System Administration Guide: Naming and Directory Services (NIS+)

Stale and Outdated NIS+ Credential Information

Occasionally, you may find that even though you have created the proper credentials and assigned the proper access rights, some client requests still get denied. This may be due to out-of-date information residing somewhere in the namespace.

Storing and Updating NIS+ Credential Information

Credential-related information, such as public keys, is stored in many locations throughout the namespace. NIS+ updates this information periodically, depending on the time-to-live values of the objects that store it, but sometimes, between updates, it gets out of sync. As a result, you may find that operations that should work, don't work. Table 24–2 lists all the objects, tables, and files that store credential-related information and how to reset it.

Table 24–2 Where NIS+ Credential-Related Information Is Stored



To Reset or Change 

cred table 

NIS+ principal's secret key and public key. These are the master copies of these keys. 

Use nisaddcred to create new credentials; it updates existing credentials. An alternative is chkey.

Directory object 

A copy of the public key of each server that supports it. 

Run the /usr/lib/nis/nisupdkeys command on the directory object.


The secret key of the NIS+ principal that is currently logged in. 

Run keylogin for a principal user or keylogin -r for a principal machine.

NIS+ daemon 

Copies of directory objects, which in turn contain copies of their servers' public keys. 

Stop the rpc.nisd daemon and the cache manager by disabling the NIS+ service, and then remove NIS_SHARED_DIRCACHE from /var/nis. Then restart the NIS+ service.

Directory cache 

A copy of directory objects, which in turn contain copies of their servers' public keys. 

Restart the NIS+ cache manager with the -i option.

Cold-start file 

A copy of a directory object, which in turn contains copies of its servers' public keys. 

Stop the NIS+ service. Remove the NIS_COLD_START and NIS_SHARED_DIRCACHE files from /var/nis. Restart the NIS+ service.

passwd table 

A user's password or a machine's superuser password. 

Use the passwd -r nisplus command. It changes the password in the NIS+ passwd table and updates it in the cred table.

passwd file

A user's password or a machine's superuser password. 

Use the passwd -r nisplus command, whether logged in as superuser or as yourself, whichever is appropriate.

passwd map


A user's password or a machine's superuser password. 

Use passwd -r nisplus.

Updating Stale Cached NIS+ Keys

The most commonly encountered out-of-date information is the existence of stale objects with old versions of a server's public key. You can usually correct this problem by running nisupdkeys on the domain you are trying to access. (See Chapter 12, Administering NIS+ Credentials for information on using the nisupdkeys command.)

Because some keys are stored in files or caches, nisupdkeys cannot always correct the problem. At times you might need to update the keys manually. To do that, you must understand how a server's public key, once created, is propagated through namespace objects. The process usually has five stages of propagation. Each stage is described below.

Stage 1: Server's Public Key Is Generated

An NIS+ server is first an NIS+ client. So, its public key is generated in the same way as any other NIS+ client's public key: with the nisaddcred command. The public key is then stored in the cred table of the server's home domain, not of the domain the server will eventually support.

Stage 2: Public Key Is Propagated to Directory Objects

Once you have set up an NIS+ domain and an NIS+ server, you can associate the server with a domain. This association is performed by the nismkdir command. When the nismkdir command associates the server with the directory, it also copies the server's public key from the cred table to the domain's directory object. For example, assume the server is a client of the root domain, and is made the master server of the domain.

Figure 24–1 Public Key Is Propagated to NIS+ Directory Objects

Graphic illustrates a public key copied from the
domain and placed in the directory object.

Its public key is copied from the domain and placed in the directory object. This can be verified with the niscat -o command.

Stage 3: Directory Objects Are Propagated Into Client Files

All NIS+ clients are initialized with the nisinit utility or with the nisclient script.

Among other things, nisinit (or nisclient) creates a cold-start file /var/nis/NIS_COLDSTART. The cold-start file is used to initialize the client's directory cache /var/nis/NIS_SHARED_DIRCACHE. The cold-start file contains a copy of the directory object of the client's domain. Since the directory object already contains a copy of the server's public key, the key is now propagated into the cold-start file of the client.

In addition when a client makes a request to a server outside its home domain, a copy of the remote domains directory object is stored in the client's NIS_SHARED_DIRCACHE file. You can examine the contents of the client's cache by using the nisshowcache command, described on page 184.

This is the extent of the propagation until a replica is added to the domain or the server's key changes.

Stage 4: When a Replica is Added to the Domain

When a replica server is added to a domain, the nisping command (described in nisping Command) is used to download the NIS+ tables, including the cred table, to the new replica. Therefore, the original server's public key is now also stored in the replica server's cred table.

Stage 5: When the Server's Public Key Is Changed

If you decide to change DES credentials for the server (that is, for the root identity on the server), its public key will change.

As a result, the public key stored for that server in the cred table will be different from those stored in:

Most of these locations will be updated automatically within a time ranging from a few minutes to 12 hours. To update the server's keys in these locations immediately, use the commands.

Table 24–3 Updating an NIS+ Server's Keys




Cred table of replica servers (instead of using nisping, you can wait a few minutes until the table is updated automatically)


nisping Command

Directory object of domain supported by server 


nisupdkeys Command

NIS_COLDSTART file of clients

nisinit -c

nisinit Command

NIS_SHARED_DIRCACHE file of clients


nis_cachemgr Daemon

Note –

You must stop the existing nis_cachemgr before restarting nis_cachemgr. To stop nis_cachemgr, disable the NIS+ service by using svcadm disable /network/rpc/nisplus:default.