A Clojure library to authenticate with LDAP

We have recently released as open source a small Clojure library that allows easy authentication users against an LDAP server:


It uses the UnboundID LDAP SDK for Java to look up a user name in an LDAP server and attempt to bind with specified credentials.

The simplest usage looks like:

(require '[clj-ldap-auth.ldap :as ldap])

(if (ldap/bind? username password)
 (do something-great)

That works, but isn’t very helpful when authentication fails. So you can also pass a function that will be called with a diagnostic message in the event that authentication fails:

(let [reason (atom nil)]
  (if (ldap/bind? username password #(reset! reason %1))
    (do something-great)
    (unauthorised @reason)))

The provided function should take a single argument, which will be a string.

Configuration of the library (i.e. the ldap server to connect to, etc.) is via system properties. See the README for details.


The library first establishes a connection to the server, optionally using SSL. If a bind-dn is configured (i.e. credentials with which to connect to the LDAP server), it is used to bind to the server. If that’s successful, we then look up the provided username (in the attribute uid). If found, the entry’s distinguished name (DN) is extracted and this DN and the provided password are used to bind a new connection.

If any of these steps fail (e.g. the binddn is unauthorised, the username can’t be found, or the looked up DN and password can’t bind) the function returns false (and calls the provided sink function to say why). If everything works and the connection can be bound with the target DN and password, it returns true (and the sink function is not called).


It would probably be useful to be able to specify what attribute(s) to use for looking up the username, but for now it is hard coded to uid. Also, current test coverage (using midje) is minimal. UnboundID provide an in-memory LDAP server implementation, which could probably be used to build some fast-running integration tests.

This entry was posted in Engineering, REA Innovation by Michael Rowe. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Rowe

Michael is a Tech Lead in REA's Global Infrastructure and Architecture group. By day, he helps teams build and integrate their apps. At other times, he's likely to be found riding a bike in the nearby hills or spending time with his three children (none of whom seem to be computer nerds... so far).