Determining Effective Database Engine Permissions
Applies to: SQL Server (all supported versions) Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance Azure Synapse Analytics Analytics Platform System (PDW)
This article describes how to determine who has permissions to various objects in the SQL Server Database Engine. SQL Server implements two permission systems for the Database Engine. An older system of fixed roles has preconfigured permissions. Beginning with SQL Server 2005 a more flexible and precise system is available. (The information in this article applies to SQL Server, beginning with 2005. Some types of permissions are not available in some versions of SQL Server.)
- The effective permissions are the aggregate of both permission systems.
- A denial of permissions overrides a grant of permissions.
- If a user is a member of the sysadmin fixed server role, permissions are not checked further, so denials will not be enforced.
- The old system and new system have similarities. For example, membership in the
sysadminfixed server role is similar to having
CONTROL SERVERpermission. But the systems are not identical. For example, if a login only has the
CONTROL SERVERpermission, and a stored procedures check for membership in the
sysadminfixed server role, then the permission check will fail. The reverse is also true.
- Server-level permission can come from membership in the fixed server roles or user-defined server roles. Everyone belongs to the
publicfixed server role and receives any permission assigned there.
- Server-level permissions can come from permission grants to logins or user-defined server roles.
- Database-level permission can come from membership in the fixed database roles or user-defined database roles in each database. Everyone belongs to the
publicfixed database role and receives any permission assigned there.
- Database-level permissions can come from permission grants to users or user-defined database roles in each database.
- Permissions can be received from the
guestdatabase user if enabled. The
guestlogin and users are disabled by default.
- Windows users can be members of Windows groups that can have logins. SQL Server learns of Windows group membership when a Windows user connects and presents a Windows token with the security identifier of a Windows group. Because SQL Server does not manage or receive automatic updates about Windows group memberships, SQL Server cannot reliably report the permissions of Windows users that are received from Windows group membership.
- Permissions can be acquired by switching to an application role and providing the password.
- Permissions can be acquired by executing a stored procedure that includes the
- Permissions can be acquired by logins or users with the
- Members of the local computer administrator group can always elevate their privileges to
sysadmin. (Does not apply to SQL Database.)
- Members of the
securityadminfixed server role can elevate many of their privileges and in some cases can elevate the privileges to
sysadmin. (Does not apply to SQL Database.)
- SQL Server administrators can see information about all logins and users. Less privileged users usually see information about only their own identities.
Older Fixed Role Permission System
Fixed Server Roles and Fixed Database Roles have preconfigured permissions that cannot be changed. To determine who is a member of a fixed server role, execute the following query:
Does not apply to SQL Database or Azure Synapse Analytics where server level permission is not available. The
is_fixed_role column of
sys.server_principals was added in SQL Server 2012. It is not needed for older versions of SQL Server.
SELECT SP1.name AS ServerRoleName, isnull (SP2.name, 'No members') AS LoginName FROM sys.server_role_members AS SRM RIGHT OUTER JOIN sys.server_principals AS SP1 ON SRM.role_principal_id = SP1.principal_id LEFT OUTER JOIN sys.server_principals AS SP2 ON SRM.member_principal_id = SP2.principal_id WHERE SP1.is_fixed_role = 1 -- Remove for SQL Server 2008 ORDER BY SP1.name;
- All logins are members of the public role and cannot be removed.
- This query checks tables in the master database but it can be executed in any database for the on premises product.
To determine who is a member of a fixed database role, execute the following query in each database.
SELECT DP1.name AS DatabaseRoleName, isnull (DP2.name, 'No members') AS DatabaseUserName FROM sys.database_role_members AS DRM RIGHT OUTER JOIN sys.database_principals AS DP1 ON DRM.role_principal_id = DP1.principal_id LEFT OUTER JOIN sys.database_principals AS DP2 ON DRM.member_principal_id = DP2.principal_id WHERE DP1.is_fixed_role = 1 ORDER BY DP1.name;
Newer Granular Permission System
This system is flexible, which means it can be complicated if the people setting it up want to be precise. To simplify matters it helps to create roles, assign permissions to roles, and then add groups of people to the roles. And it's easier if the database development team separates activity by schema and then grants role permissions to a whole schema instead of to individual tables or procedures. Real world scenarios are complex and business needs can create unexpected security requirements.
