adapter configuration file you created earlier in Liferay_Home/osgi/configs by adding these lines:


    Now, in addition to enabling authentication, you’re enabling SSL encryption and pointing Liferay DXP at the keystore file you created for Shield.

    Alternatively, you can configure these settings in System Settings. This will be more useful during development and testing.

  10. Start Elasticsearch and Liferay DXP.

Now Shield is fully configured, with both authentication and encryption protecting your Elasticsearch cluster. Next, you can learn how to install and configure Marvel, Elasticsearch’s monitoring plugin, to visualize the health and performance of your Elasticsearch cluster.

1 This is, of course, a nod to all those fans of [Boaty Mcboatface]

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