Network Working Group C. de Laat Request for Comments: 2903 Utrecht University Category: Experimental G. Gross Lucent Technologies L. Gommans Enterasys Networks EMEA J. Vollbrecht D. Spence Interlink Networks, Inc. August 2000 Generic AAA Architecture Status of this Memo This memo defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet community. It does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Discussion and suggestions for improvement are requested. Distribution of this memo is unlimited. Copyright Notice Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000). All Rights Reserved.
AbstractThis memo proposes an Authentication, Authorization, Accounting (AAA) architecture that would incorporate a generic AAA server along with an application interface to a set of Application Specific Modules that could perform application specific AAA functions. A separation of AAA functions required in a multi-domain environment is then proposed using a layered protocol abstraction. The long term goal is to create a generic framework which allows complex authorizations to be realized through a network of interconnected AAA servers.
1. Introduction ................................................ 2 2. Generic AAA Architecture .................................... 4 2.1. Architectural Components of a Generic AAA Server ....... 4 2.1.1. Authorization Rule Evaluation ................... 4 2.1.2. Application Specific Module (ASM) ............... 5 2.1.3. Authorization Event Log ......................... 6 2.1.4. Policy Repository ............................... 6 2.1.5. Request Forwarding .............................. 6 2.2. Generic AAA Server Model ............................... 6 2.2.1. Generic AAA Server Interactions ................. 7 2.2.2. Compatibility with Legacy Protocols ............. 7 2.2.3. Interaction between the ASM and the Service ..... 9 2.2.4. Multi-domain Architecture ....................... 10 2.3. Model Observations ..................................... 10 2.4. Suggestions for Future Work ............................ 11 3. Layered AAA Protocol Model .................................. 12 3.1. Elements of a Layered Architecture ..................... 14 3.1.1. Service Layer Abstract Interface Primitives ..... 14 3.1.2. Service Layer Peer End Point Name Space ......... 14 3.1.3. Peer Registration, Discovery, and Location Resolution ............................................. 14 3.1.4. Trust Relationships Between Peer End Points ..... 14 3.1.5. Service Layer Finite State Machine .............. 15 3.1.6. Protocol Data Unit Types ........................ 15 3.2. AAA Application Specific Service Layer ................. 15 3.3. Presentation Service Layer ............................. 16 3.4. AAA Transaction/Session Management Service Layer ....... 17 3.5. AAA-TSM Service Layer Program Interface Primitives ..... 20 3.6. AAA-TSM Layer End Point Name Space ..................... 21 3.7. Protocol Stack Examples ................................ 22 4. Security Considerations ..................................... 22 Glossary ....................................................... 23 References ..................................................... 24 Authors' Addresses ............................................. 24 Full Copyright Statement ....................................... 26
and is published so that the work will be available for the AAAarch subgroup and others working in this area, not as a definitive description of architecture or requirements. The authorization subgroup of the AAA Working Group proposed an "AAA Authorization Framework"  illustrated with numerous application examples  which in turn motivates a proposed list of authorization requirements . This memo builds on the framework presented in  by proposing an AAA infrastructure consisting of a network of cooperating generic AAA servers communicating via a standard protocol. The protocol should be quite general and should support the needs of a wide variety of applications requiring AAA functionality. To realize this goal, the protocol will need to operate in a multi-domain environment with multiple service providers as well as entities taking on other AAA roles such as User Home Organizations and brokers. It should be possible to combine requests for multiple authorizations of different types in the same authorization transaction. The AAA infrastructure will be required to forward the components of such requests to the appropriate AAA servers for authorization and to collect the authorization decisions from the various AAA servers consulted. All of this activity is perfectly general in nature and can be realized in the common infrastructure. But the applications requiring AAA services will each have their own unique needs. After a service is authorized, it must be configured and initialized. This will require application specific knowledge and may require application specific protocols to communicate with application specific service components. To handle these application specific functions, we propose an application interface between a generic AAA server and a set of one or more Application Specific Modules (ASMs) which can carry out the unique functionality required by each application. Since the data required by each application for authentication, authorization, or accounting may have unique structure, the standard AAA protocol should allow the encapsulation of opaque units of Application Specific Information (ASI). These units would begin with a standard header to allow them to be forwarded by the generic infrastructure. When delivered to the final destination, an ASI unit would be passed by a generic AAA server across its program interface to an appropriate ASM for application specific processing. Nevertheless, it remains a goal of the design for information units to be encoded in standard ways as much as possible so as to enable processing by a generic rule based engine.
