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6 The MySQL Access Privilege System

MySQL has an advanced but non-standard security/privilege system. This section describes how it works.

6.1 General Security

Anyone using MySQL on a computer connected to the Internet should read this section to avoid the most common security mistakes.

In discussing security, we emphasize the necessity of fully protecting the entire server host (not simply the MySQL server) against all types of applicable attacks: eavesdropping, altering, playback, and denial of service. We do not cover all aspects of availability and fault tolerance here.

MySQL uses security based on Access Control Lists (ACLs) for all connections, queries, and other operations that a user may attempt to perform. There is also some support for SSL-encrypted connections between MySQL clients and servers. Many of the concepts discussed here are not specific to MySQL at all; the same general ideas apply to almost all applications.

When running MySQL, follow these guidelines whenever possible:

6.2 How to Make MySQL Secure Against Crackers

When you connect to a MySQL server, you normally should use a password. The password is not transmitted in clear text over the connection, however the encryption algorithm is not very strong, and with some effort a clever attacker can crack the password if he is able to sniff the traffic between the client and the server. If the connection between the client and the server goes through an untrusted network, you should use an SSH tunnel to encrypt the communication.

All other information is transferred as text that can be read by anyone who is able to watch the connection. If you are concerned about this, you can use the compressed protocol (in MySQL Version 3.22 and above) to make things much harder. To make things even more secure you should use ssh. You can find an open source ssh client at http://www.openssh.org, and a commercial ssh client at http://www.ssh.com. With this, you can get an encrypted TCP/IP connection between a MySQL server and a MySQL client.

To make a MySQL system secure, you should strongly consider the following suggestions:

6.3 Startup Options for mysqld Concerning Security

The following mysqld options affect networking security:

--secure
IP numbers returned by the gethostbyname() system call are checked to make sure they resolve back to the original hostname. This makes it harder for someone on the outside to get access by pretending to be another host. This option also adds some sanity checks of hostnames. The option is turned off by default in MySQL Version 3.21 because sometimes it takes a long time to perform backward resolutions. MySQL Version 3.22 caches hostnames and has this option enabled by default.
--skip-grant-tables
This option causes the server not to use the privilege system at all. This gives everyone full access to all databases! (You can tell a running server to start using the grant tables again by executing mysqladmin flush-privileges or mysqladmin reload.)
--skip-name-resolve
Hostnames are not resolved. All Host column values in the grant tables must be IP numbers or localhost.
--skip-networking
Don't allow TCP/IP connections over the network. All connections to mysqld must be made via Unix sockets. This option is unsuitable for systems that use MIT-pthreads, because the MIT-pthreads package doesn't support Unix sockets.
--skip-show-database
With this option, the SHOW DATABASES statement doesn't return anything.
--safe-show-database
With this option, SHOW DATABASES returns only those databases for which the user has some kind of privilege.

6.4 What the Privilege System Does

The primary function of the MySQL privilege system is to authenticate a user connecting from a given host, and to associate that user with privileges on a database such as select, insert, update and delete.

Additional functionality includes the ability to have an anonymous user and to grant privileges for MySQL-specific functions such as LOAD DATA INFILE and administrative operations.

6.5 MySQL User Names and Passwords

There are several distinctions between the way user names and passwords are used by MySQL and the way they are used by Unix or Windows:

MySQL users and they privileges are normally created with the GRANT command. See section 7.35 GRANT and REVOKE Syntax.

When you login to a MySQL server with a command line client you should specify the password with --password=your-password. See section 6.6 Connecting to the MySQL Server.

mysql --user=monty --password=guess database_name

If you want the client to prompt for a password, you should use --password without any argument

mysql --user=monty --password database_name

or the short form:

mysql -u monty -p database_name

Note that in the last example the password is NOT 'database_name'.

If you want to use the -p option to supply a password you should do like this:

mysql -u monty -pguess database_name

On some system the library call that MySQL uses to prompt for a password will automaticly cut the password to 8 characters. Internally MySQL doesn't have any limit for the length of the password.

