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How to Install and Secure MongoDB on Ubuntu 16.04

Tutorials MongoDB Security

Introduction #

MongoDB is a document-oriented database that is free and open-source. It is classified as a NoSQL database because it does not rely on a traditional table-based relational database structure. Instead, it uses JSON-like documents with dynamic schemas. Unlike relational databases, MongoDB does not require a predefined schema before you add data to a database. You can alter the schema at any time and as often as is necessary without having to setup a new database with an updated schema.
In Part One of this tutorial we’ll use the MongoDB Repository to install the latest version of MongoDB. In Part Two, we’ll enable authentication to secure it on the local system. Finally, in Part Three, we’ll show how to more securely allow remote connections if they’re needed.


Prerequisites #

To follow this tutorial, you will need:

One Ubuntu 16.04 server configured with a non-root sudo user and a firewall by following the Ubuntu 16.04 initial server setup guide.

When this is in place, you’re ready to follow along.

Part One: Setting Up the Server>

Part One: Setting Up the Server #

Step 1 — Adding the MongoDB Repository>

Step 1 — Adding the MongoDB Repository #

MongoDB is already included in Ubuntu package repositories, but the official MongoDB repository provides the most up-to-date version and is the recommended way of installing the software. In this step, we will add this official repository to our server.
Ubuntu ensures the authenticity of software packages by verifying that they are signed with GPG keys, so we first have to import the key for the official MongoDB repository.

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv 0C49F3730359A14518585931BC711F9BA15703C6

The following output confirms that we’ve successfully imported the key:

Executing: /tmp/tmp.IdwenTia0s/ --keyserver
gpg: requesting key A15703C6 from hkp server
gpg: key A15703C6: public key "MongoDB 3.4 Release Signing Key <>" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:               imported: 1  (RSA: 1)

Next, we’ll add MongoDB repository details so apt will know where to download the packages. Issue the following command to create a list file for MongoDB.

echo "deb [ arch=amd64,arm64 ] xenial/mongodb-org/3.4 multiverse" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mongodb-org-3.4.list

Finally, we’ll update the packages list.

sudo apt-get update

Now we’re ready to install MongoDB.

Step 2 — Installing MongoDB>

Step 2 — Installing MongoDB #

We’ll install themongodb-org meta-package, which includes the daemon, configuration and init scripts, shell, and management tools on the server.

sudo apt-get install mongodb-org

Press enter or type Y to proceed when prompted. Once the installation is complete, we’ll start the Mongo daemon:

sudo systemctl start mongod

Since systemctl doesn’t provide output, we’ll check the status to verify that the service has started properly.

sudo systemctl status mongod

● mongod.service - High-performance, schema-free document-oriented database
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/mongod.service; disabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Fri 2017-02-17 18:57:26 UTC; 17min ago
 Main PID: 2811 (mongod)
    Tasks: 17
   Memory: 56.8M
      CPU: 7.294s
   CGroup: /system.slice/mongod.service
           └─2811 /usr/bin/mongod --quiet --config /etc/mongod.conf

Press q to exit. Now that we’ve manually started the daemon and verified that it’s running, we’ll ensure that it restarts automatically at boot:

sudo systemctl enable mongod

The following output confirms that the command was successful:

Created symlink from /etc/systemd/system/
to /lib/systemd/system/mongod.service.

Next, we’ll take essential steps to secure our databases.

Part Two: Securing MongoDB>

Part Two: Securing MongoDB #

Earlier versions of MongoDB were vulnerable to automated exploits because by default no authentication was required to interact with the database. Any user could create and destroy databases, as well as read from and write to their contents by default. This was compounded because those earlier versions also configured the MongoDB daemon to listen on all interfaces by default, which meant that automated scripts could detect MongoDB instances that weren’t protected by a firewall and, if authentication hadn’t been enabled, gain complete access to MongoDB.
The situation has been mitigated in the 3.x release as well as earlier versions provided by some package managers because the daemon is now bound to so it will only accept connections on the Unix socket. It is not automatically open to the Internet.
However, authentication is still disabled by default, so any users on the local system have complete access to the databases. To secure this we’ll create an administrative user, enable authentication and test.

Step 1 — Adding an Administrative User>

Step 1 — Adding an Administrative User #

To add our user, we’ll connect to the Mongo shell:


The output when we use the Mongo shell warns us that access control is not enabled for the database and that read/write access to data and configuration is unrestricted.

