TWiki Access Control

Restricting read and write access to topics and webs, by users and groups

Overview

URCS allows you to define restrictions of who is allowed to view a URCS web, make changes to topics or attach files.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Think twice before restricting read or write access to a web or a topic, because an open system where everybody can contribute is the essence of the WikiCulture. Experience shows that unrestricted write access works very well because:

  • Peer influence is enough to ensure that only relevant content is posted.
  • Peer editing - edit anything on a page - keeps topics focussed.
  • All content is preserved under revision control.
    • Edits can be undone by the TWikiAdminGroup (the default administrators group; see Managing Groups).
    • Editing and refactoring (condensing a long topic) is encouraged (there's a safety net).

Users and Groups

Access control is based on users and groups.

Managing Users

A user is created by with the TWikiRegistration form. The process generates a topic in the Main web in the new user's WikiName. The default visitor name is TWikiGuest.

Managing Groups

Groups are defined by group topics in the Main web, like the TWikiAdminGroup.

  • A group topic name must end in _Group
  • The group topic should define these two variables:
    • Set GROUP = < list of users and groups >
    • Set ALLOWTOPICCHANGE = < list of users and groups >
  • GROUP defines the members of the group; it is a comma delimited list of users and other groups. Example:
        * Set GROUP = Main.SomeUser, Main.OtherUser, Main.SomeOtherGroup
  • ALLOWTOPICCHANGE defines who is allowed to change the group topic; it is a comma delimited list of users and groups. You typically want to restrict that to the members of the group itself, so it should contain the name of the topic, i.e.
        * Set ALLOWTOPICCHANGE = Main.TWikiAdminGroup
    for the TWikiAdminGroup topic. (This is to prevent users not in the group from editing the topic and gaining unauthorized membership to the group.)

Restricting Write Access

Deny Editing by Topic

You can define restrictions of who is allowed to make changes to a topic or attach files to it.

Define one or both of these variables in a topic, preferably at the end of the topic:

  • Set DENYTOPICCHANGE = < list of users and groups >
  • Set ALLOWTOPICCHANGE = < list of users and groups >

DENYTOPICCHANGE defines users or groups that are not allowed to make changes to the topic. It is a comma delimited list of users and groups. Example:
    * Set DENYTOPICCHANGE = Main.SomeBadBoy, Main.SomeBadGirl, Main.SomeHackerGroup

ALLOWTOPICCHANGE defines users or groups that are allowed to make changes to the topic. It is a comma delimited list of users and groups. Example:
    * Set ALLOWTOPICCHANGE = Main.SomeGoodGuy, Main.SomeGoodGirl, Main.TWikiAdminGroup

DENYTOPICCHANGE is evaluated before ALLOWTOPICCHANGE. Access is denied if the authenticated person is in the DENYTOPICCHANGE list, or not in the ALLOWTOPICCHANGE list. Access is granted in case DENYTOPICCHANGE and ALLOWTOPICCHANGE is not defined.

Deny Editing by Web

You can define restrictions of who is allowed to make changes to a URCS web. This includes creating new topics, changing topics or attaching files.

Define one or both of these variable in the WebPreferences topic:

  • Set DENYWEBCHANGE = < list of users and groups >
  • Set ALLOWWEBCHANGE = < list of users and groups >

The same rules apply like the one for Access Control for Individual Topics; with these additions:

  • DENYTOPICCHANGE (in topic) overrides DENYWEBCHANGE (in WebPreferences)
  • ALLOWTOPICCHANGE (in topic) overrides ALLOWWEBCHANGE (in WebPreferences)

Restricting Rename Access

Deny Renaming by Topic

You can define restrictions of who is allowed to rename a topic. Note that users need this permission in addition to the CHANGE permission in order to rename a topic. They also need CHANGE access to change references in referring topics.

Define one or both of these variables in a topic, preferably at the end of the topic:

  • Set DENYTOPICRENAME = < list of users and groups >
  • Set ALLOWTOPICRENAME = < list of users and groups >

DENYTOPICCRENAME defines users or groups that are not allowed to rename the topic. It is a comma delimited list of users and groups. Example:
    * Set DENYTOPICRENAME = Main.SomeBadBoy, Main.SomeBadGirl, Main.SomeHackerGroup

ALLOWTOPICRENAME defines users or groups that are allowed to rename the topic. It is a comma delimited list of users and groups. Example:
    * Set ALLOWTOPICRENAME = Main.SomeGoodGuy, Main.SomeGoodGirl, Main.TWikiAdminGroup

DENYTOPICRENAME is evaluated before ALLOWTOPICRENAME. Access is denied if the authenticated person is in the DENYTOPICRENAME list, or not in the ALLOWTOPICRENAME list. Access is granted in case DENYTOPICRENAME and ALLOWTOPICRENAME is not defined.

Deny Renaming by Web

You can define restrictions of who is allowed to do renames for a URCS web.

Define one or both of these variable in the WebPreferences topic:

  • Set DENYWEBRENAME = < list of users and groups >
  • Set ALLOWWEBRENAME = < list of users and groups >

The same rules apply like the one for Access Control for Individual Topics; with these additions:

  • DENYTOPICRENAME (in topic) overrides DENYWEBRENAME (in WebPreferences)
  • ALLOWTOPICRENAME (in topic) overrides ALLOWWEBRENAME (in WebPreferences)

Restricting Read Access

You can define restrictions of who is allowed to view a URCS web.

Define one or both of these variable in the WebPreferences topic:

  • Set DENYWEBVIEW = < list of users and groups >
  • Set ALLOWWEBVIEW = < list of users and groups >

Known Issues

  • The view restriction is not suitable for very sensitive content since there is a way to circumvent the read access restriction.
  • Read access restriction only works if the view script is authenticated, that means that users need to log on also just to read topics. TWiki Installation Guide has more on Basic Authentication based on the .htaccess file.

Selective Unrestricted Web Access

  • There is a workaround if you prefer to have unrestricted access to view topics located in normal webs, and to authenticate users only for webs where view restriction is enabled:
    • Leave the view script non-authenticated in the .htaccess file.
    • Enable the $doRememberRemoteUser flag in lib/wikicfg.pm as described in User Authentication. URCS will now remember the IP address of an authenticated user.
    • Copy the view script to viewauth (or better, create a symbolic link)
    • Add viewauth to the list of authenticated scripts in the .htaccess file.
    • When a user accesses a web where you enabled view restriction, URCS will redirect from the view script to the viewauth script once (this happens only if the user has never edited a topic). Doing so will ask for authentication. The viewauth script shows the requested topic if the user could log on and if the user is authorized to see that web.
  • If you enable view restriction for a web, it is recommended to restrict search "all webs" from searching this web. Enable this restriction with the NOSEARCHALL variable in its WebPreferences, like:
    • Set NOSEARCHALL = on
  • It is not recommended to restrict view access to individual topics since all content is searchable within a web.

The SuperAdminGroup

The above schema can lock completely a topic in case of a typing error of the ALLOWTOPICCHANGE setting (see UnchangeableTopicBug for more detail). To avoid this:

  • Set the $superAdminGroup variable in lib/TWiki.cfg to the name of a group of users that are always allowed to edit/view topics.
$superAdminGroup = "TWikiAdminGroup";
  • The default setting is not to have superusers.

-- PeterThoeny - 16 Mar 2001
-- AndreaSterbini - 11 Apr 2001

Related topics: TWikiPreferences, WebPreferences (in every web), TWikiAdminGroup, TWikiGroups

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Topic revision: r14 - 2001-09-05 - MikeMannix
 
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