6.6 Connecting to the MySQL Server

MySQL client programs generally require that you specify connection parameters when you want to access a MySQL server: the host you want to connect to, your user name, and your password. For example, the mysql client can be started like this (optional arguments are enclosed between `[' and `]'):

shell> mysql [-h host_name] [-u user_name] [-pyour_pass]

Alternate forms of the -h, -u, and -p options are --host=host_name, --user=user_name, and --password=your_pass. Note that there is no space between -p or --password= and the password following it.

NOTE: Specifying a password on the command line is not secure! Any user on your system may then find out your password by typing a command like: ps auxww. See section 4.16.5 Option Files.

mysql uses default values for connection parameters that are missing from the command line:

Thus, for a Unix user joe, the following commands are equivalent:

shell> mysql -h localhost -u joe
shell> mysql -h localhost
shell> mysql -u joe
shell> mysql

Other MySQL clients behave similarly.

On Unix systems, you can specify different default values to be used when you make a connection, so that you need not enter them on the command line each time you invoke a client program. This can be done in a couple of ways:

6.7 Keeping Your Password Secure

It is inadvisable to specify your password in a way that exposes it to discovery by other users. The methods you can use to specify your password when you run client programs are listed below, along with an assessment of the risks of each method:

All in all, the safest methods are to have the client program prompt for the password or to specify the password in a properly protected `.my.cnf' file.

6.8 Privileges Provided by MySQL

Information about user privileges is stored in the user, db, host, tables_priv, and columns_priv tables in the mysql database (that is, in the database named mysql). The MySQL server reads the contents of these tables when it starts up and under the circumstances indicated in section 6.12 When Privilege Changes Take Effect.

The names used in this manual to refer to the privileges provided by MySQL are shown below, along with the table column name associated with each privilege in the grant tables and the context in which the privilege applies:

Privilege Column Context
select Select_priv tables
insert Insert_priv tables
update Update_priv tables
delete Delete_priv tables
index Index_priv tables
alter Alter_priv tables
create Create_priv databases, tables, or indexes
drop Drop_priv databases or tables
grant Grant_priv databases or tables
references References_priv databases or tables
reload Reload_priv server administration
shutdown Shutdown_priv server administration
process Process_priv server administration
file File_priv file access on server

The select, insert, update, and delete privileges allow you to perform operations on rows in existing tables in a database.

SELECT statements require the select privilege only if they actually retrieve rows from a table. You can execute certain SELECT statements even without permission to access any of the databases on the server. For example, you could use the mysql client as a simple calculator:

mysql> SELECT 1+1;
mysql> SELECT PI()*2;

The index privilege allows you to create or drop (remove) indexes.

The alter privilege allows you to use ALTER TABLE.

The create and drop privileges allow you to create new databases and tables, or to drop (remove) existing databases and tables.

Note that if you grant the drop privilege for the mysql database to a user, that user can drop the database in which the MySQL access privileges are stored!

The grant privilege allows you to give to other users those privileges you yourself possess.

The file privilege gives you permission to read and write files on the server using the LOAD DATA INFILE and SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE statements. Any user to whom this privilege is granted can read or write any file that the MySQL server can read or write.

The remaining privileges are used for administrative operations, which are performed using the mysqladmin program. The table below shows which mysqladmin commands each administrative privilege allows you to execute:

Privilege Commands permitted to privilege holders
reload reload, refresh, flush-privileges, flush-hosts, flush-logs, and flush-tables
shutdown shutdown
process processlist, kill

The reload command tells the server to re-read the grant tables. The refresh command flushes all tables and opens and closes the log files. flush-privileges is a synonym for reload. The other flush-* commands perform functions similar to refresh but are more limited in scope, and may be preferable in some instances. For example, if you want to flush just the log files, flush-logs is a better choice than refresh.

The shutdown command shuts down the server.

The processlist command displays information about the threads executing within the server. The kill command kills server threads. You can always display or kill your own threads, but you need the process privilege to display or kill threads initiated by other users. See section 7.27 KILL Syntax.

It is a good idea in general to grant privileges only to those users who need them, but you should exercise particular caution in granting certain privileges:

There are some things that you cannot do with the MySQL privilege system:

6.9 How the Privilege System Works

The MySQL privilege system ensures that all users may do exactly the things that they are supposed to be allowed to do. When you connect to a MySQL server, your identity is determined by the host from which you connect and the user name you specify. The system grants privileges according to your identity and what you want to do.

