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Department of Computer Science Mahatma Gandhi College of Engineering Vandithadam, Thiruvananthapuram, India
Abstract - In an open network computing environment, a workstation cannot be trusted to identify its users correctly to network services. Kerberos provides an alternative approach whereby a trusted third-party authentication service is used to verify users’ identities. This paper gives an overview of the Kerberos authentication model as implemented for MIT’s Project Athena. It describes the protocols used by clients, servers, and Kerberos to achieve authentication. It also describes the management and replication of database required. Kerberos is a computer network authentication protocol, which allows nodes communicating over a non-secure network to provide their identity to one another in a secure manner. Its designers aimed primarily at a client-server model, and it provides mutual authentication – both the user and the server verify each other’s identity. Kerberos protocol messages are protected against eavesdropping and replay attacks. It is designed to provide strong authentication for client-server applications by using secret-key cryptography. In summary, Kerberos is a solution to the network security problems. It provides the tools of authentication and strong cryptography over the network to help user secure his information systems across the entire enterprise.
network monitoring tools and learning other users and root passwords. Another big problem was some PC/ATs which were lacking even fundamental internal security. To protect the users’ data in the network environment as it had been protected in the timesharing environment Kerberos was invented. Kerberos is an authentication system that uses symmetric key cryptography to protect sensitive information on an open network. It is a ticket based system that issues a ticket encrypted with the user’s password when he or she logs in. The user decrypts the ticket and uses it to obtain tickets for other network services he or she wants to use. Because all information in tickets is encrypted, it is not susceptible to eavesdropping or misappropriation. MIT developed Kerberos to protect network services provided by Project Athena. The protocol was named after the Greek mythological character Kerberos (or Cerberus), known in Greek mythology as being the monstrous three-headed guard dog of Hades. B. Motivation In a network of users requiring services from many separate computers, there are three approaches one can take to access control: One can do nothing, relying on the machine to which the user is logged in to prevent unauthorized access; one can require the host to prove its identity, but trust the host’s word as to who the user is; or one can require the user to prove her/his identity for each required service. In a closed environment where all the machines are under strict control, one can use the first approach. When the organization controls all the hosts communicating over the network, this is a reasonable approach. In a more open environment, one might selectively trust only those hosts under organizational control. In this case, each host must be required to prove its identity. In those protocols, authentication is done by checking the Internet address from which a connection has been established. In the Athena environment, we must be able to honor requests from hosts that are not under organizational control.
Computer security has been a problem since the very beginning. Proper authentication and protection using cryptographic methods is a must in today’s electronic communication. Kerberos provides an infrastructure to achieve this using symmetric cryptography. A. History Kerberos was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during a project intended to integrate computers into the university’s undergraduate curriculum. The project, called Athena, started in 1983 with UNIX timesharing computers, having several terminals connected to each one, but without a network connection. If a student or staff member wanted to use any of the computers, he or she sat down at one of these terminals. As soon as the terminals and old computers were substituted by newer workstations with network connection, the project’s goal was to allow any user to sit down at the workstation of his or her choice accessing his data over the network (which is a very common scenario for every network today). The problem of network eavesdropping became apparent. Since the network has been accessible from all over the campus, nothing prevented students from running
Users have complete control of their workstations: they can reboot them, bring them up standalone, or even boot off their own tapes. As such, the third approach must be taken; the user must prove her/his identity for each desired service. The server must also prove its identity. It is not sufficient to physically secure the host running a network server; someone elsewhere on the network may be masquerading as the given server. The environment places several requirements on an identification mechanism. First, it must be secure. Circumventing it must be difficult enough that a potential attacker does not find the authentication mechanism to be the weak link. Someone watching the network should not be able to obtain the information necessary to impersonate another user. Second, it must be reliable. Access to many services will depend on the authentication service. If it is not reliable, the system of services as a whole will not be. Third, it should be transparent. Ideally, the user should not be aware of authentication taking place. Finally, it should be scalable. Many systems can communicate with Athena hosts. Not all of these will support the mechanism, but software should not break if they did. Kerberos is the result of our work to satisfy the above requirements. When a user walks up to a workstation she/he “logs in”. As far as the user can tell, this initial identification is sufficient to prove her/his identity to all the required network servers for the duration of the login session. The security of Kerberos relies on the security of several authentication servers, but not on the system from which users log in, or on the security of the end servers that will be used. The authentication server provides a properly authenticated user with a way to prove her/his identity to servers scattered across the network.
Kerberos’ judgement as to the identity of each of its other clients to be accurate. Timestamps (large numbers representing the current date and time) have been added to the original model to aid in the detection of replay. Replay occurs when a message is stolen off the network and resent later. A.Protocol Kerberos uses as its basis the symmetric NeedhamSchroeder protocol. 1)Needham-Schroeder Authentication An approach to secure authentication is the NeedhamSchroeder protocol. It defines a three-party authentication service and five step message chain. In the very first step the client requests a session key for communication with a certain service. The requested session key and a message encrypted for the service is send back to the client encrypted with the client’s key to protect it in an open network. The client forwards the part for the service (which is encrypted with the service key) to the desired service. After that the service generates a random message which is sent back to the client encrypted with the session key. This random message is transformed in a predefined way and sent back to the server encrypted with the session key as well to prove that A was the sender of message number three. After performing these five steps the service can be sure that the client has authenticated itself correctly, because only the client knows the key to decrypt message two. This protocol is no longer considered secure as B does not know if the key is fresh. If an attacker obtains an old key he or she can perform a replay attack and convince B that the key they hold is the current key of A. 2) Needham-Schroeder in Kerberos
Kerberos is a computer network authentication protocol, which allows nodes communicating over a non-secure network to prove their identity to one another in a secure manner. The Kerberos protocol is designed to provide reliable authentication over open and insecure networks where communications between the hosts belonging to it may be intercepted. However, one should be aware that Kerberos does not provide any guarantees if the computers being used are vulnerable: the authentication servers, application servers and clients must be kept constantly updated so that the authenticity of the requesting users and service providers can be guaranteed. Thus we can say that: "Kerberos is an authentication protocol for trusted hosts on untrusted networks". Kerberos is a trusted third-party authentication service based on the model presented by Needham and Schroeder. It is trusted in the sense that each of its clients believes
Kerberos uses a variant of Needham-Schroeder, which uses timestamps on every message to avoid the problem mentioned above. Due to the fact that it is a problem to keep all clocks returning exact the same time in a network environment, every message is valid in a time window from five minutes in the past to five minutes in the future. In a short time slot of ten minutes length replay attacks are impeded by a replay cache held by every service. Messages are cached as long as they are valid and authentication attempts using messages which are already held in cache can be refused.
