HDP Security Overview
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HDP Security Features

HDP uses Apache Ranger to provide centralized security administration and management. The Ranger Administration Portal is the central interface for security administration. You can use Ranger to create and update policies, which are then stored in a policy database.

Ranger plug-ins (lightweight Java programs) are embedded within the processes of each cluster component. For example, the Ranger plug-in for Apache Hive is embedded within HiveServer2:

These plug-ins pull policies from a central server and store them locally in a file. When a user request comes through the component, these plug-ins intercept the request and evaluate it against the security policy. Plug-ins also collect data from the user request and follow a separate thread to send this data back to the audit server.


To deliver consistent security administration and management, Hadoop administrators require a centralized user interface they can use to define, administer and manage security policies consistently across all of the Hadoop stack components:

The Apache Ranger administration console provides a central point of administration for the other four pillars of Hadoop security.

Authentication and Secure Gateway

Establishing user identity with strong authentication is the basis for secure access in Hadoop. Users need to reliably identify themselves and then have that identity propagated throughout the Hadoop cluster to access cluster resources. Hortonworks uses Kerberos for authentication. Kerberos is an industry standard used to authenticate users and resources within a Hadoop cluster. HDP also includes Ambari, which simplifies Kerberos setup, configuration, and maintenance.

Apache Knox Gateway is used to help ensure perimeter security for Hortonworks customers. With Knox, enterprises can confidently extend the Hadoop REST API to new users without Kerberos complexities, while also maintaining compliance with enterprise security policies. Knox provides a central gateway for Hadoop REST APIs that have varying degrees of authorization, authentication, SSL, and SSO capabilities to enable a single access point for Hadoop.


Ranger manages access control through a user interface that ensures consistent policy administration across Hadoop data access components. Security administrators can define security policies at the database, table, column, and file levels, and can administer permissions for specific LDAP-based groups or individual users. Rules based on dynamic conditions such as time or geolocation can also be added to an existing policy rule. The Ranger authorization model is pluggable and can be easily extended to any data source using a service-based definition.

User/group sync in Ranger

Administrators can use Ranger to define a centralized security policy for the following Hadoop components:

  • HDFS

  • YARN

  • Hive

  • HBase

  • Storm

  • Knox

  • Solr

  • Kafka

Ranger works with standard authorization APIs in each Hadoop component and can enforce centrally administered policies for any method used to access the Data Lake.

Ranger provides administrators with the deep visibility into the security administration process that is required for auditing. The combination of a rich user interface and deep audit visibility makes Ranger highly intuitive to use, enhancing productivity for security administrators.


As customers deploy Hadoop into corporate data and processing environments, metadata and data governance must be vital parts of any enterprise-ready data lake. For this reason, Hortonworks established the Data Governance Initiative (DGI) with Aetna, Merck, Target, and SAS to introduce a common approach to Hadoop data governance into the open source community. This initiative has since evolved into a new open source project named Apache Atlas. Apache Atlas is a set of core governance services that enables enterprises to meet their compliance requirements within Hadoop, while also enabling integration with the complete enterprise data ecosystem. These services include:

  • Dataset search and lineage operations

  • Metadata-driven data access control

  • Indexed and searchable centralized auditing

  • Data lifecycle management from ingestion to disposition

  • Metadata interchange with other tools

Ranger also provides a centralized framework for collecting access audit history and reporting this data, including filtering on various parameters. HDP enhances audit information that is captured within different components within Hadoop and provides insights through this centralized reporting capability.

Data Protection

The data protection feature makes data unreadable both in transit over the network and at rest on a disk. HDP satisfies security and compliance requirements by using both transparent data encryption (TDE) to encrypt data for HDFS files, along with a Ranger-embedded open source Hadoop key management store (KMS). Ranger enables security administrators to manage keys and authorization policies for KMS. Hortonworks is also working extensively with its encryption partners to integrate HDFS encryption with enterprise-grade key management frameworks.

Encryption in HDFS, combined with KMS access policies maintained by Ranger, prevents rogue Linux or Hadoop administrators from accessing data, and supports segregation of duties for both data access and encryption.