MySQL considers both your hostname and user name in identifying you because there is little reason to assume that a given user name belongs to the same person everywhere on the Internet. For example, the user bill who connects from whitehouse.gov need not be the same person as the user bill who connects from microsoft.com. MySQL handles this by allowing you to distinguish users on different hosts that happen to have the same name: you can grant bill one set of privileges for connections from whitehouse.gov, and a different set of privileges for connections from microsoft.com.

MySQL access control involves two stages:

The server uses the user, db, and host tables in the mysql database at both stages of access control. The fields in these grant tables are shown below:

Table name user db host
Scope fields Host Host Host
User Db Db
Password User
Privilege fields Select_priv Select_priv Select_priv
Insert_priv Insert_priv Insert_priv
Update_priv Update_priv Update_priv
Delete_priv Delete_priv Delete_priv
Index_priv Index_priv Index_priv
Alter_priv Alter_priv Alter_priv
Create_priv Create_priv Create_priv
Drop_priv Drop_priv Drop_priv
Grant_priv Grant_priv Grant_priv
References_priv
Reload_priv
Shutdown_priv
Process_priv
File_priv

For the second stage of access control (request verification), the server may, if the request involves tables, additionally consult the tables_priv and columns_priv tables. The fields in these tables are shown below:

Table name tables_priv columns_priv
Scope fields Host Host
Db Db
User User
Table_name Table_name
Column_name
Privilege fields Table_priv Column_priv
Column_priv
Other fields Timestamp Timestamp
Grantor

Each grant table contains scope fields and privilege fields.

Scope fields determine the scope of each entry in the tables, that is, the context in which the entry applies. For example, a user table entry with Host and User values of 'thomas.loc.gov' and 'bob' would be used for authenticating connections made to the server by bob from the host thomas.loc.gov. Similarly, a db table entry with Host, User, and Db fields of 'thomas.loc.gov', 'bob' and 'reports' would be used when bob connects from the host thomas.loc.gov to access the reports database. The tables_priv and columns_priv tables contain scope fields indicating tables or table/column combinations to which each entry applies.

For access-checking purposes, comparisons of Host values are case insensitive. User, Password, Db, and Table_name values are case sensitive. Column_name values are case insensitive in MySQL Version 3.22.12 or later.

Privilege fields indicate the privileges granted by a table entry, that is, what operations can be performed. The server combines the information in the various grant tables to form a complete description of a user's privileges. The rules used to do this are described in section 6.11 Access Control, Stage 2: Request Verification.

Scope fields are strings, declared as shown below; the default value for each is the empty string:

Field name Type
Host CHAR(60)
User CHAR(16)
Password CHAR(16)
Db CHAR(64) (CHAR(60) for the tables_priv and columns_priv tables)
Table_name CHAR(60)
Column_name CHAR(60)

In the user, db and host tables, all privilege fields are declared as ENUM('N','Y') -- each can have a value of 'N' or 'Y', and the default value is 'N'.

In the tables_priv and columns_priv tables, the privilege fields are declared as SET fields:

Table name Field name Possible set elements
tables_priv Table_priv 'Select', 'Insert', 'Update', 'Delete', 'Create', 'Drop', 'Grant', 'References', 'Index', 'Alter'
tables_priv Column_priv 'Select', 'Insert', 'Update', 'References'
columns_priv Column_priv 'Select', 'Insert', 'Update', 'References'

Briefly, the server uses the grant tables like this:

Note that administrative privileges (reload, shutdown, etc.) are specified only in the user table. This is because administrative operations are operations on the server itself and are not database-specific, so there is no reason to list such privileges in the other grant tables. In fact, only the user table need be consulted to determine whether or not you can perform an administrative operation.

The file privilege is specified only in the user table, too. It is not an administrative privilege as such, but your ability to read or write files on the server host is independent of the database you are accessing.

The mysqld server reads the contents of the grant tables once, when it starts up. Changes to the grant tables take effect as indicated in section 6.12 When Privilege Changes Take Effect.

When you modify the contents of the grant tables, it is a good idea to make sure that your changes set up privileges the way you want. For help in diagnosing problems, see section 6.16 Causes of Access denied Errors. For advice on security issues, see section 6.2 How to Make MySQL Secure Against Crackers.

