Puppet–Managing Permissions on Windows with Access Control Lists

acl type
Originally published at http://puppetlabs.com/blog/managing-permissions-windows-access-control-lists, reposted with permission and with adjustments. I wrote the original post and am also the author of the ACL module.

While there is a simple interface for setting permissions on Windows, managing and maintaining permissions has never been simple. Puppet has a module to make working with permissions almost enjoyable! You can work directly with ACLs (Access Control Lists) and to a degree, security descriptors, through the puppetlabs-acl module. The ACL module serves to make that process easy for you while satisfying your needs for very advanced permissions.

Let’s talk about a couple of real-world scenarios the ACL module can solve:

  • You need to set permissions appropriately for something like IIS/Apache.
  • You have a directory or file that you need to lock down to just admins.

These are very possible with the ACL module and just a few short lines of Puppet code. I’ll show you that in the Examples section below, but first let’s talk about ACLs and ACEs for those who want a refresher.

ACLs and ACEs, Oh My!

ACLs (also called Discretionary Access Control Lists) typically contain a list of access control entries (ACEs). An ACE is a defined trustee (identity) with a set of rights, and information about how those rights are passed to (and inherited by) child objects — for example, files and folders. For each ACE, the ACL contains an allowed/denied status, as well as the ACE’s propagation strategy. You cannot specify inherited ACEs in a manifest; you can only specify whether to allow upstream inheritance to flow into the managed target location (the location where you are applying the ACL).

ACL Features

Here are some features of Puppet’s ACL you should know:

  • Puppet can manage the complete set of ACEs or ensure that some Puppet-specified entries are present, while leaving existing entries alone.
  • You can lock down a path to only the specified permissions.
  • Identities can be users and/or groups, domain users/groups, and/or SIDs.
  • You can point multiple ACL resources at the same target path. Let me say that again in case there was confusion: You can point multiple ACL resources at the same path.
  • Propagation and inheritance of ACEs is set to Windows defaults, but can be specified per ACE.

Here’s what sets Puppet’s ACL module apart from other configuration management tools:

  • ACE order. The order of your ACEs matters. If they are incorrectly ordered, it can cause issues. So we apply ACEs in the order you’ve specified in the manifest. And we insert them in the correct location when merging with unmanaged ACEs.
  • SID (Security ID) support. We support specifying identities as SIDs.
  • Very, very granular permissions. Do you need to apply read attributes (RA)? Yes, we can do that.

Getting Started

Let’s take a look at what a typical ACL resource looks like:

acl { 'c:/temp':
  permissions => [
   { identity => 'Administrator', rights => ['full'] },
   { identity => 'Users', rights => ['read','execute'] }

If you were to run the above on a system that had the module installed, you would be giving the Administrator account full access to the temp folder, and giving the Users group access to read and execute (and list for folders). All the other options are set to Windows defaults, but if we need to get to them, we can. Let’s look at that same ACL resource with all the options specified:

acl { 'c:/temp':
  target      => 'c:/temp',
  target_type => 'file',
  purge       => 'false',
  permissions => [
   { identity => 'Administrator', rights => ['full'], type=> 'allow', child_types => 'all', affects => 'all' },
   { identity => 'Users', rights => ['read','execute'], type=> 'allow', child_types => 'all', affects => 'all' }
  owner       => 'Administrators',
  group       => 'Users',
  inherit_parent_permissions => 'true',

We have just specified the resource with all parameters and properties specified; what you are seeing is how the defaults line up. The only exception here are owner and group, which by default are not managed unless specified. The defaults for these depend on the user that created the target (the folder) and could be different based on who the user has as their default group and owner.

With both of the above examples we have done the following:

  • We’ve given Administrator full access to c:\temp.
  • We’ve given Users read/execute access to c:\temp.
  • We are by default not removing explicit unspecified permissions (purge => ‘false’).
  • We are by default inheriting the permissions from the parent folder (inherit_parent_permissions => ‘true’).
  • For each ACE, we are allowing the permission by default (type => ‘allow’).
  • For each ACE, we apply the permission to all child types by default, both folders and files (child_types => ‘all’).
  • For each ACE, we propagate the permission to self, direct children and all those further down by default (affects => ‘all’). Note that all types below child types are called grandchildren, no matter what the level of depth.

By default, if a user is not granted access through an ACE (whether individually or as a member of a group), then Windows will deny access. So if a user is not the Administrator account and not a member of the Users group, they will not have access to c:\temp. With the ACL module, this also means that access could be granted outside of Puppet (when purge => ‘false’) and/or it is an inherited ACE (when inherit_parent_permissions => ‘true’).

ACL Type Structure

Now let’s take a look at the ACL type and all it has to offer.


