RFC4768: Desired Enhancements to Generic Security Services Application Program Interface (GSS-API) Version 3 Naming

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Network Working Group                                         S. Hartman
Request for Comments: 4768                                           MIT
Category: Informational                                    December 2006

                        Desired Enhancements to
   Generic Security Services Application Program Interface (GSS-API)
                            Version 3 Naming

Status of This Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2006).


   The Generic Security Services API (GSS-API) provides a naming
   architecture that supports name-based authorization.  GSS-API
   authenticates two named parties to each other.  Names can be stored
   on access control lists (ACLs) to make authorization decisions.
   Advances in security mechanisms and the way implementers wish to use
   GSS-API require this model to be extended for the next version of
   GSS-API.  As people move within an organization or change their
   names, the name authenticated by GSS-API may change.  Using some sort
   of constant identifier would make ACLs more stable.  Some mechanisms,
   such as public-key mechanisms, do not have a single name to be used
   across all environments.  Other mechanisms, such as Kerberos, may
   include group membership or role information as part of
   authentication.  This document motivates extensions to GSS-API naming
   and describes the extensions under discussion.

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Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................2
   2. Kerberos Naming .................................................3
   3. X.509 Names .....................................................4
   4. Composite Names .................................................5
      4.1. Usage of Name Attributes ...................................6
      4.2. Open Issues ................................................6
      4.3. Handling gss_export_name ...................................7
   5. Credential Extensions ...........................................7
   6. Mechanisms for Export Name ......................................8
   7. Selection of Source Identity ....................................8
   8. Compatibility with GSS-API V2 ...................................9
   9. Security Considerations .........................................9
   10. Acknowledgements ..............................................10
   11. Informative References ........................................10

1.  Introduction

   The Generic Security Services API [2] authenticates two named parties
   to each other.  GSS names can be imported in a variety of formats
   through the gss_import_name call.  Several mechanism-independent name
   formats are provided, including GSS_C_NT_HOSTBASED_SERVICE for
   services running on an Internet host, and GSS_C_NT_USER_NAME for the
   names of users.  Other mechanism-specific name types are also
   provided.  By the time a name is used in acquiring a mechanism-
   specific credential or establishing a security context, it has been
   transformed into one of these mechanism-specific name types.  In
   addition, the GSS-API provides a function called gss_export_name that
   will transform a GSS-API name into a binary blob suitable for
   comparisons.  This binary blob can be stored on ACLs and then
   authorization decisions can be made simply by comparing the name
   exported from a newly accepted context to the name on the ACL.

   Storing names on ACLs can be problematic because names tend to change
   over time.  If the name contains organizational information, such as
   a domain part or an indication of what department someone works for,
   this changes as the person moves around the organization.  Even if no
   organizational information is included in the name, the name will
   change as people change their names.  Updating ACLs to reflect name
   changes is difficult.  Another significant problem is that names can
   be reused to apply to an entity other than the entity to which they
   originally applied.  For example, if a Unix user ID is placed on an
   ACL, the account deleted and then a new user assigned the old ID,
   then that new user may gain privileges intended for the old user.

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   Inherent in the GSS naming model is the idea that mechanism names
   need to be able to be represented in a single canonical form.  Anyone
   importing that name needs to be able to retrieve the canonical form
   of that name.

   Several security mechanisms have been proposed for which this naming
   architecture is too restrictive.  In some cases, it is not always
   possible to canonicalize any name that is imported.  In other cases,
   there is no single canonical name.

   Also, as GSS-API is used in more complex environments, there is a
   desire to use attribute certificates [6], Kerberos authorization data
   [3], or other non-name-based authorization models.  GSS-API needs to
   be enhanced in order to support these uses in a mechanism-independent

   This document discusses the particular naming problems with two
   important classes of GSS-API mechanisms.  It also discusses the set
   of proposed solutions and their associated open issues.  This
   document limits discussion to these solutions and provides a
   description of the problem against which the solutions can be judged.
   These solutions are targeted for incorporation into GSS-API Version

2.  Kerberos Naming

   The Kerberos mechanism demonstrates both the naming stability problem
   and the authorization extension problem.

   The Kerberos Referrals document [4] proposes a new type of Kerberos
   name called an enterprise name.  The intent is that the enterprise
   name is an alias that the user knows for themselves and can use to
   log in.  The Kerberos Key Distribution Center (KDC) translates this
   name into a normal Kerberos principal and gives the user tickets for
   this principal.  This normal principal is used for authorization.
   The intent is that the enterprise name tracks the user as they moves
   throughout the organization, even if they move to parts of the
   organization that have different naming policies.  The name they type
   at login remains constant, but the Kerberos principal used to
   authenticate them to services changes.

