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From David Jencks <>
Subject Re: Geronimo Security plans (from ApacheCon)
Date Wed, 11 Jul 2007 16:35:17 GMT

On Jul 11, 2007, at 11:28 AM, Joe Bohn wrote:

> Paul McMahan wrote:
>> There is some experimental work in sandbox/portals for an admin  
>> console that supports dynamic extensions.  One thing that it  
>> currently lacks is security, and I am wondering if these recent  
>> security improvements that David has made might affect how that  
>> can be implemented.
>> This experimental admin console uses pluto 1.2 for a portal  
>> container.  Pluto provides a "driver" webapp that is responsible  
>> for creating the portal pages.  First you deploy the driver webapp  
>> and when you want to add new portlets to your portal you deploy  
>> them in separate webapps and register their context roots with the  
>> driver.  Then HTTP requests for portal pages are received by the  
>> driver and it uses cross context dispatch to route the request to  
>> the appropriate portlets and assemble their HTML into a page.
>> It seems like the most straight forward way to implement security  
>> for this type of configuration would be to add the security  
>> constraints to the driver webapp since it is a "choke point" for  
>> all HTTP requests thru the portal.  But this approach has at least  
>> two problems:
>> -  it leaves the portlet webapps unprotected from direct HTTP  
>> access since they are deployed in separate webapps
>> -  it doesn't allow portlet webapps to define their own customized  
>> security constraints, or to choose not to implement security at all.
> Is this second point really desirable?  What would be the practical  
> result of allowing a portlet to define it's own security or none at  
> all when included with the geronimo web console?  I think that most  
> users would expect single-signon for the Geronimo web console.  IMO  
> it would be really annoying to be prompted for additional  
> credentials when accessing a particular portlet once I've already  
> authenticated.  If we are successful and have a lot of plugins with  
> console extensions then it might also become a problem to have many  
> different credentials to manage.

I doubt the second is actually desirable.
>> To address the first problem we might be able to do something like :
>> where portlet webapps map the driver's security contraints into  
>> their web.xml.  But that's not very flexible since it requires the  
>> portlet webapps to keep their security settings in synch with the  
>> driver.  And if they contain servlets like DWR then those have to  
>> be dispatched through the driver as well.  I'm also wondering if  
>> that approach actually works across separately deployed modules  
>> (it worked for webapps deployed inside the same EAR).  But even if  
>> we can work through all that I'm still hoping that our solution  
>> can also address the second problem, since that would make the  
>> portal available for general purpose use and not just as an  
>> extensible admin console.
> I like the idea of a general use portal.  Perhaps we could have it  
> both ways?
> 1) To integrate with the Geronimo web console you must have your  
> portlets conform to some security and other standards.  Part of  
> that would involve some standard Geronimo web console practices so  
> that this can be integrated under a single geronimo admin  
> authorization.  Other parts might be necessary to link/protect the  
> portlet context, insert content in the appropriate place for  
> navigation, specify a navigation icon, utilize the Geronimo skin/ 
> style sheets, etc....
> 2) If this portlet application does not include the necessary  
> "glue" to be included in the console then it could be deployed and  
> accessed as any other portlet might be deployed/accessed.
> That might not make sense or be practical to implement but if it is  
> possible it would provide some flexibility for the user and  
> consistency for the geronimo web console.  thoughts?
>> So maybe there is some way to configure the security for this  
>> portal so that the driver has no security constraints at all by  
>> default, and instead the security constraints can be defined by  
>> the portlet webapps in ad hoc fashion.   When the driver receives  
>> an HTTP request there needs to be some way of collecting the  
>> credentials necessary to access all the portlets in the page and  
>> then do the cross context dispatches as usual.  The questions that  
>> arise are:
>> 1.) how can the driver figure out what credentials will be  
>> necessary to successfully perform a cross context dispatch to a  
>> given portlet webapp?
>> 2.) how can the driver prompt the user for credentials, or (even  
>> better) delegate that responsibility to the portlet webapp?   
>> ideally the portlet webapps could configure their security in  
>> geronimo-web.xml and web.xml in whatever manner they like (FORM,  
>> BASIC, DIGEST, etc)
>> 3.) can/should the driver perform the login or should it pass  
>> along the necessary credentials in the dispatched request and let  
>> the portlet webapp handle its own login?

I think you may be confusing authentication and authorization to some  
extent.  I think that for now requiring someone to log in before they  
can use the admin console at all is appropriate.  Their identity then  
determines what they can do.

At some time we may want to consider some kind of "role change"  
system but I really don't think this is the time.  However I'm happy  
to discuss it but lets start a new thread.

>> Thoughts and feedback would be very helpful!!

