W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org > April to June 2002

Re: Provokant proposal on Exclusive C14n

From: merlin <merlin@baltimore.ie>
Date: Thu, 06 Jun 2002 17:32:02 +0100
To: Christian Geuer-Pollmann <geuer-pollmann@nue.et-inf.uni-siegen.de>
Cc: w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org
Message-Id: <20020606163202.CE3AD4432D@yog-sothoth.ie.baltimore.com>

Hi Christian,


> 1.) Inspect the signature: Take the reference, check that
>     the @URI and all <ds:Transform>s are exactly like the
>     ones which have been pre-defined by some security
>     architects. If the signature has the specified form,
>     then probably the constructor can use the (untrusted
>     and maybe modified) my:object element, because he only
>     uses nodes from that subtree which he knows are signed
>     because of the checked form of the signature.
>     -> Sounds really complicated. For each object, it must
>        be exactly defined how a signature MUST look like,
>        which Transforms, which XPathes etc.

This is exactly what will happen. Many protocols and standards
that employ XMLDSIG, or deployments of these protocols and
standards, will profile exactly how it is to be used: What
canonicalization algorithms can be used, what transforms can
be used, what form the signature can take, use of embedded
objects, signature properties, key info, etc.

These will be necessary to ensure that security constraints
of a standard or organization is enforced, and to prevent
data and DoS-type attacks.

As an example, running an XML document through Xalan:
    - 1s
    - 20 minutes and counting
    - who knows?

Some systems will want XPath filtering but will not want
DoS attacks. They will state what form the XPath filter
MUST take.

Such systems will simply discard signatures that have the
wrong form without ever testing their validity. These
systems can then make informed decisions about the target
of a signature reference.

> 2.) Inspect the node set prior c14n:
>     To know which nodes from the input document can be trusted
>     because they are signed, query the signature object about
>     the finally node set which has been c14nized. Using this
>     Node set, construct a form which can be read by the
>     constructor for the object.
>     -> Sounds also complicated.

In the face of the above, and even out of its face, this
may not be too complicated.

> 3.) Re-parse the digested octets:
>     The verifier simply asks the Reference "which octets were
>     the input for the digest", i.e. what has been signed. Now
>     simply parse these octets (maybe after a wrap), and feed
>     the new DOM tree or SAX sequence into the constructor for
>     your object.
>     -> Safe and easy. But -- it only works if the digested
>        octets can be parsed.

Safe, easy, and inefficient. It depends on the throughput
requirements of a system. For typical applications, this
is probably a good idea. If such an application receives
a bizarrely ill-formed document and parsing fails, then
the answer is easy - reject the document.

>But given the example between these both instances:
><foo:Contract  xmlns:foo="http://companyA.com">
>  <foo:Detail xmlns:foo="http://companyB.com" />
><foo:Contract  xmlns:foo="http://companyA.com">
>  <foo:Detail />
>Imagine you are questioned by a lawyer on legal issues what has been the 
>intent of the signer in the second form, if the first one was the input 
>   Automagically including ALL namespaces into the document
>   subset prior exclusive c14n makes all this fuzz obsolete.
>   Prefixes are automagically in-scope with the correct
>   namespaces, digested octet sequences are parseable
>   in some way (well-formed or balanced), and so on.....
>That's why I think c14n is (or should be) more than only a unique 

Don't get me wrong; I agree that you can construct seriously
bad node sets by abusing XPath, and you shouldn't. However,
you cannot deny the fact that some application may have a
need to omit part of the namespace axis. By unilaterally
prohibiting this you are ruling out any potential good uses.
The fact that I could commit a crime with a crowbar does not
mean I will.

Let me give you an example:
  <Foo Id="signed"><Bar xmlns:baz="http://merlin.org/baz/">baz:Blah</Bar></Foo>

Say I'm signing this with exclusive c14n. I have to put baz
on the inclusive namespace prefix list because it is used
by a text node. What if I _know_ that this may be reparented
into another document that defines baz. I might need to use
an XPath filter:
  self::node()[(local-name() != 'baz') or parent::Bar]

This XPath filter strips baz from the namespace axes everywhere
except the Bar element; this will stop another ancestral
definition from polluting my document.

Your proposal would prevent me from solving this problem.
It is ultimately up to applications to decide what they will
accept, not us.

Received on Thursday, 6 June 2002 12:32:36 UTC

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