[Pulp-dev] authentication proposal for 3.0

Brian Bouterse bbouters at redhat.com
Tue Sep 20 16:49:25 UTC 2016

This plan looks really great. Thank you both for getting this effort going!

I have a couple of questions/ideas. If you want these on the ticket 
instead just let me know.

1. To recap what SSL users should transition onto... For a use case 
where a user wants to place a file on a system and that system or a user 
who can access that file can use that as their credential (like SSL did 
for us) how will they do that? Is it that they would use some cert based 
authn through apache or FreeIPA? Or would they get a never expiring or 
long-expiring JWT that an admin generated at one time and put in a file?

2. Say you have an apache system that is aware of two or more authn 
authorities. How will a user 'foo' in each of them be told apart, are 
they namespaced in some way?

3. Is the group use case compelling/important enough that it should be 
included with 3.0.0? We could avoid extending djangorestframework-jwt, 
to trust the REMOTE_USER_* variables which would lower the complexity of 
this area of pulp 3. I suspect the answer is yes, but I wanted to ask 
the question.

4. If we are going to extend djangorestframework-jwt is the plan to 
contribute these new views upstream to them? It seems like 
djangorestframework-jwt would benefit integration with 
mod_lookup_identity. We could carry the implementation until they 
accepted it so we are not blocked.

Thanks again for this great plan. It includes so many good, well thought 
out ideas and decisions.