  I think the best way to approach this is to use an actual  portal  
(jetspeed) which has a sophisticated system of portal permissions to  
go along with the web permissions from the servlet spec and portlet  
permissions from the portlet spec.  I really don't want to get  
involved in turning pluto into jetspeed.

I demonstrated some time ago that it's fairly easy to support  
jetspeed portal permissions through jacc.

david jencks

>> Best wishes,
>> Paul
>> On Jul 10, 2007, at 11:37 AM, David Jencks wrote:
>>> I've committed this in rev 554977.  Please speak up if you have  
>>> comments or objections or encounter problems.
>>> thanks
>>> david jencks
>>> On Jul 10, 2007, at 1:52 AM, David Jencks wrote:
>>>> So its a year and a half later.... I've finally made a bit of  
>>>> progress on the first of these goals.
>>>> Recently I replaced the only use of remote login with login over  
>>>> the openejb protocol.  This means that the client/server-side  
>>>> distinction is no longer relevant, and the login module wrapping  
>>>> a set of login modules is not needed either.
>>>> I've refactored the authentication stuff so that:
>>>> - we still have a GeronimoLoginConfiguration
>>>> - we can still (optionally) wrap principals to determine exactly  
>>>> which login module and realm they came from
>>>> - all authentication happens in a single vm, no sneaky remoting  
>>>> stuff
>>>> - we use the LoginContext to create the login modules directly  
>>>> from the AppConfigurationEntry[]
>>>> - registering and unregistering the subject and inserting the  
>>>> identification principal is done by a login module automatically  
>>>> added by the GenericSecurityRealm, rather than the  
>>>> JaasSecuritySession
>>>> This eliminates most of the hard to understand code including:
>>>> JaasLoginCoordinator
>>>> JaasSecuritySession
>>>> JaasLoginService
>>>> I've also removed the subject carrying protocol and the remoting  
>>>> jmx code since it isn't used.
>>>> I'm somewhat sorry to see all this sophisticated code Alan wrote  
>>>> go since it is a quite interesting solution to the problem of  
>>>> how to share authentication between a client and server, but I  
>>>> think it has proven to be fatally complex and not really a good  
>>>> solution to the original problem.  As we discussed at this  
>>>> apachecon security assertions seem to provide a better framework  
>>>> for thinking about these questions.
>>>> I opened GERONIMO-3303 about this and expect to be comitting  
>>>> after just a bit more cleanup.
>>>> thanks
>>>> david jencks
>>>> On Dec 23, 2005, at 6:37 PM, David Jencks wrote:
>>>>> At ApacheCon several of us got together to discuss security in  
>>>>> Geronimo.  These are my recollections, please expand/contradict/ 
>>>>> modify what I forgot or got wrong.
>>>>> People:  Alan Cabrera, David Jencks, Kresten Krab Thorup, Hiram  
>>>>> Chirino, Simon Godik (Others ???)
>>>>> Problems with the current implementation:
>>>>> - Distinction between client-side and server-side login modules  
>>>>> is too hard to understand and too ad-hoc: security assertions  
>>>>> are a better, standard, and more comprehensible way of getting  
>>>>> the same functionality.
>>>>> - The LoginModule wrapping a set of login modules serves little  
>>>>> purpose.
>>>>> Things we like and want to generalize somehow:
>>>>> - We'd like to extend the variety of approaches represented in  
>>>>> the CORBA csiv2 model to other transports and contexts beyond  
>>>>> CORBA
>>>>> How we might get there:
>>>>> Simon gave us some hints about SAML and XACML and IIUC pointed  
>>>>> out that most of the basic ideas we need are worked out in  
>>>>> detail in these specs and that we can implement these ideas  
>>>>> without necessarily relying on the xml-centered implementation  
>>>>> called for in the specs.  In particular SAML extensively  
>>>>> discusses security assertions which are a more powerful and  
>>>>> systematic way of dealing with both the client/server login  
>>>>> module problems and the information dealt with by csiv2.  My  
>>>>> current and very limited understanding is that SAML indicates  
>>>>> what kind of security assertions can be made and how to  
>>>>> transfer them between systems.  XACML provides a framework in  
>>>>> which (among many many other things) these security assertions  
>>>>> can have effects on authentication and authorization decisions
>>>>> Since ApacheCon I've started looking into XACML and SAML a tiny  
>>>>> bit and although I am not thrilled by the pointy brackets I  
>>>>> think this is an avenue we should investigate thoroughly.  I  
>>>>> think it can definitely provide the flexibility we want in the  
>>>>> security model: I think the challenge will be making the  
>>>>> configuration comprehensible and the implementation fast.  From  
>>>>> my very brief study it looks like XACML will provide a  
>>>>> framework in which authorization rules that include the request  
>>>>> info provided by JACC can be evaluated.  I'm not sure what else  
>>>>> it will bring us :-)
>>>>> Many thanks,
>>>>> david jencks

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