This section provides the definition of the objects and terms, knowledge of which is essential for the subsequent description of the Kerberos protocol. A.Realm
The term realm indicates an authentication administrative domain. Its intention is to establish the boundaries within which an authentication server has the authority to authenticate a user, host or service. This does not mean that the authentication between a user and a service that they must belong to the same realm: if the two objects are part of different realms and there is a trust relationship between them, then the authentication can take place. This characteristic is known as Cross-Authentication Basically, a user/service belongs to a realm if and only if he/it shares a secret (password/key) with the authentication server of that realm. The name of a realm is case sensitive, i.e. there is a difference between upper and lower case letters, but normally realms always appear in upper case letters. It is also good practice, in an organization, to make the realm name the same as the DNS domain (in upper case letters though). Following these tips when selecting the realm name significantly simplifies the configuration of Kerberos clients, above all when it is desired to establish trust relationships with subdomains. By way of example, if an organization belongs to the DNS domain example.com, it is appropriate that the related Kerberos realm is EXAMPLE.COM. B.Principal A principal is the name used to refer to the entries in the authentication server database. A principal is associated with each user, host or service of a given realm. A principal in Kerberos 5 is of the following type: component1/component2/.../componentN@REALM However, in practice a maximum of two components are used. For an entry referring to a user the principal is the following type: Name[/Instance]@REALM The instance is optional and is normally used to better qualify the type of user. For example administrator users normally have the admin instance. The following are examples of principals referred to users: mark@EXAMPLE.COM admin/admin@EXAMPLE.COM pluto/admin@EXAMPLE.COM If, instead, the entries refer to services, the principals assume the following form: Service/Hostname@REALM C. Ticket
A ticket is something a client presents to an application server to demonstrate the authenticity of its identity. Tickets are issued by the authentication server and are encrypted using the secret key of the service they are intended for. Since this key is a secret shared only between the authentication server and the server providing the service, not even the client which requested the ticket can know it or change its contents. The main information contained in a ticket includes: • The requesting user's principal (generally the username); • The principal of the service it is intended for; • The IP address of the client machine from which the ticket can be used. In Kerberos 5 this field is optional and may also be multiple in order to be able to run clients under NAT or multihomed. • The date and time (in timestamp format) when the tickets validity commences; • The ticket's maximum lifetime • The session key (this has a fundamental role which is described below); Each ticket has expiration (generally 10 hours). This is essential since the authentication server no longer has any control over an already issued ticket. Even though the realm administrator can prevent the issuing of new tickets for a certain user at any time, it cannot prevent users from using the tickets they already possess. This is the reason for limiting the lifetime of the tickets in order to limit any abuse over time. D. Encryption Kerberos often needs to encrypt and decrypt the messages (tickets and authenticators) passing between the various participants in the authentication. It is important to note that Kerberos uses only symmetrical key encryption (in other words the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt). 1) Encryption type
Kerberos 4 implements a single type of encryption which is DES at 56 bits. The weakness of this encryption plus other protocol vulnerabilities has made Kerberos 4 obsolete. Version 5 of Kerberos, however, does not predetermine the number or type of encryption methodologies supported. It is the task of each specific implementation to support and best negotiate the various types of encryption. However, this flexibility and expandability of the protocol has accentuated interoperability problems between the various implementations of Kerberos 5. In order for clients and application and authentication servers using different implementations to interoperate, they must have at least one encryption type in common. The difficulty related to the interoperability between UNIX implementations of Kerberos 5 and the one present in the Active Directory of Windows is a classic example of this. Indeed, Windows Active Directory
supports a limited number of encryptions and only had DES at 56 bits in common with UNIX. This required keeping the latter enabled, despite the risks being well known, if interoperability had to be guaranteed. The problem was subsequently solved with version 1.3 of MIT Kerberos 5. This version introduced RC4-HMAC support, which is also present in Windows and is more secure than DES. Among the supported encryptions (but not by Windows) the triple DES (3DES) and newer AES128 and AES256 are worth mentioning.
If a user has two accounts in different realms, it is fairly frequent that the unencrypted password is the same for both realms: thanks to the presence of the salt, a possible compromise of an account in one realm will not automatically cause the other to be compromised. A null salt can be configured for compatibility with Kerberos 4. Vice versa, for compatibility with AFS, it is possible to configure a salt which is not the complete name of the principal, but simply the name of the cell. 4) Key Version Number (kvno)
2) Encryption key When a user changes a password or an administrator updates the secret key for an application server, this change is logged by advancing a counter. The current value of the counter identifying the key version is known as the Key Version Number or more briefly kvno.
As stated above, one of the aims of the Kerberos protocol is to prevent the user's password from being stored in its unencrypted form, even in the authentication server database. Considering that each encryption algorithm uses its own key length, it is clear that, if the user is not to be forced to use a different password of a fixed size for each encryption method supported, the encryption keys cannot be the passwords. For these reasons the string2key function has been introduced, which transforms an unencrypted password into an encryption key suitable for the type of encryption to be used. This function is called each time a user changes password or enters it for authentication. The string2key is called a hash function, meaning that it is irreversible: given that an encryption key cannot determine the password which generated it (unless by brute force). Famous hashing algorithms are MD5 and CRC32. 3) Salt In Kerberos 5, unlike version 4, the concept of password salt has been introduced. This is a string to be concatenated to the unencrypted password before applying the string2key function to obtain the key. Kerberos 5 uses the same principal of the user as salt: Kmark = string2key (Pmark + "mark@EXAMPLE.COM") Kmark is the encryption key of the user mark and P mark is the unencrypted password of the user. This type of salt has the following advantages: Two principals belonging to the same realm and having the same unencrypted password, still have different keys. For example, imagine an administrator having a principal for everyday work (mark@EXAMPLE.COM) and one for administrative work (mark/admin@EXAMPLE.COM). It is very likely that this user has set the same password for both principals for reasons of convenience. The presence of the salt guarantees that the related keys are different.
E. Key Distribution Center (KDC)
The authentication server in a Kerberos environment, based on its ticket distribution function for access to the services, is called Key Distribution Center or more briefly KDC. Since it resides entirely on a single physical server (it often coincides with a single process) it can be logically considered divided into three parts: Database, Authentication Server (AS) and Ticket Granting Server (TGS).
The database is the container for entries associated with users and services. We refer to an entry by using the principal (i.e. the name of the entry) even if often the term principal is used as a synonym for entry. Each entry contains the following information:
•The principal to which the entry is associated; •The encryption key and related kvno; •The maximum validity duration for a ticket associated to the principal; •The maximum time a ticket associated to the principal may be renewed (only Kerberos 5);
•The attributes or flags characterizing the behavior of the tickets; •The password expiration date; •The expiration date of the principal, after which no tickets will be issued.
administrator). These keys are called long term, since they do not change when the work session changes.
In order to make it more difficult to steal the keys present in the database, the implementations encrypt the database using the master key, which is associated with the principal K/M@REALM. Even any database dumps, used as backups or for propagation from the KDC master towards the slave, are encrypted using this key, which it is necessary to know in order to reload them.
However, it is necessary that the user also shares a secret with the service, at least for the time in which a client has a work session open on a server: this key, generated by the KDC when a ticket is issued, is called the Session Key. The copy intended for the service is enveloped by the KDC in the ticket (in any case their application server knows the long term key and can decode it and extract the session key), while the copy intended for the user is encapsulated in an encrypted packet with the user long term key. The session key plays a fundamental role in demonstrating the authenticity of the user.
