Overview of existing and developing systems for Authentication and 
Authorisation and Policy/Role based Privilege Management

Yuri Demchenko
April-May 2003

1. Reference documents related to PKI and PMI
2. Overview of existing and currently developing PKI based systems
for Authorisation and Authentication
3. Using XML Security technologies in AA/PMI products

1. Reference documents related to PKI and PMI

There is a number of RFCs and current Internet drafts describing
different components of X.509 PKI: PKC, CP, AC, PMI, etc., - and some
implementation issues, in particular LDAP Schemas for PKC and AC and
matching rules (what is the main component of the widely used LDAP/PKI
based authentication mechanism).

Documents targeting some specific issues in deploying PKI for different
application areas and services include some documents of interest (in
the framework of IETF and GGF):
- Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure Proxy Certificate Profile,
- CA-based Trust Model for Grid Authentication and Identity Delegation
- Multiple Credentials scenarios
- others.

List of document with comments will be provided with the next update
of this document.

Good implementation set of documents on Electronic Signature (which
superset of PKI and digital signature) is developed by ETSI

One document is of obvious interest "ETSI TR 102 044 Requirements for
role and attribute certificates"
(http://webapp.etsi.org/action\PU/20021203/tr_102044v010101p.pdf). It
describes a set of requirements for attributes used both with PKC and AC
and provides a good set of practical recommendations and particularly
Guidelines for the certification of roles in subscription certificates.

PKI-Lite set of document developed and implemented by Internet2 among US
Universities - http://www.cren.net/crenca/pkilite/, particularly two
major documents:
"X.509 Certification Authority Policy & Practices" -
Relying Party Statement -

2. Overview of existing and currently developing PKI based systems
for Authorisation and Authentication

Proposed improved secure communication system for RIPE NCC users
actually require extensive range of functionality that needs to cover
both Authentication, Authorisation issues and Auditing and Accounting

There is no available general purpose system with such range of
functionality, however some components and solutions can be reused for
existing solutions.

2.1. PERMIS (PrivilEge and Role Management Infrastructure Standards

PERMIS is a project at Information Systems Security Research Group
(ISSRG) in University of Salford, UK

PERMIS is built on a basic concept of separating AuthN and AuthZ and
provides policy based authorisation service (i.e., PMI) that uses X.509
AC to hold roles/attributes.

* It can work with any and every AuthN system (e.g., username/pswd, PKI,
Kerberos, etc.) that provides AuthN decision and requests PERMIS for the

* Given a username, a target and an action, it says whether the user is
granted or denied access based on the policy for the target; PERMIS
needs access to the policy repository, attributes/roles or AC can may be
received in the request or retrieved from the AC storage.

* The policy is a role/attribute based, i.e. users are given
roles/attributes. Roles/attributes are given permissions to access targets

* The policy is written in XML similar to XACML

* PERMIS can work in push or pull mode (i.e. attributes are send to
PERMIS, e.g. by AuthN service or target's Source of Authority, or PERMIS
can fetch them from AC storage)

Additional information:

* PERMIS is created by the Information Systems Security Research Group
(ISSRG) in University of Salford chaired by David Chadwick

* PERMIS - is included into the Internet2 NMI-EDIT software release

Note. Currently the further development of the PERMIS for role-based
portal access solutions is considered with partial funding by European
NRENs for total amount of 50-60 KEuro. RIPE NCC can participate with
its share and define the policy and technical requirements for the
project extension.


PERMIS can work with planned RIPE NCC improved security system with
either using extended PKC for attributes/roles assignment or using AC
for AuthZ purposes.

2.2. SPOCP (Simple POlicy Control Protocol)

SPOCP is a cooperative project whose task is to create software for
authentication and authorisation services. The project started
informally May 10, 2002, and is planned to end on May 31, 2003.

The open source site - http:/www.spocp.org/, the software is currently
available at ftp://ftp.su.se/pub/spocp

User authentication is provided by authentication service through both
user name/passwords and x509-certificates. The authentication service is
normally deployed as a local authentication service.

SPOCP offers policy controlled authorisation advice to its clients,
using information provided by

* the user/client: authentication strength and an assumed role; and
* directories or other information services (user and resource
attributes such as roles and identity).

SPOCP uses LISP S-expression
(http://www.umu.se/it/projupp/spocp/software/s-expr.html) to compare
level of permissions requested by user/service and described by resource
access rules. Allowed access/AuthZ level is derived from ordered set of
rules described by policy for which request belongs to particular rule:

Example: (role UmU admin finance) <= (role UmU admin)

Example SPOCP query from SMTP server:
(spocp (resource mailrelay)(action mail)(subject (smtpauth roland)))

SPOCP provides simplified data/request exchange procedure (optimised for
policy based AuthZ) comparing to general purpose XACML and SAML in the
context of standard PMI (http://xml.coverpages.org/xacml.html). SPOCP
involves only communication between Application, Resource and SPOCP
server/engine. SPOCP has also simplified message format and policy
description format in a form of S-expressions.

SPOCP provides more flexible way of policy/role based access
control/AuthZ comparing to simple attribute matching approach (see
below), however requires more detailed policy description.


