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Impersonating a login or user in SQL Server

  • Jun 26 / 2012
  • 0
dbDigger, Logins and Users, Monitoring and Analysis, Security and Permissions, T-SQL Tips and Tricks

Impersonating a login or user in SQL Server

SQL Server deals with Logins at server level and in the databases with users. Databases operate with various permissions on different objects. Permissions are assigned explicitly or implied. It is one of the primary responsibilities of a DBA to monitor and manage the permissions so that data and information security is ensured.
As part of managing the security and permissions architecture, DBA may be required to check a specific context or permission  for any account. You do not need to get password from the account owner to get login and then check the context.A simple and effective method is available. Just use the EXECUTE AS statement and you are in required context.
Actually EXECUTE AS is meant to manage more than just this simple task. We may use it for stored procedures context as well. EXECUTE AS may be used in two flavors

  • EXECUTE AS Login
  • EXECUTE AS User

As the above mentioned flavors indicate, while working with server level permissions EXECUTE AS Login may be used to impersonate the server level permissions of a login. While within a database context, EXECUTE AS User may be used to switch the context to a specific user in a DB. Before going on usage of EXECUTE AS, let me clarify that not every one may impersonate by using the EXECUTE AS. sysadmin and dbo has impersonation rights already with them at server and db level respectively. However impersonation permissions may be granted to required login/user. Discussing the internals and flow of impersonation is beyond the scope of this post.
Following is the code and result to prove the impersonation of a login by using EXECUTE AS Login

Impersonate SQL Server Login by Using EXECUTE AS LOGIN

We may analyze that login context was switched and was revert at the end. According to BOL impersonation context is changed back in following three conditions.

  • Another EXECUTE AS statement is run
  • A REVERT statement is run
  • The session is dropped

Following code and result would demonstrate the impersonation of a user through EXECUTE AS User statement

Impersonate SQL Server DB User Using EXECUTE AS USER

Impersonation through EXECUTE AS statement was intrioduced in SQL Server 2005. Before this SETUSER statement was used. SETUSER may still be used in new versions but as a deprecated feature.
Also read a EXECUTE AS related tip on mssqltips.com.

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