A useful diagnostic tool is the mysqlaccess script, which Yves Carlier has provided for the MySQL distribution. Invoke mysqlaccess with the --help option to find out how it works. Note that mysqlaccess checks access using only the user, db and host tables. It does not check table- or column-level privileges.

6.10 Access Control, Stage 1: Connection Verification

When you attempt to connect to a MySQL server, the server accepts or rejects the connection based on your identity and whether or not you can verify your identity by supplying the correct password. If not, the server denies access to you completely. Otherwise, the server accepts the connection, then enters Stage 2 and waits for requests.

Your identity is based on two pieces of information:

Identity checking is performed using the three user table scope fields (Host, User, and Password). The server accepts the connection only if a user table entry matches your hostname and user name, and you supply the correct password.

Values in the user table scope fields may be specified as follows:

Non-blank Password values represent encrypted passwords. MySQL does not store passwords in plaintext form for anyone to see. Rather, the password supplied by a user who is attempting to connect is encrypted (using the PASSWORD() function). The encrypted password is then used when the client/server is checking if the password is correct (This is done without the encrypted password ever traveling over the connection.) Note that from MySQL's point of view the encrypted password is the REAL password, so you should not give anyone access to it! In particular, don't give normal users read access to the tables in the mysql database!

The examples below show how various combinations of Host and User values in user table entries apply to incoming connections:

Host value User value Connections matched by entry
'thomas.loc.gov' 'fred' fred, connecting from thomas.loc.gov
'thomas.loc.gov' '' Any user, connecting from thomas.loc.gov
'%' 'fred' fred, connecting from any host
'%' '' Any user, connecting from any host
'%.loc.gov' 'fred' fred, connecting from any host in the loc.gov domain
'x.y.%' 'fred' fred, connecting from x.y.net, x.y.com,x.y.edu, etc. (this is probably not useful)
'144.155.166.177' 'fred' fred, connecting from the host with IP address 144.155.166.177
'144.155.166.%' 'fred' fred, connecting from any host in the 144.155.166 class C subnet
'144.155.166.0/255.255.255.0' 'fred' Same as previous example

Because you can use IP wild-card values in the Host field (for example, '144.155.166.%' to match every host on a subnet), there is the possibility that someone might try to exploit this capability by naming a host 144.155.166.somewhere.com. To foil such attempts, MySQL disallows matching on hostnames that start with digits and a dot. Thus, if you have a host named something like 1.2.foo.com, its name will never match the Host column of the grant tables. Only an IP number can match an IP wild-card value.

An incoming connection may be matched by more than one entry in the user table. For example, a connection from thomas.loc.gov by fred would be matched by several of the entries just shown above. How does the server choose which entry to use if more than one matches? The server resolves this question by sorting the user table after reading it at startup time, then looking through the entries in sorted order when a user attempts to connect. The first matching entry is the one that is used.

user table sorting works as follows. Suppose the user table looks like this:

+-----------+----------+-
| Host      | User     | ...
+-----------+----------+-
| %         | root     | ...
| %         | jeffrey  | ...
| localhost | root     | ...
| localhost |          | ...
+-----------+----------+-

When the server reads in the table, it orders the entries with the most-specific Host values first ('%' in the Host column means ``any host'' and is least specific). Entries with the same Host value are ordered with the most-specific User values first (a blank User value means ``any user'' and is least specific). The resulting sorted user table looks like this:

+-----------+----------+-
| Host      | User     | ...
+-----------+----------+-
| localhost | root     | ...
| localhost |          | ...
| %         | jeffrey  | ...
| %         | root     | ...
+-----------+----------+-

When a connection is attempted, the server looks through the sorted entries and uses the first match found. For a connection from localhost by jeffrey, the entries with 'localhost' in the Host column match first. Of those, the entry with the blank user name matches both the connecting hostname and user name. (The '%'/'jeffrey' entry would have matched, too, but it is not the first match in the table.)