SPOCP can be used for policy based AuthZ service using X.509
Certificates with permissions described in a form of S-expressions, and
LDAP as a policy and user attributes storage.

2.3. PAPI (Point of Access to Providers of Information)

PAPI is a system for providing access control to restricted information
resources across the Internet. PAPI relies on authentication provided by
local to user authentication service, while leaving the information
providers full control over the resources they offer.

The authentication mechanisms are designed to be as flexible as
possible, allowing each organization to use its own authentication
scheme and apply local privacy rules.

AuthN service issues user attributes/permissions (in form of cookies)
which are presented to the Point of Access (PoA) or Global PoA managing
access policy to the resource (or group of resources). (G)PoA can apply
filters to user attributes to make an AuthZ decision and issues AuthZ
token in form of cookie that grants specific level of access to
particular resource or group of resources managed by PoA's.


PAPI uses simple and straightforward solution in issuing user attributes
token by AuthN server (but still not declared as any form of standard
format like X.509 AC). AuthZ granularity and flexibility is achieved by
AuthZ/attribute filters at (G)PoA. PAPI has an intention to implement AC
and SAML for AuthN/AuthZ assertions.

2.4. A-Select


A-Select offers a uniform user authentication service to web
applications in an organisation. A-Select can also be used for
cross-organisational authentication where users of federated
organisations can be authenticated according to the existing policy.
A-Select is completely web based and doesn't require any additional
software for users to install.

The A-Select systems consists of several components that communicate
with each other to provide user authentication to requested

* A-Select Aware Applications:
Applications may communicate directly with the A-Select Server or use
the A-Select Agent.

A-Select Agent:
The A-Select Agent is a software (a lightweight server or daemon) that
runs on the application server and communicate with the application via
API. A-Select Agent provides session management and generation of
application tickets.

A-Select Server:
The A-Select Server authenticates users in a transparent manner. The
A-Select Server has a database storing information about users and how
they can be authenticated. Applications that need to authenticate a user
will redirect him/her to the A-Select Server. When the user is
authenticated, the A-Select Server will issue the user credentials and
redirect him/her back to application. The A-Select Server does not
authenticate users himself but rather redirects him/her to an A-Select
Authentication Service Provider (ASP). The A-Select Server maintains a
registry of all ASP servers and also knows which ASP can authenticate
which users.

A-Select Authentication Service Provider:
The A-Select Authentication Service Provider (ASP) is a server that
knows how to authenticate a user in some manner. Typically, an ASP
offers a web front-end for traditional authentication systems like
RADIUS, LDAP authentication etc. ASPs may be local or remote.

A-Select uses a tickets which hold user credentials. There are two
types of tickets: "ticket granting ticket" issued after successful user
AuthN by ASP and "application ticket" issued by A-Select aware
application. Single-Sign-on functionality is provided by assigning
longer lifetime for ticket granting tickets. The A-Select tickets are
implemented as non-persistent cookies which are stored in the browser
memory and are visible only for target server/service.

Applications may define different level of authentication. A-Select has
well developed trust model that relies on the following trust relations
between involved parties:

- users trust application servers
- users trust A-Select server
- users trust ASP server
- applications trust A-Select server
- A-Select server trusts ASP server
- ASP trusts A-Select server
- A-Select server trusts A-Select servers


A-Select uses rather complicated authentication scheme because of
separating ASP function. This approach may be beneficial for future
migration to Identity management technology like Liberty.

2.5. Shibboleth and WebISO/Pubcookie


Shibboleth and WebISO/Pubcookie (Web Initial Sign-On) are technologies
developed by Internet2 project for US Universities respectfully for
inter-institutional AuthZ and AuthN and SSO.

Shibboleth provides attribute-based AuthZ model. A particular feature of
Shibboleth is its concern with the privacy of the individual, its
protocol requires attributes to be maintained and stored by the
institutions, and released selectively to resource providers with only
those attributes which are required for the authorisation decision
requested by resource provider. Shibboleth protocol/architecture intents
to keep user anonymity when accessing the resource. The individual user
is given power to control which attributes may or may not be released to
specified remote services.

Shibboleth is attracting definite interest from commercial providers,
it's developed with contribution from IBM. It generically uses SAML for
security assertions exchange.

WebISO system is designed to allow users, with standard browsers, to
authenticate to web-based services across many webservers, using a
standard (typically username/password) central AuthN system. WebISO
- Weblogin service
- Verification Service
- Web Application Agent
- Web Application
- Web browser

Pubcookie security model uses a shared symmetric key to encrypt certain
messages sent between each application server and the login server, to
prevent certain types "man-in-the-middle" attacks. New keys are
generated by the Pubcookie "keyserver" application running on a site's
login server They are negotiated and distributed using the Pubcookie
"keyclient" utility during the setup phase of each application server.
Keys are then maintained by the Pubcookie "keyserver" application
running on a site's login server. Key can be revoked at the login
server, but automatic expiration and renewal processes are not yet

3. Using XML Security technologies in AA/PMI products

This section will provide basic reference information about XML based
technologies for providing security assertions and secure AA/Identity
tokens exchange for AA(A) and PMI solutions.

Particular topics will include: XML Signature, XML Encryption, SAML,
XACML, Liberty Identity management, and others related to Web Services