MongoDB shell version v3.4.2
connecting to: mongodb://
MongoDB server version: 3.4.2
Welcome to the MongoDB shell.
For interactive help, type "help".
For more comprehensive documentation, see
Questions? Try the support group
Server has startup warnings:
2017-02-21T19:10:42.446+0000 I STORAGE  [initandlisten]
2017-02-21T19:10:42.446+0000 I STORAGE  [initandlisten] ** WARNING: Using the XFS filesystem is strongly recommended with the WiredTiger storage engine
2017-02-21T19:10:42.446+0000 I STORAGE  [initandlisten] **          See
2017-02-21T19:10:42.534+0000 I CONTROL  [initandlisten]
2017-02-21T19:10:42.534+0000 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] ** WARNING: Access control is not enabled for the database.
2017-02-21T19:10:42.534+0000 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] **          Read and write access to data and configuration is unrestricted.
2017-02-21T19:10:42.534+0000 I CONTROL  [initandlisten]

We’re free to choose the name for the administrative user since the privilege level comes from the assignment of the role userAdminAnyDatabase. The database, admin designates where the credentials are stored. You can learn more about authentication in the MongoDB Security Authentication section.
Set the username of your choice and be sure to pick your own secure password and substitute them in the command below:

use admin
    user: "AdminSammy",
    pwd: "AdminSammy'sSecurePassword",
    roles: [ { role: "userAdminAnyDatabase", db: "admin" } ]

When we issue the db.createUser command, the shell will prepend three dots before each line until the command is complete. After that, we should receive feedback like the following when the user has been added.

> use admin
switched to db admin
> db.createUser(
...   {
...     user: "AdminSammy",
...     pwd: "AdminSammy'sSecurePassword",
...     roles: [ { role: "userAdminAnyDatabase", db: "admin" } ]
...   }
... )
Successfully added user: {
        "user" : "AdminSammy",
        "roles" : [
                        "role" : "userAdminAnyDatabase",
                        "db" : "admin"

Type ‘exit’ and press ENTER or use CTRL+C to leave the client.
At this point, our user will be allowed to enter credentials, but they will not be required to do so until we enable authentication and restart the MongoDB daemon.

Step 2 — Enabling Authentication>

Step 2 — Enabling Authentication #

Authentication is enabled in the mongod.conf file. Once we enable it and restart mongod, users still will be able to connect to Mongo without authenticating, but they will be required to provide a username and password before they can interact.
Let’s open the configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/mongod.conf

In the #security section, we’ll remove the hash in front of security to enable the stanza. Then we’ll add the authorization setting. When we’re done, the lines should look like the excerpt below:

 . . .
  authorization: "enabled"
 . . . 

Note that the “security” line has no spaces at the beginning, and the “authorization” line must be indented with two spaces
Once we’ve saved and exited the file, we’ll restart the daemon:

sudo systemctl restart mongod

If we’ve made an error in the configuration, the dameon won’t start. Since systemctl doesn’t provide output, we’ll use its status option to be sure that it did:.

sudo systemctl status mongod

If we see Active: active (running) in the output and it ends with something like the text below, we can be sure the restart command was successful:

Jan 23 19:15:42 MongoHost systemd[1]: Started High-performance, schema-free document-oriented database.

Having verified the daemon is up, let’s test authentication.

Step 3 — Verifying that Unauthenticated Users are Restricted>

Step 3 — Verifying that Unauthenticated Users are Restricted #

First, let’s connect without credentials to verify that our actions are restricted:


Now that we’ve enabled authentication, all of the earlier warnings are resolved.

MongoDB shell version v3.4.2
connecting to: mongodb://
MongoDB server version: 3.4.2

We’re connected to the test database. We’ll test that our access is restricted with the show dbs command:

show dbs

2017-02-21T19:20:42.919+0000 E QUERY    [thread1] Error: listDatabases failed:{
        "ok" : 0,
        "errmsg" : "not authorized on admin to execute command { listDatabases: 1.0 }",
        "code" : 13,
        "codeName" : "Unauthorized"
 . . . 

We wouldn’t be able to create users or similarily privileged tasks without authenticating.
Let’s exit the shell to proceed:


Next, we’ll make sure our Administrative user does have access.

