Digest Access Authentication Draft

Comments are requested on the attached draft for Digest Authentication
for use with HTTP/1.1.  The desire to keep this draft on the same time
schedule as HTTP/1.1 and the hope that it can be incorporated as part
of HTTP/1.1 requires responses (to this list) within a week.

The digest authentication scheme described in this document suffers
from many known limitations.  It is intended as a replacement for
basic authentication and nothing more.  Basic authentication, which
is currently in wide use, sends passwords in clear text.  This is
serious problem which needs to be rectified as quickly as possible.
Rectifying quickly and painlessly  is the prime objective of digest

Users and implementors should be aware that this protocol is not as
secure as kerberos, and not as secure as any client-side private-key
scheme.  Nertheless it is better than nothing, better than what is
commonly used with telnet and ftp and better than Basic authentication.

Suggestions for changes and improvements are welcomed but will be 
judged in light of the following factors.


1.  The objective of digest authentication is NOT to produce the
  strongest possible authentication scheme or even a particularly 
  strong one.  The objective is to produce the simplest and easiest
  to implement scheme which does not transmit user passwords in clear
  text and which can quickly replace Basic authentication.

2.  Commercial implementations of the non-optional parts of this 
  scheme have been in existence and widely deployed for some time.
  Sigficant changes at this point will break many browsers and servers.
  Is your suggested change of sufficient importance to outweigh this

John Franks 	Dept of Math. Northwestern University


HTTP Working Group                                  Jeffery L. Hostetler
INTERNET-DRAFT                                               John Franks
<draft-ietf-http-digest-aa-04.txt>                   Philip Hallam-Baker
                                                             Paul  Leach
                                                            Ari Luotonen
                                                            Eric W. Sink
                                                     Lawrence C. Stewart
Expires SIX MONTHS FROM--->                                ????, 1996

         A Proposed Extension to HTTP : Digest Access Authentication

Status of this Memo

  This document is an Internet-Draft. Internet-Drafts are working
  documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
  and its working groups. Note that other groups may also distribute
  working documents as Internet-Drafts.

  Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
  and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
  time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
  material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

  To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
  "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
  Directories on ds.internic.net (US East Coast), nic.nordu.net
  (Europe), ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast), or munnari.oz.au (Pacific

  Distribution of this document is unlimited. Please send comments to
  the proposed HTTP working group at <http-wg@cuckoo.hpl.hp.com>.
  Discussions of the working group are archived at
  <URL:http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/http/>. General discussions
  about HTTP and the applications which use HTTP should take place on
  the <www-talk@www10.w3.org> mailing list.


  The protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.0" includes specification for a
  Basic Access Authentication scheme.  This scheme is not considered to
  be a secure method of user authentication, as the user name and
  password are passed over the network in an unencrypted form.  A
  specification for a new authentication scheme is needed for future
  versions of the HTTP protocol.  This document provides specification
  for such a scheme, referred to as "Digest Access Authentication".
  The encryption method used by default is the RSA Data Security, Inc.
  MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm [3].

Table of Contents

STATUS OF THIS MEMO....................................................1


TABLE OF CONTENTS......................................................2


 1.1  PURPOSE .........................................................
 1.2  OVERALL OPERATION ...............................................
 1.3  REPRESENTATION OF DIGEST VALUES .................................
 1.4  LIMITATIONS .....................................................

2. DIGEST ACCESS AUTHENTICATION SCHEME.................................

 2.1 SPECIFICATION OF DIGEST HEADERS ..................................
  2.1.1 THE WWW-AUTHENTICATE RESPONSE HEADER ..........................
  2.1.2 THE AUTHORIZATION REQUEST HEADER ..............................
  2.1.3 THE AUTHENTICATION-INFO HEADER ................................
 2.2 DIGEST OPERATION .................................................
 2.3 SECURITY PROTOCOL NEGOTIATION ....................................
 2.4 EXAMPLE ..........................................................

3. SECURITY CONSIDERATIONS............................................

 3.1 COMPARISON WITH BASIC AUTHENTICATION ............................
 3.2 REPLAY ATTACKS ..................................................
 3.3 MAN IN THE MIDDLE ...............................................
 3.4 SPOOFING BY COUNTERFEIT SERVERS .................................
 3.5 STORING PASSWORDS ...............................................
 3.6 SUMMARY .........................................................

