Bridging SASL and GSS-API: GS2

Yesterday (12th July 2010) the RFC editor announced the publication of RFC 5801, which I’m co-author of. The GS2 document has taken 5 years to reach this status, see my page on GS2 status.

So what is GS2? Briefly explained, it is a method that turns every GSS-API mechanism (with some exceptions) into a SASL mechanism automatically. The document describes a way to transform GSS-API mechanism OIDs (e.g., 1.2.840.113554.1.2.2) into SASL mechanism names (e.g., GS2-QLJHGJLWNPL) which takes care of uniquely identifying each mechanism in each framework. The content of each SASL message is exactly the same as the GSS-API context tokens, except (no rules without exceptions..) for the first message from the client to the server. The first message is modified to include a short prefix — called the “GS2 header” — before the first GSS-API context token. The shortest GS2 header is “n,,” which denotes that no channel binding is supported and no authorization identity is present. The GSS-API context token is modified to remove the ASN.1 blob that RFC 2743 section 3.1 requires to be present.

One important aspect of the GS2 design is that we make it easy for SASL mechanisms to become GSS-API mechanisms. To align a SASL mechanism to the GS2 framework, and thus to make it a GSS-API mechanism, a few steps are required. First, you need to assign an OID for the mechanism (if you don’t know how to do this, just contact me and I’ll assign an OID for you). Then you need to make sure the first message is compatible with GS2 in that it uses the GS2 header to signal channel binding and authorization identity. Finally, you need some discussion about what it means for your SASL mechanism to be used as a GSS-API mechanism. This may include discussions on naming types, meaning and use of GSS-API flags, whether delegated credentials are supported, how per-message tokens work.

The primary example SASL mechanism to make use of the GS2 design to become a GSS-API mechanism is SCRAM: also published yesterday as RFC 5802. SCRAM is an updated variant of the CRAM-MD5 and DIGEST-MD5 mechanisms (for example, it uses SHA-1 instead of MD5). Another recent example is the OpenID SASL mechanism.

My project GNU SASL supports both GS2 and SCRAM, see my earlier post on testing GS2-KRB5. I am not aware of any other project that implements GS2 yet, that is why my implementation is still marked as experimental.

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