The parameters are (bold means the parameter is required):

  • name – The name of the ACL resource, used as target if target is not set explicitly (see the target parameter).
  • purge – Determines whether unmanaged explicit access control entries should be removed. Combine purge => ‘true’, inherit_parent_permissions => ‘false’ to really lock down a folder. Supports true, false and listed_permissions. Defaults to false.
  • target – The location; defaults to the same value as name.
  • target_type – Currently supports only file; defaults to file.


The properties are (bold means the property is required):

owner – User/Group/SID that owns the ACL. If not specified, the provider will not manage this value.
group – User/Group/SID that has some level of access. If not specified, the provider will not manage this value. Group is not commonly used on Windows.
inherit_parent_permissions – Whether we inherit permissions from parent ACLs or not. Default is true.
permissions – The list of ACEs as an array. This should be in the order you want them applied. We cover permissions in more detail below.

Permissions Property

The permissions property could be considered the most important part of the ACL resource, because it contains each ACE in the order specified for the ACL. The available elements for each ACE hash are identity, rights, type, child_types, affects, and mask.

The elements are (bold means the key is required):

  • identity – This is the user/group/SID.
  • rights – An array with the following values: full, modify, mask_specific, write, read, and execute. The full, modify, and mask_specific values are mutually exclusive, and when any of these values are used, they must be the only value specified in rights. The full value indicates all rights. The modify value is cumulative, implying write, read, execute and DELETE all in one. If you specify mask_specific, you must also specify the mask element in the permissions hash. The write, read, and execute values can be combined however you want.
  • type – Whether to allow or deny the access. Defaults to allow.
  • child_types – Which types of children are allowed to inherit this permission, whether objects, containers, all or none. Defaults to all.
  • affects – How inheritance is propagated. Valid values are all, self_only, children_only, self_and_direct_children_only, or direct_children_only. Defaults to all.
  • mask – An integer representing access mask, passed as a string. Mask should be used only when paired with rights => [‘mask_specific’]. For more information on mask, see the granular permissions example below.

For more specific details and up-to-date information on the ACL type, see the usage documentation.


In the following examples we are going to show you how to lock down a folder, set appropriate permissions for a website, and set very granular permissions.

Locking down a folder for sensitive data

Here’s what you need to do when you keep sensitive data in a specific folder, and need to limit access to administrators only.

acl { 'c:/sensitive_data':
  purge                       => true,
  inherit_parent_permissions  => false,
  permissions => [
   { identity => 'Administrators', rights => ['full'] }

We’ve done the following:

  • Since permissions are inherited from parent ACLs by default, we set inherit_parent_permissions => false so no permissions are inherited from the parent ACL.
  • ACLs will also allow unmanaged ACEs to coexist with Puppet-managed permissions, so we need to specify purge => true to ensure that all permissions other than those we have specified are removed.
  • We’ve given the Administrators group full permission to the directory.
  • If an ACE has not granted permission for a user, Windows will by default deny access. So in this case, only users that are part of the Administrators group will be able to access this folder.

That was pretty simple! And very self-documenting as well. It’s worth mentioning that one goal of Puppet is for anyone to be able to read and understand the intent of the code, and the ACL module does not disappoint. Now let’s try something a little more involved.

Website setup with ACLs

Let’s take a look at setting up an IIS site and locking down permissions.

$website_location = 'C:\sites\thestuff'
$website_name = 'the.stuff'
$website_port = '80'

# add windows features
windowsfeature { 'Web-WebServer':
  installmanagementtools => true,
} ->
windowsfeature { 'Web-Asp-Net45':
} ->

# remove default web site
iis::manage_site { 'Default Web Site':
  ensure        => absent,
  site_path     => 'any',
  app_pool      => 'DefaultAppPool',
} ->

# application in iis
iis::manage_app_pool { "${website_name}":
  enable_32_bit           => true,
  managed_runtime_version => 'v4.0',
} ->
iis::manage_site { "${website_name}":
  site_path     => $website_location,
  port          => "${website_port}",
  ip_address    => '*',
  app_pool      => "${website_name}",
} ->

# lock down web directory
acl { "${website_location}":
  purge                       => true,
  inherit_parent_permissions  => false,
  permissions => [
   { identity => 'Administrators', rights => ['full'] },
   { identity => 'IIS_IUSRS', rights => ['read'] },
   { identity => 'IUSR', rights => ['read'] },
   { identity => "IIS APPPOOL\\${website_name}", rights => ['read'] }
} ->
acl { "${website_location}/App_Data":
  permissions => [
   { identity => "IIS APPPOOL\\${website_name}", rights => ['modify'] },
   { identity => 'IIS_IUSRS', rights => ['modify'] }

The script above does the following:

  1. Ensures IIS is installed and ASP.NET is set up.
  2. Ensures the default web site is removed.
  3. Ensures our site is set up correctly.
  4. Uses ACL to ensure IIS users have read access.
  5. Uses ACL to ensure the processes that run the website can modify the App_Data directory.

