Tutorial: Introduction to ldap3


In this tutorial you will access a public demo of FreeIPA, available at https://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org (you must trust its certificate on first login). FreeIPA is a fully featured identity management solution, but for the purposes of this tutorial we’re only interested in its LDAP server. Note that the demo server is periodically wiped, as described on the FreeIPA demo wiki page.


If you receive an LDAPSocketReceiveError: error receiving data exception the server could have closed the connection abruptly. You can easily reopen it with the conn.bind() method.

Even if you really don’t know anything about LDAP, after reading this tutorial you should be able to access an LDAP compliant server and use it without bothering with the many glitches of the LDAP protocol.

What LDAP is not

I’d rather want to be sure that you are aware of what LDAP is not:

  • LDAP is not a server
  • LDAP is not a database
  • LDAP is not a network service
  • LDAP is not a network device
  • LDAP is not an authentication procedure
  • LDAP is not a user/password repository
  • LDAP is not a specific open or closed source product

It’s important to know what LDAP is not, because people usually call “LDAP” a peculiar part of what they use of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. LDAP is a protocol and as other ‘ending in P’ words in the Internet ecosystem (HTTP, FTP, TCP, IP, …) it’s a set of rules you must follow to talk to an external server/database/service/device/procedure/repository/product (all things in the previous list).

Data managed via LDAP are key/value(s) pairs grouped in a hierarchical structure. This structure is called the DIT (Directory Information Tree). LDAP doesn’t specify how data is actually stored in the DIT neither how the user is authorized to access it. There are only a few data types that every LDAP server must recognize (some of them being very old and not used anymore). LDAP version 3 is also an extensible protocol, this means that a vendor can add features not in the LDAP specifications (using Controls and Extensions). Any LDAP server relies on a schema to know which data types, attributes and object it understands. A portion of the schema is standard (defined in the protocol itself), but each vendor can add attributes and object for specific purposes. The schema can also be extended by the system administrator, the developer and the end user of the LDAP server.

Curiously “extending the schema” is something that is not defined in the LDAP protocol, so each vendor has developed different methods for adding objects, attributes and additional rules to the schema.

Being a protocol, LDAP is not related to any specific product and it is described in a set of RFCs (Request for comments, the official rules of the Internet ecosystem). Latest version of this rules is version 3 documented in the RFC4510 (and subsequent RFCs) released in June 2006.

A brief history of LDAP

You may wonder why the “lightweight” in LDAP. Its ancestor, called DAP (Directory Access Protocol), was developed in the 1980s by the CCITT (now ITU-T), the International Committee for Telephone and Telegraphy (the venerable entity that gave us, among others, the fax and the protocols we used on modems in the pre-Internet era). Even if its intended use was to standardize access to directory services (i.e. phone directories) DAP was a very heavy and hard-to-implement protocol (for client and server components) and was not accessible via TCP/IP. In 1993 a simpler access protocol was invented at the University of Michigan to act as a gateway to the DAP world. Afterwards vendors developed products that could understand LDAP directly and the gateway to DAP was soon removed. LDAP v3 was first documented in 1997 and its specifications was revised in 2006. These later specifications are strictly followed by the ldap3 library.

Unicode everywhere

The LDAP protocol specifies that attribute names and their string values (usually in the Directory String LDAP syntax) must be stored in Unicode version 3.2 with the UTF-8 byte encoding. There are some limitations in defining the attribute names that must use only ASCII letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and the hypen character (but not as a leading character).

Unicode is a standard to describe tens of thousands of printed (even if not visible) characters but what goes over the wire when you interact with an LDAP server is only old plain bytes (with values ranging from 0 to 255 as usual), so the UTF-8 encoding is needed when talking to an LDAP server to convert the Unicode character to a valid byte (or multi-byte) representation. For this reason when sending a string value in any LDAP operation it must be converted to UTF-8 encoding. Your environment could have (and probably has) a different default encoding so the ldap3 library will try to convert from your default encoding to UTF-8 for you, but you may set a different input encoding with the set_config_parameter('DEFAULT_ENCODING', 'my_encoding') function of the ldap3 library. String values returned by the LDAP search operation are always encoded in UTF-8. This doesn’t apply to other binary formats, as Octect String that can use a different encoding.

