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From Axel Grossklaus>
Subject interface of the 2.1 authentication framework / behaviour of mod_digest/mod_basic
Date Fri, 13 Feb 2004 17:28:34 GMT


i am currently working on mod_authn_dbi (part of the 2.1 Authentication
Project which uses the new
authentication framework of apache 2.1. and was wondering if it
was still possible to suggest changes to its interface.

i would like the interface to allow modules to change the username
during the authentication process from the value that was passed by the
browser to some other value that will be used as authenticated user
further down the chain.

an example scenario: suppose you have users who purchased different
kinds of support contracts (e.g gold/silver/bronze) from you, and
get access to different kinds of files/info accoding to their level.
in such a scenario, you would still want each user to have a
separate user/pw tuple, but to the access-control logic it does
not matter what name the user has, just what level of support
should be granted. so the authentication module could take the user/pw
tuple, check it and then pass usernames like "gold", "silver", "bronze"
down to other modules or CGIs.
i know that some of this could be done with something like GroupFile,
but that would require generating groupfiles, and even if authz
had database support, would require a second database query.

another example: suppose you have a webserver that accepts connections
from different networks, and based on where the connections come from
you could modify the usernames like "joe" to "joe_internal",
(the same thing could e.g be done time-based).

third example: suppose you would like users to be able to log in with
their full name (including spaces), or email-address or something else
that contains characters that your underlying application does
not like. the authentication provider could change/reformat the username
into something that a CGI can better work with.

i could think of a few more examples but i think you get the idea.

i admit, that most of this functionality could be achieved in other
ways. but this should be better for performance, a lot more flexible
and very handy if you need to work with some existing application or
userbase that you cannot really change. and the required
changes for this are very small, with virtually no
downside, compared to what the interface is now.

to integrate this, two things would have to be changed.

first, the two authentication functions of the new interface
(get_realm_hash and check_password)
would have to pass the username with an additional
level of indirection ("char *user" becomes "char **user").
second, some cleanups in mod_auth_digest would have to be done,
which brings me to the second part of this mail:

currently, mod_auth_basic and mod_auth_digest behave inconsistently
in some cases. for example, if i enter a wrong user/pw combination,
mod_auth_basic writes the following logline (i.e. without a username) - - [13/Feb/2004:15:20:55 +0100] "GET /foo/index.html
HTTP/1.1" 401 540

but mod_auth_digest logs the following line (i.e. with username): - foo [13/Feb/2004:15:20:43 +0100] "GET /foo/index.html
HTTP/1.1" 401 540

there are reasons for either behaviour, but in my opinion, the two
modules should log the same, especially since the new AAA framework
separates mechanism from providers.

another inconsistency would be that if the authentication provider
reports and internal error, mod_auth_basic produces an "internal server
error" whereas mod_auth_diges produces a "user not found" message, both
to the client an in the logs.

there are probably other edge cases where the two modules behave
inconsistenly. ideally, if i change the paramter of AuthType,
other things should stay the same in every possible way.

so...would there be a chance that the authentication functions
get that small change (i.e. an extra *) in their parameters?
it still is a development version of apache after all.

if yes, i would be happy to write a patch (or patches) to make the
changes, adjust all existing modules in the apache sourcetree and
make the necessary cleanups in mod_auth_digest.

i just thought i'd ask if there is any chance in getting the patch
accepted, before i start coding :-)

tty, axel grossklaus

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