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Re: Decoupling PAM prompts from responses

On Sat, 22 Dec 2001, Michael Tokarev wrote:

> What you ask will be non-trivial task if at all possible.  Strictly
> speaking it is not possible, but let's draw a picture first.  A pam
> module calls a user callback, expecting an answer to be filled up
> or an error to be returned.  One of return code can be PAM_CONV_AGAIN.
> After this return, a module should return PAM_INCOMPLETE to the caller,
> and a caller should enshure conversation is ready and call the pam
> routine (e.g. pam_autenticate) again.  Looks like just what you want.
> But there are two problems.

> First of all, not all modules are ready to handle PAM_CONV_AGAIN
> properly (some of them will return some sort of generic error to the
> caller, e.g. PAM_AUTH_ERR).  Those are bugs but it is difficult to fix
> them.  (I looked to pam sources last time about a year ago, so things
> might be changed, but I doubt them was).

Honestly, I think that PAM modules would better support the event-driven
model if there were applications that needed it.  It would be a simple
matter to roll PAM_CONV_AGAIN support into all of the modules shipped with
Linux-PAM -- the changes are small, just time-consuming to apply to all of
the modules; and personally, I got a little bored implementing a feature
that I'd never seen used in the real world. :)

> And second, even if you do what this looks like a way to go, things
> will not work.  There will be no mapping between old and new prompts
> and responses.  Even if you'll collect both, there will be no way
> to fill up answers to old questions into new questions.  Moreover,
> there is no guarantee that new prompts will be the same!  Currently,
> with commonly used modules, you will get the same prompts with the
> same sequence next time.  But nothing stops to have a module that
> will ask another questions.

Actually, it's implied that a module which returns PAM_INCOMPLETE is smart
enough to save all of its state and re-ask the same set of questions the
next time it's called.  You're right that it wouldn't be very useful

I think the PAM_CONV_AGAIN/PAM_INCOMPLETE support found in Linux-PAM is
precisely the sort of thing that would address the needs of ssh.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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