G. Authenticator 2) Authentication Server (AS) Even if the user principal is present in a ticket and only the application server can extract and possibly manage such information (since the ticket is encrypted with the secret key of the service), this is not enough to guarantee the authenticity of the client. An impostor could capture (remember the hypothesis of an open and insecure network) the ticket when it is sent by a legitimate client to the application server, and at an opportune time, send it to illegitimately obtain the service. On the other hand, including the IP addresses of the machine from where it is possible to use it is not very useful: it is known that in an open and insecure network addresses are easily falsified. To solve the problem, one has to exploit the fact that the client and server, at least during a session have the session key in common that only they know (also the KDC knows it since it generated it, but it is trusted by definition!!!). Thus the following strategy is applied: along with the request containing the ticket, the client adds another packet (the authenticator) where the user principal and time stamp (it’s at that time) are included and encrypts it with the session key; the server which must offer the service, upon receiving this request, unpacks the first ticket, extracts the session key and, if the user is actually who he/she says, the server is able to unencrypt the authenticator extracting the timestamp. If the latter differs from the server time by less than 2 minutes (but the tolerance can be configured) then the authentication is successful. This underlines the criticality of synchronization between machines belonging to the same realm. Credential F. Session Key H. Replay Cache
The Authentication Server is the part of the KDC which replies to the initial authentication request from the client, when the user, not yet authenticated, must enter the password. In response to an authentication request, the AS issues a special ticket known as the Ticket Granting Ticket, or more briefly TGT, the principal associated with which is krbtgt/REALM@REALM. If the users are actually who they say they are they can use the TGT to obtain other service tickets, without having to re-enter their password.
3) Ticket Granting Server (TGS)
The Ticket Granting Server is the KDC component which distributes service tickets to clients with a valid TGT, guaranteeing the authenticity of the identity for obtaining the requested resource on the application servers. The TGS can be considered as an application server (given that to access it, it is necessary to present the TGT) which provides the issuing of service tickets as a service. It is important not to confuse the abbreviations TGT and TGS: the first indicates a ticket and the second a service.
As we have seen, the users and services share a secret with the KDC. For users, this secret is the key derived from their password, while for services, it is their secret key (set by the
The possibility exists for an impostor to simultaneously steal both the ticket and the authenticator and use them during the 2 minutes the authenticator is valid. This is very difficult
but not impossible. To solve this problem with Kerberos 5, Replay Cache has been introduced. In application servers (but also in TGS), there exists the capacity to remember authenticators which have arrived within the last 2 minutes, and to reject them if they are replicas. With this the problem is resolved as long as the impostor is not smart enough to copy the ticket and authenticator and make them arrive at the application server before the legitimate request arrives. This really would be a hoax, since the authentic user would be rejected while the impostor would have access to the service.
Fig 1.Authentication service verifies the user ID.
I. Credential Cache Step 2: Upon verification, a timestamp is created. This puts the current time in a user session, along with an expiration date. The default expiration date of a timestamp is 8 hours. The encryption key is then created. The timestamp ensures that when 8 hours is up, the encryption key is useless. (This is used to make sure a hacker doesn’t intercept the data, and try to crack the key. Almost all keys are able to be cracked, but it will take a lot longer than 8 hours to do so.) Step 3: The key is sent back to the client in the form of a ticket-granting ticket, or TGT. This is a simple ticket that is issued by the authentication service. It is used for authenticating the client for future reference. (Fig 2)
The client never keeps the user's password, nor does it memorize the secret key obtained by applying string2key: they are used to decrypt the replies from KDC and immediately discarded. However, on the other hand, to implement the single sign-on (SSO) characteristic, where the user is asked to enter the password just once per work session, it is necessary to memorize the tickets and related session key. The place where this data is stored is called the "Credential Cache". Where this cache needs to be located does not depend on the protocol, but varies from one implementation to another. Often for portability purposes they are located in the file system (MIT and Heimdal). In other implementations (AFS and Active Directory), in order to increase security in the event of vulnerable clients, the credential cache is placed in an area of the memory accessible only to kernels and not swappable on the disk.
Kerberos operates by encrypting data with a symmetric key. A symmetric key is a type of authentication where both the client and server agree to use a single encryption/decryption key for sending or receiving data. When working with the encryption key, the details are actually sent to a key distribution center, or KDC, instead of sending the details directly between each computer. The entire process takes a total of eight steps:
Fig 2.Authentication service issues TGT.
Step 4: The client submits the ticket-granting ticket to the ticket-granting server, or TGS, to get authenticated. (Fig 3)
Step 1: The authentication service, or AS, receives the request by the client and verifies that the client is indeed the computer it claims to be. This is usually just a simple database lookup of the user’s ID. (Fig 1)
distribution center to receive a session that is returned to the client. (Fig 5)
Step 8: The client decrypts the ticket. If the keys are still valid, communication is initiated between client and server. (Fig 6)
Fig 3.Client submits TGT to TGS.
Step 5: The TGS creates an encrypted key with a timestamp, and grants the client a service ticket. (Fig 4)
Fig 5. Service server decrypts key and make sure timestamp is valid.
Fig 4.TGS grants client the service ticket.
Step 6: The client decrypts the ticket, tells the TGS it has done so, and then sends its own encrypted key to the service. Step 7: The service decrypts the key, and makes sure the timestamp is still valid. If it is, the service contacts the key
Fig 6. For valid keys communication is initiated.
After the communication is made between the client and server, no further need of transmitting logon information is needed. The client is authenticated until the session expires.
stored on it. To assure that, physical access on logins should only be allowed to trusted staff members and no other services should be placed on that host. To secure the server, virus scanners and intrusion detection systems can be set up on it. Usually more than one Kerberos server are set up in a typical environment to provide an almost error-free Kerberos service. This realm is the administrative domain. The realm is entitled after the Internet domain name of the network, using this naming scheme, every realm has a distinct name in a global name-space. Common environments use one realm per institution but dividing big institutions into several realms is also possible. As one can see in Fig 7, clients that want to access the Kerberos servers of a domain need not to be connected to the local network. With a proper configuration, they can use Kerberos for their realm from everywhere on the Internet. One dedicated server per realm is holding the master copy of the Kerberos database. This server is called the master server and any other Kerberos servers in the realm receive their copies from this server. In case of a not responding server every client can contact the other servers in the realm to obtain tickets. Unexpected interruptions as a result of hardware failures can be avoided this way. Every client can connect to any Kerberos server he knows in one realm.
A. The Mutual Authentication Process The authentication method described above seems a little one-sided. Kerberos provides support for mutual authentication, for a more secure protection against man in the middle attacks. This type of authentication is fairly easy to understand, since it only involves two systems. The Steps involved in the mutual authentication process is as listed below: Step 1: The first system creates a challenge code made up of random numbers. Step 2: This code is sent to the second system, which generates a response to the received code. This response and a challenge code of its own are then sent back to the first system. Step 3: The first system verifies the response of the second system, and then sends a response to the challenge code it received. Step 4: When the second system receives the response, it is verified. If all is well, it notifies the first system that they are indeed mutually authenticated. This type of authentication uses challenge codes to ensure that both computers are who they claim to be. If someone tries to intercept the data, they obviously will fail because they can’t pretend to be one of the computers after they have been authenticated with challenge codes.