4.  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...................................................

5. REFERENCES.........................................................

6. AUTHORS ADDRESSES..................................................


1.1  Purpose

  The protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.0" includes specification for a
  Basic Access Authentication scheme[1].  This scheme is not considered
  to be a secure method of user authentication, as the user name and
  password are passed over the network in an unencrypted form.  A
  specification for a new authentication scheme is needed for future
  versions of the HTTP protocol.  This document provides specification
  for such a scheme, referred to as "Digest Access Authentication".

  The Digest Access Authentication scheme is not intended to be a
  complete answer to the need for security in the World Wide Web. This
  scheme provides no encryption of object content.  The intent is
  simply to facilitate secure access authentication.

  It is proposed that this access authentication scheme be included in
  the proposed HTTP/1.1 specification.

1.2  Overall Operation

  Like Basic Access Authentication, the Digest scheme is based on a
  simple challenge-response paradigm.  The Digest scheme challenges
  using a nonce value.  A valid response contains a checksum (by
  default the MD5 checksum) of the username, the password, the given
  nonce value, and the requested URI.  In this way, the password is
  never sent in the clear.  Just as with the Basic scheme, the username
  and password must be prearranged in some fashion which is not
  addressed by this document.

1.3  Representation of digest values

  An optional header allows the server to specify the algorithm used to
  create the checksum or digest.  By default the MD5 algorithm is used
  and that is the only algorithm described in this document.

  For the purposes of this document, an MD5 digest of 128 bits is
  represented as 32 ASCII printable characters.  The bits in the 128
  bit digest are converted from most significant to least significant
  bit, four bits at a time to their ASCII presentation as follows.
  Each four bits is represented by its familiar hexadecimal notation
  from the characters 0123456789abcdef.  That is binary 0000 gets
  represented by the character '0', 0001, by '1', and so on up to the
  representation of 1111 as 'f'.

1.4  Limitations

  The digest authentication scheme described in this document suffers
  from many known limitations.  It is intended as a replacement for
  basic authentication and nothing more.  It is a password-based system
  and (on the server side) suffers from all the same problems of any
  password system.  In particular no provision is made in this protocol
  for the initial secure arrangement between user and server
  establishing the user's password.

  Users and implementors should be aware that this protocol is not as
  secure as kerberos, and not as secure as any client-side private-key
  scheme.  Nertheless it is better than nothing, better than what is
  commonly used with telnet and ftp and better than Basic

  Some keyword-value pairs occurring in headers described below are
  required to have values which are of the type "quoted-string" as
  defined in section 2.2 of the HTTP/1.1 specification [2].  A
  consequence is that these values represent strings in the US-ASCII
  character set.  An unfortunate side effect of this is that digest
  authentication is not capable of handling either user names or realm
  names (see 2.1.1 below) which are not expressed in this character set.

2. Digest Access Authentication Scheme

2.1 Specification of Digest Headers

  The Digest Access Authentication scheme is conceptually similar to
  the Basic scheme.  The formats of the modified WWW-Authenticate
  header line and the Authorization header line are specified below,
  using the extended BNF defined in the HTTP/1.1 specification, section
  2.1.  In addition, a new header, Authentication-info, is specified.

2.1.1 The WWW-Authenticate Response Header

  If a server receives a request for an access-protected object, and an
  acceptable Authorization header is not sent, the server responds with
  a "401 Unauthorized" status code, and a WWW-Authenticate header,
  which is defined as follows:

     WWW-Authenticate    = "WWW-Authenticate" ":" "Digest"

     digest-challenge    = 1#( realm | [ domain ] | nonce |
                          [ digest-opaque ] |[ stale ] | [ algorithm ] )

     realm               = "realm" "=" realm-value
     realm-value         = quoted-string
     domain              = "domain" "=" <"> 1#URI <">
     nonce               = "nonce" "=" nonce-value
     nonce-value         = quoted-string
     opaque              = "opaque" "=" quoted-string
     stale               = "stale" "=" ( "true" | "false" )
     algorithm           = "algorithm" "=" ( "MD5" | token )

  The meanings of the values of the parameters used above are as

     A string to be displayed to users so they know which  username and
     password to use.  This string should contain  at least the name of
     the host performing the authentication and might additionally
     indicate the collection of users who might have access.  An example
     might be "registeredusers@gotham.news.com."  The realm is a 
     "quoted-string" as specified in section 2.2 of the HTTP/1.1 
     specification [2].

