Access Control Lists (ACL)

What is an Access Control List?

Fabric uses access control lists (ACLs) to manage access to resources by associating a policy — which specifies a rule that evaluates to true or false, given a set of identities — with the resource. Fabric contains a number of default ACLs. In this document, we’ll talk about how they’re formatted and how the defaults can be overridden.

But before we can do that, it’s necessary to understand a little about resources and policies.


Users interact with Fabric by targeting a user chaincode, system chaincode, or an events stream source. As such, these endpoints are considered “resources” on which access control should be exercised.

Application developers need to be aware of these resources and the default policies associated with them. The complete list of these resources are found in configtx.yaml. You can look at a sample configtx.yaml file here.

The resources named in configtx.yaml is an exhaustive list of all internal resources currently defined by Fabric. The loose convention adopted there is <component>/<resource>. So cscc/GetConfigBlock is the resource for the GetConfigBlock call in the CSCC component.


Policies are fundamental to the way Fabric works because they allow the identity (or set of identities) associated with a request to be checked against the policy associated with the resource needed to fulfill the request. Endorsement policies are used to determine whether a transaction has been appropriately endorsed. The policies defined in the channel configuration are referenced as modification policies as well as for access control, and are defined in the channel configuration itself.

Policies can be structured in one of two ways: as Signature policies or as an ImplicitMeta policy.

Signature policies

These policies identify specific users who must sign in order for a policy to be satisfied. For example:

    Type: Signature
    Rule: “Org1.Peer OR Org2.Peer”

This policy construct can be interpreted as: the policy named MyPolicy can only be satisfied by the signature of an identity with role of “a peer from Org1” or “a peer from Org2”.

Signature policies support arbitrary combinations of AND, OR, and NOutOf, allowing the construction of extremely powerful rules like: “An admin of org A and two other admins, or 11 of 20 org admins”.

ImplicitMeta policies

ImplicitMeta policies aggregate the result of policies deeper in the configuration hierarchy that are ultimately defined by Signature policies. They support default rules like “A majority of the organization admins”. These policies use a different but still very simple syntax as compared to Signature policies: <ALL|ANY|MAJORITY> <sub_policy>.

For example: ANY Readers or MAJORITY Admins.

Note that in the default policy configuration Admins have an operational role. Policies that specify that only Admins — or some subset of Admins — have access to a resource will tend to be for sensitive or operational aspects of the network (such as instantiating chaincode on a channel). Writers will tend to be able to propose ledger updates, such as a transaction, but will not typically have administrative permissions. Readers have a passive role. They can access information but do not have the permission to propose ledger updates nor do can they perform administrative tasks. These default policies can be added to, edited, or supplemented, for example by the new peer and client roles (if you have NodeOU support).

Here’s an example of an ImplicitMeta policy structure:

    Type: ImplicitMeta
    Rule: "MAJORITY Admins"

Here, the policy AnotherPolicy can be satisfied by the MAJORITY of Admins, where Admins is eventually being specified by lower level Signature policy.

Where is access control specified?

Access control defaults exist inside configtx.yaml, the file that configtxgen uses to build channel configurations.

Access control can be updated one of two ways, either by editing configtx.yaml itself, which will propagate the ACL change to any new channels, or by updating access control in the channel configuration of a particular channel.

How ACLs are formatted in configtx.yaml

ACLs are formatted as a key-value pair consisting of a resource function name followed by a string. To see what this looks like, reference this sample configtx.yaml file.

Two excerpts from this sample:

# ACL policy for invoking chaincodes on peer
peer/Propose: /Channel/Application/Writers
# ACL policy for sending block events
event/Block: /Channel/Application/Readers

These ACLs define that access to peer/Propose and event/Block resources is restricted to identities satisfying the policy defined at the canonical path /Channel/Application/Writers and /Channel/Application/Readers, respectively.

Updating ACL defaults in configtx.yaml

In cases where it will be necessary to override ACL defaults when bootstrapping a network, or to change the ACLs before a channel has been bootstrapped, the best practice will be to update configtx.yaml.

Let’s say you want to modify the peer/Propose ACL default — which specifies the policy for invoking chaincodes on a peer – from /Channel/Application/Writers to a policy called MyPolicy.

This is done by adding a policy called MyPolicy (it could be called anything, but for this example we’ll call it MyPolicy). The policy is defined in the Application.Policies section inside configtx.yaml and specifies a rule to be checked to grant or deny access to a user. For this example, we’ll be creating a Signature policy identifying SampleOrg.admin.