On 09/20/2016 10:47 AM, Michael Hrivnak wrote:
> Tanya and I have been evaluating authentication use cases against
> available solutions for Pulp 3. This email includes a summary of the
> goals we identified, based input from numerous stakeholders, and a
> working proposal for a set of technologies we can use to achieve them.
> Please provide feedback, ask questions, and suggest alternatives if you
> know of something that may be better. I hope to turn this thread into a
> set of redmine tasks and stories soon.
> Please note that this covers authentication only. Authorization is a
> related, but distinct, problem that we think can be solved separately.
> Planning thus far has been tracked here:
> https://pulp.plan.io/issues/2090
> Goals
> ---------
> - As a user, I can authenticate to the REST API when pulp is the authn
> authority.
> - As a user, I can authenticate to the REST API using an external
> authority such as FreeIPA or AD.
> - Participate in the django auth ecosystem so we don't have to reinvent
> things, and so we can integrate well with django add-ons.
> - The REST API does not and should not have sessions. Any persistent
> token should be used for auth only.
> - Authenticating to external authorities is hard. To the extent that
> it's reasonable to do so, leverage other tools for this.
> --------
> The working proposal is to use djangorestframework-jwt for token-based
> authentication to the REST API, and leverage a set of apache modules to
> handle authentication and retrieval of user attributes from an external
> authority.
> Status Quo
> ----------------
> Pulp 2 supports client SSL certificates as an option for authentication,
> and as the only option when using the "login" feature. Client SSL certs
> are a well-known and tested standard that is robust. However, their
> complexity has caused continued friction in the user experience.
> Situations such as an expired certificate, changing the CA on the
> server, or restricted filesystem access to a certificate are difficult
> to diagnose in large part because SSL libraries do a poor job of error
> reporting. Connection negotiation fails, and it can be unclear why.
> From a development perspective, working with client ssl certificates can
> be challenging, such as the requirement from many libraries to provide a
> path to a certificate on disk.
> As such, while client SSL certificates would be a viable solution for
> pulp 3, a token-based authentication approach would be simpler and more
> in-line with how other APIs handle authentication.
> Token authentication may be marginally less secure than client SSL
> certificates, since the entire token must be sent with every request.
> However, in order for that to be compromised (assuming https is in use),
> a third party would need the ability to eavesdrop and decrypt the ssl
> traffic.
> Basic Auth
> ----------------
> Django and DRF (django rest framework) provide basic auth support out of
> the box, including password management. This can be enabled for the
> entire REST API and any other views we want.
> Tokens
> ----------
> Most modern network-based APIs use some variety of token authentication.
> A token is a string obtained after proving identity (through basic auth
> or some other means), which is used to prove identity for future
> requests by including it in an Authorization header.
> Authenticating against an external authority can be an expensive
> operation, particularly in terms of latency and load on the external
> service. Using tokens allows the external authn to take place only once
> per user within some period of time.
> Tokens normally do not require server-side state. (There are exceptions,
> such as DRF's own token support, which stores a random string in the DB
> just because it's convenient.) This reduces database dependence and use,
> which has slight performance benefits and would allow services to
> respond to requests even when the database is unavailable. It also
> allows trust to easily be delegated among services.
> One advantage that client SSL certs have over tokens is that they can be
> explicitly revoked (although doing so may not be easy). Tokens can be
> indirectly revoked if they contain an "issued" timestamp. For example,
> it's normal for a token-based authn system to reject a token that was
> issued before the user's most recent password reset. That said, if
> tokens are only being used for authn, user access can and should still
> be enforced by authz, so that is another mechanism for turning off a
> user's access.
> DRF includes built-in token support, but it stores tokens in the
> database. This adds the characteristics of a session identifier, which
> is not desirable for a stateless REST API.
> ------
> JSON Web Tokens are a popular open standard (RFC 7519) commonly used for
> API authentication. They are widely supported by many libraries in many
> languages, simple to use, small, and can include arbitrary data as is
> useful to the issuing application. Validity is verified by signature and
> an optional expiration time.
> https://jwt.io/
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSON_Web_Token
> djangorestframework-jwt is a recommended library that works out of the
> box, and it is our current proposal for use with Pulp 3. I'll refer to
> it as "drf-jwt" for brevity.
> http://getblimp.github.io/django-rest-framework-jwt/
> How to Get a Token
> ----------------------------
> drf-jwt comes with a view that issues a token after successful basic
> auth, integrating with django's user ecosystem. There is also a view for
> renewing a token.
> Given that pulp needs to authenticate also to external sources, the view
> used to obtain a token needs to be extended for that support. It's a
> simple integration point, but before diving more into drf-jwt, let's
> look at that integration.
> External Auth
> ------------------
> The FreeIPA project has a comprehensive guide that is worth reading if
> you are interested in the topic:
> https://www.freeipa.org/page/Web_App_Authentication
> They advise that utilizing any of several apache modules for external
> auth is a best practice, combined with mod_lookup_identity to pass user
> attributes to a web application. The primary advantage is that this
> offloads authentication work, which can be very complex, to a separate
> project that specializes in it.
> One downside is that it does potentially limit deployment to apache
> httpd. But there is work in-progress to make similar modules available
> for nginx. Presumably users who do not require external auth could use a
> non-apache web server. Another option is that there are some plugins
> available for django that support specific types of external authn
> without requiring apache modules, such as django-auth-ldap.
> ---------------------------
> mod_lookup_identity is the recommended solution by the FreeIPA project
> for allowing a web app to discover user identity and related attributes
> from a trusted authentication source. It uses SSSD to lookup attributes,
> and then it sets various REMOTE_USER_* environment variables within the
> context of a request. Any web application can then trust those values,
> making it a simple integration point.
> Commonly-available attributes include username, email, first name, last
> name, and group membership.
> Auto-Creation of Users
> --------------------------------
> In addition to looking for and trusting the REMOTE_USER environment
> variable, the drf-jwt token creation view would be extended to
> automatically create and update users. When invoked, it would:
> - trust the REMOTE_USER value for authentication
> - if the user exists in the DB, update its attributes with the other
> REMOTE_USER_* values
> - if the user does not exist in the DB, create it based on the
> REMOTE_USER_* values
> Group membership is an interesting aspect. One compelling approach we
> saw is to auto-create groups and prefix their names with something like
> "ext:". A user in the "ops" group in their enterprise directory would
> get put in an auto-generated pulp group called "ext:ops".
> Authz will merit its own planning, but presumably we will include the
> ability to authorize based on group membership. This would provide a
> nice integration story where a new employee could be added to a group by
> HR in their enterprise directory, and they would automatically get the
> corresponding permissions in pulp.
> Summary
> -------------
> The working proposal is to use djangorestframework-jwt, and extend it to
> trust the REMOTE_USER_* environment variables when creating tokens.
> External authentication would be done by one of several apache modules,
> thus requiring no explicit support in pulp.
> Please ask questions and provide feedback.
> A big thank-you goes to Tanya, who kept this investigation going and did
> a ton of the analysis. Also thank you to the many users who provided
> input, which we will continue to apply while planning authz.
> Michael
> _______________________________________________
> Pulp-dev mailing list
> Pulp-dev at redhat.com
> https://www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo/pulp-dev

More information about the Pulp-dev mailing list