All of that, done in just a few lines of code! You can add more for getting the files there in the first place, using Puppet, but I have left that as an exercise for the reader :)

Granular Permissions

In our last example, let’s get into very granular permissions.

acl { 'c:/granular_permissions':
  permissions => [
   { identity => 'Administrators', rights => ['full'] },
   { identity => 'Bob', rights => ['mask_specific'], mask => '1507839' }

We’ve done the following:

So you see 1507839 and it looks like a magic number. How does one arrive at this number? I wrote a blog post on this once that shows you how to add up the numbers. Now we have a much simpler way to add those permissions: We have created and made available a worksheet to add up the ACL rights mask! This will allow you to add up the rights and will give you a heads up if you should use named rights from the module (like read or execute or a combination of read, execute).

ACL Module: You’re gonna love my permissions!

ACLs on Windows give you a lot of control over permissions. The ACL module harnesses that ability and makes it easy — even fun — to control permissions on Windows. While the ACL module makes it easy to get started, it allows advanced users to manage permissions in granular detail. And did I mention it’s a supported module? That means you get the same support for this module that you get with a Puppet Enterprise license. Give the ACL module a look today — if you manage permissions on Windows, I’m pretty sure you are going to love it!


Posted in howto, puppet | Tagged | Leave a comment

C# 6 Features – Private Auto Properties

C# 6 is on the horizon with a slew of new features being introduced. One of them that I find pretty cool is the ability to have Auto Properties with an inferred private setter.

It is very typical in my normal development process to create code just like below.

public class Mammal
    public Mammal(string type)
        Type = type;

    public string Type { get; private set; }

Anyone who has done any C# knows that I just created a auto property with a private setter. But why should I have to go through the ceremony of having the ‘private set;’ in code, why cannot I simply omit the setter and everything just works? Well in C# 6 you can do exactly this. Take a look at the code below.

public class Mammal
    public Mammal(string type)
        Type = type;

    public string Type { get; }

Notice I simply removed the ‘private set’ code, but I did not touch the code in the constructor which is setting the property and everything still worked. This is a nice little compiler enhancement to make your code a bit more terse. One thing I should point out is that you can ONLY set the setter inside the constructor of the class.

When you look at this feature, I would expect that under the covers the compiler would weave in code which adds back in the private setter. Yea, not so much.

Take a look at the decompiled code below.

Source for the ‘old’ way of doing things

    public class Mammal
        public string Type
            private set;

        public Mammal(string type)
            this.Type = type;

Source for the ‘new’ way of doing things

    public class Person
        public int Age
                return this.<Age>k__BackingField;

        public Person(int age)
            this.<Age>k__BackingField = age;

If you compare the 2 blocks of code above they are not what I would have expected. I would have expected that the compiler to weave code into the ‘new’ style of doing things to make the code look exactly as the old way. Oh well, it is different but really who cares :)

This new feature is small, and is really just compiler candy, but honestly I like it. It will go a long way in helping to push more people to write immutable code.

Till next time,

Posted in C# | 2 Comments

How Passion Saved Windows

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” – Howard H. Aiken

Look around today. There is so much that you can do on Windows with respect to automation that just wasn’t possible a few short years ago. It’s hard to see what has changed because our memories are sometimes so short about how it used to be, so let’s go back about 4 years ago to 2010. PowerShell was still young, there was no Chocolatey, and things like Puppet and Chef didn’t work on Windows yet.

Folks were leaving Windows left and right once they got a taste of how easy automation was in other OS platforms. Well versed folks. Loud folks. Folks that were at the top of their game heading out of Windows. Many others have considered it. You’ve all heard the “leaving .NET stories” from some of the best developers on the .NET platform. But what you may not have realized is that these folks were not just leaving .NET, they were leaving Windows entirely. Some of this was in part to limitations they were finding that just were not there in other OSes. What you are also missing are all the folks that were silently leaving. For every one person speaking out about it, there were many more of the silent losses. The system admins, fed up with GUIs and lack of automation, leaving for greener pastures. The developers who didn’t blog leaving the platform.

But a change has occurred more recently that has slowed that process. I believe it is better tools and automation of the Windows platform. Some people have shown such a passion that they’ve saved Windows as a platform for future generations.

So What Saved Windows?