Policies: &ApplicationDefaultPolicies
        Type: ImplicitMeta
        Rule: "ANY Readers"
        Type: ImplicitMeta
        Rule: "ANY Writers"
        Type: ImplicitMeta
        Rule: "MAJORITY Admins"
        Type: Signature
        Rule: "OR('SampleOrg.admin')"

Then, edit the Application: ACLs section inside configtx.yaml to change peer/Propose from this:

peer/Propose: /Channel/Application/Writers

To this:

peer/Propose: /Channel/Application/MyPolicy

Once these fields have been changed in configtx.yaml, the configtxgen tool will use the policies and ACLs defined when creating a channel creation transaction. When appropriately signed and submitted by one of the admins of the consortium members, a new channel with the defined ACLs and policies is created.

Once MyPolicy has been bootstrapped into the channel configuration, it can also be referenced to override other ACL defaults. For example:

    Consortium: SampleConsortium
        <<: *ApplicationDefaults
            <<: *ACLsDefault
            event/Block: /Channel/Application/MyPolicy

This would restrict the ability to subscribe to block events to SampleOrg.admin.

If channels have already been created that want to use this ACL, they’ll have to update their channel configurations one at a time using the following flow:

Updating ACL defaults in the channel config

If channels have already been created that want to use MyPolicy to restrict access to peer/Propose — or if they want to create ACLs they don’t want other channels to know about — they’ll have to update their channel configurations one at a time through config update transactions.

Note: Channel configuration transactions are an involved process we won’t delve into here. If you want to read more about them check out our document on channel configuration updates and our “Adding an Org to a Channel” tutorial.

After pulling, translating, and stripping the configuration block of its metadata, you would edit the configuration by adding MyPolicy under Application: policies, where the Admins, Writers, and Readers policies already live.

"MyPolicy": {
  "mod_policy": "Admins",
  "policy": {
    "type": 1,
    "value": {
      "identities": [
          "principal": {
            "msp_identifier": "SampleOrg",
            "role": "ADMIN"
          "principal_classification": "ROLE"
      "rule": {
        "n_out_of": {
          "n": 1,
          "rules": [
              "signed_by": 0
      "version": 0
  "version": "0"

Note in particular the msp_identifer and role here.

Then, in the ACLs section of the config, change the peer/Propose ACL from this:

"peer/Propose": {
  "policy_ref": "/Channel/Application/Writers"

To this:

"peer/Propose": {
  "policy_ref": "/Channel/Application/MyPolicy"

Note: If you do not have ACLs defined in your channel configuration, you will have to add the entire ACL structure.

Once the configuration has been updated, it will need to be submitted by the usual channel update process.

Satisfying an ACL that requires access to multiple resources

If a member makes a request that calls multiple system chaincodes, all of the ACLs for those system chaincodes must be satisfied.

For example, peer/Propose refers to any proposal request on a channel. If the particular proposal requires access to two system chaincodes that requires an identity satisfying Writers and one system chaincode that requires an identity satisfying MyPolicy, then the member submitting the proposal must have an identity that evaluates to “true” for both Writers and MyPolicy.

In the default configuration, Writers is a signature policy whose rule is SampleOrg.member. In other words, “any member of my organization”. MyPolicy, listed above, has a rule of SampleOrg.admin, or “any admin of my organization”. To satisfy these ACLs, the member would have to be both an administrator and a member of SampleOrg. By default, all administrators are members (though not all administrators are members), but it is possible to overwrite these policies to whatever you want them to be. As a result, it’s important to keep track of these policies to ensure that the ACLs for peer proposals are not impossible to satisfy (unless that is the intention).

Migration considerations for customers using the experimental ACL feature

Previously, the management of access control lists was done in an isolated_data section of the channel creation transaction and updated via PEER_RESOURCE_UPDATE transactions. Originally, it was thought that the resources tree would handle the update of several functions that, ultimately, were handled in other ways, so maintaining a separate parallel peer configuration tree was judged to be unnecessary.

Migration for customers using the experimental resources tree in v1.1 is possible. Because the official v1.2 release does not support the old ACL methods, the network operators should shut down all their peers. Then, they should upgrade them to v1.2, submit a channel reconfiguration transaction which enables the v1.2 capability and sets the desired ACLs, and then finally restart the upgraded peers. The restarted peers will immediately consume the new channel configuration and enforce the ACLs as desired.