     A comma separated list of URIs, as specified for HTTP/1.0.  The
     intent is that the client could use this information to know the
     set of URIs for which the same authentication information should be
     sent.  The URIs in this list may exist on different servers.  If
     this keyword is omitted or empty, the client should assume that the
     domain consists of all URIs on the responding server.

     A server-specified data string which may be uniquely generated each
     time a 401 response is made.  It is recommended that this string be
     base64 or hexadecimal data.  Specifically, since the string is
     passed in the header lines as a quoted string, the double-quote
     character is not allowed.

     The contents of the nonce are implementation dependent.  The
     quality of the implementation depends on a good choice.  A
     recommended nonce would include

             H(client-IP ":" time-stamp ":" private-key )

     Where client-IP is the dotted quad IP address of the client making
     the request, time-stamp is a server generated time value,  private-
     key is data known only to the server.  With a nonce of this form a
     server would normally recalculate the nonce after receiving the
     client authentication header and reject the request if it did not
     match the nonce from that header. In this way the server can limit
     the reuse of a nonce to the IP address to which it was issued and
     limit the time of the nonce's validity.  Further discussion of the
     rationale for nonce construction is in section 3.2 below.

     An implementation might choose not to accept a previously used
     nonce or a previously used digest to protect against a replay
     attack.  Or, an implementation might choose to use one-time nonces
     or digests for POST or PUT requests and a time-stamp for GET
     requests.  For more details on the issues involved see section 3.
     of this document.

     The nonce is opaque to the client.

     A string of data, specified by the server, which should returned by
     the client unchanged.  It is recommended that this string be base64
     or hexadecimal data.  This field is a "quoted-string" as specified
     in section 2.2 of the HTTP/1.1 specification [2].

     A flag, indicating that the previous request from the client was
     rejected because the nonce value was stale.  If stale is TRUE (in
     upper or lower case), the client may wish to simply retry the
     request with a new encrypted response, without reprompting the user
     for a new username and password.  The server should only set stale
     to true if it receives a request for which the nonce is invalid but
     with a valid digest for that nonce (indicating the the client knows
     the correct username/password).

     A string indicating the algorithm used to produce the digest or
     checksum.  If this not present the MD5 algorithm is assumed. In
     this document the string obtained by applying this algorithm to the
     data "data" will be denoted by H(data).

2.1.2 The Authorization Request Header

  The client is expected to retry the request, passing an Authorization
  header line, which is defined as follows.

     Authorization       = "Authorization" ":" "Digest" digest-response

     digest-response     = 1#( username | realm | nonce | digest-uri |
                              response | [ digest ] | [ algorithm ] |
                              opaque )

     username            = "username" "=" username-value
     username-value      = quoted-string
     digest-uri          = "uri" "=" digest-uri-value
     digest-uri-value    = request-uri         ; As specified by HTTP/1.1
     response            = "response" "=" response-digest
     digest             = "digest" "=" entity-digest

     response-digest     = <"> 32*LHEX <">
     entity-digest      = <"> 32*LHEX <">
     LHEX                = "0" | "1" | "2" | "3" | "4" | "5" | "6" | "7" |
                           "8" | "9" | "a" | "b" | "c" | "d" | "e" | "f"

  The definitions of response-digest and entity-digest above indicate
  the encoding for their values. The following ones show how the value
  is computed:

     response-digest     =
          <"> < H( H(A1) ":" nonce-value ":" H(A2) > <">

     A1             = username-value ":" realm-value ":" password
     password       = < user's password >
     A2             = Method ":" digest-uri-value

  The "username-value" field is a "quoted-string" as specified in section
  2.2 of the HTTP/1.1 specification [2].  "Method" is the HTTP request
  method as specified in section 5.1 of [2].  The "request-uri" value is
  the Request-URI from the request line as specified in section 5.1 of
  [2].  This may be "*", an "absoluteURL" or an "abs_path" as specified
  in section 5.1.2 of [2], but it MUST agree with the Request-URI, in
  particular, it MUST be an "absoluteURL" if the Request-URI is an

  No white space is allowed in any of the strings to which the digest
  function H() is applied with the exception of the entity-body (see below).
  For example the string A1 must be of the form "user:realm:password" with
  no white space on either side of the colons.  Likewise, except for the
  entity-body, the other strings digested by H() must not have white
  space on either side of the colons which delimit their fields.