   Unauthenticated services cannot generally perform a mapping from
   enterprise name to principal name.  Even authenticated services may
   not be authorized to map names other than the name of the
   authenticated service.  Also, Kerberos does not (and does not plan
   to) provide a mechanism for mapping enterprise names to principals
   besides authentication as the enterprise name.  Thus, any such
   mapping would be vendor-specific.  With this feature in Kerberos, it

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   is not possible to implement gss_canonicalize_name for enterprise
   name types.  Of course, other name types such as traditional
   principal names could be used for GSS-API applications.  Naturally,
   this loses the benefits of enterprise names.

   Another issue arises with enterprise names.  In some cases, it would
   be desirable to put the enterprise name on the ACL instead of a
   principal name for greater ACL stability.  At first glance, this
   could be accomplished by including the enterprise name in the name
   exported by gss_export_name.  Unfortunately, if this were done, the
   exported name would change whenever the mapping changed, invalidating
   any ACL entries based off the old exported name and defeating the
   purpose of including the enterprise name in the exported name.  In
   some cases, it would be desirable to have the exported name be based
   on the enterprise name and, in others, based on the principal name,
   but this is not permitted by the current GSS-API.

   Another development also complicates GSS-API naming for Kerberos.
   Several vendors have been looking at mechanisms to include group
   membership information in Kerberos authorization data.  It is
   desirable to put these group names on ACLs.  Again, GSS-API currently
   has no mechanism to use this information.

3.  X.509 Names

   X.509 names are more complicated than Kerberos names.  In the
   Kerberos case, there is a single principal carried in all Kerberos
   messages.  X.509 certificates have multiple options.  It seems the
   subject name might be the appropriate name to use as the name to be
   exported in a GSS-API mechanism.  However, RFC 3280 [5] allows the
   subject name to be an empty sequence in end-entity certificates.
   Therefore, the subjectAltName extension might be the only portion of
   the certificate that identifies the subject.  As in the case of
   Kerberos group memberships, there may be many subjectAltName
   extensions available in a certificate.  Different applications will
   care about different name forms.  One possible candidate for an
   exported name would be all the names from the subject field, and the
   subjectAltName extension from a certificate.  However, as new names
   are added, existing ACL entries would be invalidated; this is
   undesirable.  Thus, there is no single value that can be defined as
   the exported GSS-API name that will be useful in all environments.

   A profile of a particular X.509 GSS-API mechanism could require that
   a specific name be used.  However, this would limit that mechanism to
   require a particular type of certificate.  There is interest in being
   able to use arbitrary X.509 certificates with GSS-API for some

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   Experience so far has not led to sufficient interoperability with
   GSS-API X.509 mechanisms.  Even if the subject name is used, there is
   ambiguity in how to handle sorting of name components.  Martin Rex
   said that he was aware of several SPKM [1] implementations, but that
   no two were fully interoperable on names.

   Also, as discussed in the introduction, it is desirable to support
   X.509 attribute certificates.

4.  Composite Names

   One proposal to solve these problems is to extend the concept of a
   GSS-API name to include a set of name attributes.  Each attribute
   would be an octet-string labeled by an OID.  Examples of attributes
   would include Kerberos enterprise names, group memberships in an
   authorization infrastructure, and Kerberos authorization data
   attributes and subjectAltName attributes in a certificate.  Several
   new operations would be needed:

   1.  Add an attribute to name.

   2.  Query attributes of name.

   3.  Query values of an attribute.

   4.  Delete an attribute from a name.

   5.  Export a complete composite name and all its attributes for
       transport between processes.

   Note that an exported composite name would not generally be suitable
   for binary comparison.  Avoiding confusion between this operation and
   the existing gss_export_name operation will require careful work.
   However, many attributes of composite names will be appropriate for
   binary comparisons.  Such attributes can be used on ACLs, just as
   exported names are used on ACLs today.  For example, if a particular
   SubjectAltName extension contains the appropriate identity for an
   application, then the name attribute for this SubjectAltName can be
   placed on the ACL.  This is only true if the name attribute is stored
   in some canonical form.

   Additional utility operations will probably be needed depending on
   the implementation of name attributes.

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4.1.  Usage of Name Attributes

   Since attributes are part of GSS-API names, the acceptor can retrieve
   the attributes of the initiator's and acceptor's name from the
   context.  These attributes can then be used for authorization.

