Updated InfoCardSelector ASP.NET Control for No-SSL Scenarios

Starting with .NET 3.5, CardSpace does not demand SSL connections anymore (see here). Kim shows how to get this scenario to work with “less than 30 lines of code” (link). This involves setting up the object tag, retrieving the clear text token from the post data and extracting the claims using XPATH. Easy. I think Keith uses the right term for that which is “Quick and Dirty”.

Quoting from Kim’s screencast: “If interception is not a concern, you can ignore the signature section in the token. The PPID becomes the shared secret between you and the web application.”

While I agree with Kim that this (especially for the low security web app scenarios he is talking about) is much better than a password, I still have some comments:

  • using the PPID only brings us back into the world of shared secrets (and that is what we are trying to get away from with InfoCards).It is generally agreed that PPIDs only should not be used for authentication (see here). If someone can eavesdrop the connection he could simply create a new token, copy the PPID and impersonate the user (which is of course the same with clear text passwords or cookies over non protected transports).
  • InfoCard tokens include a public key with which the signature can be verified. This public key is a much better identifier for the user. The corresponding private key (which is the real secret) is never transmitted over the wire and much harder to spoof than a PPID.
  • removing SSL also removes all SSL provided security features like man-in-the-middle, spoofing and replay protection. So you can replay tokens anyway. Still – relying on the public key is better because tokens have a limited lifetime. This means you can only replay the complete token for a limited amount of time. The PPID alone can be basically replayed forever (much like a password besides that you cannot change PPIDs once they got compromised).
  • PPIDs are only guaranteed to be unique per site in self-issued cards scenarios. Depending on the STS implementation (e.g. non-auditing or just a bad one) the PPID may be always the same. But in managed card scenarios you should require SSL anyways.

Anyways, the Token class shipping with the ASP.NET InfoCard Toolkit cannot handle No-SSL scenarios out of the box – nor can my InfoCardSelector ASP.NET control (which is based on the Token class). I updated both so that they work fine now.

My control does verify the signature and thus gives you the choice of using the public key, PPID or whatever other combination you like. The programming model stays the same regardless of SSL or not.

Simply add a NoSSL=”true” attribute to the control tag (see the DefaultNoSSL.aspx page as an example).



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