  The authenticating server must assure that the document designated
  by the "uri" parameter is the same as the document served.  The
  purpose of duplicating information from the request URL in this
  field is to deal with the possibility that an intermediate proxy may
  alter the client's request.  This altered (but presumably semantically
  equivalent) request would not result in the same digest as that
  calculated by the client.

  The optional "digest" field contains a digest of the entity body and
  some of the associated entity headers.  This digest can be useful in
  both request and response transactions.  In a request it can insure the
  integrity of POST data or data being PUT to the server.  In a response
  it insures the integrity of the served document.  The value of the
  "digest" field is an <entity-digest> which is defined as follows.

    entity-digest = <"> H(H(A1) ":" nonce-value ":" Method ":" 
                                       entity-info ":" H(entity-body)) <">
           ; format is <"> 32*LHEX <">

    entity-info = H(
              digest-uri-value ":"
              media-type ":"         ; Content-type, see section 3.7 of [2]
              *DIGIT ":"             ; Content length -- see 10.12 of [2]
              content-coding ":"     ; Content-encoding, see section 3.5 of [2]
              last-modified ":" ; last modified date - see section 10.25 of [2]
              expires           ; expiration date; see section 10.19 of [2]
              ; format is <"> 32*LHEX <">

    last-modified   = rfc1123-date  ; see section 3.2.1 of [2]
    expires         = rfc1123-date

  The entity-info elements incorporate the values of the URI used to
  request the entity as well as the associated entity headers
  Content-type, Content-length, Content-encoding, Last-modified, and
  Expires.  These headers are all end-to-end headers (see section ??? of [2])
  which must not be modified by proxy caches.  The "entity-body" is as
  specified by section 10.13 of [2] or RFC 1864.

  Note that not all entities will have an associated URI or all of
  these headers.  For example, an entity which is the data of a
  POST request will typically not have a digest-uri-value or
  Last-modified or Expires headers.  If an entity does not have a
  digest-uri-value or a header corresponding to one of the entity-info
  fields, then that field is left empty in the computation of
  entity-info.  All the colons specified above are present, however.
  For example the value of the entity-info associated with POST data
  which has content-type "text/plain", no content-encoding and a length 
  of 255 bytes would be H(:text/plain:255:::).

  In the entity-info computation, except for the blank after the comma
  in "rfc1123-date", there must be no white space between "words" and
  "tspecials", and exactly one blank between "words" (see section 2.2 
  of [2]).

2.1.3 The Authentication-info Header

  When authorization succeeds, the Server may optionally provide a
  Authentication-info header indicating that the server wants to
  communicate some information regarding the successful authentication
  (such as an entity digest or a new nonce to be used for the next
  transaction).  It has two fields, digest and nextnonce.  Both
  are optional.

    Authentication-info = "Authentication-info" ":" 
                                      1#( digest | nextnonce )

    nextnonce      = "nextnonce" "=" nonce-value

    digest = "digest" "=" entity-digest

  The optional digest allows the client to verify that the body
  of the response has not been changed en-route.  The server would
  probably only send this when it has the document and can compute it.
  The server would probably not bother generating this header for CGI
  output.  The value of the "digested-entity" is an <entity-digest> which
  is computed as described above.  

  The value of the nextnonce parameter is the nonce the server wishes
  the client to use for the next authentication response.  Note that
  either field is optional.  In particular the server may send the
  Authentication-info header with only the nextnonce field as a means of
  implementing one-time nonces.  If the nextnonce field is present the
  client is strongly encouraged to use it for the next WWW-Authenticate
  header.  Failure of the client to do so may result in a request to
  re-authenticate from the server with the "stale=TRUE."