V. KERBEROS ENVIRONMENT
A typical Kerberos environment can be divided into two main parts. On the one hand there is the Kerberos infrastructure containing at least one Kerberos server or so called Key Distribution Center (KDC). The KDC holds a complete database of user and service keys. This is a serious disadvantage, because if an attacker could gain access to a Kerberos server he learns every single key of the realm, the server is in. On the other hand there are Kerberos-enabled clients and services called kerberized clients and services. A. A Typical Infrastructure As the trusted part, a Kerberos server has to be secured properly. This means, that an attacker should not be able to gain access on the machine to get or alter the key database
Fig 7. A possible Kerberos environment
B. Details of KDC The Key Distribution Center is logically split into two services that reside on the same host. The authentication service (AS) that authenticates users and the ticket granting service (TGS) which takes tickets issued from the authentication service and issues tickets for services. This is done because of a simple security reason. After authentication at the authentication service both KDC and client share a secret symmetric key, which can be used to construct an authenticator for the ticket granting service to obtain service tickets by the client. There is no need for the client to enter the
password a second time and the password has not been cached (which would be a security flaw). Both authentication service and ticket granting service revert to the same database of keys, which resides on every Kerberos server. The database contains every key, user keys, which are derived from the users password using a hash algorithm and service keys that are once generated by a random number generator and stored on the servicing host as well. To improve security this service keys should be changed regularly. C. Kerberized Services To take full advantage of a Kerberos infrastructure not only authentication for local host access is done. An optimal environment is made up of services which support Kerberos, so that the user has to give his password one time he logs in. After that authentication the client can read his email, access files on a file-server and log in on remote machines without giving his password a second time.
Fig 9. Administration Requests.
Note that, while authentication can still occur (on slaves), administration requests cannot be serviced if the master machine is down. In our experience, this has not presented a problem, as administration requests are infrequent. The KDBM handles requests from users to change their passwords. The client side of this program, which sends requests to the KDBM over the network, is the kpasswd program. The KDBM also accepts requests from Kerberos administrators, who may add principals to the database, as well as change passwords for existing principals. The client side of the administration program, which also sends requests to the KDBM over the network, is the kadmin program. A. The KDBM Server The KDBM server accepts requests to add principals to the database or change the passwords for existing principals. This service is unique in that the ticket-granting service will not issue tickets for it. Instead, the authentication service itself must be used (the same service that is used to get a ticketgranting ticket). The purpose of this is to require the user to enter a password. If this were not so, then if a user left her/his workstation unattended, a passerby could walk up and change her/his password for them, something which should be prevented. Likewise, if an administrator left her/his workstation unguarded, a passerby could change any password in the system. When the KDBM server receives a request, it authorizes it by comparing the authenticated principal name of the requester of the change to the principal name of the target of the request. If they are the same, the request is permitted. If they are not the same, the KDBM server consults an access control list (stored in a file on the master Kerberos system). If the requester’s principal name is found in this file, the request is permitted, otherwise it is denied. By convention, names with a NULL instance (the default instance) do not appear in the access control list file; instead, an admin instance is used. Therefore, for a user to become an administrator of Kerberos an admin instance for that username must be created, and added to the access control list. This convention allows an administrator to use a different password for Kerberos administration then s/he would use for normal login. All requests to the KDBM program, whether permitted or denied, are logged. B. Database Replication Each Kerberos realm has a master Kerberos machine, which houses the master copy of the authentication database.
Kerberos operations requiring both read-only and write access is done with the help of Kerberos database. Operations requiring read-only access to the Kerberos database are performed by the authentication service, which can run on both master and slave machines. (Fig 8)
WS WS WS
Fig 8. Authentication Requests.
These operations are performed by the administration service, called the Kerberos Database Management Service (KDBM). The current implementation stipulates that changes may only be made to the master Kerberos database; slave copies are read-only. Therefore, the KDBM server may only run on the master Kerberos machine. (Fig 9) WS WS WS
It is possible (although not necessary) to have additional, readonly copies of the database on slave machines elsewhere in the system. The advantages of having multiple copies of the database are those usually cited for replication: higher availability and better performance. If the master machine is down, authentication can still be achieved on one of the slave machines. The ability to perform authentication on any one of several machines reduces the probability of a bottleneck at the master machine. Keeping multiple copies of the database introduces the problem of data consistency. We have found that very simple methods suffice for dealing with inconsistency. The master database is dumped every hour. The database is sent, in its entirety, to the slave machines, which then update their own databases. All passwords in the Kerberos database are encrypted in the master database key. Therefore, the information passed from master to slave over the network is not useful to an eavesdropper. However, it is essential that only information from the master host be accepted by the slaves, and that tampering of data be detected, thus the checksum. VII. KERBEROS ADMINISTRATOR The Kerberos administrator’s job begins with running a program to initialize the database. Another program must be run to register essential principals in the database, such as the Kerberos administrator’s name with an admin instance. The Kerberos authentication server and the administration server must be started up. If there are slave databases, the administrator must arrange that the programs to propagate database updates from master to slaves be kicked off periodically. After these initial steps have been taken, the administrator manipulates the database over the network. In particular, when a new Kerberos application is added to the system, the Kerberos administrator must take a few steps to get it working. The server must be registered in the database, and assigned a private key (usually this is an automatically generated random key). Then, some data (including the server’s key) must be extracted from the database and installed in a file on the server’s machine. The server uses the information in that file to decrypt messages sent encrypted in the server’s private key. The file authenticates the server as a password typed at a terminal authenticates the user. The Kerberos administrator must also ensure that Kerberos machines are physically secure, and would also be wise to maintain backups of the Master database.
Passwords are never sent across the network unencrypted. This prevents those unscrupulous people from being able to read the most important data sent over the network. Clients and applications services mutually authenticate. Mutual authentication allows for both ends to know that they truly know whom they are communicating with. Tickets have a limited lifetime, so if they are stolen, unauthorized use is limited to the time frame that the ticket is valid. Authentication through the AS only has to happen once. This makes the security of Kerberos more convenient. Shared secret keys between clients and services are more efficient than public-keys. Many implementations of Kerberos have a large support base and have been put through serious testing. Authenticators, created by clients, can only be used once. This feature prevents the use of stolen authenticators.
B. Disadvantages o Kerberos only provides authentication for clients and services. Kerberos 4 uses DES, which has been shown to be vulnerable to brute-force-attacks with little computing power. Like any security tool, it is also vulnerable to users making poor password choices. Because Kerberos uses a mutual authentication model, it is necessary for both client machines and service providers (servers) to be designed with Kerberos authentication in mind.
