W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org > July to September 1999

verifying order of resources in a document

From: Mark Bartel <mbartel@thistle.ca>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 14:46:10 -0400
Message-ID: <91F20911A6C0D2118DF80040056D77A20328DE@arren.cpu1634.adsl.bellglobal.com>
To: "'w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org'" <w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org>
There has been an issue raised about a security hole related to the order of
resources in a document.  It is true that the order of resources is not
guaranteed by the specification, but I'm confused as to why this is an
issue.  This is my understanding of the possibilities for asserting an
order... please comment if I'm missing something here.

1.  Have a DTD (of some sort) that orders the elements, and include it in
the manifest.

2.  Arrange the document so that one is signing an ancestor of the elements
for which the order matters.  Obviously you can't do this if you don't have
control of the document format.  However, if you don't have control of the
document format, how can you add a signature?  Documents formats have to be
designed with signatures in mind.  You can't tack a signature onto a
document if the DTD doesn't allow it or the application doesn't expect it.

3.  Add a resource to the manifest that refers to the statement "These
resources were in this order".  Note that in the general case the resource
does not have to be a part of the document containing the signature.  This
is almost the same as #1.  This approach could also be taken for asserting
what is omitted from the document.

4.  Add a resource to the manifest that refers to the assertion "the
resources in the signature were in the same order as in the manifest".

In addition, I believe that for some applications the assertion in #4 could
be an implicit assumption of the document format.  It is the application's
responsibility to verify the resources in the manifest against the actual
resources, so verifying the order against the order in the manifest may just
be an additional part of that process for some applications.

In the general case, one cannot assert an order for the resources in the
manifest because they will quite likely be pointing at different documents.

-Mark Bartel
Received on Wednesday, 28 July 1999 14:46:26 UTC

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