2.2 Digest Operation

  Upon receiving the Authorization information, the server may check
  its validity by looking up its known password which corresponds to
  the submitted username.  Then, the server must perform the same MD5
  operation performed by the client, and compare the result to the
  given response-digest.

  Note that the HTTP server does not actually need to know the user's
  clear text password.  As long as H(A1) is available to the server,
  the validity of an Authorization header may be verified.

  A client may remember the username, password and nonce values, so
  that future requests within the specified <domain> may include the
  Authorization line preemptively.  The server may choose to accept the
  old Authorization information, even though the nonce value included
  might not be fresh. Alternatively, the server could return a 401
  response with a new nonce value, causing the client to retry the
  request.  By specifying stale=TRUE with this response, the server
  hints to the client that the request should be retried with the new
  nonce, without reprompting the user for a new username and password.

  The opaque data is useful for transporting state information around.
  For example, a server could be responsible for authenticating content
  which actual sits on another server.  The first 401 response would
  include a domain field which includes the URI on the second server,
  and the opaque field for specifying state information.  The client
  will retry the request, at which time the server may respond with a
  301/302 redirection, pointing to the URI on the second server.  The
  client will follow the redirection, and pass the same Authorization
  line, including the <opaque> data which the second server may

  As with the basic scheme, proxies must be completely transparent in
  the Digest access authentication scheme. That is, they must forward
  the WWW-Authenticate, Authentication-info and Authorization headers
  untouched. If a proxy wants to authenticate a client before a request
  is forwarded to the server, it can be done using the Proxy-
  Authenticate and Proxy-Authorization headers.

2.3 Security Protocol Negotiation

  It is useful for a server to be able to know which security schemes a
  client is capable of handling.

  If this proposal is accepted as a required part of the HTTP/1.1
  specification, then a server may assume Digest support when a client
  identifies itself as HTTP/1.1 compliant.

  It is possible that a server may want to require Digest as its
  authentication method, even if the server does not know that the
  client supports it.  A client is encouraged to fail gracefully if the
  server specifies any authentication scheme it cannot handle.

2.4 Example

  The following example assumes that an access-protected document is
  being requested from the server.  The URI of the document is
  "http://www.nowhere.org/dir/index.html".  Both client and server know
  that the username for this document is "Mufasa", and the password is

  The first time the client requests the document, no Authorization
  header is sent, so the server responds with:

HTTP/1.1 401 Unauthorized
WWW-Authenticate: Digest    realm="testrealm@host.com",

  The client may prompt the user for the username and password, after
  which it will respond with a new request, including the following
  Authorization header:

Authorization: Digest       username="Mufasa",

2.5 Proxy-Authentication and Proxy-Authorization

  The digest authentication scheme may also be used for authenticating
  users to proxies or proxies to end servers.  Unlike the WWW-
  Authenticate, and Authorization headers, the proxy versions, Proxy-
  Authenticate and Proxy-Authorization, apply only to the current
  connection and must not be passed upstream or downstream.  The
  transactions for proxy authentication are very similar to those
  already described.  Upon receiving a request which requires
  authentication the proxy/server must issue the "HTTP/1.1 401
  Unauthorized" header followed by a "Proxy-Authenticate" header of the

     Proxy-Authentication     = "Proxy-Authentication" ":" "Digest"

  where digest-challenge is as defined above in section 2.1. The
  client/proxy must then re-issue the request with a Proxy-Authenticate
  header of the form

     Proxy-Authorization      = "Proxy-Authorization" ":"

  where digest-response is as defined above in section 2.1. When
  authorization succeeds, the Server may optionally provide a Proxy-
  Authentication-info header of the form

     Proxy-Authentication-info = "Proxy-Authentication-info" ":" nextnonce

  where nextnonce has the same semantics as the nextnonce field in the
  Authentication-info header described above in section 2.1.

  Note that in principle a client could be asked to authenticate itself
  to both a proxy and an end-server.  It might receive an "HTTP/1.1 401
  Unauthorized" header followed by both a WWW-Authenticate and a Proxy-
  Authenticate header.  However, it can never receive more than one
  Proxy-Authenticate header since such headers are only for immediate
  connections and must not be passed on by proxies.  If the client
  receives both headers is must respond with both the Authorization and
  Proxy-Authorization headers as described above which will likely
  involve different combinations of username, password, nonce, etc.