The interactions of the generic AAA server with the Application Specific Modules and with each other to realize complex AAA functions is explored in section 2. Then, in section 3, we attempt to further organize the AAA functions into logical groups using a protocol layering abstraction. This abstraction is not intended to be a reference model ready to be used for protocol design. At this point in the work, there are numerous questions that need to be addressed and numerous problems that remain to be solved. It may be that an abstraction other than layering will prove to be more useful or, more likely, that the application layer will require some substructure of its own. Finally, in section 4, we show how the security requirements identified in  can be met in the generic server and the Application Specific Modules by applying security techniques such as public key encryption or digital signatures to the Application Specific Information units individually, so that different stakeholders in the AAA server network can protect selected information units from being deciphered or altered by other stakeholders in an authentication, authorization, or accounting chain.
data elements that were not considered when the application was created. For example, one could request to do a remote virtual control room experiment from home using a dialin provider. The request would only be successful if the dialin access server allows it and if there is bandwidth available (bandwidth broker) and if the experimenter has the money to pay for it (E-Commerce). Possibly the people who specified the bandwidth broker protocol did not think of combining quality of service with a network service authorization in a single AAA request, but this generic model would allow it. +------+ +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ | | auth | | auth | | auth | | auth | | | |<---->| AAA |<---->| AAA |<---->| AAA |<---->| AAA | | | | | | | | | | | | | +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ | User | | | | | | | | +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ | | | | BB | | BB | |Budget | | | | +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ | | | | | | | +-------+ | | | | |dial in| +-------+ +-------+ | |<====>|service|<====>|network|<====>|network|<===> Experiment +------+ +-------+ +-------+ +-------+ user <-> dialin <-> backbone with BB <-> <remote experiment> Fig. 1 -- Example of a Multi Domain Multi Type of Server Request
specific module is regarded as as separate architectural component from the generic AAA server. As such, it must be addressable and must therefore be part of a global naming space.
provider's AAA server, but the AAA servers would communicate among themselves via the new AAA protocol. In this case, the AAA gateway would be a software module residing in the service provider's AAA server. Alternatively the AAA gateway could be implemented as a standalone process. Figure 3 illustrates an AAA gateway. Communication type 4 is the legacy protocol. Communication type 1 is the future standard AAA protocol. And communication type 2 is for application specific communication to Application Specific Modules (ASMs) or Service Equipment. +-------+ | AAA |<---1---> to AAA server as in fig. 2 request <---4--->|GateWay| | |<---2---> optionally to ASM/service +-------+ The numbers in the links denote types of communication. Fig. 3 -- AAA Gateway for Legacy AAA Protocols
2]. 2) The rule based engine knows how to evaluate logical formulas and how to parse AAA requests. 3) The Generic AAA server has no knowledge whatsoever about the application specific services so the application specific information it forwards is opaque to it.
4) Communication types 1, 2, and 3 each present their own naming space problems. Solving these problems is fundamental to forwarding AAA messages, locating application specific entities, and locating applicable rules in the rule repositories. 5) A standard AAA protocol for use in communication type 1 should be a peer-to-peer protocol without imposing client and server roles on the communicating entities. 6) A standard AAA protocol should allow information units for multiple different services belonging to multiple different applications in multiple different administrative domains to be combined in a single AAA protocol message.
possible effort. This can, for example, be achieved in a scalable fashion if the individual user or user organization requesting a service is able to establish the service itself. This kind of interaction requires policy rule establishment between AAA servers belonging to multiple autonomous administrative domains.
