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33.4. Rules and Privileges

Due to rewriting of queries by the PostgreSQL rule system, other tables/views than those used in the original query get accessed. When update rules are used, this can include write access to tables.

Rewrite rules don't have a separate owner. The owner of a relation (table or view) is automatically the owner of the rewrite rules that are defined for it. The PostgreSQL rule system changes the behavior of the default access control system. Relations that are used due to rules get checked against the privileges of the rule owner, not the user invoking the rule. This means that a user only needs the required privileges for the tables/views that he names explicitly in his queries.

For example: A user has a list of phone numbers where some of them are private, the others are of interest for the secretary of the office. He can construct the following:

CREATE TABLE phone_data (person text, phone text, private boolean);
CREATE VIEW phone_number AS
    SELECT person, phone FROM phone_data WHERE NOT private;
GRANT SELECT ON phone_number TO secretary;

Nobody except him (and the database superusers) can access the phone_data table. But because of the GRANT, the secretary can run a SELECT on the phone_number view. The rule system will rewrite the SELECT from phone_number into a SELECT from phone_data and add the qualification that only entries where private is false are wanted. Since the user is the owner of phone_number and therefore the owner of the rule, the read access to phone_data is now checked against his privileges and the query is permitted. The check for accessing phone_number is also performed, but this is done against the invoking user, so nobody but the user and the secretary can use it.

The privileges are checked rule by rule. So the secretary is for now the only one who can see the public phone numbers. But the secretary can setup another view and grant access to that to the public. Then, anyone can see the phone_number data through the secretary's view. What the secretary cannot do is to create a view that directly accesses phone_data. (Actually he can, but it will not work since every access will be denied during the permission checks.) And as soon as the user will notice, that the secretary opened his phone_number view, he can revoke his access. Immediately, any access to the secretary's view would fail.

One might think that this rule-by-rule checking is a security hole, but in fact it isn't. But if it did not work this way, the secretary could set up a table with the same columns as phone_number and copy the data to there once per day. Then it's his own data and he can grant access to everyone he wants. A GRANT command means, "I trust you". If someone you trust does the thing above, it's time to think it over and then use REVOKE.

This mechanism also works for update rules. In the examples of the previous section, the owner of the tables in the example database could grant the privileges SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE on the shoelace view to someone else, but only SELECT on shoelace_log. The rule action to write log entries will still be executed successfully, and that other user could see the log entries. But he cannot create fake entries, nor could he manipulate or remove existing ones.

Comments


May 19, 2005, 12:51 p.m.

"Relations that are used due to rules get checked against the privileges of the rule owner, not the user invoking the rule. This means that a user only needs the required privileges for the tables/views that he names explicitly in his queries."
This is not true (BUG #1610). This work on checking privileges for tables only. For instance, if you use sequence or function in default clause in table definition, you must have privileges to access explicitly. As I can undestand, this bug is not planed to be fixed.

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