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Re: reinit_creds (was Re: OpenSSHd barfs upon reauthentication: PAM, Solaris 8)
- From: Nicolas Williams <Nicolas Williams ubsw com>
- To: Steve Langasek <vorlon netexpress net>
- Cc: pam-list redhat com, sjl debian lib monash edu au,openssh-unix-dev mindrot org,Darren Moffat <Darren Moffat eng sun com>
- Subject: Re: reinit_creds (was Re: OpenSSHd barfs upon reauthentication: PAM, Solaris 8)
- Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 09:59:15 -0400
On Wed, Sep 05, 2001 at 05:51:00PM -0500, Steve Langasek wrote:
> On Wed, 5 Sep 2001, Darren Moffat wrote:
> > >Neither the Sun PAM documentation nor the Linux-PAM documentation
> > >describe the semantics of PAM_REINITIALIZE_CREDS in any useful detail.
> > I would agree it is vague, but then that is also a problem with the XSSO
> > document (http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/008329799/)
> > >Could we please have a clarification on the semantics of
> > >PAM_CRED_ESTABLISH vs. the semantics of PAM_REINITIALIZE_CREDS?
> > My interpretation is:
> > You call PAM_ESTABLISH_CRED to create them
> > You call PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED to update creds that can expire over time,
> > for example a kerberos ticket.
> Coming at this purely from a literalist POV, the terminology
> 'REINITIALIZE_CRED' implies to me that the credentials will be returned to an
> /initial/ state, i.e., this is somehow analogous to calling
> setcred(PAM_DELETE_CRED) followed by setcred(PAM_ESTABLISH_CRED).
>From a literalist POV, clearly, PAM_REFRESH_CRED coincides with the act
of renewing a [renewable] Kerberos ticket.
>From a literalist POV, clearly, PAM_ESTABLISH_CRED coincides with the
act of creating a Kerberos ticket cache.
And I accept Steve's literalist take on PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED, which
would coincide with the act of getting new Kerberos creds and updating
an existing ccache with them (because the creds in that ccache might be
expired, and therefore non-renewable).
This means that PAM_KRB5's setcred() might have to prompt for a password
when called to PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED.
This is quite different from what I was yesterday taking OpenSSH's
interpretation of PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED to mean.
Why should OpenSSH bother calling pam_setcred(PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED)?
Here's the comment from the source:
* PAM credentials may take the form of
* supplementary groups. These will have been
* wiped by the above initgroups() call.
* Reestablish them here.
Is this, then, in case one has a PAM module which implements its own
What is, then, the correct behaviour for PAM_KRB5's setcred() when
called to PAM_REINITIALIZE_CRED? Taking Steve's literalist approach one
would think that should be: check for expired creds in the [default]
ccache and, if there are expired creds then call
krb5_get_init_creds_password() with a prompter function that uses the
PAM conversation function to get new creds and store them in that
> Practically speaking, I don't see where anything further than ESTABLISH,
> REFRESH, and DELETE is required; either REINITIALIZE is equivalent to one of
> the first three, in which case it should be deprecated to reduce confusion, or
> it has a meaning outside of the first three, in which case it should be
> clearly determined what that meaning is before people try to make use of it in
Well, see above. It might well be usefule to have a "check if the creds
are expired and, if so, delete them then establish new ones."
> > >My guess, given what OpenSSH does with PAM: PAM_CRED_ESTABLISH means
> > >"make it so we can use your module's credentials as root" whereas
> > >PAM_REINITIALIZE_CREDS means "make it so we can use your module's
> > >credentials as pam_get_item(PAM_USER)."
> > That is wrong and is one thing the XSSO doc is clear on:
Yes, I see that now. Thanks Darren, Steve.
> > "The pam_setcred() function is used to establish, modify, or delete the
> > credentials of the current user associated with the authentication handle,
> > pamh. "
> Agreed; it's counter-intuitive that a simple application which needs the
> credentials for only a short period of time should need to do anything more
> than setcred(ESTABLISH) at the beginning and setcred(DELETE) when the
> credentials are no longer needed.
Your literal interpretation of PAM_REINITIALIZE_CREDS has inspired
me :) -- see above.
> > >But none of this is documented!
> > Agreed the docs do not specify the level of privilege required by
> > the application for calling pam_* functions.
> > In someways I think it should be upto the modules to document what they
> > need but I also think this could break the abstraction that PAM is supposed
> > to provide.
> I think it's important for abstraction that this be specified. This lack of
> specification has more than once caused problems for both module writers and
> application writers.
I guess we could make it so the ccache is user-owned unless the calling
app lacks the privs needed to do so, in which case the ccache should be
> > It will always create a cred cache file owned by PAM_USER, the only
> > way you could get the effect you describe above is if you called
> > pam_setcred with PAM_USER as root, changed PAM_USER using pam_set_item
> > to be <user> - but this isn't what OpenSSH does (and it is wrong anyway).
> Does Solaris pam_krb5 fail gracefully if the calling application cannot
> setuid(PAM_USER)? As Nico rightly points out, PAM is not unique to
> applications that establish local Unix security contexts as the given user.
> Steve Langasek
> postmodern programmer
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