3. Security Considerations

  Digest Authentication does not provide a strong authentication
  mechanism.  That is not its intent.  It is intended solely to replace
  a much weaker and even dangerous authentication mechanism: Basic
  Authentication.  An important design constraint is that the new
  authentication scheme be free of patent and export restrictions.

  Most needs for secure HTTP transactions cannot be met by Digest
  Authentication.  For those needs SSL or SHTTP are more appropriate
  protocols.  In particular digest authentication cannot be used for
  any transaction requiring encrypted content.  Nevertheless many
  functions remain for which digest authentication is both useful and

3.1 Comparison with Basic Authentication

  Both Digest and Basic Authentication are very much on the weak end of
  the security strength spectrum. But a comparison between  the two
  points out the utility, even necessity, of replacing Basic by Digest.

  The greatest threat to the type of transactions for which these
  protocols are used is network snooping.  This kind of transaction
  might involve, for example, online access to a database whose use is
  restricted to paying subscribers.  With Basic authentication an
  eavesdropper can obtain the password of the user.  This not only
  permits him to access anything in the data base, but often worse,
  will permit access to anything else the user protects with the same

  By contrast, with Digest Authentication the eavesdropper only gets
  access to the transaction in question and not to the user's password.
  The information gained by the eavesdropper would permit a replay
  attack, but only with a request for the same document and even that
  might be difficult.

3.2 Replay Attacks

  A replay attack against digest authentication would usually be
  pointless for a simple GET request since an eavesdropper would
  already have seen the only document he could obtain with a replay.
  This is because the URI of the requested document is digested in the
  client response and the server will only deliver that document. By
  contrast under Basic Authentication once the eavesdropper has the
  user's password any document protected by that password is open to
  him.  A GET request containing form data could only be "replayed"
  with the identical data.  However, this could be problematic if it
  caused a CGI script to take some action on the server.

  Thus, for some purposes, it is necessary to protect against replay
  attacks.  A good digest implementation can do this in various ways.
  The server created "nonce" value is implementation dependent, but if
  it contains a digest of the client IP, a timestamp, and a private
  server key (as recommended above) then a replay attack is not simple.
  An attacker must convince the server that the request is coming from
  a false IP address and must cause the server to deliver the document
  to an IP address different from the address to which it believes it
  is sending the document.  An attack can only succeed in the period
  before the timestamp expires.  Digesting the client IP and timestamp
  in the nonce permits an implementation which does not maintain state
  between transactions.

  For applications where no possibility of replay attack can be
  tolerated the server can use one-time response digests which will not
  be honored for a second use.  This requires the overhead of the
  server remembering which digests have been used until the nonce
  timestamp (and hence the digest built with it) has expired, but it
  effectively protects against replay attacks. Instead of maintaining a
  list of the values of used digests, a server would hash these values
  and require re-authentication whenever a hash collision occurs.

  An implementation must give special attention to the possibility of
  replay attacks with POST and PUT requests.  A successful replay attack
  could result in counterfeit form data or a counterfeit version of a
  PUT file.  The use of one-time digests or one-time nonces is
  recommended.  It is also recommended that the optional <digest> be
  implemented for use with POST or PUT requests to assure the integrity
  of the posted data.  Alternatively, a server may choose to allow
  digest authentication only with GET requests. Responsible server
  implementors will document the risks described here as they pertain to
  a given implementation.

3.3 Man in the Middle

  Both Basic and Digest authentication are vulnerable to "man in the
  middle" attacks, for example, from a hostile or compromised proxy.
  Clearly, this would present all the problems of eavesdropping.  But
  it could also offer some additional threats.  In particular, even
  with digest authentication, a hostile proxy might spoof the client
  into making a request the attacker wanted rather than one the client
  wanted.  Of course, this is still much harder than a comparable
  attack against Basic Authentication.

  There are several attacks on the "disgest" field in the
  Authentication-info header.  In particular, the attacker can alter any
  of the entity-headers not incorporated in the computation of the digest,
  The attacker can alter most of the request headers in the client's
  request, and can alter any response header in the origin-server's reply,
  except those headers whose values are  incorporated into the "digest"
  Alteration of Accept* or User-Agent request headers can only result
  in a denial of service attack that returns content in an unacceptable
  media type or language. Alternation of cache control headers also can
  only result in denial of service. Alteration of Host will be detected,
  if the full URL is in the response-digest. Alteration of Referer or
  From is not important, as these are only hints.

