Friday, January 23, 2009


Insecure Federated Identity Deployments

James McGovern, Jackson Shaw, Mark Diodati, Jeff Bohren, Ian Glazer, Ashish Jain, and Pat Patterson have been discussing various aspects of federated identity related to SPML and SAML. It is now time to go a little deeper...

In today's posting, I wanted to analyze the response provided by Pat Patterson of Sun as well as ask some additional questions to see if anyone has the answers.

Does anyone know in typical deployments who has the responsibility of generating these identifiers (IDP or RP)? Do IdM products such as Sun's IdM, Oracle OIM, Courion, OpenIAM, Keychain, etc have a secure way built in to generate identifiers and pass them to third parties? Should they be exchanged via SPML, some other open standard or is this intentionally left undefined?

While OpenSSO doesn't separate these two tiers, Oracle, CA and pretty much every other vendor does, so let's alter the scenario slightly so that Sun can participate in the discussion. Let's say that I have an application already protected by CA Siteminder, Oracle CoreID, Yale CAS, etc and I want to use OpenSSO strictly for its federation capabilities. How should OpenSSO pass authentication context to these web access management products and what APIs would it use?

When people are learning a new technology, they tend to keep it simple and develop suboptimal habits. I recently did an exercise to see if past books I have written had examples of OWASP vulnerabilities and found several. To think that folks have learned to program high quality but otherwise potentially insecurely from my writings is troubling. So, what is the call to action to prevent this same thing from happening in the world of federation? Are vendors keeping it too simple? If you were to search the documentation for RSA, PingIdentity, Oracle, etc do you think they cover the aspects you outlined? Does Sun become a member of OWASP to have someone analyze the insecure aspects of federation help?

Wouldn't segregating local and federated users into different domains require deploying additional unnecessary infrastructure? If the RP gets its profile by reading a UID value in a cookie and then binding to a directory service, wouldn't this require changing the security model of the application which begs the question of how enterprise applications need to change to support federation. For the most part, this is undocumented and never discussed in the blogosphere Is this a use-case for leveraging XACML?

Now for some additional questions:

1. If a federated identity product is deployed as a separate tier from an application and the IDP when sending an assertion needs to not only send values that may be stored in a directory (e.g. OpenDS, OpenLDAP, etc) but also include values that may be calculated by the application at runtime, how would this work? What APIs would be used and more importantly what APIs should exist but are missing?

2. SAML 2.0 identifiers is a great concept and Pat shows how OpenSSO can leverage them. I am curious though when they are stored in a directory service such as OpenDS, should they have a standard IETF OID for holding this attribute/objectClass?

3. I haven't looked in detail, but the SAML 2.0 identifier outlined feels the same as the PPID leveraged in Cardspace. If they are different, then did Microsoft violate some principle? If they are the same, then shouldn't there be a standard as to how this is represented as MS will generate it differently than Sun? What other "best practices" exist around generating this value?

4. Did Gerry Gebel of the Burton Group test out these scenarios at the Catalyst conference?

5. Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out with some folks from Voltage who discussed the concept of identity based encryption (IBE). Should federations support IBE in addition to traditional PKI approaches?

6. Does Sun have any plans on making the J2EE Petstore OpenID and federation-enabled?

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