The ldap3 package

ldap3 is a fully compliant LDAP v3 client library following the official RFCs released in June 2006. It’s written from scratch to be compatible with Python 2 and Python 3 and can be used on any machine where Python can gain access to the network via its Standard Library.

Chances are that you find the ldap3 package already installed (or installable with your local package manager) on your machine, just try to import ldap3 from your Python console. If you get an ImportError you need to install the package from PyPI via pip in the usual way:

pip install ldap3


If pip complains about certificates you should specify the path to the PyPI CA certificate with the –cert parameter:

pip install ldap3 --cert /path/to/the/DigiCert_High_Assurance_EV_Root_CA.pem

You can also download the source code from https://github.com/cannatag/ldap3 and install it with:

python setup.py install

ldap3 needs the pyasn1 package (and will install it if not already present). This package is used to communicate with the server over the network. By default ldap3 uses the pyasn1 package only when sending data to the server. Data received from the server are decoded with an internal ASN1 decoder, much faster than the pyasn1 decoder.

Accessing an LDAP server

ldap3 usage is straightforward: you define a Server object and a Connection object. Then you issue commands to the connection. A server can have any number of active connections with the same or a different communication strategy.

All the importable objects are available in the ldap3 namespace. At least you need to import the Server and the Connection object, and any additional constant you will use in your LDAP conversation (constants are defined in upper case):

>>> from ldap3 import Server, Connection, ALL

ldap3 specific exceptions are defined in the ldap3.core.exceptions package.


A more pythonic LDAP: LDAP operations look clumsy and hard-to-use because they reflect the old-age idea that time-consuming operations should be done on the client to not clutter or hog the server with unneeded elaboration. ldap3 includes a fully functional Abstraction Layer that lets you interact with the DIT in a modern and pythonic way. With the Abstraction Layer you don’t need to directly issue any LDAP operation at all.

In the LDAP protocol the authentication operation is called Bind. A bind can be performed in 3 different ways: Anonymous Bind, Simple Password Bind, and SASL (Simple Authentication and Security Layer, allowing a larger set of authentication mechanisms) Bind. You can think of the Anonymous Bind as of a public access to the LDAP server where no credentials are provided and the server applies some default access rules. With the Simple Password Bind and the SASL Bind you provide credentials that the LDAP server uses to determine your authorization level. Again, keep in mind that the LDAP standard doesn’t define specific access rules, so each LDAP server vendor has developed a different method for authorizing the user to access data stored in the DIT.

ldap3 lets you choose the method that the client will use to connect to the server with the client_strategy parameter of the Connection object. There are four strategies that can be used for establishing a connection: SYNC, ASYNC, RESTARTABLE and REUSABLE. As a general rule, in synchronous strategies (SYNC, RESTARTABLE) all LDAP operations return a boolean: True if they’re successful, False if they fail; in asynchronous strategies (ASYNC, REUSABLE) all LDAP operations (except Bind that always returns a boolean) return a number, the message_id of the request. With asynchronous strategies you can send multiple requests without waiting for responses and then you get each response with the get_response(message_id) method of the Connection object as you need it. ldap3 will raise an exception if the response has not yet arrived after a specified time. In the get_response() method the timeout value can be set with the timeout parameter to the number of seconds to wait for the response to appear (default is 10 seconds). If you use the get_request=True in the get_response() parameter you also get the request dictionary back.

Asynchronous strategies are thread-safe and are useful with slow servers or when you have many requests with the same Connection object in multiple threads. Usually you will use synchronous strategies only.