Here is another example. Suppose the user table looks like this:

+----------------+----------+-
| Host           | User     | ...
+----------------+----------+-
| %              | jeffrey  | ...
| thomas.loc.gov |          | ...
+----------------+----------+-

The sorted table looks like this:

+----------------+----------+-
| Host           | User     | ...
+----------------+----------+-
| thomas.loc.gov |          | ...
| %              | jeffrey  | ...
+----------------+----------+-

A connection from thomas.loc.gov by jeffrey is matched by the first entry, whereas a connection from whitehouse.gov by jeffrey is matched by the second.

A common misconception is to think that for a given user name, all entries that explicitly name that user will be used first when the server attempts to find a match for the connection. This is simply not true. The previous example illustrates this, where a connection from thomas.loc.gov by jeffrey is first matched not by the entry containing 'jeffrey' as the User field value, but by the entry with no user name!

If you have problems connecting to the server, print out the user table and sort it by hand to see where the first match is being made.

6.11 Access Control, Stage 2: Request Verification

Once you establish a connection, the server enters Stage 2. For each request that comes in on the connection, the server checks whether you have sufficient privileges to perform it, based on the type of operation you wish to perform. This is where the privilege fields in the grant tables come into play. These privileges can come from any of the user, db, host, tables_priv, or columns_priv tables. The grant tables are manipulated with GRANT and REVOKE commands. See section 7.35 GRANT and REVOKE Syntax. (You may find it helpful to refer to section 6.9 How the Privilege System Works, which lists the fields present in each of the grant tables.)

The user table grants privileges that are assigned to you on a global basis and that apply no matter what the current database is. For example, if the user table grants you the delete privilege, you can delete rows from any database on the server host! In other words, user table privileges are superuser privileges. It is wise to grant privileges in the user table only to superusers such as server or database administrators. For other users, you should leave the privileges in the user table set to 'N' and grant privileges on a database-specific basis only, using the db and host tables.

The db and host tables grant database-specific privileges. Values in the scope fields may be specified as follows:

The db and host tables are read in and sorted when the server starts up (at the same time that it reads the user table). The db table is sorted on the Host, Db, and User scope fields, and the host table is sorted on the Host and Db scope fields. As with the user table, sorting puts the most-specific values first and least-specific values last, and when the server looks for matching entries, it uses the first match that it finds.

The tables_priv and columns_priv tables grant table- and column-specific privileges. Values in the scope fields may be specified as follows:

The tables_priv and columns_priv tables are sorted on the Host, Db, and User fields. This is similar to db table sorting, although the sorting is simpler because only the Host field may contain wild cards.

The request verification process is described below. (If you are familiar with the access-checking source code, you will notice that the description here differs slightly from the algorithm used in the code. The description is equivalent to what the code actually does; it differs only to make the explanation simpler.)

For administrative requests (shutdown, reload, etc.), the server checks only the user table entry, because that is the only table that specifies administrative privileges. Access is granted if the entry allows the requested operation and denied otherwise. For example, if you want to execute mysqladmin shutdown but your user table entry doesn't grant the shutdown privilege to you, access is denied without even checking the db or host tables. (They contain no Shutdown_priv column, so there is no need to do so.)

For database-related requests (insert, update, etc.), the server first checks the user's global (superuser) privileges by looking in the user table entry. If the entry allows the requested operation, access is granted. If the global privileges in the user table are insufficient, the server determines the user's database-specific privileges by checking the db and host tables:

  1. The server looks in the db table for a match on the Host, Db, and User fields. The Host and User fields are matched to the connecting user's hostname and MySQL user name. The Db field is matched to the database the user wants to access. If there is no entry for the Host and User, access is denied.
  2. If there is a matching db table entry and its Host field is not blank, that entry defines the user's database-specific privileges.
  3. If the matching db table entry's Host field is blank, it signifies that the host table enumerates which hosts should be allowed access to the database. In this case, a further lookup is done in the host table to find a match on the Host and Db fields. If no host table entry matches, access is denied. If there is a match, the user's database-specific privileges are computed as the intersection (not the union!) of the privileges in the db and host table entries, that is, the privileges that are 'Y' in both entries. (This way you can grant general privileges in the db table entry and then selectively restrict them on a host-by-host basis using the host table entries.)

After determining the database-specific privileges granted by the db and host table entries, the server adds them to the global privileges granted by the user table. If the result allows the requested operation, access is granted. Otherwise, the server checks the user's table and column privileges in the tables_priv and columns_priv tables and adds those to the user's privileges. Access is allowed or denied based on the result.