In our view of AAA services modeled as a hierarchy of service layers, there is a set of distributed processes at each service layer that cooperate and are responsible for implementing that service layer's functions. These processes communicate with each other using a protocol specialized to carry out the functions and responsibilities assigned to their service layer. The protocol at service layer n communicates to its peers by depending on the services available to it from service layer n-1. The service layer n also has a protocol end point address space, through which the peer processes at service layer n can send messages to each other. Together, these AAA service layers can be assembled into an AAA protocol stack. The advantage of this approach is that there is not just one monolithic "AAA protocol". Instead there is a suite of protocols, and each one is optimized to solve the problems found at its layer of the AAA protocol stack hierarchy. This approach realizes several key benefits: - The protocol used at any particular layer in the protocol stack can be substituted for another functionally equivalent protocol without disrupting the services in adjacent layers. - Requirements in one layer may be met without impact on protocols operating in other layers. For example, local security requirements may dictate the substitution of stronger or weaker "reliable secure transport" layer security algorithms or protocols. These can be introduced with no change or awareness of the substitution by the layers above the Reliable/Secure Transport layer. - The protocol used for a given layer is simpler because it is focused on a specific narrow problem that is assigned to its service layer. In particular, it should be feasible to leverage existing protocol designs for some aspects of this protocol stack (e.g. CORBA GIOP/CDR for the presentation layer). - A legacy AAA protocol message (e.g. a RADIUS message) can be encapsulated within the protocol message(s) of a lower layer protocol, preserving the investment of a Service Provider or User Home Organization in their existing AAA infrastructure. - At each service layer, a suite of alternatives can be designed, and the service layer above it can choose which alternative makes sense for a given application. However, it should be a primary goal of the AAA protocol standardization effort to specify one mandatory to implement protocol at the AAA Transaction/Session Management (AAA-TSM) service layer (see section 3.4).
- Publish an advertisement that describes the Authorization Server's service attributes and its application specific service layer end point address. Once the Authorization Server has registered, peer processes can discover its presence or send messages addressed to it. - Application Specific Authorization Decision Function (AS-ADF) method takes a User's application specific authorization request and returns a decision of approve, deny, or conditionally approve with referral to another stakeholder. In the latter case, the application may create a reservation for the requested services or resources. This method represents the "condition" side of a policy rule's condition/action pair. - Commit a service or set of resources to a previously conditionally approved authorization decision. For those authorization requests that have a long-term lifecycle (as opposed to being transactions), this method mobilizes a reservation into an Authorized Session object instance. This method represents the "action" side of a policy rule's condition/action pair. - Cancel a previously conditionally approved Authorization request. This method releases any associated reservations for services or resources. - Withdraw the Authorization Server's service advertisement. A key motivation for structuring an AAA application as an Authorization Server object instance is to separate the generic authorization decision logic from the application-specific authorization decision logic. In many cases, the application can be divorced from the AAA problem altogether, and its AAA responsibility can be assigned to an external rules based generic AAA Server. (The idea is similar to that of a trust management policy server as defined in .) This would facilitate a security administrator deploying AAA policy in a central repository. The AAA policy is applied consistently across all users of the applications, resources, and services controlled by the AAA server. However, it is recognized that for many problem domains, there are unique rules intrinsic to the application. In these cases, the generic AAA Server must refer the User's authorization request to the relevant Application Specific Module.
computing systems. The goal is to transfer semantically equivalent application layer data structures regardless of the local machine architecture, operating system, compiler, or other potential inter- system differences. One way to better understand the role of the presentation layer is to evaluate an existing example. The Generic Inter-ORB Protocol (GIOP) and its Common Data Representation (CDR) is a presentation service layer protocol developed by the Object Management Group (OMG) industry consortium. GIOP is one component within the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). Peer Object Request Brokers (ORB) executing on heterogeneous systems use GIOP to invoke remote CORBA object interface methods. GIOP encodes an object method's input and output parameters in the Common Data Representation (CDR). While there are other presentation service layer protocols in the industry, GIOP in combination with CDR represents a mature, comprehensive solution that exhibits many of the presentation service layer requirements that are applicable within the AAA protocol model. In the context of Internet access AAA protocols, RADIUS and its successors use the Attribute Value Pair (AVP) paradigm as the presentation service layer encoding scheme. While such an approach is versatile, it is also prone to becoming splintered into many ad hoc and vendor specific dialects. There is no structure imposed or method to negotiate the constraints on which AVPs are combined and interpreted for a given conversation in a consistent way across AAA protocol implementations or problem domains. At run-time, it can be hard for the communicating peers to negotiate to a common inter- operable set of AVPs. To avoid this pitfall, a primary presentation service layer responsibility is the ability to let peers negotiate from a base Authorization Server object class towards a commonly understood derived Authorization Server object class that both presentation service layer peers have implemented for their application specific problem domain. This negotiation implies a requirement for a globally registered and maintained presentation service layer hierarchy of Authorization Server object class names.