PERSPECTIVE: PUBLIC KEY CRYPTOGRAPHY
VIII. ANALYSIS OF KERBEROS
A new direction for Kerberos is public key cryptography. Public key cryptography eases key distribution a lot. Using only symmetric cryptography KDC and client must share a key; using asymmetric cryptography the client can present the public key, which can be used to encrypt messages for it. This is used for email communication by the program Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). The big advantage for Kerberos is that the key distribution center does not have to save the keys client keys in his database any longer. To obtain a ticket granting ticket, the
client has to present his public key. The KDC uses this key to encrypt the ticket and session key. As everybody is able to create a key pair for public key cryptography, additional infrastructure is needed. A trusted certification authority (CA) has to sign every valid public key. The client can present his key which is signed by the trusted authority. Integration in Kerberos is easy due to the fact that only interaction with the authentication service has to be changed to use asymmetric cryptography; everything else can remain as it is. If the client presents his public key, the authentication service checks, whether it has a valid signature from a trusted authority and return a session key afterwards. The client decrypts the session key with the private key of his key pair. Following communication is handled like in Kerberos without public key cryptography support.
 http://www.cisco.com/en/US/tech/tk59/technologies_white_paper0  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerberos_(protocol)  http://learn-networking.com/network-security/how-kerberos http://www.networkcomputing.com/netdesign/kerb7.html  http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/B.Karp/gz03/f2008/kerberos.pdf  http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci21243   
7,00.html http://www.rsa.com/rsalabs/node.asp?id=2297 http://docs.sun.com/app/docs/doc/816-4557/intro-5? authentication-works 9186a00800941b2.shtml#intro
Kerberos isn’t the only encryption protocol available. There are multiple ways to encrypt data, and this holds true for many types of different applications. Email encryption protocols, for example, are a breed all of their own. With a product that has been researched and developed for over 8 years, it is generally expected that the product should be well polished. Kerberos doesn’t fail to deliver, and this can be seen by looking at all the vendors who use it. Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, and many others rely on this faithful threeheaded dog for network security. Authentication is critical for the security of computer systems. Without knowledge of the identity of a principal requesting an operation, it's difficult to decide whether the operation should be allowed. Traditional authentication methods are not suitable for use in computer networks where attackers monitor network traffic to intercept passwords. The use of strong authentication methods that do not disclose passwords is imperative. The Kerberos authentication system is well suited for authentication of users in such environments. REFERENCES
http://www.novell.com/documentation/suse91/suselinu x-adminguide/html/ch19s03.html  http://w3.darkwhole.de/~tf/uni/kerberos_paper.pdf  Distributed Systems-Concepts and Design by George Coulouris, Jean Dollimore and Tim Kindberg, 4e,Person Education
 http://web.mit.edu/Kerberos/  http://www.kerberos.org/software/tutorial.html  http://www.zeroshell.net/eng/kerberos/Kerberos-aims/
1.Kerberos (http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci212437,00.html) By Steve Spence
Kerberos is a secure method for authenticating a request for a service in a computer network. Kerberos was developed in the Athena Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The name is taken from Greek mythology; Kerberos was a three-headed dog who guarded the gates of Hades. Kerberos lets a user request an encrypted "ticket" from an authentication process that can then be used to request a particular service from a server. The user's password does not have to pass through the network. A version of Kerberos (client and server) can be downloaded from MIT or you can buy a commercial version.
Briefly and approximately, here's how Kerberos works: Suppose you want to access a server on another computer (which you may get to by sending a Telnet or similar login request). You know that this server requires a Kerberos "ticket" before it will honor your request.
To get your ticket, you first request authentication from the Authentication Server (AS). The Authentication Server creates a "session key" (which is also an encryption key) basing it on your password (which it can get from your user name) and a random value that represents the requested service. The session key is effectively a "ticketgranting ticket." You next send your ticket-granting ticket to a ticket-granting server (TGS). The TGS may be physically the same server as the Authentication Server, but it's now performing a different service.The TGS returns the ticket that can be sent to the server for the requested service. The service either rejects the ticket or accepts it and performs the service. Because the ticket you received from the TGS is time-stamped, it allows you to make additional requests using the same ticket within a certain time period (typically, eight hours) without having to be reauthenticated. Making the ticket valid for a limited time period make it less likely that someone else will be able to use it later.
The actual process is much more complicated than just described. The user procedure may vary somewhat according to implementation.
2. The Kerberos Network Authentication Service V5
By J. Kohl and C. Neuman
Kerberos [KNT94] is an authentication service developed by the Project Athena team at MIT, based on a 1978 paper by Needham and Schroeder [NS78]. The first general use version was version 4. Version 5, which addressed certain shortfalls in version 4, was released in 1994. Kerberos uses secret-key ciphers (see Question 2.1.2) for encryption and authentication. Version 4 could only use DES (see Section 3.2). Unlike a public-key authentication system, Kerberos does not produce digital signatures (see Question 2.2.2). Instead Kerberos was designed to authenticate requests for network resources rather than to authenticate authorship of documents. Thus, Kerberos does not provide for future third-party verification of documents.
In a Kerberos system, there is a designated site on each network, called the Kerberos server, which performs centralized key management and administrative functions. The server maintains a database containing the secret keys of all users, authenticates the identities of users, and distributes session keys to users and servers who wish to authenticate one another. Kerberos requires trust in a third party (the Kerberos server). If the server is compromised, the integrity of the whole system is lost. Public-key cryptography was designed precisely to avoid the necessity to trust third parties with secrets (see Question 2.2.1). Kerberos is generally considered adequate within an administrative domain; however across domains the more robust functions and properties of public-key systems are often preferred. There has been some developmental work in incorporating public-key cryptography into Kerberos [Gan95].
3.Kerberos Service - System Administration Guide: Security Services (http://docs.sun.com/app/docs/doc/816-4557/intro-5?a=view)
The Kerberos service is a client-server architecture that provides secure transactions over networks. The service offers strong user authentication, as well as integrity and privacy. Authentication guarantees that the identities of both the sender and the recipient of a network transaction are true. The service can also verify the validity of data being passed back and forth (integrity) and encrypt the data during transmission (privacy). Using the Kerberos service, you can log in to other machines, execute commands, exchange data, and transfer files securely. Additionally, the service provides authorization services, which allows administrators to restrict access to services and machines. Moreover, as a Kerberos user, you can regulate other people's access to your account. The Kerberos service is a single-sign-on system, which means that you only need to authenticate yourself to the service once per session, and all subsequent transactions during the session are automatically secured. After the service has authenticated you, you do not need to authenticate yourself every time you use a Kerberos-based command such as ftp or rsh, or to access data on an NFS file system. Thus, you do not have to send your password over the network, where it can be intercepted, each time you use these services. The Solaris Kerberos service is based on the Kerberos V5 network authentication protocol that was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). People who have used Kerberos V5 product should therefore find the Solaris version very familiar. Because the Kerberos V5 protocol is a de facto industry standard for network security, the Solaris version promotes interoperability with other systems. In other words, because the Solaris Kerberos service works with systems that use the Kerberos V5 protocol, the service allows for secure transactions even over heterogeneous networks. Moreover, the service provides authentication and security both between domains and within a single domain. The Kerberos service allows for flexibility in running Solaris applications. You can configure the service to allow both Kerberos-based and non-Kerberos-based requests for network services such as the NFS service, telnet, and ftp. As a result, current Solaris applications still work even if they are running on systems on which the Kerberos service is not enabled. Of course, you can also configure the Kerberos service to allow only Kerberos-based network requests. The Kerberos service provides a security mechanism which allows the use of Kerberos for authentication, integrity, and privacy when using applications that use the Generic Security Service Application Programming Interface (GSS-API). However, applications do not have to remain committed to the Kerberos service if other security mechanisms are developed. Because the service is designed to integrate modularly into the GSS-API, applications that use the GSS-API can utilize whichever security mechanism best suits their needs.