Expressed in boolean terms, the preceding description of how a user's privileges are calculated may be summarized like this:

global privileges
OR (database privileges AND host privileges)
OR table privileges
OR column privileges

It may not be apparent why, if the global user entry privileges are initially found to be insufficient for the requested operation, the server adds those privileges to the database-, table-, and column-specific privileges later. The reason is that a request might require more than one type of privilege. For example, if you execute an INSERT ... SELECT statement, you need both insert and select privileges. Your privileges might be such that the user table entry grants one privilege and the db table entry grants the other. In this case, you have the necessary privileges to perform the request, but the server cannot tell that from either table by itself; the privileges granted by the entries in both tables must be combined.

The host table can be used to maintain a list of secure servers.

At TcX, the host table contains a list of all machines on the local network. These are granted all privileges.

You can also use the host table to indicate hosts that are not secure. Suppose you have a machine public.your.domain that is located in a public area that you do not consider secure. You can allow access to all hosts on your network except that machine by using host table entries like this:

+--------------------+----+-
| Host               | Db | ...
+--------------------+----+-
| public.your.domain | %  | ... (all privileges set to 'N')
| %.your.domain      | %  | ... (all privileges set to 'Y')
+--------------------+----+-

Naturally, you should always test your entries in the grant tables (for example, using mysqlaccess) to make sure your access privileges are actually set up the way you think they are.

6.12 When Privilege Changes Take Effect

When mysqld starts, all grant table contents are read into memory and become effective at that point.

Modifications to the grant tables that you perform using GRANT, REVOKE, or SET PASSWORD are noticed by the server immediately.

If you modify the grant tables manually (using INSERT, UPDATE, etc.), you should execute a FLUSH PRIVILEGES statement or run mysqladmin flush-privileges or mysqladmin reload to tell the server to reload the grant tables. Otherwise your changes will have no effect until you restart the server. If you change the grant tables manually but forget to reload the privileges, you will be wondering why your changes don't seem to make any difference!

When the server notices that the grant tables have been changed, existing client connections are affected as follows:

Global privilege changes and password changes take effect the next time the client connects.

6.13 Setting Up the Initial MySQL Privileges

After installing MySQL, you set up the initial access privileges by running scripts/mysql_install_db. See section 4.7.1 Quick Installation Overview. The mysql_install_db script starts up the mysqld server, then initializes the grant tables to contain the following set of privileges:

NOTE: The default privileges are different for Windows. See section 4.13.4 Running MySQL on Windows.

Because your installation is initially wide open, one of the first things you should do is specify a password for the MySQL root user. You can do this as follows (note that you specify the password using the PASSWORD() function):

shell> mysql -u root mysql
mysql> UPDATE user SET Password=PASSWORD('new_password')
           WHERE user='root';
mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

You can, in MySQL Version 3.22 and above, use the SET PASSWORD statement:

shell> mysql -u root mysql
mysql> SET PASSWORD FOR root=PASSWORD('new_password');

Another way to set the password is by using the mysqladmin command:

shell> mysqladmin -u root password new_password

Only users with write/update access to the mysql database can change the password for others users. All normal users (not anonymous ones) can only change their own password with either of the above commands or with SET PASSWORD=PASSWORD('new password').

Note that if you update the password in the user table directly using the first method, you must tell the server to re-read the grant tables (with FLUSH PRIVILEGES), because the change will go unnoticed otherwise.

Once the root password has been set, thereafter you must supply that password when you connect to the server as root.

You may wish to leave the root password blank so that you don't need to specify it while you perform additional setup or testing. However, be sure to set it before using your installation for any real production work.

See the scripts/mysql_install_db script to see how it sets up the default privileges. You can use this as a basis to see how to add other users.

If you want the initial privileges to be different than those just described above, you can modify mysql_install_db before you run it.

To re-create the grant tables completely, remove all the `.frm', `.MYI', and `.MYD' files in the directory containing the mysql database. (This is the directory named `mysql' under the database directory, which is listed when you run mysqld --help.) Then run the mysql_install_db script, possibly after editing it first to have the privileges you want.

