KITTEN R. Harwood
Internet-Draft Red Hat
Updates: 2743, 2744 (if approved) N. Williams
Intended status: Standards Track Cryptonector
Expires: April 8, 2018 October 5, 2017

Channel Binding Signalling for the Generic Security Services Application Programming Interface


Channel binding is a technique that allows applications to use a secure channel at a lower layer without having to use authentication at that lower layer. The concept of channel binding comes from the Generic Security Services Application Programming Interface (GSS-API). It turns out that the semantics commonly implemented are different than those specified in the base GSS-API RFC (RFC2743), and that that specification has a serious bug. This document addresses both the inconsistency as-implemented and the specification bug.

This Internet-Draft proposes the addition of a “channel bound” return flag for the GSS_Init_sec_context() and GSS_Accept_sec_context() functions. Two behaviors are specified: a default, safe behavior reflecting existing implementation deployments, and a behavior that is only safe when the application specifically tells the GSS-API that it (the application) supports the new behavior. Additional API elements related to this are also added, including a new security context establishment API.

Status of This Memo

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The GSS-API [RFC2743] supports “channel binding” [RFC5056], a technique for detection of man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks in secure channels at lower network layers. This facility is meant to be all-or-nothing: either both the initiator and acceptor use it and it succeeds, or both must not use it. This has created a negotiation problem when retrofitting the use of channel binding into existing application protocols.

However, GSS-APIv2u1 [RFC2743] does not specify channel binding behavior when only one party provides provides none. In practice some mechanisms ignore channel bindings when the acceptor provides none, but not when the initiator provides none. [XXX add references to the relevant SSPI docs? -Nico] Note that it would be useless to allow security context establishment to succeed when the initiator does not provide channel bindings but the acceptor does, at least as long as there's no outward indication of whether channel binding was used! Since the GSS-APIv2u1 does not provide any such indication, this document corrects that flaw.

Allowing the connection to succeed when an initiator provides bindings but an acceptor does not has helped deployment of channel binding in existing applications: first fix all the initiators, then fix all the acceptors. But even this technique is insufficient when there are many clients to fix, such that fixing them all will take a long time. Additionally, it limits the usefulness of channel bindings, while allowing the acceptor to provide but not enforce would protect against man in the middle attacks (for channel binding aware initiators).

This document proposes a new method for deployment of channel binding that allows the feature to be enabled on the acceptor side before fixing all initiators. If the GSS-API had always had a return flag by which to indicate channel binding state then we could have had a simpler method of deploying channel binding: applications check that return flag and act accordingly (e.g., fail when channel binding is required). We cannot safely introduce this behavior now without an indication of support by the application.

Additionally, there may be applications where it is important for initiators to know that acceptors did use channel binding, and even to know whether a mechanism is capable of indicating as much. We add a request flag and two mechanism attributes for such applications.

1.1. Design and Future directions

The design for signalling application flag support and empty contexts is based on the Java Bindings of the GSS-API [RFC5653]. This document begins introduction of additional context inquiry and mutation functions, which eventually will also allow for simplified stepping to replace the GSS_Init/Accept_sec_context() loop.

1.2. Conventions used in this document

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2. Channel Binding State Extension

We propose a new return flag for GSS_Init_sec_context() and GSS_Accept_sec_context(), as well as a pair of functions for a) creating “empty” security context handles, b) requesting flags and indicating which flags the application understands. We also add new mechanism attributes describing mechanism capabilities.

C bindings of these extensions are provided along the lines of [RFC2744] and [RFC5587].

In the future we might move more of the many input (and output) arguments to GSS_Init_sec_context() and GSS_Accept_sec_context() into mutators on empty security context handles.

2.1. GSS_Create_sec_context()



Return major status codes:

This function creates an “empty” security context handle that can be passed to GSS_Init_sec_context() or GSS_Accept_sec_context() where they expect a NULL context.

2.1.1. C-Bindings

 gss_create_sec_context(OM_uint32 *minor_status,
                        gss_ctx_id_t *context);

2.2. GSS_Set_context_flags()


req_flags FLAGS
Requested flags. Applicable to acceptors and initiators.
ret_flags_understood FLAGS
The set of return flags understood by the caller.


Return major status codes:

This function tells the mechanism (when one is eventually chosen and invoked) that the application requests the given req_flags and is prepared to check the flags in the given ret_flags_understood. Mechanisms SHOULD NOT limit flags returned to those in ret_flags_understood, but MAY alter behavior accordingly. Initiators can override the req_flags in their GSS_Init_sec_context() call, but if no flags are requested there then the req_flags set on the empty context will be used. GSS_Accept_sec_context() is not required to perform any action based on req_flags at this time.