4.Kerberos Network Design Manual (http://www.networkcomputing.com/netdesign/kerb1.html) By Dan Backman
Kerberos, a network security protocol developed MIT for its Athena computing environment is now a well-known, yet not well-understood technology. Named after the guardian of the underworld in Ancient Greek mythology, Kerberos (a.k.a.: Cerberus) uses strong encryption and a complex ticket-granting algorithm to authenticate users on a network. Also of interest to many of users, Kerberos has the ability to distribute "session keys" to allow encrypted data streams over an IP network. Used to secure particularly vulnerable network communications like FTP, telnet and other Internet protocols, which often transmit user IDs and passwords in clear text, Kerberos provides the backbone for secured communications in many large networks.
Kerberos is available in many forms. However, for many organizations, it is an attractive choice as its reference platform (published and maintained by MIT), which includes full source code. Most Kerberos distributions also include APIs for developing new Kerberos-enabled (Kerberized) applications. While Kerberized services are best supported under Unix, clients are available for most major desktop operating systems like DOS, Windows95, Windows NT and MacOS.
In addition to its pure form, Kerberos provides the core authentication services for computing environments such as the Open Group's (formerly, the Open Software Foundation) DCE (Distributed Computing Environment) as well as Microsoft Corp.'s forthcoming ADS (Active Directory Service).
In this Network Design Manual, we relate our ongoing experiences with the Kerberos protocol in our Syracuse University labs. Although some organizations still rely on Kerberos 4, all examples and notation in this manual refer to Kerberos 5. This version includes several modifications, such as cross-realm authentication, forwardable tickets, and internal security enhancements, that make it the best choice for new installations. Some references to Kerberos' implementation in DCE are included, but this Network Design Manual is not intended to cover DCE.
Network Security: The Basics
The concepts behind network security break nicely into four categories: Authentication, Authorization (a.k.a. Access Control), Accounting, and Secure Communications.
Authentication: This is simple verification of a user's identity. Always based on some form of trust, authentication relies on something that the user has, which can be compared to a known constant (the trusted value). This can occur either in an interaction with the user (a user ID and password are entered), or can range up to complex biometrics systems like fingerprint identification, face recognition or retinal scans. Authentication also can occur by proxy, such as a stored authentication token (kept in a workstation's memory while the user remains logged in, o r on a token such as a smartcard).
Authorization: Also known as access control, this form of security decides who is allowed where. File permissions are a good example of access controls. Usually stored in resource-level ACLs (access control lists), these are simply lists of authenticated users (or groups of users) who are allowed to access or are barred from accessing a given resource. This is usually the most complex aspect of network security since it requires the secure, centralized storage and access of these ACLs. Authorization can occur only once a user is authenticated, as authorization systems rely on lists of authenticated users.
Accounting: The basic task of recording who accessed what resource. Most network operating systems and services include some form of logging. This can either be performed independently at each service, or through a centralized accounting server. However, if performed centrally, all accounting information must be transferred securely, and can be affected by denial of service attacks (for instance, a hacker wishing to cover his tracks could prevent logging messages from reaching the accounting server).
Secure communications: The ability to protect network transmissions from both interception (where private information can be compromised) as well as unauthorized transmission, where a hacker can masquerade as a secure host, or can insert data into an established connection.
Kerberos is not a complete network security solution. While it does provide powerful tools to enable networkwide user authentication and secure communications, it has no provisions for access control or accounting. The designers of Kerberos felt that it should function as part of a larger network environment, where access control is best left up to individual applications or a dedicated access control manager. Although the Kerberos server itself includes a minimal ACL to specify users authorized to change the Kerberos database, no other authorization system is pr ovided. Likewise, as the actual authentication process occurs on the workstation, the Kerberos server doesn't concern itself with who is successfully authenticated. While the KDC (Kerberos server) does keep track of which tickets were issued, it provides more of a debugging function than an audit trail.
5.Kerberos configuration as an authentication system for single sign-on (http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid14_gci1353067,00.html) By David Griffeth
Most of us have heard of the Kerberos network authentication protocol, but what is it? What is its roll in an identity and access management (IAM) program, and how can it be leveraged for access control initiatives like single sign-on (SSO) and custom application authentication? Designed to provide strong authentication for client/server applications by using secret-key cryptography, Kerberos defines a typical key-exchange mechanism; it's a way of proving an identity to a system (the Kerberos server) and having that system then authenticate the identity to other systems for the duration of the session. It is well suited for authentication on physically insecure networks.
Features of Kerberos Kerberos offers several important features, such as providing a secure, reliable means of authentication, authenticating to multiple applications in a way that is transparent to the user, and accommodating any organization by way of a scalability model. It is a mature and industry-accepted protocol that can support cryptography as well. These features entail more robust controls to prevent eavesdropping and malicious attacks on the network, a friendlier end-user experience, and the ability to expand use of the protocol to a broad spectrum of applications. It also prevents unauthorized reading of communications through encryption. Each application that is setup to use Kerberos trusts the Kerberos server to authenticate the user, so the user isn't asked for a username and password on each application. Kerberos provides secure communication between two parties by manufacturing secret keys on an open network and providing a mechanism for those keys to be securely communicated to the appropriate parties. Because single sign-on relies on a centralized and trusted authentication mechanism, Kerberos is a natural fit. A welldesigned implementation should have a means of confidently authenticating users to the Kerberos server and communicating those credentials securely to all applications participating in the Kerberos implementation. Implementing single sign-on with Kerberos across core applications and intranet sites in an enterprise can also offer huge cost savings in several ways: • • • • Custom applications can leverage the enterprise Kerberos single sign-on system to authenticate users, reducing development time. Password-reset requests will drop dramatically if users are only required to remember one set of credentials. Access management is simplified by providing a single point to terminate access. (This means fewer hours required to manage the account through its life cycle.) Kerberos is a non-proprietary technology, so it supports interoperability of multiple vendors' products, from Apple Inc. to IBM.
Businesses tend to have several enterprise-wide applications that fulfill distinct business needs. With their own processes, GUIs, databases, business abstraction layers, Web servers, etc., the structures of these applications may inhibit them from leveraging existing authentication mechanisms like Active Directory or TopSecret. Implementing Kerberos single sign-on across these various applications means that users who access more than one of them can now authenticate once and aren't asked for separate credentials for each application.