3.4 Spoofing by Counterfeit Servers

  Basic Authentication is vulnerable to spoofing by counterfeit
  servers. If a user can be led to believe that she is connecting to a
  host containing information protected by a password she knows when in
  fact she is connecting to a hostile server then the hostile server
  can request a password, store it away for later use, and feign an
  error.  This type of attack is more difficult with Digest

3.5 Storing passwords

  Digest authentication requires that the authenticating agent (usually
  the server) store some data derived from the user's name and password
  in a "password file" associated with a given realm.  Normally this
  might contain pairs consisting of username and H(A1), where H(A1) is
  the digested value of the username, realm, and password as described

  The security implications of this are that if this password file is
  compromised then an attacker gains immediate access to documents on
  the server using this realm.  Unlike, say a standard UNIX password
  file, this information need not be decrypted in order to access
  documents in the server realm associated with this file.  On the
  other hand, decryption, or more likely a brute force attack, would be
  necessary to obtain the user's password.  This is the reason that the
  realm is part of the digested data stored in the password file.  It
  means that if one digest authentication password file is compromised,
  it does not automatically compromise others with the same username
  and password (though it does expose them to brute force attack).

  There are two important security consequences of this.  First the
  password file must be protected as if it contained unencrypted
  passwords, because for the purpose of accessing documents in its
  realm, it effectively does.

  A second consequence of this is that the realm string should be
  unique among all realms which any single user is likely to use.  In
  particular a realm string should include the name of the host doing
  the authentication.  The inability of the client to authenticate the
  server is a weakness of Digest Authentication.

3.6 Summary

  By modern cryptographic standards Digest Authentication is weak.  But
  for a large range of purposes it is valuable as a replacement for
  Basic Authentication.  It remedies many, but not all, weaknesses of
  Basic Authentication.  Its strength may vary depending on the
  implementation.  In particular the structure of the nonce (which is
  dependent on the server implementation) may affect the ease of
  mounting a replay attack.  A range of server options is appropriate
  since, for example, some implementations may be willing to accept the
  server overhead of one-time nonces or digests to eliminate the
  possibility of replay while others may satisfied with a nonce like
  the one recommended above restricted to a single IP address and with
  a limited lifetime.

  The bottom line is that *any* compliant implementation will be
  relatively weak by cryptographic standards, but *any* compliant
  implementation will be far superior to Basic Authentication.

4.  Acknowledgments

  In addition to the authors, valuable discussion instrumental in
  creating this document have come from Peter J Churchyard, Ned Freed,
  and David Kristol.

5. References

   [1]  T. Berners-Lee, R. T. Fielding, H. Frystyk Nielsen.
        "Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.0"
        Internet-Draft (work in progress), UC Irvine,
        draft-ietf-http-v10-spec-00.txt>, March 1995.

   [2]  T. Berners-Lee, R. T. Fielding, H. Frystyk Nielsen...
        "Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1"

   [3]  RFC 1321.  R.Rivest, "The MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm",
        April 1992.

6. Authors Addresses

   John Franks
   Professor of Mathematics
   Department of Mathematics
   Northwestern University
   Evanston, IL 60208-2730, USA

   Phillip M. Hallam-Baker
   European Union Fellow

   Jeffery L. Hostetler
   Senior Software Engineer
   Spyglass, Inc.
   3200 Farber Drive
   Champaign, IL  61821, USA

   Paul J. Leach
   Microsoft Corporation
   1 Microsoft Way
   Redmond, WA 98052, USA

   Ari Luotonen
   Member of Technical Staff
   Netscape Communications Corporation
   501 East Middlefield Road
   Mountain View, CA 94043, USA

   Eric W. Sink
   Senior Software Engineer
   Spyglass, Inc.
   3200 Farber Drive
   Champaign, IL  61821, USA

   Lawrence C. Stewart
   Open Market, Inc.
   215 First Street
   Cambridge, MA  02142, USA

Received on Friday, 12 April 1996 13:22:58 UTC