Kerberos is a network authentication system. Its purpose is to
securely authenticate users and services in an insecure network
This is done with a Kerberos server acting as a trusted third party,
keeping a database with secret keys for all users and services
Each principal belongs to exactly one
which is the administrative domain in Kerberos. A realm usually
corresponds to an organisation, and the realm should normally be
derived from that organisations domain name. A realm is served by one
or more Kerberos servers.
The authentication process involves exchange of
which together prove the principals identity.
When you login to the Kerberos system, either through the normal
system login or with the
program, you acquire a
ticket granting ticket
which allows you to get new tickets for other services, such as
without giving your password.
For more information on how Kerberos works, and other general Kerberos
questions see the Kerberos FAQ at
For setup instructions see the Heimdal Texinfo manual.
The Kerberos authentication system was developed in the late 1980s as
part of the Athena Project at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. Versions one through three never reached outside MIT, but
version 4 was (and still is) quite popular, especially in the academic
community, but is also used in commercial products like the AFS
The problems with version 4 are that it has many limitations, the code
was not too well written (since it had been developed over a long
time), and it has a number of known security problems. To resolve many
of these issues work on version five started, and resulted in IETF RFC
1510 in 1993. IETF RFC 1510 was obsoleted in 2005 with IETF RFC 4120,
also known as Kerberos clarifications. With the arrival of IETF RFC
4120, the work on adding extensibility and internationalization have
started (Kerberos extensions), and a new RFC will hopefully appear
This manual page is part of the
Kerberos 5 distribution, which has been in development at the Royal
Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, since about 1997.