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Simplified syntax proposal, was RE: Omitting Location and Transforms from SignedInfo

From: John Boyer <jboyer@uwi.com>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 15:04:08 -0800
To: "Joseph M. Reagle Jr." <reagle@w3.org>
Cc: "DSig Group" <w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org>
Hi Joseph,

I would tend to agree that having to do a non-local data access is quite a
stretch for me.  The problem is that we've  used the same general method to
obtain data regardless of whether it is in the current document containing
the signature or some other document on the web.

I personally have no problem saying that if you want to sign a stylesheet,
then grab a copy and put it as an object in your signature.  But I do
'object' to being unable to indicate all or most of the elements residing
outside of the Signature element but in the same document as the signature
element.  If I were forced to put a copy of the bytes I want to sign inside
of the signature, then I have one of two undesirable consequences:

1) I must make a copy (which can occupy several megabytes more space)
2) I must put the form inside the signature, which forces me to put aside
the notion that the root element of a document defines the document's type.
This seems anti-XML as well as anti-object-oriented.  The mental model I
have is that I have a document, I call its "Sign" method, and the document
now contains a signature.  I don't want it to change type.  This would be
like the result of signing HTML not starting with the HTML tag.

So, if we can preserve the ability to refer to stuff outside of the
Signature element but in the same document, then eliminating the data
retrieval step entirely would be just fine by me.  If someone wants to sign
a resource outside of the current document, then put that in a manifest and
make it an application problem.  Our core requirement is to sign a single
XML document in whole or in part, not sign an arbitrary subgraph of the web.

Finally, if you want to know the design decision that is most irksome to me,
it is the fact that the *encrypted* hash appearing in SignatureValue does
not directly cover the data that the signer actually wants to sign.  This
two step process is unnecessary if you throw out the retrieval problem.
Suppose core behavior could only refer to things inside the document.  If
that is true, then here's what we can do:

1) Throw out the XSLT and base-64 transforms
2) Keep the c14n, but it can be
2) Keep the XPath transform for arbitrary filtering of the current document
3) Apply the transform to the document, ignoring the transform if it says to
drop out pieces of the Signature that are needed for security.
4) Render the portion of the document marked as included by the XPath (if
there is no XPath, then it is just the whole document minus the

If someone wants to associate a stylesheet with the XML, they can either put
a copy in the Signature as an object, or they can use a Manifest and use
application logic to sign both.


Processing Rules:
1) All of the elements must exist except SignatureValue prior to signature
2) The document will be canonicalized by the given method
3) The XPath filter will be applied, marking which elements should be kept
and which should be omitted
4) The Signature element markers will be turned on, except for
SignatureValue, which will be turned off.
5) The marked portions of the document will be rendered to text.
6) The text will be hashed by the given hash algorithm given by the
7) The signature will be created using the SignatureMethod and KeyInfo

For verification, follow steps 1 through 6, then

7) Compare the hash with the one in SignatureValue, using the
SignatureMethod and KeyInfo for decoding purposes.

John Boyer
Software Development Manager
UWI.Com -- The Internet Forms Company

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-ietf-xmldsig-request@w3.org
[mailto:w3c-ietf-xmldsig-request@w3.org]On Behalf Of Joseph M. Reagle
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 6:44 AM
To: John Boyer
Cc: Greg Whitehead; DSig Group
Subject: RE: Omitting Location and Transforms from SignedInfo

At 09:54 99/11/12 -0800, John Boyer wrote:
 >This is quite problematic.  Our core processing rules state that we verify
 >SignedInfo, then we verify the digest values of the ObjectReferences.  HOW

Just wanted to comment that I think this core behavior was a mistake. We've
inextricably link the idea of resource validation (does the content when
dereferenced at a URI and transformed appropriately) with signature
validation (does the signed blob (SignInfo) when plugged into the specified
digest and signature method with a key result in a SignatureValue.) We
specified this core resource validation behaviour because people wanted to
ensure the signature was over the actual content. We did this because we
only allowed references and not the actual content. Consequently to force
signature validation of the actual content we had to (1) include signer
created validation rules in the ObjectReferences or (2) make that a default
behaviour of SignedInfo. I didn't like (1) because I don't think we our
trust model is well thought out; unfortunately (2) has led to a string of
design decisions that involves us in resource resolution problems which are
just as nasty ...

Going back to the simple signature meaning, the signature provides
integrity, authentication, and non-repudiability over some bucket of bytes.
The main reason we defined something called SignedInfo is because we needed
a bucket and a place to include C14N and Signature Method for security

I see two main requirements people have:

R1. Force validation over critical content (presently mandated as resource
validation core behaviour.)
R2. Do not force assertions of dereferencing/transforming the content to be
bound to the signature.

I see the following options:
1. Keep status quo and use a URI that will properly dereference and
transform the target without including that info in the signature.
2. Permit transforms over SignedInfo. (Doesn't seem to be well liked.)
3. Introduce "omit" tags in the SignedInfo (No we have two inconsistent ways
of transforming content, previous discussion on this topic also is
4. Permit people to sign content directly.

<!-- This SignedInfo includes the actual object which is processed via the
     null canonicalization -->

   <SignedInfo CanonicalizationMethod="http://www.w3.org/.../xml-c14n"
      <Object ID="1">
         <DigestValue Algorithm="&dsig;sha1"/>a23bcd43</DigestValue>
         <Transforms IDREF="3"
            <Transform Algorithm="&dsig;/xml"/>
         <Inline ID="3">
            <name xmlns="http://www.imc.org/vcard">

(Or they can still sign things remotely.)

<!-- This SignedInfo referenced one object which is decoded,
     canonicalized, deriving the content IS bound to the signature.-->

   <SignedInfo CanonicalizationMethod="&dsig;/xml-c14n"
      <Object ID="2">
         <DigestValue Algorithm="&dsig;sha1"/>a23bcd43</DigestValue>
            <Decode Algorith="&dsig;/base64"/>
            <Transform Algorithm="&dsig;/xslt"/>
         <Target URI="http://www.mypage.com/hello.base64"/>

5. Permit people to move the dereferencing/transformation outside SignedInfo
(The Target Reference="..." means go to that reference to figure out how to
derefence/transform the content.):

<!-- This SignedInfo referenced one object which is decoded,
     canonicalized, deriving the content IS NOT bound to the signature -->

   <SignedInfo CanonicalizationMethod="&dsig;/xml-c14n"
      <Object Name="2">
         <DigestValue Algorithm="&dsig;sha1"/>a23bcd43</DigestValue>
         <Target Reference="4"/>
   <Object ID="4">
      <Target URI="http://www.mypage.com/hello.base64"/>
         <Decode Algorith="&dsig;/base64"/>
         <Transform Algorithm="&dsig;/xml"/>
         <DigestValue Algorithm="&dsig;sha1"/>a23bcd43</DigestValue>

Did I miss anything or some other option?

Joseph Reagle Jr.
Policy Analyst           mailto:reagle@w3.org
XML-Signature Co-Chair   http://www.w3.org/People/Reagle/
Received on Wednesday, 17 November 1999 18:05:07 GMT

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