Authentication -- Execute the procedure(s) needed to confirm the identity of the other parties with which the AAA TSM entity has a trust relationship. Authorization -- Make an authorization decision to grant or deny a User's request for services or resources. The generic rules based policy engine described earlier in this document executes the authorization decision function. When the User's request is instantaneous and transient, then its authorization approval is treated as an ephemeral transaction. If the authorization approval implies a sustained consumption of a service or resources, then the request is transformed into an Authorized Session. For the duration of the Authorized Session's lifetime: - its state may be queried and reported, or - it may be canceled before service is completed, or - the service being delivered may be modified to operate under new parameters and conditions, or - the service may complete on its own accord. In each of these cases, the AAA-TSM service layer must synchronize the Authorized Session's distributed state across all of those AAA Servers which are implementing that specific Authorized Session. Accounting -- Generate any relevant accounting information regarding the authorization decision and the associated Authorized Session (if any) that represents the ongoing consumption of those services or resources. The peer AAA servers and their AAA-TSM end points exchange AAA-TSM messages to realize these AAA functions. A central AAA-TSM concept is that there is a set of one or more AAA Server stakeholders who are solicited to approve/disapprove a User request for application layer services. The AAA-TSM service layer routes the User's request from one stakeholder to the next, accumulating the requisite approvals until they have all been asked to make an authorization decision. The AAA Servers may also do User authentication (or re- authentication) as part of this approval process. The overall flow of the routing from one stakeholder to another may take the form of the "push", "pull", or "agent" authorization models developed in . However, in principle, it is feasible to have an arbitrary routing path of an AAA-TSM authorization request among stakeholders. Once the final approval is received, the AAA-TSM service layer commits the requested service by notifying all of those stakeholders that require
a confirmation (i.e. turn on a pending reservation and do a transaction commit). Alternatively, any stakeholder among those on the consent list can veto the authorization request. In that case, all stakeholders who previously approved the request and had asked for a confirmation are told that the request has been denied (i.e., cancel reservation and do a transaction rollback). The AAA-TSM authorization request payload must carry its own "Context State", such that when an AAA server receives it, there is sufficient information that it is essentially self-contained. Embedding the Context State within the AAA-TSM message provides two benefits. First, the message can be immediately processed with respect to the AAA Server's local policy, and this minimizes or altogether avoids the need for the AAA Server to exchange additional AAA-TSM messages with its peers to complete its piece of the overall authorization decision. The other benefit is that the AAA Server minimizes the amount of state information resources that it commits to a user's pending request until it is fully approved. This helps protect against denial of service attacks. One can envision many possible message elements that could be part of the Context State carried within an AAA-TSM request message: - AAA-TSM session identifier, a unique handle representing this authorization request. All AAA servers who participate in a request's approval process and its subsequent monitoring throughout its Session lifetime refer to this handle. - permission lists stating which AAA Servers are allowed to modify which parts of the message. - User's authorization request, encoded as a presentation layer PDU. - User authentication information, (e.g. an X.509 public key certificate). - User credentials information, or else a pointer to where that information can be found by an AAA server. An example of such credentials would be an X.509 attributes certificate. - the list of AAA Server stakeholders who have yet to be visited to gain full approval of the User's authorization request. Each element in that list contains a presentation layer message encoding how the user authorization request should be evaluated by its application specific Authorization Decision Function (ADF). - the current position in the list of AAA Server stakeholders to be visited.
