Airflow Security Model

This document describes Airflow’s security model from the perspective of the Airflow user. It is intended to help users understand the security model and make informed decisions about how to deploy and manage Airflow.

If you would like to know how to report security vulnerabilities and how security reports are handled by the security team of Airflow, head to Airflow’s Security Policy.

Airflow security model - user types

The Airflow security model involves different types of users with varying access and capabilities:

  1. Deployment Managers: They have the highest level of access and control. They install and configure Airflow, and make decisions about technologies and permissions. They can potentially delete the entire installation and have access to all credentials. Deployment Managers can also decide to keep audits, backups and copies of information outside of Airflow, which are not covered by Airflow’s security model.

  2. DAG Authors: They can upload, modify, and delete DAG files. The code in DAG files is executed on workers and in the DAG File Processor. Note that in the simple deployment configuration, parsing DAGs is executed as a subprocess of the Scheduler process, but with Standalone DAG File Processor deployment managers might separate parsing DAGs from the Scheduler process. Therefore, DAG authors can create and change code executed on workers and the DAG File Processor and potentially access the credentials that the DAG code uses to access external systems. DAG Authors have full access to the metadata database and internal audit logs.

  3. Authenticated UI users: They have access to the UI and API. See below for more details on the capabilities authenticated UI users may have.

  4. Non-authenticated UI users: Airflow doesn’t support unauthenticated users by default. If allowed, potential vulnerabilities must be assessed and addressed by the Deployment Manager.

Capabilities of authenticated UI users

The capabilities of Authenticated UI users can vary depending on what roles have been configured by the Deployment Manager or Admin users as well as what permissions those roles have. Permissions on roles can be scoped as tightly as a single DAG, for example, or as broad as Admin. Below are four general categories to help conceptualize some of the capabilities authenticated users may have:

  1. Admin users: They manage and grant permissions to other users, with full access to all UI capabilities. They can potentially execute code on workers by configuring connections and need to be trusted not to abuse these privileges. They have access to sensitive credentials and can modify them. By default, they don’t have access to system-level configuration. They should be trusted not to misuse sensitive information accessible through connection configuration. They also have the ability to create a Webserver Denial of Service situation and should be trusted not to misuse this capability.

  2. Operations users: The primary difference between an operator and admin if the ability to manage and grant permissions to other users - only admins are able to do this. Otherwise assume they have the same access as an admin.

  3. Connection configuration users: They configure connections and potentially execute code on workers during DAG execution. Trust is required to prevent misuse of these privileges. They have full access to sensitive credentials stored in connections and can modify them. Access to sensitive information through connection configuration should be trusted not to be abused. They also have the ability to create a Webserver Denial of Service situation and should be trusted not to misuse this capability.

  4. Normal Users: They can view and interact with the UI and API. They are able to view and edit DAGs, task instances, and DAG runs, and view task logs.

For more information on the capabilities of authenticated UI users, see Access Control.

Responsibilities of Deployment Managers

Deployment Managers determine access levels and must understand the potential damage users can cause. Some Deployment Managers may further limit access through fine-grained privileges for the Authenticated UI users. However, these limitations are outside the basic Airflow’s security model and are at the discretion of Deployment Managers. Examples of fine-grained access control include (but are not limited to):

  • Limiting login permissions: Restricting the accounts that users can log in with, allowing only specific accounts or roles belonging to access the Airflow system.

  • Access restrictions to views or DAGs: Controlling user access to certain views or specific DAGs, ensuring that users can only view or interact with authorized components.

  • Implementing static code analysis and code review: Introducing processes such as static code analysis and code review as part of the DAG submission pipeline. This helps enforce code quality standards, security checks, and adherence to best practices before DAGs are deployed.

These examples showcase ways in which Deployment Managers can refine and limit user privileges within Airflow, providing tighter control and ensuring that users have access only to the necessary components and functionalities based on their roles and responsibilities. However, fine-grained access control does not provide full isolation and separation of access to allow isolation of different user groups in a multi-tenant fashion yet. In future versions of Airflow, some fine-grained access control features could become part of the Airflow security model, as the Airflow community is working on a multi-tenant model currently.

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