The LDIF strategy is used to create a stream of LDIF-CHANGEs. (LDIF stands for LDAP Data Interchange Format, a textual standard used to describe the changes performed by LDAP operations). The MOCK_SYNC and MOCK_ASYNC strategies can be used to emulate a fake LDAP server to test your application without the need of a real LDAP server.


In this tutorial you will use the default SYNC communication strategy. If you keep losing the connection to the server you can use the RESTARTABLE communication strategy, which tries to reconnect and resend the operation when the link to the server fails.

Let’s start accessing the server with an anonymous bind:

>>> server = Server('ipa.demo1.freeipa.org')
>>> conn = Connection(server)
>>> conn.bind()

or shorter:

>>> conn = Connection('ipa.demo1.freeipa.org', auto_bind=True)

it could hardly be simpler than this. The auto_bind=True parameter forces the Bind operation to execute after creating the Connection object. You have now a full working anonymous session open and bound to the server with a synchronous communication strategy:

>>> print(conn)
ldap://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org:389 - cleartext - user: None - bound - open - <local: - remote:> -
tls not started - listening - SyncStrategy - internal decoder

With print(conn) you ask the connection for its status and get back a lot of information:

ldap://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org:389 the server URL (scheme, name and port we are connected to)
cleartext the kind of connection the server is listening to
user: None the credentials used, in this case None means an anonymous binding
bound the status of the LDAP session
open the status of the underlying TCP/IP session
<local: - remote:> the local and remote communication endpoints
tls not started the status of the TLS (Transport Layer Security) session
listening the status of the communication strategy
SyncStrategy the communication strategy used
internal decoder which BER decoder the connection is using (pyasn1 or the faster internal decoder)


Object representation: the ldap3 library uses the following object representation rule: when you use str() you get back information about the status of the object in a human readable format, when you use repr() you get back a string you can use in the Python console to recreate the object. print() always return the str() representation. Typing at the >>> prompt always return the repr representation that can be used to recreate the object in your code.

If you ask for the repr() representation of the conn object you can get a snippet of Python code:

>>> conn
Connection(server=Server(host='ipa.demo1.freeipa.org', port=389, use_ssl=False, get_info='NO_INFO'), auto_bind='NONE',
version=3, authentication='ANONYMOUS', client_strategy='SYNC', auto_referrals=True, check_names=True, read_only=False,
lazy=False, raise_exceptions=False, fast_decoder=True)

If you just copy and paste the object representation at the >>> prompt you can instantiate a new object similar to the original one. This is helpful when experimenting in the interactive console and works for most of the ldap3 library objects:

>>> server
Server(host='ipa.demo1.freeipa.org', port=389, use_ssl=False, get_info='NO_INFO')


The tutorial is intended to be used from the REPL (Read, Evaluate, Print, Loop), the interactive Python command line where you can directly type Python statements at the >>> prompt. The REPL implicitly use the repr() representation for showing the output of a statement. If you instead want the str() representation you must explicitly ask for it using the print() function.

Getting information from the server

The LDAP protocol specifies that an LDAP server must return some information about itself. You can inspect them with the .info attribute of the Server object:

>>> server = Server('ipa.demo1.freeipa.org',  get_info=ALL)
>>> conn = Connection(server, auto_bind=True)
>>> server.info
DSA info (from DSE):
  Supported LDAP Versions: 2, 3
  Naming Contexts:
  Alternative Servers: None
  Supported Controls:
    1.2.840.113556.1.4.319 - LDAP Simple Paged Results - Control - RFC2696
    1.2.840.113556.1.4.473 - Sort Request - Control - RFC2891 - LDAP Pre-read - Control - RFC4527 - LDAP Post-read - Control - RFC4527 - Chaining loop detect - Control - SUN microsystems - Password policy - Control - IETF DRAFT behera-ldap-password-policy - Get effective rights - Control - IETF DRAFT draft-ietf-ldapext-acl-model - Account usability - Control - SUN microsystems - LDAP content synchronization - Control - RFC4533 - LDAP Dereference - Control - IETF DRAFT draft-masarati-ldap-deref
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.12 - Proxied Authorization (old) - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.13 - iPlanet Directory Server Replication Update Information - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.14 - Search on specific database - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.15 - Authorization Identity Response Control - Control - RFC3829
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.16 - Authorization Identity Request Control - Control - RFC3829
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.17 - Real attribute only request - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.18 - Proxy Authorization Control - Control - RFC6171
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.19 - Chaining loop detection - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.2 - ManageDsaIT - Control - RFC3296
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.20 - Mapping Tree Node - Use one backend [extended] - Control - openLDAP
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.3 - Persistent Search - Control - IETF
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.4 - Netscape Password Expired - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.5 - Netscape Password Expiring - Control - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.4.9 - Virtual List View Request - Control - IETF
    2.16.840.1.113730. - OTP Sync Request - Control - freeIPA
  Supported Extensions: - StartTLS - Extension - RFC4511-RFC4513 - Modify Password - Extension - RFC3062 - Who am I - Extension - RFC4532
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.10 - Distributed Numeric Assignment Extended Request - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.12 - Start replication request - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.3 - Transaction Response Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.4 - iPlanet Replication Response Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.5 - iPlanet End Replication Request Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.6 - iPlanet Replication Entry Request Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.7 - iPlanet Bulk Import Start Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.8 - iPlanet Bulk Import Finished Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.5.9 - iPlanet Digest Authentication Calculation Extended Operation - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.6.5 - Replication CleanAllRUV - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.6.6 - Replication Abort CleanAllRUV - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.6.7 - Replication CleanAllRUV Retrieve MaxCSN - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730.3.6.8 - Replication CleanAllRUV Check Status - Extension - Netscape
    2.16.840.1.113730. - KeyTab set - Extension - FreeIPA
    2.16.840.1.113730. - Enrollment join - Extension - FreeIPA
    2.16.840.1.113730. - KeyTab get - Extension - FreeIPA
  Supported SASL Mechanisms:
  Schema Entry:
Vendor name: 389 Project
Vendor version: 389-Directory/ B2015.036.047

This server (like most LDAP servers) lets an anonymous user know a lot about it:

Supported LDAP Versions 2, 3 Server supports LDAP 2 and 3
Naming contexts <…> Server stores information for 3 different DIT partitions
Alternative servers None This is the only replica of the database
Supported Controls <…> Optional controls that can be sent in a request operation
Supported Extentions <…> Additional extended operations understood by the server
Supported SASL Mechanisms <…> Different additional SASL authentication mechanisms available
Schema Entry cn=schema The location of the schema in the DIT
Vendor name 389 Project The brand/mark/name of this LDAP server
Vendor version 389-Directory/1.3.3 … The version of this LDAP server
Other Additional information provided by the server

From this response we know that this server is a stand-alone LDAP server that can hold entries in the dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org portion of the DIT (usually called context), that supports various SASL access mechanisms and that is based on the “389 Directory Service” server. Furthermore in the Supported Controls we can see it supports “paged searches”, and the “who am i” and “StartTLS” extended operations in Supported Extensions.


Controls vs Extensions: in LDAP a Control is some additional information that can be attached to any LDAP request or response, while an Extension is a custom command that can be sent to the LDAP server in an Extended Operation Request. A Control usually modifies the behaviour of a standard LDAP operation, while an Extension is a completely new kind of operation that each vendor is free to include in its LDAP server implementation. An LDAP server declares which controls and which extendend operations it understands. The ldap3 library decodes the known supported controls and extended operation and includes a brief description and a reference to the relevant RFC in the .info attribute (when known). Not all controls or extensions are intended to be used by clients. Some controls and extensions are used by servers that hold a replica or a data partition. Unfortunately in the LDAP specifications there is no way to specify if such extensions are reserved for a server (DSA, Directory Server Agent in LDAP parlance) to server communication (for example in replicas or partitions management) or can be used by clients (DUA, Directory User Agent). Because the LDAP protocols doesn’t provide a specific way for DSAs to communicate with each other, a DSA actually presents itself as a DUA to another DSA.