Kerberos: Drawbacks and limitations There are limitations to Kerberos that should be considered and understood before implementation. For instance, Kerberos does not provide authorization or accounting, although it is possible for applications to use their secret keys to perform those functions securely. There are also concerns about centralizing all of the application passwords on one system. If an attacker gains root access to a Kerberos server, he or she will have access to the database of encrypted passwords of the applications leveraging Kerberos. If the Kerberos server is compromised, the attacker could also modify the Kerberos software and configuration files to make the system perform authentications that should not otherwise be successful. There are also two different distributions and versions of Kerberos available: Versions 4 and 5. Version 5 (v5) is the newest, introduced in 1995. There are several distributions of it, including a freeware version from MIT as well as a commercially available distribution from the Open Group called OSF DCE (Distributed Computing Environment) Security. Be aware that v4 and v5 are completely different protocols and are not compatible. Different distributions don't always implement together well either. There may be tweaks and customization required if the company chooses to run multiple distributions in the same organization. I strongly recommend against this because the support issues involved may be problematic.
Where to use Kerberos Kerberos should be considered if an organization is looking for a mature means of authenticating users to multiple applications across a variety of technologies. It is also worth considering if a company has a Web presence that directs end users to a portal with several different applications providing underlying functionality. A bank is a great example of this: users could have a combination of a checking account, a savings account, an IRA or a mortgage from the same bank. It would be a much better user experience to have a single set of credentials for conducting business than to log in to each of these accounts separately. Kerberos is intended to help enable centralized authentication to simplify the user experience and the system administrators' account management process. It can be a useful technology and is worth examining by any organization exploring single sign-on systems.
6.Network Authentication — Kerberos (http://www.novell.com/documentation/suse91/suselinux-adminguide/html/ch19s03.html)
An open network provides no means to ensure that a workstation can identify its users properly except the usual password mechanisms. In common installations, the user must enter the password each time a service inside the network is accessed. Kerberos provides an authentication method with which a user must register once and is then trusted in the complete network for the rest of the session. To have a secure network, the following requirements must be met: • • Have all users prove their identity for each desired service and make sure no one can take the identity of someone else. Make sure each network server also proves its identity. If you do not, an attacker might be able to impersonate the server and obtain sensitive information transmitted to the server. This concept is called mutual authentication, because the client authenticates to the server and vice versa.
Kerberos helps you meet the above requirements by providing strongly encrypted authentication. The following shows how this is achieved. Only the basic principles of Kerberos are discussed here. For detailed technical instruction, refer to the documentation provided with your implementation of Kerberos. Kerberos Terminology The following glossary defines some Kerberos terminology. 1. Credential Users or clients need to present some kind of credentials that authorize them to request services. Kerberos knows two kinds of credentials — tickets and authenticators. 2. Ticket A ticket is a per-server credential used by a client to authenticate at a server from which it is requesting a service. It contains the name of the server, the client's name, the client's Internet address, a time stamp, a lifetime, and a random session key. All this data is encrypted using the server's key. 3. Authenticator Combined with the ticket, an authenticator is used to prove that the client presenting a ticket is really the one it claims to be. An authenticator is built of the client's name, the workstation's IP address, and the current workstation's time all encrypted with the session key only known to the client and the server from which it is requesting a service. An authenticator can only be used once, unlike a ticket. A client can build an authenticator itself. 4. Principal A Kerberos principal is a unique entity (a user or service) to which it can assign a ticket. A principal consists of the following components: primary — the first part of the principal, which can be the same as your user name in the case of a user. instance — some optional information characterizing the primary. This string is separated from the primary by a /. realm — this specifies your Kerberos realm. Normally, your realm is your domain name in uppercase letters.
5. Mutual authentication
Kerberos ensures that both client and server can be sure of each others identity. They share a (session) key, which they can use to communicate securely. 6. Session key Session keys are temporary private keys generated by Kerberos. They are known to the client and used to encrypt the communication between the client and the server for which it requested and received a ticket. 7. Replay Almost all messages sent in a network can be eavesdropped, stolen, and resent. In the Kerberos context, this would be most dangerous if an attacker manages to obtain your request for a service containing your ticket and authenticator. He could then try to resend it (replay) to impersonate you. However, Kerberos implements several mechanisms to deal with that problem. 8. Server or Service Service is used to refer to a specific action to perform. The process behind this action is referred to as a server. How Kerberos Works Kerberos is often called a third party trusted authentication service, which means all its clients trust Kerberos's judgment of another client's identity. Kerberos keeps a database of all its users and their private keys. To ensure Kerberos is worth all the trust put in it, run both the authentication and ticket-granting server on a dedicated machine. Make sure only the administrator can access this machine physically and over the network. Reduce the (networking) services run on it to the absolute minimum — do not even run sshd. First contact Your first contact with Kerberos is quite similar to any login procedure at a normal networking system. Enter your user name. This piece of information and the name of the ticket-granting service are sent to the authentication server (Kerberos). If the authentication server knows about your existence, it will generate a (random) session key for further use between your client and the ticket-granting server. Now the authentication server prepares a ticket for the ticket-granting server. The ticket contains the following information — all encrypted with a session key only the authentication server and the ticket-granting server know: • • • • • the names both of the client and the ticket-granting server the current time a lifetime assigned to this ticket the client's IP address the newly-generated session key
This ticket is then sent back to the client together with the session key, again in encrypted form, but this time the private key of the client is used. This private key is only known to Kerberos and the client, because it is derived from your user password. Now that the client has received this response, you are prompted for your password. This password is converted into the key that can decrypt the package sent by the authentication server. The package is “unwrapped” and password and key are erased from the workstation's memory. As long as the lifetime given to the ticket used to obtain other tickets does not expire, your workstation can prove your identity. Requesting a service
To request a service from any server in the network, the client application needs to prove its identity to the server. Therefore, the application generates an authenticator. An authenticator consists of the following components: • • • • the client's principal the client's IP address the current time a checksum (chosen by the client)
All this information is encrypted using the session key that the client has already received for this special server. The authenticator and the ticket for the server are sent to the server. The server uses its copy of the session key to decrypt the authenticator, which gives him all information needed about the client requesting its service to compare it to that contained in the ticket. The server checks if the ticket and the authenticator originate from the same client. Without any security measures implemented on the server side, this stage of the process would be an ideal target forreplay attacks. Someone could try to resend a request stolen off the net some time before. To prevent this, the server will not accept any request with a time stamp and ticket received previously. In addition to that, a request with a time stamp differing too much from the time the request is received can be ignored. Mutual authentication Kerberos authentication can be used in both directions. It is not only a question of the client being the one it claims to be. The server should also be able to authenticate itself to the client requesting its service. Therefore, it sends some kind of authenticator itself. It adds one to the checksum it received in the client's authenticator and encrypts it with the session key, which is shared between it and the client. The client takes this response as a proof of the server's authenticity and they both start cooperating. Ticket-granting — getting into contact with all servers Tickets are designed to be used for one server at a time. This implies that you have to get a new ticket each time you request another service. Kerberos implements a mechanism to obtain tickets for individual servers. This service is called the “ticket-granting service”. The ticket-granting service is a service just like any other service mentioned before, so uses the same access protocols that have already been outlined. Any time an application needs a ticket that has not already been requested, it contacts the ticket-granting server. This request consists of the following components: • • • the requested principal the ticket-granting ticket an authenticator
Like any other server, the ticket-granting server now checks the ticket-granting ticket and the authenticator. If they are considered valid, the ticket-granting server builds a new session key to be used between the original client and the new server. Then the ticket for the new server is built, containing the following information: • • • the client's principal the server's principal the current time
the client's IP address the newly-generated session key
The new ticket is assigned a lifetime, which is the lesser of the remaining lifetime of the ticket-granting ticket and the default for the service. The client receives this ticket and the session key, which are sent by the ticket-granting service, but this time the answer is encrypted with the session key that came with the original ticket-granting ticket. The client can decrypt the response without requiring the user's password when a new service is contacted. Kerberos can thus acquire ticket after ticket for the client without bothering the user more than once at login time.