NOTE: For MySQL versions older than Version 3.22.10, you should NOT delete the `.frm' files. If you accidentally do this, you should copy them back from your MySQL distribution before running mysql_install_db.

6.14 Adding New Users to MySQL

You can add users two different ways: by using GRANT statements or by manipulating the MySQL grant tables directly. The preferred method is to use GRANT statements, because they are more concise and less error-prone. See section 7.35 GRANT and REVOKE Syntax.

There is also a lot of contributed programs like phpmyadmin that can be used to create and administrate users. See section D Contributed Programs.

The examples below show how to use the mysql client to set up new users. These examples assume that privileges are set up according to the defaults described in the previous section. This means that to make changes, you must be on the same machine where mysqld is running, you must connect as the MySQL root user, and the root user must have the insert privilege for the mysql database and the reload administrative privilege. Also, if you have changed the root user password, you must specify it for the mysql commands below.

You can add new users by issuing GRANT statements:

shell> mysql --user=root mysql
mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO monty@localhost
           IDENTIFIED BY 'some_pass' WITH GRANT OPTION;
mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO monty@"%"
           IDENTIFIED BY 'some_pass' WITH GRANT OPTION;
mysql> GRANT RELOAD,PROCESS ON *.* TO admin@localhost;
mysql> GRANT USAGE ON *.* TO dummy@localhost;

These GRANT statements set up three new users:

monty
A full superuser who can connect to the server from anywhere, but who must use a password 'some_pass' to do so. Note that we must issue GRANT statements for both monty@localhost and monty@"%". If we don't add the entry with localhost, the anonymous user entry for localhost that is created by mysql_install_db will take precedence when we connect from the local host, because it has a more specific Host field value and thus comes earlier in the user table sort order.
admin
A user who can connect from localhost without a password and who is granted the reload and process administrative privileges. This allows the user to execute the mysqladmin reload, mysqladmin refresh, and mysqladmin flush-* commands, as well as mysqladmin processlist . No database-related privileges are granted. (They can be granted later by issuing additional GRANT statements.)
dummy
A user who can connect without a password, but only from the local host. The global privileges are all set to 'N' -- the USAGE privilege type allows you to create a user with no privileges. It is assumed that you will grant database-specific privileges later.

You can also add the same user access information directly by issuing INSERT statements and then telling the server to reload the grant tables:

shell> mysql --user=root mysql
mysql> INSERT INTO user VALUES('localhost','monty',PASSWORD('some_pass'),
                'Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y');
mysql> INSERT INTO user VALUES('%','monty',PASSWORD('some_pass'),
                'Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y');
mysql> INSERT INTO user SET Host='localhost',User='admin',
                 Reload_priv='Y', Process_priv='Y';
mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
                        VALUES('localhost','dummy','');
mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

Depending on your MySQL version, you may have to use a different number of 'Y' values above (versions prior to Version 3.22.11 had fewer privilege columns). For the admin user, the more readable extended INSERT syntax that is available starting with Version 3.22.11 is used.

Note that to set up a superuser, you need only create a user table entry with the privilege fields set to 'Y'. No db or host table entries are necessary.

The privilege columns in the user table were not set explicitly in the last INSERT statement (for the dummy user), so those columns are assigned the default value of 'N'. This is the same thing that GRANT USAGE does.

The following example adds a user custom who can connect from hosts localhost, server.domain, and whitehouse.gov. He wants to access the bankaccount database only from localhost, the expenses database only from whitehouse.gov, and the customer database from all three hosts. He wants to use the password stupid from all three hosts.

To set up this user's privileges using GRANT statements, run these commands:

shell> mysql --user=root mysql
mysql> GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,DROP
           ON bankaccount.*
           TO custom@localhost
           IDENTIFIED BY 'stupid';
mysql> GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,DROP
           ON expenses.*
           TO custom@whitehouse.gov
           IDENTIFIED BY 'stupid';
mysql> GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,DROP
           ON customer.*
           TO custom@'%'
           IDENTIFIED BY 'stupid';

The reason that we do to grant statements for the user 'custom' is that we want the give the user access to MySQL both from the local machine with Unix sockets and from the remote machine 'whitehouse.gov' over TCP/IP.

