Backup and restore MongoDB with X.509 authorisation


Before I start I just want to say the mongo docs are great, really detailed but they can't cover every scenario (i.e. my scenario).

Securing a database with X.509 certificates

There is great documentation on this! Without (too) many issues I was able to follow the many blogs out there of people doing just this, connecting from the client etc. However I came against an issue finding any documentation on backing up and restoring a database with this security, no joy.

A bit about the X.509 keys

I'm not going to go into all the details of how I made these keys. If you haven't already get X.509 keys, read my post Creating x.509 certificates for mongodb.

  • dba.pem (database admin)
  • persistence.pem (read/write user)
  • ca.pem (certificate authority used to sign the keys)

My users and roles

I started out with 2 users:

  • A the Mongo built in DBA role: userAdminAnyDatabase for the admin db
  • A read/write user for the collections to be used by my app (I made a role for this with access to relevant collections)

What did work

I was able to log in using the mongo command line utility included with the mongo installation with this command.

mongo --ssl --sslPEMKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/persistence.pem --sslCAFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem --authenticationMechanism MONGODB-X509 --authenticationDatabase='$external' --host persistence-mongo
  • /etc/ssl/certs/persistence.pem is the location of my X.509 file for the read/write user
  • /etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem is the location of my ca file
  • persistence-mongo is the hostname of the server running mongo (if running locally this will be localhost)

It works!!!! 😺 I can now log in and change things. Now on to the backup and restore.


This is where things got tricky...

I used the same flags as before and used my database admin key instead of the read/write user key.

mongodump --ssl --sslPEMKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/dba.pem --sslCAFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem --authenticationMechanism MONGODB-X509 --authenticationDatabase='$external' --host persistence-mongo

And received this helpful error

Failed: error getting database names: not authorised on admin to execute command { listDatabases: 1 }

Next failure

After much frustrated clicking around I finally just asked and surprisingly they had the answer. The --username or -u flag.

mongodump --ssl --sslPEMKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/dba.pem --sslCAFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem --authenticationMechanism MONGODB-X509 --authenticationDatabase='$external' --host persistence-mongo --out dump -u "CN=dba,OU=MY AWESOME OU,O=MY ORGANISATION,L=TIMBUKTU,ST=Mali,C=AF"

And the return message was again

Failed: error getting database names: not authorized on admin to execute command { listDatabases: 1 }

Still no joy, then I stumbled on this post. So maybe my issue now was nothing to do with the X.509 keys, but with the role my user had.

Last hurdle

So now all I had to do was add a role that can back things up and restore. I could just change my admin user to have the built in role root, however this is pretty bad practice. Mongo have helpfully added a role for this, Backup and restore roles. Add these roles, with the corresponding X.509 keys (backup.pem/restore.pem), change the command to use these new users and...

mongodump --ssl --sslPEMKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/backup.pem --sslCAFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem --authenticationMechanism MONGODB-X509 --authenticationDatabase='$external' --host persistence-mongo --out dump -u "CN=backup,OU=DNG-CLIENT,O=DWP,L=Newcastle upon Tyne,ST=Tyne and Wear,C=GB"

No errors, great success!!!

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