MongoDB Authentication Process: Locking Up The Database


This is my second MongoDB post of many planned, so I’ve decided to start the Mini Mongo Series, catchy right?

The first problem I faced when setting up my own MongoDB instance on AWS was figuring out how to do simple authentication. If there are no users configured in myDatabase.system.users, anyone can access the database without authenticating. E.g. to prevent anyone from simply going to and accessing the data.

There are a lot of great tutorials on how to add security and authenticate using drivers but they come as many separate small tutorials. So here it is in one unified place and my experiences setting it up. If you you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below.

1. Add a user to the database

We are going to add a user to our database and  allow them to use credentials to authenticate later.

First make sure mongod is running without the auth flag.

Then run mongo in another command line to access the interactive MongoDB shell. Lets add a user to our pets database.

$ mongod 
$ mongo
> use pets 
> db.addUser('petar','myPassword');

Now that we have a user created an account, lets allow them to authenticate. Documentation here

> db.auth('petar', 'myPassword');

You can confirm this user was added by running the following.

> db.system.users.find()

2. Confirm that authentication works

A simple test case to ensure our authentication works is to run mongod --auth and try to connect from the mongo command line with and without the user credentials we previously created.

With credentials we expect to see the list of databases

$ mongod --auth 
$ mongo -u petar -p myPassword 
> show dbs
admin 0.203125GB
pets  0.203125GB

Without credentials we expect to see an error saying we are unauthorized

$ mongod --auth 
$ mongo
> show dbs
failed:{ "ok" : 0, "errmsg" : "unauthorized" }

You’ll see that since we didn’t provide our user credentials, we get an error.

Connect MongoDB to Node.js

Using the MongoDB driver from 10gen and some boilerplate code, we can connect and authenticate to the database using the user we just setup.

Run the Node.js app with environment variables

In order not to hard code the env variables in your app, which is generally a bad practice, we can pass in the credentials from the command line and have them available under process.env

$ \
node app.js


We’ve managed to create a user, enable authentication, put that authentication to use, and confirm that it is working. Our Node.js app is now connected to our MongoDB instance using an authenticated user, preventing unauthorized access.

$ successfully auth to open AWS MongoDB:  true

In-depth Resources

MongoDB Lesson Learned: Remeber To Use Indexes

After launching my first node.js + MongoDB API in production, I was religiously monitoring it like parents watching over their first born child.

As traffic started to roll in, the API server began to quietly cry. The average response in milliseconds increased as more and more concurrent queries were happening in the DB. But this wasn’t happening on my local development environment when I was running three times more traffic in my stress tests. Of course localhost beats the production environment any day of the week right?

Long story short, I forgot to enable indexes on the production environment. After adding db.collection.ensureIndex({"items": 1}) to the most important key that I was querying, the beams of sun broke through the cloudy sky.

Lets look at the difference in our famous before and after example:

> GET /sites/?… 200 2691ms – 128b

> GET /sites/?… 200 91ms – 128b

And a chart for giggles

API response time

Thanks to the awesome folks that make these amazing tools

Update: 2/11/13

On a side note, this small instance was able to handle over 1.5k requests per minute without ever breaking a sweat. Big ups OpenShift.

Book Review: Instant Node.js Starter

Node.js Starter

Packt Publishing has recently released “Instant Node.js Starter“, written by prolific open source programmer and active NPM contributor Pedro Teixeira.  If you are a beginner JavaScript programmer that is interested in getting your feet wet with server side code, this book is for you.

It is split up into two parts: A quick start tutorial that will help you learn the basics and the top five features you need to know about in Node.js (modules, callback functions, the event emitter, streams, and NPM).

Quick Start

No time wasted here. In the first five minutes of reading, you will have a “Hello World” HTTP server up and running. Teixeira also does a great job explaining what each line of code does and how it contributes to the whole program.

Top Five Features

Teixeira nails it with the top five features. He demonstrates the most widely used features with simple and easy to understand examples.


Overall this book is a great introduction to Node.js and a stepping stone to getting you started on your first Node.js project.

The book finishes up with useful a compilation of community resources to help you explore related topics and continue learning.