7.How Kerberos Authentication Works (http://learn-networking.com/network-security/how-kerberos-authentication-works)
You may not know it, but your network is probably unsecured right now. Anyone with the right tools could capture, manipulate, and add data between the connections you maintain with the internet. The security cat and mouse game isn’t one sided, however. Network administrators are currently taking advantage of Kerberos to help combat security concerns. Project Athena Project Athena was initiated in 1983, when it was decided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that security in the TCP/IP model just wasn’t good enough. A total of 8 long years of research passed before Kerberos, named after the threeheaded Greek mythological dog known as Cerberus, was officially complete. The result of MIT’s famous research became widely used as default authentication methods in popular operating systems. If you are running Windows 2000 or later, you are indeed running Kerberos by default. Other operating systems such as the Mac OS X also carry the Kerberos protocol. Kerberos isn’t just limited to operating systems, however, since it is employed by many of Cisco’s routers and switches. What Does It Protect Against, Anyways? If you have ever used an FTP program over a network, you are at risk. If you have ever used a Telnet program over a network, you are again at risk. These are just two examples of how little security some applications allow. FTP and Telnet use what are called plaintext passwords, or otherwise known as cleartext passwords. These passwords are ridiculously easy to intercept with the right tools. Anyone with a simple packet sniffer and packet analyzer can obtain an FTP or telnet logon with ease. With that kind of sensitive information being transmitted, the need for Kerberos is obvious. This need doesn’t stop there, however. Sure FTP and Telnet related logons are easy to intercept, but then again so is every other connection any of your applications has to the internet. Through a process of man in the middle attacks, any hacker can get most logon information for just about anything. From online bank passwords to private passwords on your computer, they are all generally vulnerable to this attack. A man in the middle attack generally occurs when the hacker acts as the “man in the middle” between two computers. The hacker attempts to pretend to each computer that it is in fact, the computer they have connected to. In reality, all the data is being routed to the hacker, who can then modify or add instructions to the data. Okay, This Sounds Useful…But How Does It Work? Kerberos operates by encrypting data with a symmetric key. A symmetric key is a type of authentication where both the client and server agree to use a single encryption/decryption key for sending or receiving data. When working with the
encryption key, the details are actually sent to a key distribution center, or KDC, instead of sending the details directly between each computer. The entire process takes a total of eight steps, as shown below.
1. – The authentication service, or AS, receives the request by the client and verifies that the client is indeed the computer it claims to be. This is usually just a simple database lookup of the user’s ID. 2. – Upon verification, a timestamp is created. This puts the current time in a user session, along with an expiration date. The default expiration date of a timestamp is 8 hours. The encryption key is then created. The timestamp ensures that when 8 hours is up, the encryption key is useless. (This is used to make sure a hacker doesn’t intercept the data, and try to crack the key. Almost all keys are able to be cracked, but it will take a lot longer than 8 hours to do so)
3. – The key is sent back to the client in the form of a ticket-granting ticket, or TGT. This is a simple ticket that is issued by the authentication service. It is used for authenticating the client for future reference.
4. – The client submits the ticket-granting ticket to the ticket-granting server, or TGS, to get authenticated.
5. – The TGS creates an encrypted key with a timestamp, and grants the client a service ticket. 6. – The client decrypts the ticket, tells the TGS it has done so, and then sends its own encrypted key to the service.
7. – The service decrypts the key, and makes sure the timestamp is still valid. If it is, the service contacts the key distribution center to receive a session that is returned to the client.
8. – The client decrypts the ticket. If the keys are still valid, communication is initiated between client and server. Is all that back-and-forth communication really necessary? When concerning speed and reliability, it is entirely necessary. After the communication is made between the client and server, no further need of transmitting logon information is needed. The client is authenticated until the session expires.
Yet More Authentication
The authentication method described above seems a little one-sided. Kerberos provides support for mutual authentication, for a more secure protection against man in the middle attacks. Remember how the client no longer needs to send logon information after the authentication takes place? Well it sure would ruin everything if a hacker just intercepted our communication to the server and pretended to be us! This type of authentication is fairly easy to understand, since it only involves two systems. The Mutual Authentication Process 1. The first system creates a challenge code made up of random numbers. 2. This code is sent to the second system, which generates a response to the received code. This response and a challenge code of its own are then sent back to the first system. 3. The first system verifies the response of the second system, and then sends a response to the challenge code it received. 4. When the second system receives the response, it is verified. If all is well, it notifies the first system that they are indeed mutually authenticated. This type of authentication uses challenge codes to ensure that both computers are who they claim to be. If someone tries to intercept the data, they obviously will fail because they can’t pretend to be one of the computers after they have been authenticated with challenge codes. Sounds Great! Any Drawbacks I Should Know About? Of course, nothing is perfect. Kerberos has a couple of main flaws that system administrators need to take into account.First and foremost is the need of the Kerberos server. This server will handle all the functions required for authentication. If this server goes down, no one can get authenticated, and thus- the network is down. A total network crash can be prevented by using more than one Kerberos server, but that is more costly than some people would like to think. Next, we have the issue of clock synchronization. Since Kerberos uses timestamps to handle all activity, the clocks on all host machines must be within 10 minutes of the Kerberos server’s clock. Since not all clocks are perfect, the host clock and server clock will eventually be misaligned enough to cause a failure. This can usually be remedied by keep clocks up to date, or use a Network Time Protocol, or NTP. Closing Comments Kerberos isn’t the only encryption protocol available. There are multiple ways to encrypt data, and this holds true for many types of different applications. Email encryption protocols, for example, are a breed all of their own. With a product that has been researched and developed for over 8 years, it is generally expected that the product should be well polished. Kerberos doesn’t fail to deliver, and this can be seen by looking at all the vendors who use it. Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, and many others rely on this faithful three-headed dog for network security.
Other References 1. http://sawaal.ibibo.com/computers-and-technology/what-kerberos-authentication-protocol-240180.html 2. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibm/library/it-kerbero.html 3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerberos_(protocol) 4. http://www.google.co.in
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