Step 4 — Verifying the Administrative User’s Access>

Step 4 — Verifying the Administrative User’s Access #

We’ll connect as our administrator with the -u option to supply a username and -p to be prompted for a password. We will also need to supply the database where we stored the user’s authentication credentials with the --authenticationDatabase option.

mongo -u AdminSammy -p --authenticationDatabase admin

We’ll be prompted for the password, so supply it. Once we enter the correct password, we’ll be dropped into the shell, where we can issue the show dbs command:

MongoDB shell version v3.4.2
Enter password:
connecting to: mongodb://
MongoDB server version: 3.4.2


Rather than being denied access, we should see the available databases:

show dbs

admin  0.000GB
local  0.000GB

Type exit or press CTRL+C to exit.
See the MongoDB documentation to learn more about Authentication, Role-Based Access Control, and Users and Roles.

Part Three: Configuring Remote Access (Optional)>

Part Three: Configuring Remote Access (Optional) #

Before we start working with an installation that allows remote connections, ideally we’ll have MongoDB behind an external firewall, protected by a virtual private network (VPN), or restricted through a bastion host. As we work toward that, however, we can take the somewhat less-complicated step of enabling a firewall on the database server and restricting access to the specific host or hosts that need it.

Step 1 — Enabling UFW>

Step 1 — Enabling UFW #

In the Initial Server Setup with Ubuntu 16.04 prerequisite, we enabled UFW and allowed only SSH connections. Before we open a port for our client machine, let’s verify UFW’s status:

sudo ufw status

Note: If the output indicates that the firewall is inactive, activate it with:

sudo ufw enable

Once it’s enabled, rerunning the status command, sudo ufw status will show the rules. If necessary, be sure to allow SSH.

sudo ufw allow OpenSSH

Unless we made changes to the prerequisites, the output should show that only OpenSSH is allowed:

Status: active

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
OpenSSH                    ALLOW       Anywhere
OpenSSH (v6)               ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)

Next, we’ll allow access to the default MongoDB port, 27017, but restrict that access to a specific host. If you’ve changed the default port, be sure to update it in the command below.

sudo ufw allow from client_ip_address to any port 27017

Re-run this command using the IP address for each additional client that needs access. To double-check the rule, we’ll run ufw status again:

sudo ufw status

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
OpenSSH                    ALLOW       Anywhere
27017                       ALLOW      client_ip_address
OpenSSH (v6)               ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)

Note: If you’re new to UFW, you can learn more in the guide, UFW Essentials: Common Firewall Rules and Commands.

With this firewall rule in place, we’re ready to configure MongoDB to listen on its public interface.

Step 2 — Configuring a Public bindIP>

Step 2 — Configuring a Public bindIP #

To allow remote connections, we will add our host’s publically-routable IP address to the mongod.conf file.

sudo nano /etc/mongod.conf

In the net stanza, add the MongoHost’s IP to the bindIp line:
Excerpt of /etc/mongod.conf

 . . .
  port: 27017
 . . .

We’ll save and exit the file, then restart the daemon:

sudo systemctl restart mongod

As we did earlier, we’ll confirm restart was successful:

sudo systemctl status mongod

The output should contain Active: active (running), and we can proceed to our final test. Mongo is now listening on its default port.

Step 3 — Testing the Remote Connection>

Step 3 — Testing the Remote Connection #

We’ll test that Mongo is listening on its public interface by adding the --host flag with the IP address from the mongodb.conf file.

mongo -u AdminSammy -p --authenticationDatabase admin --host IP_address_of_MongoHost

MongoDB shell version v3.4.2
Enter password:
connecting to: mongodb://
MongoDB server version: 3.4.2

Reaching the prompt confirms that the daemon is listening on its public IP. At this point, any transaction between a remote connection and the MongoDB host is unencrypted so the next step, before testing the firewall, should be to secure those transations. For help with this, see MongoDB’s Security documentation on Transport Encryption.


Conclusion #

In this tutorial, we’ve added the MongoDB repository to our package list in order to install the latest available version of MongoDB, added an administrative user, and enabled authentication.
We’ve also shown how to configure MongoDB to accept remote connections but prevent advertising the MongoDB installation by configuring the server’s firewall to allow connections only from hosts that require access.
Next Steps:

To encrypt data in transit, see the MongoDB’s Security documentation on Transport Encryption
Learn more about using and administering MongoDB in these DigitalOcean community articles.