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Rules and Permissions

Due to rewriting of queries by the Postgres rule system, other tables/views than those used in the original query get accessed. Using update rules, this can include write access to tables.

Rewrite rules don't have a separate owner. The owner of a relation (table or view) is automatically the owner of the rewrite rules that are defined for it. The Postgres rule system changes the behaviour of the default access control system. Relations that are used due to rules get checked during the rewrite against the permissions of the relation owner, the rule is defined on. This means, that a user does only need the required permissions for the tables/views he names in his queries.

For example: A user has a list of phone numbers where some of them are private, the others are of interest for the secretary of the office. He can construct the following:

    CREATE TABLE phone_data (person text, phone text, private bool);
    CREATE VIEW phone_number AS
        SELECT person, phone FROM phone_data WHERE NOT private;
    GRANT SELECT ON phone_number TO secretary;
Nobody except him (and the database superusers) can access the phone_data table. But due to the GRANT, the secretary can SELECT from the phone_number view. The rule system will rewrite the SELECT from phone_number into a SELECT from phone_data and add the qualification that only entries where private is false are wanted. Since the user is the owner of phone_number, the read access to phone_data is now checked against his permissions and the query is considered granted. The check for accessing phone_number is still performed, so nobody than the secretary can use it.

The permissions are checked rule by rule. So the secretary is for now the only one who can see the public phone numbers. But the secretary can setup another view and grant access to that to public. Then, anyone can see the phone_number data through the secretaries view. What the secretary cannot do is to create a view that directly accesses phone_data (actually he can, but it will not work since every access aborts the transaction during the permission checks). And as soon as the user will notice, that the secretary opened his phone_number view, he can REVOKE his access. Immediately any access to the secretaries view will fail.

Someone might think that this rule by rule checking is a security hole, but in fact it isn't. If this would not work, the secretary could setup a table with the same columns as phone_number and copy the data to there once per day. Then it's his own data and he can grant access to everyone he wants. A GRANT means "I trust you". If someone you trust does the thing above, it's time to think it over and then REVOKE.

This mechanism does also work for update rules. In the examples of the previous section, the owner of the tables in Al's database could GRANT SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE on the shoelace view to al. But only SELECT on shoelace_log. The rule action to write log entries will still be executed successfull. And Al could see the log entries. But he cannot create fake entries, nor could he manipulate or remove existing ones.

Warning: GRANT ALL currently includes RULE permission. This means the granted user could drop the rule, do the changes and reinstall it. I think this should get changed quickly.