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From Adam Kocoloski <>
Subject Re: Baking Cookie-Based Authentication into CouchDB
Date Wed, 27 May 2009 12:29:17 GMT
Hi Jason, I've been following these updates with interest.  Nice  
work!  A few quick questions:

1) Is the _design/_auth document protected against unauthorized  
reads?  I didn't see anything to that effect.

2) You didn't mention anything about authorization (e.g. the roles  
list) in your blog post, but it looks like the code is still assigning  
user roles based on the output of the users view.  What are your  
thoughts on this?  Some people might say that it would be better to  
assign the roles in a separate document or view.

In a future optimization we might want to model this authentication  
handler as a process so that it doesn't have to open the userdb and  
_auth doc on every request.  Cheers,


On May 27, 2009, at 7:05 AM, Jason Davies wrote:

> Hi again,
> On 4 May 2009, at 23:31, Jason Davies wrote:
>> On 29 Apr 2009, at 17:29, Jason Davies wrote:
>>> I'm in the finishing stages of writing a cookie-based  
>>> authentication handler for CouchDB in Erlang.  This is primarily  
>>> going to be useful for CouchApps (apps running purely in CouchDB),  
>>> but this also touches on a generic way to authenticate users via a  
>>> CouchDB database, which could be adopted by the current default  
>>> HTTP Basic auth handler.
>>> I've put the code up here:
>> [snip]
>>> Still to do:
>>> - Use some kind of challenge/response mechanism for logging in via  
>>> AJAX.  At the moment the login handler just takes a plaintext  
>>> username/password combination sent via POST.  I was thinking of  
>>> using SRP ( 
>>> ), however I believe this would require state to be stored on the  
>>> server, and maybe isn't appropriate for this.
>> I've now implemented SRP auth and it is working merrily.  I'm in  
>> discussions with SRP's inventor, Tom Wu, about a potentially  
>> simpler protocol as SRP implemented in JavaScript is probably  
>> overkill for unencrypted HTTP (it is vulnerable to MITM injection  
>> attacks of the JavaScript code itself, whereas SRP would otherwise  
>> protect against active attacks).  It might be worth supporting a  
>> simpler protocol sent over SSL too e.g. plaintext credentials.
>> Any suggestions for a more appropriate authentication protocol  
>> would be much appreciated.
> I've now ripped out the SRP code as it was a) too slow for modular  
> exponentiation for n with greater than 256 bits and b) overkill due  
> to the client code itself being sent over the wire thus losing SRP's  
> resistance against active attacks.  A potential higher-performing  
> replacement auth protocol is SCRAM but for now I've just implemented  
> simple plain-text form-based auth, which works even for non- 
> JavaScript clients.  For extra security simply add SSL.
> I've now put the code into its own branch here:
> A brief write-up here:

>  along with some thoughts on SRP (which is truly awesome and I hope  
> browsers all support TLS-SRP someday!).
> A code review would be appreciated and then hopefully we can get  
> this into trunk so that CouchApps can use cookie-based auth out-of- 
> the-box.
> Thanks,
> --
> Jason Davies

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