An LDAP server stores information about known types in its schema. The schema includes all information needed by a client to correctly perform LDAP operations. Let’s examine the LDAP server schema for the ipa.demo1.freeipa.org server:

>>> server.schema
DSA Schema from: cn=schema
  Attribute types:{'ipaNTTrustForestTrustInfo': Attribute type: 2.16.840.1.113730.
  Short name: ipaNTTrustForestTrustInfo
  Description: Forest trust information for a trusted domain object
  Equality rule: octetStringMatch
  Syntax: [('', 'LDAP_SYNTAX', 'Octet String', 'RFC4517')]
  'ntUserCreateNewAccount': Attribute type: 2.16.840.1.113730.3.1.42
  Short name: ntUserCreateNewAccount
  Description: Netscape defined attribute type
  Single Value: True
  Syntax: [('', 'LDAP_SYNTAX', 'Directory String', 'RFC4517')]
    X-ORIGIN: Netscape NT Synchronization
  'passwordGraceUserTime': Attribute type: 2.16.840.1.113730.3.1.998
  Short name: passwordGraceUserTime, pwdGraceUserTime
  Description: Netscape defined password policy attribute type
  Single Value: True
  Usage: Directory operation
  Syntax: [('', 'LDAP_SYNTAX', 'Directory String', 'RFC4517')]
    X-ORIGIN: Netscape Directory Server
  'nsslapd-ldapilisten': Attribute type: 2.16.840.1.113730.3.1.2229
  Short name: nsslapd-ldapilisten
  Description: Netscape defined attribute type
  Single Value: True
  Syntax: [('', 'LDAP_SYNTAX', 'Directory String', 'RFC4517')]
    X-ORIGIN: Netscape Directory Server
  'bootParameter': Attribute type:
  Short name: bootParameter
  Description: Standard LDAP attribute type
  Syntax: [('', 'LDAP_SYNTAX', 'IA5 String', 'RFC4517')]
    X-ORIGIN: RFC 2307

  <...long list of descriptors...>

The schema is a very long list that describes what type of data the server understands. It also specifies what attributes can be stored in each class. Some classes are containers for other entries (either container or leaf) and are used to build the hierarchy of the DIT. Container entries can have attributes too. One important specification in the schema is if the attribute is multi-valued or not. A multi-valued attribute can store one or more values. Every LDAP server must at least support the standard LDAP3 schema but can have additional custom classes and attributes. The schema defines also the syntaxes and the matching rules of the different data types stored in the DIT.


Object classes and attributes are independent objects. An attribute is not a “child” of a class neither a class is a “parent” of any attribute. Classes and attributes are linked in the schema with the MAY and MUST options of the object class definition that specifies what attributes an entry can contain and which of them are mandatory.


There are 3 different types of object classes: ABSTRACT (used only when defining the class hierarchy), STRUCTURAL (used to create concrete entries) and AUXILIARY (used to add additional attributes to an entry). Only one structural class can be used in an entry, while many auxiliary classes can be added to the same entry. Adding an object class to an entry simply means that the attribute types defined in that object class can be stored in that entry.

If the ldap3 library is aware of the schema used by the LDAP server it will try to automatically convert data retrieved by the Search operation to their representation. An integer will be returned as an int, a generalizedDate as a datetime object and so on. If you don’t read the schema all the values are returned as bytes and unicode strings. You can control this behaviour with the get_info parameter of the Server object and the check_names parameter of the Connection object.

Logging into the server

You haven’t provided any credentials to the server yet, but you received a response anyway. This means that LDAP allows users to perform operations anonymously without declaring their identity. Obviously what the server returns to an anonymous connection is someway limited. This makes sense because originally the DAP protocol was intended for reading phone directories, as in a printed book, so its content could be read by anyone.