   Most name attributes will probably not come from explicit operations
   to add attributes to a name.  Instead, name attributes will probably
   come from mechanism-specific credentials.  Components of these
   mechanism-specific credentials may come from platform or environment-
   specific names.  Mechanism-specific naming and group membership can
   be mapped into name attributes by the mechanism implementation.  The
   specific form of this mapping will generally require protocol
   specification for each mechanism.

4.2.  Open Issues

   This section describes parts of the proposal to add attributes to
   names that will need to be explored before the proposal can become a
   protocol specification.

   Are mechanisms expected to be able to carry arbitrary name attributes
   as part of a context establishment?  At first, it seems like this
   would be desirable.  However, the purpose of GSS-API is to establish
   an authenticated context between two peers.  In particular, a context
   authenticates two named entities to each other.  The names of these
   entities and attributes associated with these names will be used for
   authorization decisions.  If an initiator or acceptor is allowed to
   assert name attributes, and the authenticity of these assertions is
   not validated by the mechanisms, then security problems will result.
   On the other hand, requiring that name attributes be
   mechanism-specific and only be carried by mechanisms that understand
   the name attributes and can validate them compromises GSS-API's place
   as a generic API.  Application authors would be forced to understand
   mechanism-specific attributes to make authorization decisions.  In
   addition, if mechanisms are not required to transport arbitrary
   attributes, then application authors will need to deal with different
   implementations of the same mechanism that support different sets of
   name attributes.  One possible solution is to carry a source along
   with each name attribute; this source could indicate whether the
   attribute comes from a mechanism data structure or from the other
   party in the authentication.

   Another related question is how name attributes will be mapped into
   their mechanism-specific forms.  For example, it would be desirable
   to map many Kerberos authorization data elements into name
   attributes.  In the case of the Microsoft PAC (privilege attribute
   certificate), it would be desirable for some applications to get the

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   entire PAC.  However, in many cases, the specific lists of security
   IDs contained in the PAC would be more directly useful to an
   application.  So there may not be a good one-to-one mapping between
   the mechanism-specific elements and the representation desirable at
   the GSS-API layer.

   Specific name matching rules need to be developed.  How do names with
   attributes compare?  What is the effect of a name attribute on a
   target name in gss_accept_sec_context?

4.3.  Handling gss_export_name

   For many mechanisms, there will be an obvious choice to use for the
   name exported by gss_export_name.  For example, in the case of
   Kerberos, the principal name can continue to be used as the exported
   name.  This will allow applications that depend on existing GSS-API
   name-based authorization to continue to work.  However, it is
   probably desirable to allow GSS-API mechanisms for which
   gss_export_name cannot meaningfully be defined.  In such cases, the
   behavior of gss_export_name should probably be to return some error.
   Such mechanisms may not work with existing applications and cannot
   conform to the current version of the GSS-API.

5.  Credential Extensions

   An alternative to the name attributes proposal is to extend GSS-API
   credentials with extensions labeled by OIDs.  Interfaces would be
   needed to manipulate these credential extensions and to retrieve the
   credential extensions for credentials used to establish a context.
   Even if name attributes are used, credential extensions may be useful
   for other unrelated purposes.

   It is possible to solve problems discussed in this document using
   some credential extension mechanism.  Doing so will have many of the
   same open issues as discussed in the composite names proposal.  The
   main advantage of a credential extensions proposal is that it avoids
   specifying how name attributes interact with name comparison or
   target names.

   The primary advantage of the name attributes proposal over credential
   extensions is that name attributes seem to fit better into the GSS-
   API authorization model.  Names are already available at all points
   when authorization decisions are made.  In addition, for many
   mechanisms, the sort of information carried as name attributes will
   also be carried as part of the name in the mechanism.

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6.  Mechanisms for Export Name

   Another proposal is to define some GSS-API mechanisms whose only
   purpose is to have an exportable name form that is useful.  For
   example, you might be able to export a name as a local machine user
   ID with such a mechanism.

   This solution works well for name information that can be looked up
   in a directory.  It was unclear whether this solution would allow
   mechanism-specific name information to be extracted from a context.
   If so, then this solution would meet many of the goals of this

   One advantage of this solution is that it requires few, if any,
   changes to GSS-API semantics.  It is not as flexible as other
   solutions.  Also, it is not clear how to handle mechanisms that do
   not have a well-defined name to export with this solution.

