Developer's Guide to Oracle Solaris Security

Using Channel Bindings in GSS-API

For many applications, basic context establishment is sufficient to assure proper authentication of a context initiator. In cases where additional security is desired, GSS-API offers the use of channel bindings. Channel bindings are tags that identify the particular data channel that is used. Specifically, channel bindings identify the origin and endpoint, that is, the initiator and acceptor of the context. Because the tags are specific to the originator and recipient applications, such tags offer more proof of a valid identity.

Channel bindings are pointed to by the gss_channel_bindings_t data type, which is a pointer to a gss_channel_bindings_struct structure as shown below.

typedef struct gss_channel_bindings_struct {
OM_uint32       initiator_addrtype;
gss_buffer_desc initiator_address;
OM_uint32       acceptor_addrtype;
gss_buffer_desc acceptor_address;
gss_buffer_desc application_data;
} *gss_channel_bindings_t;

The first two fields are the address of the initiator and an address type that identifies the format in which the initiator's address is being sent. For example, initiator_addrtype might be sent to GSS_C_AF_INET to indicate that initiator_address is in the form of an Internet address, that is, an IP address. Similarly, the third and fourth fields indicate the address and address type of the acceptor. The final field, application_data, can be used by the application as needed. Set application_data to GSS_C_NO_BUFFER if application_data is not going to be used. If an application does not specify an address, that application should set the address type field to GSS_C_AF_NULLADDR. The Address Types for Channel Bindings section has a list of valid address type values.

The address types indicate address families rather than specific addressing formats. For address families that contain several alternative address forms, the initiator_address and acceptor_address fields must contain sufficient information to determine which form is used. When not otherwise specified, addresses should be specified in network byte-order, that is, native byte-ordering for the address family.

To establish a context that uses channel bindings, the input_chan_bindings argument for gss_init_sec_context() should point to an allocated channel bindings structure. The structure's fields are concatenated into an octet string, and a MIC is derived. This MIC is then bound to the output token. The application then sends the token to the context acceptor. After receiving the token, the acceptor calls gss_accept_sec_context(). See Accepting a Context in GSS-API for more information. gss_accept_sec_context() calculates a MIC for the received channel bindings. gss_accept_sec_context() then returns GSS_C_BAD_BINDINGS if the MIC does not match.

Because gss_accept_sec_context() returns the transmitted channel bindings, an acceptor can use these values to perform security checking. For example, the acceptor could check the value of application_data against code words that are kept in a secure database.

Note –

An underlying mechanism might not provide confidentiality for channel binding information. Therefore, an application should not include sensitive information as part of channel bindings unless confidentiality is ensured. To test for confidentiality, an application can check the ret_flags argument of gss_init_sec_context() or gss_accept_sec_context(). The values GSS_C_CONF_FLAG and GSS_C_PROT_READY_FLAG indicate confidentiality. See Initiating a Context in GSS-API or Accepting a Context in GSS-API for information on ret_flags.

Individual mechanisms can impose additional constraints on the addresses and address types that appear in channel bindings. For example, a mechanism might verify that the initiator_address field of the channel bindings to be returned to gss_init_sec_context(). Portable applications should therefore provide the correct information for the address fields. If the correct information cannot be determined, then GSS_C_AF_NULLADDR should be specified as the address types.