How to deal with permissions making your code permission-aware in Plone


Permissions control whether logged-in or anonymous users can execute code and access content.

Permissions in Plone are managed by Zope’s AccessControl module. Persistent permission setting and getting by role heavy lifting is done by AccessControl.rolemanager.RoleManager.

Permission checks are done for:

  • every view/method which is hit by incoming HTTP request (Plone automatically publishes traversable methods over HTTP);

  • every called method for RestrictedPython scripts.

The basic way of dealing with permissions is setting the permission attribute of view declaration. For more information see views.

Debugging permission errors: Verbose Security

You can turn on verbose-security option in buildout to get better traceback info when you encounter a permission problem on the site (you are presented a login dialog).

For the security reasons, this option is disabled by default.

  • Set verbose-security = on in your buildout.cfg instance or related section.

  • Rerun buildout

  • Restart Plone properly after buildout bin/plonectl stop && bin/plonectl start

  • remove the Unauthorized exception from the list of ignored exceptions inside the error_log object within the Plone root folder through the Management Interface

More info

Checking if the logged-in user has a permission

The following code checks whether the logged in user has a certain permission for some object.

from AccessControl import getSecurityManager
from AccessControl import Unauthorized

# Import permission names as pseudo-constant strings from somewhere...
# see security doc for more info
from Products.CMFCore.permissions import ModifyPortalContent

def some_function(self, obj):
    sm = getSecurityManager()
    if not sm.checkPermission(ModifyPortalContent, obj):
        raise Unauthorized("You need ModifyPortalContent permission to execute some_function")

     # ...
     # we have security clearance here

Checking whether a specific role has a permission

The following example uses the rolesOfPermission() method to check whether the Authenticated role has a permission on a certain folder on the site. The weirdness of the method interface is explained by the fact that it was written for use in a Management Interface template:

def checkDBPermission(self):
    from import getSite
    site = getSite()
    obj = site.intranet
    perms = obj.rolesOfPermission("View")
    found = False

    for perm in perms:
        if perm["name"] == "Authenticated":
            if perm["selected"] != "": # will be SELECTED if the permission is granted
                found = True

    if not found:
        from Products.statusmessages.interfaces import IStatusMessage
        messages = IStatusMessage(self.request)
        messages.addStatusMessage(u"Possibe permission access problem with the intranet. Errors on creation form may happen.", type="info")

Permission Access

Objects that are manageable TTW inherit from RoleManager. The API provided by this class permits you to manage permissions.

Example: see all possible permissions:

>>> obj.possible_permissions()
['ATContentTypes Topic: Add ATBooleanCriterion',
 'ATContentTypes Topic: Add ATCurrentAuthorCriterion',

Show the security matrix of permission:

>>> self.portal.rolesOfPermission('Modify portal content')
[{'selected': '', 'name': 'Anonymous'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Authenticated'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Contributor'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Editor'},
 {'selected': 'SELECTED', 'name': 'GroupAdmin'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupContributor'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupEditor'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupLeader'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupMember'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupReader'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'GroupVisitor'},
 {'selected': 'SELECTED', 'name': 'Manager'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Member'},
 {'selected': 'SELECTED', 'name': 'Owner'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Reader'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'Reviewer'},
 {'selected': '', 'name': 'SubscriptionViewer'}]

Bypassing permission checks

The current user is defined by active security manager. During both restricted and unrestricted execution certain functions may do their own security checks (invokeFactory, workflow, search) to filter out results.

If a function does its own security checks, there is usually a code path that will execute without security check. For example the methods below have security-aware and raw versions:

  • context.restrictedTraverse() vs. context.unrestrictedTraverse()

  • portal_catalog.searchResults() vs. portal_catalog.unrestrictedSearchResults()

However, in certain situations you have only a security-aware code path which is blocked for the current user. You still want to execute this code path and you are sure that it does not violate your site security principles.

Below is an example how you can call any Python function and work around the security checks by establishing a temporary AccessControl.SecurityManager with a special role.


from AccessControl import ClassSecurityInfo, getSecurityManager
from AccessControl.SecurityManagement import newSecurityManager, setSecurityManager
from AccessControl.User import nobody
from AccessControl.User import Super as BaseUnrestrictedUser

class UnrestrictedUser(BaseUnrestrictedUser):
    """Unrestricted user that still has an id.
    def getId(self):
        """Return the ID of the user.
        return self.getUserName()

def execute_under_special_role(portal, role, function, *args, **kwargs):
    """ Execute code under special role privileges.