If you want to establish an authenticated session you have two options: Simple Password and SASL. With Simple Password you provide a DN (Distinguished Name) and a password. The server checks if your credentials are valid and permits or denies access to the elements of the DIT. SASL provides additional methods to identify the user, as an external certificate or a Kerberos ticket.


Distinguished Names: the DIT is a hierarchical structure, as a filesystem. To identify an entry you must specify its path in the DIT starting from the leaf that represents the entry up to the top of the Tree. This path is called the Distinguished Name (DN) of an entry and is constructed with key-value pairs, separated by a comma, of the names and the values of the entries that form the path from the leaf up to the top of the Tree. The DN of an entry is unique throughout the DIT and changes only if the entry is moved into another container within the DIT. The parts of the DN are called Relative Distinguished Name (RDN) because they are unique only in the context where they are defined. So, for example, if you have a inetOrgPerson entry with RDN cn=Fred that is stored in an organizationaUnit with RDN ou=users that is stored in an organization with RDN o=company the DN of the entry will be cn=Fred,ou=users,o=company. The RDN value must be unique in the context where the entry is stored. LDAP also supports a (quite obscure) “multi-rdn” naming option where each part of the RDN is separated with the + character, as in cn=Fred+sn=Smith.


Accessing Active Directory: with ldap3 you can also connect to an Active Directory server with the NTLM v2 protocol:

>>> from ldap3 import Server, Connection, ALL, NTLM
>>> server = Server('servername', get_info=ALL)
>>> conn = Connection(server, user="Domain\\User", password="password", authentication=NTLM)

This kind of authentication is not part of the LDAP 3 RFCs but uses a proprietary Microsoft authentication mechanism named SICILY. ldap3 implements it because it’s much easier to use this method than Kerberos to access Active Directory.

Now try to ask to the server who you are:

>>> conn.extend.standard.who_am_i()

We have used and Extended Operation, conveniently packaged in a function of the ldap3.extend.standard package, and get an empty response. This means you have no authentication status on the server, so you are an anonymous user. This doesn’t mean that you are unknown to the server, actually you have a session open with it, so you can send additional operation requests. Even if you don’t send the anonymous bind operation the server will accept any operation requests as an anonymous user, establishing a new session if needed.


The extend namespace. The connection object has a special namespace called “extend” where more complex operations are defined. This namespace include a standard section and a number of specific vendor sections. In these sections you can find methods to perform tricky or hard-to-implement operations. For example in the microsoft section you can find a method to easily change the user password, and in the novell section a method to apply transactions to groups of LDAP operations. In the standard section you can also find an easy way to perform a paged search via generators.


Opening vs Binding: the LDAP protocol provides a Bind and an Unbind operation but, for historical reasons, they are not symmetrical. As any TCP connection the communication socket must be open before binding to the server. This is implicitly done by the ldap3 package when you issue a bind() or another operation or can be explicity done with the open() method of the Connection object. The Unbind operation is actually used to terminate the connection, both ending the session and closing the socket. After the unbind() operation the connection cannot be used anymore. If you want to access as another user or change the current session to an anonymous one, you must issue bind() again. The ldap3 library includes the rebind() method to access the same connection as a different user. You must use unbind() only when you want to close the network socket.

Try to specify an identity to access the DIT:

>>> conn = Connection(server, 'uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org', 'Secret123', auto_bind=True)
>>> conn.extend.standard.who_am_i()
'dn: uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org'

Now the server knows that you are a valid user and the who_am_i() extended operation returns your identity.

Establishing a secure connection

If you check the connection info you can see that the Connection is using a cleartext (insecure) channel:

>>> print(conn)
ldap://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org:389 - **cleartext** - user: uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org - bound - open - <local: - remote:**389**> - **tls not started** - listening - SyncStrategy - internal decoder'

This means that credentials pass unencrypted over the wire, so they can be easily captured by network eavesdroppers (with unencrypted connections a network sniffer can capture passwords and other sensitive data). The LDAP protocol provides two ways to secure a connection: LDAP over TLS and the StartTLS extended operation. Both methods establish a secure TLS connection: the former secure with TLS the communication channel as soon as the connection is open, while the latter can be used at any time on an already open unsecure connection to secure it issuing the StartTLS operation.