- a list of those AAA servers which have already conditionally approved the User's authorization request, but which have predicated their approval on the request also completing its approval from those stakeholders who have not yet seen the request. Each element in the list has a digital signature or comparable mechanism by which their approval can be subsequently verified. - an expiration time stamp, expressed in a universally understood time reference, which sets a lifetime limit on the AAA-TSM message's validity. This offers some replay attack protection, and inhibits messages from circulating indefinitely seeking the completion of a request's approval. - a message payload modification audit trail, tracing which parties introduced changes into the User's authorization request terms and conditions. - an AAA-TSM message integrity check, computed across the whole message rather than its individual elements, and signed by the most recent AAA-TSM layer end point process to modify the AAA-TSM message before its transmission to its AAA-TSM peer. This function may be delegated to the underlying Reliable Secure Transport layer connection to that destination peer.
- Send a presentation layer message to a specified destination presentation layer peer end point address. - Receive a presentation layer message from another presentation layer end point address. A receive operation may select a specific originating presentation layer end point address from which the message is expected, or receive a message from any presentation layer peer. - The AAA-TSM service layer calls an application specific authorization decision function, which returns a condition code expressing an approval, denial, or partially approves with a referral to another AAA Server. - AAA-TSM service layer tells the presentation layer to commit an earlier partially approved authorization request. - Cancel an earlier partially approved authorization request (i.e. rollback). - The presentation service layer notifies the AAA-TSM service layer that it has terminated an in-progress Authorized Session. - AAA-TSM service layer notifies the presentation service layer that another presentation service layer peer has terminated an Authorized Session. - Un-register a presentation service layer end point address.
2]. Security requirements for authorization are listed in section 2.2 of . This memo identifies a basic set of AAA functions that are general in nature and common to many different AAA applications. We propose that a standard set of security mechanisms should be defined as part of a base AAA protocol which would include such things as public key encryption and digital signatures that could be applied to individual information units within an AAA message. Security with this granularity is needed to meet the end-to-end security requirement specified in section 2.2.7 of  because a single AAA message may
contain multiple information units each generated by AAA servers from different administrative domains and destined to AAA servers in different domains. In addition, it may be necessary to encrypt or sign an entire AAA message on a hop-by-hop basis. This could be handled by a standard, lower layer protocol such as IPSEC. If so, then certain auditing requirements will have to be met so that it can be established later that the messages relative to some specific session ID were, in fact, protected in a particular way. Alternatively, hop-by-hop security mechanisms may be built into the base AAA protocol itself.
 Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.  Vollbrecht, J., Calhoun, P., Farrell, S., Gommans, L., Gross, G., de Bruijn, B., de Laat, D., Holdrege, M. and D. Spence, "AAA Authorization Framework", RFC 2904, August 2000.  Vollbrecht, J., Calhoun, P., Farrell, S., Gommans, L., Gross, G., de Bruijn, B., de Laat, C., Holdrege, M. and D. Spence, "AAA Authorization Application Examples", RFC 2905, August 2000.  Farrell, S., Vollbrecht, J., Calhoun, P., Gommans, L., Gross, G., de Bruijn, B., de Laat, C., Holdrege, M. and D. Spence, "AAA Authorization Requirements", RFC 2906, August 2000.  Blaze, M., Feigenbaum, J., Ioannidis, J. and A. Keromytis, "The KeyNote Trust-Management System Version 2", RFC 2704, September 1999.
Leon Gommans Enterasys Networks EMEA Kerkplein 24 2841 XM Moordrecht The Netherlands Phone: +31 182 379279 email: email@example.com or at University of Utrecht: firstname.lastname@example.org John R. Vollbrecht Interlink Networks, Inc. 775 Technology Drive, Suite 200 Ann Arbor, MI 48108 USA Phone: +1 734 821 1205 Fax: +1 734 821 1235 EMail: email@example.com David W. Spence Interlink Networks, Inc. 775 Technology Drive, Suite 200 Ann Arbor, MI 48108 USA Phone: +1 734 821 1203 Fax: +1 734 821 1235 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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