To set up the user's privileges by modifying the grant tables directly, run these commands (note the FLUSH PRIVILEGES at the end):

shell> mysql --user=root mysql
mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
       VALUES('localhost','custom',PASSWORD('stupid'));
mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
       VALUES('server.domain','custom',PASSWORD('stupid'));
mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
       VALUES('whitehouse.gov','custom',PASSWORD('stupid'));
mysql> INSERT INTO db
       (Host,Db,User,Select_priv,Insert_priv,Update_priv,Delete_priv,
        Create_priv,Drop_priv)
       VALUES
       ('localhost','bankaccount','custom','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y');
mysql> INSERT INTO db
       (Host,Db,User,Select_priv,Insert_priv,Update_priv,Delete_priv,
        Create_priv,Drop_priv)
       VALUES
       ('whitehouse.gov','expenses','custom','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y');
mysql> INSERT INTO db
       (Host,Db,User,Select_priv,Insert_priv,Update_priv,Delete_priv,
        Create_priv,Drop_priv)
       VALUES('%','customer','custom','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y','Y');
mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

The first three INSERT statements add user table entries that allow user custom to connect from the various hosts with the given password, but grant no permissions to him (all privileges are set to the default value of 'N'). The next three INSERT statements add db table entries that grant privileges to custom for the bankaccount, expenses, and customer databases, but only when accessed from the proper hosts. As usual, when the grant tables are modified directly, the server must be told to reload them (with FLUSH PRIVILEGES) so that the privilege changes take effect.

If you want to give a specific user access from any machine in a given domain, you can issue a GRANT statement like the following:

mysql> GRANT ...
           ON *.*
           TO myusername@"%.mydomainname.com"
           IDENTIFIED BY 'mypassword';

To do the same thing by modifying the grant tables directly, do this:

mysql> INSERT INTO user VALUES ('%.mydomainname.com', 'myusername',
           PASSWORD('mypassword'),...);
mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

You can also use xmysqladmin, mysql_webadmin, and even xmysql to insert, change, and update values in the grant tables. You can find these utilities in the Contrib directory of the MySQL Website.

6.15 Setting Up Passwords

In most cases you should use GRANT to set up your users/passwords, so the following only applies for advanced users. See section 7.35 GRANT and REVOKE Syntax.

The examples in the preceding sections illustrate an important principle: when you store a non-empty password using INSERT or UPDATE statements, you must use the PASSWORD() function to encrypt it. This is because the user table stores passwords in encrypted form, not as plaintext. If you forget that fact, you are likely to attempt to set passwords like this:

shell> mysql -u root mysql
mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
       VALUES('%','jeffrey','biscuit');
mysql> FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

The result is that the plaintext value 'biscuit' is stored as the password in the user table. When the user jeffrey attempts to connect to the server using this password, the mysql client encrypts it with PASSWORD() and sends the result to the server. The server compares the value in the user table (the encrypted value of 'biscuit') to the encrypted password (which is not 'biscuit'). The comparison fails and the server rejects the connection:

shell> mysql -u jeffrey -pbiscuit test
Access denied

Passwords must be encrypted when they are inserted in the user table, so the INSERT statement should have been specified like this instead:

mysql> INSERT INTO user (Host,User,Password)
       VALUES('%','jeffrey',PASSWORD('biscuit'));

You must also use the PASSWORD() function when you use SET PASSWORD statements:

mysql> SET PASSWORD FOR jeffrey@"%" = PASSWORD('biscuit');

If you set passwords using the GRANT ... IDENTIFIED BY statement or the mysqladmin password command, the PASSWORD() function is unnecessary. They both take care of encrypting the password for you, so you would specify a password of 'biscuit' like this:

mysql> GRANT USAGE ON *.* TO jeffrey@"%" IDENTIFIED BY 'biscuit';

or

shell> mysqladmin -u jeffrey password biscuit

NOTE: PASSWORD() does not perform password encryption in the same way that Unix passwords are encrypted. You should not assume that if your Unix password and your MySQL password are the same, that PASSWORD() will result in the same encrypted value as is stored in the Unix password file. See section 6.5 MySQL User Names and Passwords.

6.16 Causes of Access denied Errors

If you encounter Access denied errors when you try to connect to the MySQL server, the list below indicates some courses of action you can take to correct the problem:


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