Re: [dispatch] [art] Plain text JSON digital signatures

Dick Hardt <> Wed, 28 April 2021 01:39 UTC

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From: Dick Hardt <>
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2021 18:38:33 -0700
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To: Bret Jordan <>
Cc: DISPATCH <>, IETF SecDispatch <>,,
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Subject: Re: [dispatch] [art] Plain text JSON digital signatures
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I am supportive of this work, and would also be willing to work towards a
PS. I am seeing rapid growth in the demand to embed JWS in JWS.

Given my experience with XML-DSig (see below) making it more XML-DSig like
does not sound like a good thing.

For any interested in some JWT history, when we were brewing up what became
OAuth 2.0, we did not want to tie a token format to the implementation as
many deployments had their own proprietary token formats -- but we knew new
deployments would benefit from standardizing a token.

Our requirements were:
- URL safe (access tokens at the time were often passed as a query
parameter -- I know, not the best idea, but working with what people wanted)
- HTTP header safe
- richer than name / value pairs

Options we considered:
ASN.1 - the 60s are calling and want their data back
XML-DSig - not URL safe, large size, and I personally had many scars
canonicalizing XML. (An earlier company of mine had a contract to build
XML-DSig libraries for a few languages)

JSON was becoming very cool at that time, and with base 64 URL safe
encoding the string, it was URL safe, and treating the JSON text as binary
dealt with the canonicalization concerns -- and JSON canonicalization did
not exist.

Using a dot as the separator between header, payload, and signature made it
easy to parse. The dot was URL safe, but not in the base 64 set.

And Simple Web Tokens were born -- to be renamed JSON Web Tokens.



On Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 8:28 AM Bret Jordan <> wrote:

> Dear Dispatch,
> Anders Rundgren, Samuel, Erdtman, and I have been working on an ID for
> your consideration. This document describes how to use JWS and JCS to
> create plain-text JSON signatures. The abstract reads as follows:
> This document describes a method for extending the scope of the JSON Web
> Signature (JWS) standard, called JWS/CT.  By combining the detached mode of
> JWS with the JSON Canonicalization Scheme (JCS), JWS/CT enables JSON
> objects to remain in the JSON format after being signed (aka "Clear Text"
> signing).  In addition to supporting a consistent data format, this
> arrangement also simplifies documentation, debugging, and logging.  The
> ability to embed signed JSON objects in other JSON objects, makes the use
> of counter-signatures straightforward.
> The data tracker page for this:
> As you know there are large ecosystems that needs digital signatures for
> plain text JSON data, meaning where the JSON data is not base64 encoded.
> This ID provides a solution using existing IETF RFCs to make this work.
> Further, this work looks to be adopted by many groups and organizations
> from financial services, threat intelligence, and incident response.
> We are not sure what direction would be best for this work in the IETF,
> should we send to the ISE for publication or do you want to create a
> working group. Ultimately there is a lot of work that could be done in this
> space to meet the needs of the market. We would be happy with releasing
> these IDs for ISE publication, or for creating a working group to move them
> forward. It is just important to note that the market is in desperate need
> of these solutions. If you want to take it for a spin, there is a JWS/CT
> playground at:
> Thanks
> Bret
> --
> Sent from my TI-99/4A
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