NOTE: The abstract GSS-API [RFC2743] uses individual elements--one per-flag--instead of a “FLAGS” type. This is unwieldy, therefore we introduce an abstract type named “FLAGS” to act as a set of all the request/return flags defined for the abstract GSS-API.

2.2.1. C-Bindings

 gss_set_context_flags(OM_uint32 *minor_status,
                       gss_ctx_id_t context,
                       uint64_t req_flags,
                       uint64_t ret_flags_understood);

2.3. Return Flag for Channel Binding State Signalling

Whenever both the initiator and the acceptor provide matching channel bindings to GSS_Init_sec_context() and GSS_Accept_sec_context(), respectively, then the mechanism SHALL indicate that the context is channel bound via an output flag, ret_channel_bound_flag, for the established context. Note that some mechanisms have no way for the acceptor to signal CB success to the initiator, in which case GSS_Init_sec_context() MUST NOT output the ret_channel_bound_flag.

2.3.1. C-Bindings

 #define GSS_C_CHANNEL_BOUND_FLAG 2048 /* 0x00000800 */

2.4. New Mechanism Attributes

OID assignments TBD.

2.5. Request Flag for Acceptor Confirmation of Channel Binding

We add a new request flag for GSS_Init_sec_context(), req_cb_confirmation_flag, to be used by initiators that insist on acceptors providing channel bindings. This flag is only of use to mechanism-negotiation pseudo-mechanisms (e.g., SPNEGO [RFC4178]): if set, the pseudo-mechanism MUST NOT negotiate any mechanisms that lack both the GSS_C_MA_CBINDING_CONFIRM and GSS_C_MA_CBINDING_MAY_CONFIRM mechanism attributes, and SHOULD NOT negotiate mechanisms that lack the GSS_C_MA_CBINDING_CONFIRM mechanism attribute (except if allowed by local configuration).

2.5.1. C-Bindings

Because GSS_C_CHANNEL_BOUND_FLAG is a return flag only, and this flag is a request flag only, and to save on precious flag bits, we use the same flag bit assignment for both flags:

 #define GSS_C_CB_CONFIRM_FLAG 2048 /* 0x00000800 */

2.6. Handling Empty Contexts in Other GSS-API Functions

GSS_Init_sec_context() and GSS_Accept_sec_context() operate on empty security contexts as specified above (i.e., examining flags).

All other GSS-API functions MUST treat empty contexts as they would GSS_C_NO_CONTEXT as well. For most functions, this will result in returning GSS status code GSS_S_NO_CONTEXT.

GSS_Delete_sec_context() MUST NOT output a context deletion token when applied to empty security contexts.

3. Modified Channel Binding Semantics

The channel binding semantics of the base GSS-API are modified as follows:

4. Security Considerations

This document deals with security. There are no security considerations that should be documented separately in this section. To recap, this document fixes a significant flaw in the base GSS-API [RFC2743] specification that fortunately has not been implemented, and it adds a feature (that should have been in the base specification) for improved negotiation of use of channel binding [RFC5056].

5. IANA Considerations

Two GSS-API mechanism attributes are to be added to the “SMI Security for Mechanism gsscma Codes” registry established by RFC5587 [RFC5587]. See Section 2.4.

6. References

6.1. Normative References

[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997.
[RFC2743] Linn, J., "Generic Security Service Application Program Interface Version 2, Update 1", RFC 2743, DOI 10.17487/RFC2743, January 2000.
[RFC2744] Wray, J., "Generic Security Service API Version 2 : C-bindings", RFC 2744, DOI 10.17487/RFC2744, January 2000.
[RFC5056] Williams, N., "On the Use of Channel Bindings to Secure Channels", RFC 5056, DOI 10.17487/RFC5056, November 2007.
[RFC5587] Williams, N., "Extended Generic Security Service Mechanism Inquiry APIs", RFC 5587, DOI 10.17487/RFC5587, July 2009.

6.2. Informative References

[RFC4178] Zhu, L., Leach, P., Jaganathan, K. and W. Ingersoll, "The Simple and Protected Generic Security Service Application Program Interface (GSS-API) Negotiation Mechanism", RFC 4178, DOI 10.17487/RFC4178, October 2005.
[RFC5653] Upadhyay, M. and S. Malkani, "Generic Security Service API Version 2: Java Bindings Update", RFC 5653, DOI 10.17487/RFC5653, August 2009.

Authors' Addresses

Robbie Harwood Red Hat, Inc. EMail:
Nicolas Williams Cryptonector, LLC EMail: