What Is LDAP?

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is the code or language by which databases and systems communicate and match data points and criteria to authenticate and validate data. It is an open protocol that allows for communication across distributed directories and servers, including cloud-based ones.

LDAP is a customizable option for creating and setting communications and processes to match and validate user data, authenticating the data, and enabling access using both encrypted and unencrypted ports for communication. It is foundational to user authentication and management practice.

At its core, LDAP is the process that allows existing directories to search, match, and generally communicate with each other and makes them searchable.

LDAP server

The LDAP server is where your core information is stored, such as usernames, passwords, credentialing data, device access, and more, and keeps it structured in a way that your users and business can use the information and access the search criteria. The LDAP server serves as the starting point to bridge the communications between the user and the distributed services and databases, providing a single access point to gather and verify dispersed information and data.

It helps connect businesses to organizational servers and networks, both internally and externally. Using LDAP servers also enables more control and management over the data and, therefore, the company's access and user management.

By that very nature, it offers more security and protection for businesses, users, and data.

Authenticate LDAP

LDAP isn’t just a search structure. It’s a protocol that allows diverse systems and platforms to communicate and authenticate information users for actions and processes, such as logging in, determining access rights, and managing secure data.

At the most basic level, it checks an input username and password against the credentials stored in the database. If they match, user authentication is approved. If not, authentication is rejected, and the user either receives a message noting denied access or that the username and password don’t match what is on file.

There are additional measures of authentication that LDAP can offer as well.

The LDAP server can determine some contextual authentication by validating the device accessing the system, even before the login request is submitted . When accessing a secure network, you may see the notification message that the system is validating your device. This likely happens on workstations or pre-registered devices.

It can also determine access rights based on location or situation. For instance:

  • Are you in a country that restricts access to specific sites or content?
  • Are you on an open network connection and trying to access services that require private connections?
  • Are you using a browser not recommended for the site, app, or service you are trying to access?
  • Are you using an operating system or version that isn’t compatible?

IT can customize their authentication protocols based on their company’s services and network’s requirements.

As an active directory protocol, LDAP can also be used with other services, such as the LastPass LDAP Directory Connector, to further integrate authentication and authorization processes, manage users and data, and offer single sign-on and passwordless authentication to users.

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