7.  Selection of Source Identity

   Today, applications such as e-mail clients and Web browsers require
   connections to multiple targets.  For each target, there may be one
   or more source identities that is appropriate for the connection.
   Currently each application must choose the source name to use when
   acquiring credentials or initiating a security context.  However, the
   rules that applications use can be generalized to a large extent.
   GSS-API could simplify application design and implementation by
   taking a larger role in selection of source identity to use when
   connecting to a particular target.

   Currently, GSS-API credentials represent a single mechanism name.
   That is, by the time credentials are acquired, they must act as if a
   particular single identity is chosen for each mechanism in the
   credential.  All these identities must correspond to a single
   mechanism independent name.

   Two possibilities have been proposed for involving GSS-API in the
   selection of source identities.  First, the restriction that a
   mechanism name must be chosen when credentials are acquired could be
   relaxed.  Some name form would need to be used, but this name form
   could represent a set of possibilities.  The particular identity
   would be chosen when context establishment happened.  This could
   involve information received from the target in identity selection.

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   Another possibility is to provide a mechanism to acquire credentials
   and to provide information about the target when credentials are
   acquired.  This would be much less of a change to GSS-API, but would
   not allow information received from the target to choose identity

   With both approaches, information to communicate the needs of the
   application to the GSS-API mechanism will be required.  For example,
   hinting about whether information can be cached and about the scope
   of cache entries is required.

   Another possibility can be implemented in GSS-API V2 today: Do not
   bind the credentials to a mechanism name until either the credentials
   are queried or they are used to set up a context.  This is
   undesirable because if an application uses the credential inquiry
   interface, then it will get different behavior than cases where this
   interface is not used.  For this reason, the working group favors an
   extension to GSS-API V3.

8.  Compatibility with GSS-API V2

   In order to avoid breaking existing applications or mechanisms, the
   following backward compatibility requirements need to be met:

   1.  Existing APIs must continue to behave as they do in GSS-API V2.

   2.  GSS-API V2 mechanisms must produce the same exported name forms;
       composite names cannot change the existing exported name forms.

   3.  Extensions add new optional behavior.

   If GSS-API V3 mechanisms are more permissive than GSS-API V2
   mechanisms, then care must be taken so that GSS-API V2 applications
   do not select these mechanisms.

9.  Security Considerations

   GSS-API sets up a security context between two named parties.  The
   GSS-API names are security assertions that are authenticated by the
   context establishment process.  As such, the GSS naming architecture
   is critical to the security of GSS-API.

   Currently, GSS-API uses a simplistic naming model for authorization.
   Names can be compared against a set of names on an access control
   list.  This architecture is relatively simple, and its security
   properties are well understood.  However, it does not provide the
   flexibility and feature set for future deployments of GSS-API.

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   This proposal will significantly increase the complexity of the GSS
   naming architecture.  As this proposal is fleshed out, we need to
   consider ways of managing security exposures created by this
   increased complexity.

   One area where the complexity may lead to security problems is
   composite names with attributes from different sources.  This may be
   desirable so that name attributes can carry their own authentication.
   However, the design of any solutions needs to make sure that
   applications can assign appropriate trust to name components.

10.  Acknowledgements

   John Brezak, Paul Leach, and Nicolas Williams all participated in
   discussions that led to a desire to enhance GSS naming.  Martin Rex
   provided descriptions of the current naming architecture and pointed
   out many ways in which proposed enhancements would create
   interoperability problems or increase complexity.  Martin also
   provided excellent information on what aspects of GSS naming have
   tended to be implemented badly or have not met the needs of some

   Nicolas Williams helped describe the possible approaches for
   enhancing naming.

11.  Informative References

   [1]  Adams, C., "The Simple Public-Key GSS-API Mechanism (SPKM)",
        RFC 2025, October 1996.

   [2]  Linn, J., "Generic Security Service Application Program
        Interface Version 2, Update 1", RFC 2743, January 2000.

   [3]  Neuman, C., Yu, T., Hartman, S., and K. Raeburn, "The Kerberos
        Network Authentication Service (V5)", RFC 4120, July 2005.

   [4]  Zhu, L., "Generating KDC Referrals to Locate Kerberos Realms",
        Work in Progress, June 2006.

   [5]  Housley, R., Polk, W., Ford, W., and D. Solo, "Internet X.509
        Public Key Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation
        List (CRL) Profile", RFC 3280, April 2002.

   [6]  Farrell, S. and R. Housley, "An Internet Attribute Certificate
        Profile for Authorization", RFC 3281, April 2002.

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Author's Address

   Sam Hartman

   EMail: hartmans-ietf@mit.edu

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