LDAP URL scheme: a cleartext connection to a server can be expressed in the URL with the ldap:// scheme, while LDAP over TLS can be indicated with ldaps:// even if this is not specified in any of the LDAP RFCs. If a scheme is included in the server name while creating the Server object, the ldap3 library opens the proper port, unencrypted or with the specified TLS options (or the default TLS options if none is specified).


Default port numbers: the default port for cleartext (unsecure) communication is 389, while the default port for LDAP over TLS (secure) communication is 636. Note that because you can start a session on the 389 port and then raise the security level with the StartTLS operation, you can have a secure communication even on the 389 port (usually considered unsecure). Obviously the server can listen on different ports. When defining the Server object you can specify which port to use with the port parameter. Keep this in mind if you need to connect to a server behind a firewall.

Now try to use the StartTLS extended operation:

>>> conn.start_tls()

if you check the connection status you can see that the session is on a secure channel now, even if started on a cleartext connection:

>>> print(conn)
ldap://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org:389 - cleartext - user: uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org - bound - open - <local: - remote:> - tls started - listening - SyncStrategy - internal decoder

To start the connection on a SSL socket:

>>> server = Server('ipa.demo1.freeipa.org', use_ssl=True, get_info=ALL)
>>> conn = Connection(server, 'uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org', 'Secret123', auto_bind=True)
>>> print(conn)
ldaps://ipa.demo1.freeipa.org:636 - ssl - user: uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org - bound - open - <local: - remote:> - tls not started - listening - SyncStrategy - internal decoder

Either with the former or the latter method the connection is now encrypted. We haven’t specified any TLS option, so there is no checking of certificate validity. You can customize the TLS behaviour providing a Tls object to the Server object. The Tls object configures the security context:

>>> from ldap3 import Tls
>>> import ssl
>>> tls_configuration = Tls(validate=ssl.CERT_REQUIRED, version=ssl.PROTOCOL_TLSv1)
>>> server = Server('ipa.demo1.freeipa.org', use_ssl=True, tls=tls_configuration)
>>> conn = Connection(server)
>>> conn.open()
ldap3.core.exceptions.LDAPSocketOpenError: (LDAPSocketOpenError('socket ssl wrapping error: [SSL: CERTIFICATE_VERIFY_FAILED] certificate verify failed (_ssl.c:600)',),)

In this case, using the FreeIPA demo server we get a LDAPSocketOpenError exception because the certificate cannot be verified. You can configure the Tls object with a number of options. Look at :doc:SSL and TLS <ssltls> section for more information.

The FreeIPA server doesn’t return a valid certificate so to continue the tutorial let’s revert the certificate validation to CERT_NONE:

>>> tls_configuration.validate = ssl.CERT_NONE

Connection context manager

The Connection object responds to the context manager protocol, so you can perform LDAP operations with automatic open, bind and unbind as in the following example:

>>> with Connection(server, 'uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org', 'Secret123') as conn:
        conn.search('dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org', '(&(objectclass=person)(uid=admin))', attributes=['sn','krbLastPwdChange', 'objectclass'])
        entry = conn.entries[0]
>>> conn.bound
>>> entry
DN: uid=admin,cn=users,cn=accounts,dc=demo1,dc=freeipa,dc=org
krbLastPwdChange: 2016-10-09 10:01:18+00:00
objectclass: top
sn: Administrator

When the Connection object exits the context manager it retains the state it had before entering the context. The connection is always open and bound while in context. If the connection was not bound to the server when entering the context the Unbind operation will be tried when you leave the context even if the operations in the context raise an exception.