    Example how to call::

        execute_under_special_role(portal, "Manager",
            source_folder, target_folder)

    @param portal: Reference to ISiteRoot object whose access controls we are using

    @param function: Method to be called with special privileges

    @param role: User role for the security context when calling the privileged code; e.g. "Manager".

    @param args: Passed to the function

    @param kwargs: Passed to the function

    sm = getSecurityManager()

            # Clone the current user and assign a new role.
            # Note that the username (getId()) is left in exception
            # tracebacks in the error_log,
            # so it is an important thing to store.
            tmp_user = UnrestrictedUser(
                sm.getUser().getId(), '', [role], ''

            # Wrap the user in the acquisition context of the portal
            tmp_user = tmp_user.__of__(portal.acl_users)
            newSecurityManager(None, tmp_user)

            # Call the function
            return function(*args, **kwargs)

            # If special exception handlers are needed, run them here
        # Restore the old security manager

For a more complete implementation of this technique, see:

Catching Unauthorized

Gracefully failing when the user does not have a permission. Example:

from AccessControl import Unauthorized

    portal_state = context.restrictedTraverse("@@plone_portal_state")
except Unauthorized:
    # portal_state may be limited to admin users only
    portal_state = None

Creating permissions

Permissions are created declaratively in ZCML. Before Zope 2.12 (that is, before Plone 4), the collective.autopermission package was required to enable this, but now it is standard behaviour.



  <include package="collective.autopermission" />

    title="MyProduct: MyPermission"



Now you can use the permission both as a Zope 2-style permission (MyProduct: MyPermission) or a Zope 3-style permission (myproduct.mypermission). The only disadvantage is that you can’t import the permission string as a variable from a file, as you can with permissions defined programmatically.

By convention, the permission id is prefixed with the name of the package it’s defined in, and uses lowercase only. You have to take care that the title matches the permission string you used in exactly — otherwise a different, Zope 3 only, permission is registered.

Zope 3 style permissions are necessary when using Zope 3 technologies such as BrowserViews/formlib/z3c.form. For example, from configure.zcml:


    title="MyProduct: MyPermission" />



Define Zope 2 permissions in Python code (old style)

If you want to protect certain actions in your product by a special permission, you most likely will want to assign this permission to a role when the product is installed. You will want to use Generic Setup’s rolemap.xml to assign these permissions. A new permission will be added to the Zope instance by calling setDefaultRoles on it.

However, at the time when Generic Setup is run, almost none of your code has actually been run, so the permission doesn’t exist yet. That’s why we define the permissions in, and call this from

import permissions

from Products.CMFCore import permissions as CMFCorePermissions
from AccessControl.SecurityInfo import ModuleSecurityInfo
from Products.CMFCore.permissions import setDefaultRoles

security = ModuleSecurityInfo('MyProduct')
MyPermission = 'MyProduct: MyPermission'
setDefaultRoles(MyPermission, ())

When working with permissions, always use the variable name instead of the string value. This ensures that you can’t make typos with the string value, which are hard to debug. If you do make a typo in the variable name, you’ll get an ImportError or NameError.

Assigning permissions to users (roles)

Permissions are usually assigned to roles, which are assigned to users through the web.

To assign a permission to a role, use profiles/default/rolemap.xml:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
     <permission name="MyProduct: MyPermission" acquire="False">
       <role name="Member"/>

Manually fix permission problems

In the case you fiddle with permission and manage to lock out even the admin user you can still fix the problem from the debug prompt.

Example debug session, restoring Access Contents Information for all users:

>>> c = app.yoursiteid.yourfolderid.problematiccontent
>>> import AccessControl
>>> from Products.CMFCore.permissions import AccessContentsInformation
>>> sm = AccessControl.getSecurityManager()
>>> import transaction
>>> anon = sm.getUser()
>>> c.manage_permission(AccessContentsInformation, roles=anon.getRoles())
>>> transaction.commit()