The following graphic shows the permissions and their relationships to each other. Some of the higher level permissions (such as
CONTROL SERVER) are listed many times. In this article, the poster is far too small to read. Click the image to download the Database Engine Permissions Poster in pdf format.
Permissions can be granted at the server-level, the database-level, the schema-level, or the object-level, etc. There are 26 levels (called classes). The complete list of classes in alphabetic order is:
REMOTE SERVICE BINDING,
SEARCH PROPERTY LIST,
XML SCHEMA COLLECTION. (Some classes are not available on some types of SQL Servers.) To provide full information about each class requires a different query.
Permissions are granted to principals. Principals can be server roles, logins, database roles, or users. Logins can represent Windows groups that include many Windows users. Since Windows groups are not maintained by SQL Server, SQL Server does not always know who is a member of a Windows group. When a Windows user connects to SQL Server, the login packet contains the Windows group membership tokens for the user.
When a Windows user connects using a login based on a Windows group, some activities may require SQL Server to create a login or user to represent the individual Windows user. For example, a Windows group (Engineers) contains users (Mary, Todd, Pat) and the Engineers group has a database user account. If Mary has permission and creates a table, a user (Mary) might be created to be the owner of the table. Or if Todd is denied a permission that the rest of the Engineers group has, then the user Todd must be created to track the permission denial.
Remember that a Windows user might be a member of more than one Windows group (e.g. both Engineers, and Managers). Permissions granted or denied to the Engineers login, to the Managers login, granted or denied to the user individually, and granted or denied to roles that the user is a member of, will all be aggregated and evaluated to for the effective permissions. The
HAS_PERMS_BY_NAME function can reveal whether a user or login has a particular permission. However, there is no obvious way of determining the source of the grant or denial of permission. Study the list of permissions and perhaps experiment using trial and error.
The following query returns a list of the permissions that have been granted or denied at the server level. This query should be executed in the master database.
Server-level permissions cannot be granted or queried on SQL Database or Azure Synapse Analytics.
SELECT pr.type_desc, pr.name, isnull (pe.state_desc, 'No permission statements') AS state_desc, isnull (pe.permission_name, 'No permission statements') AS permission_name FROM sys.server_principals AS pr LEFT OUTER JOIN sys.server_permissions AS pe ON pr.principal_id = pe.grantee_principal_id WHERE is_fixed_role = 0 -- Remove for SQL Server 2008 ORDER BY pr.name, type_desc;
The following query returns a list of the permissions that have been granted or denied at the database level. This query should be executed in each database.
SELECT pr.type_desc, pr.name, isnull (pe.state_desc, 'No permission statements') AS state_desc, isnull (pe.permission_name, 'No permission statements') AS permission_name FROM sys.database_principals AS pr LEFT OUTER JOIN sys.database_permissions AS pe ON pr.principal_id = pe.grantee_principal_id WHERE pr.is_fixed_role = 0 ORDER BY pr.name, type_desc;
Each class of permission the permission table can be joined to other system views that provide related information about that class of securable. For example, the following query provides the name of the database object that is affected by the permission.
SELECT pr.type_desc, pr.name, pe.state_desc, pe.permission_name, s.name + '.' + oj.name AS Object, major_id FROM sys.database_principals AS pr JOIN sys.database_permissions AS pe ON pr.principal_id = pe.grantee_principal_id JOIN sys.objects AS oj ON oj.object_id = pe.major_id JOIN sys.schemas AS s ON oj.schema_id = s.schema_id WHERE class_desc = 'OBJECT_OR_COLUMN';
HAS_PERMS_BY_NAME function to determine if a particular user (in this case
TestUser) has a permission. For example:
EXECUTE AS USER = 'TestUser'; SELECT HAS_PERMS_BY_NAME ('dbo.T1', 'OBJECT', 'SELECT'); REVERT;
For the details of the syntax, see HAS_PERMS_BY_NAME.
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