PowerShellPowerShell – Arguably this could be seen as the catalyst that started it all. It came out in 2006 and while v1 was somewhat limited, v2 (Oct 2009) added huge improvements, including performance. PowerShell is prevalent now, but it had humble beginnings. When Jeffrey Snover saw a need for better automation in Windows, no one understood what he was trying to do. Most folks at Microsoft kept asking, why do you need that? But Jeffrey had such a passion for what was needed that he took a demotion to make it happen. And we are thankful for that because it shaped the face of Windows automation for all. Jeffrey’s passion brought us PowerShell, and it is continuing to bring us more things that have come out of his original Monad Manifesto from 2002.

ChocolateyChocolatey – In 2011 Chocolatey furthered the automation story of Windows with package management, something that other platforms have enjoyed for years. Rob Reynolds’ goals for Chocolatey in the beginning were simply to solve a need but it has since grown into so much more and is now making improvements to become a true package manager. It wasn’t the first approach to package management on Windows and it is certainly not the last. But it did many things right, it didn’t try to achieve lofty goals. It started working at the point of the native installers and official distribution points with a simple approach to packaging and very good helpers to achieve many abilities. When Rob first started working on it, most of his longtime technical friends questioned the relevance of it. Rob did not stop because he had a vision, a passion for making things happen. As his vision has been realized by many he is about to change the face of package management on Windows forever.

Puppet LabsPuppet (and other CM tools) – In 2011 Puppet started working on Windows thanks to Josh Cooper. He single-handedly brought Puppet’s excellent desired state configuration management to Windows (Chef also brought Windows support in 2011). Josh saw a need and convinced folks to try an experiment. That experiment has grown and has brought the last bits of what was needed to save Windows as a platform. His passion for bringing Puppet to Windows has grown into so much more than what it originally started out to do. While most CM tools are good, I’m biased and believe Puppet is arguably the best CM tool for any platform, as the Puppet Labs CEO stated at PuppetConf 2014, Puppet is becoming the lingua franca of infrastructure configuration.

The Effects of Passion

All of this passion for automation has really changed Microsoft. They have adopted automation as a strategy. They are moving to a model of openness, recently announcing that the entire .NET platform is going to be Open Source. They are getting behind Chocolatey with OneGet and getting it built into Windows. They announced PowerShell DSC last year and have made huge improvements in it since then. From where we are sitting, it appears Microsoft now gets it. The effects of passion have really turned the company around and has saved Windows. Windows is becoming the platform we all hoped it would be, it’s really bringing many folks to see it as a true platform for automation and that makes Windows a formidable platform for the foreseeable future.

Posted in chocolatey, puppet | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Hooray for Open Source .NET!

Thinking about this amazing news from Scott Guthrie today. It’s been a long and winding road for .NET. Many of us have moved on completely, most of us now are polyglots. I’m excited for the prospect of solving problems with my familiar .net class libraries in new and different ways.

When I think of my beloved .NET, I often ponder this question – Would I launch a web-oriented startup based on .NET today?

Of course there’s many many factors involved in the answer to this, admittedly unfair question. Web startups are only one very small class of new projects that are started every second, and there are many times when the decision to use .NET is a no-brainer. But to me, this is one of the most interesting questions to ask about .NET today, and one I recently had to ask myself.

Almost a year ago we began work on a new startup in the intermodal shipping space, it’s called Quick180. The stack is Nancy, SQL Azure, EF, and Angular.

So why .NET in the stack? There were many reasons, but to name a few, I’d say low risk because of our existing knowledge of the platform was a big one, and free Azure hosting from BizSpark was another. I also LOVE Nancy.. But I have a nagging feeling that a stack with node would have been an good choice, and the fact that I could easily run on my mac, and just about anywhere else is a big, huge win.

And I know, it’s possible to do .net development in Mono on Mac and elsewhere – Nancy runs on Mono and Mono’s compatibility statement – “Everything in .NET 4.5 except WPF, WWF, and with limited WCF and limited ASP.NET 4.5 async stack.” is a huge mouthful of cross-platformy goodness. But I’ve never come across .net code in the wild that runs cross platform without special care taken to ensure that goal. Other stacks just work de facto cross-platform.

So, perhaps this news gets us one step closer to being on par with other stacks, where I don’t have to boot in to Parallels just to work, and I can kiss my old Windows installs goodbye forever.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Herding Code On Chocolatey

Recently I talked to Herding Code about the kickstarter, package moderation, OneGet, and where we are going with Chocolatey.

Listen now – http://herdingcode.com/herding-code-199-rob-reynolds-on-the-chocolatey-kickstarter-chocolatey-growth-and-oneget/

Posted in chocolatey | Tagged , | Leave a comment