Re: [GNAP] Will GNAP support Zero Trust Architecture?

Fabien Imbault <> Wed, 24 March 2021 16:36 UTC

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From: Fabien Imbault <>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2021 17:36:34 +0100
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To: Alan Karp <>
Cc: Justin Richer <>, Adrian Gropper <>, Benjamin Kaduk <>, Mark Miller <>, GNAP Mailing List <>
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Subject: Re: [GNAP] Will GNAP support Zero Trust Architecture?
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Hi Alan and Adrian,

I've created issue AS-RO policy delegation ( to capture
your input.
A first question that arises: can we give a definition to AS-RO?


On Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 4:15 PM Alan Karp <> wrote:

> Fabien Imbault <> wrote:
>> Hi Alan,
>> Yes, but in that flow, the token relationship between AS-RS and AS-RO is
>> only secure if the tokens issued by AS-RS are cryptographically attenuable
>> in the first place.
> Attenuated delegation is a requirement, but that doesn't have to be done
> cryptographically.  Token exchange works just fine.  SPKI and zcap-ld are
> examples of the crypto approach, and we used token exchange in the system
> for HP.
> --------------
> Alan Karp
> On Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 4:12 AM Fabien Imbault <>
> wrote:
>> Hi Alan,
>> Yes, but in that flow, the token relationship between AS-RS and AS-RO is
>> only secure if the tokens issued by AS-RS are cryptographically attenuable
>> in the first place.
>> Fabien
>> On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:26 PM Alan Karp <> wrote:
>>> Justin Richer <> wrote:
>>>> But with all that in mind, I think the key here is going to be looking
>>>> at what the inputs to the AS are, and how those can be defined in an
>>>> interoperable way for AS’s that can accept them. I think there’s a lot of
>>>> room for innovation and flexibility here that doesn’t break the trust model
>>>> or core use cases. If I have an AS-RS set that won’t accept my favorite
>>>> flavor of policy engine inputs, then I can decide not to use that one. But
>>>> this is a very different question than saying the RS itself needs to accept
>>>> my own AS — and we can’t keep conflating these two models.
>>>> I agree.  The point of having an AS-RO is to allow RO to specify a
>>> policy for which of RO's access tokens should be delegated under what
>>> conditions.  AS-RS should not need to understand those policies.  The flow
>>> would be
>>>    - RO contacts AS-RS and gets one or more access tokens.
>>>    - RO delegates one or more of those tokens, potentially sub-scoped,
>>>    to AS-RO.
>>>    - A different user contacts AS-RO to get a potentially sub-scoped
>>>    access token from AS-RO.
>>>    - That user presents the access token delegated by AS-RO when
>>>    invoking the resource.
>>> AS-RS only needs to verify that the delegation chain is legitimate,
>>> e.g., no increase in scope, and that it grants permission for the request
>>> being made.  AS-RS does not need to understand the policy behind granting
>>> the delegation by AS-RO.
>>> --------------
>>> Alan Karp
>>> On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 11:40 AM Justin Richer <> wrote:
>>>> Adrian,
>>>> I think this shows the problem with the terminology as it’s been
>>>> applied in this conversation, which I’ve tried to shine light on before.
>>>> What you and others are calling the “RS” is really the “AS and RS working
>>>> together” — everything to the right of the line. When Denis had brought up
>>>> “eliminating the AS” in another thread, what he’d really done is labeled
>>>> everything to the right of the line as the “RS”. Of course, the irony here
>>>> is that everything to the right of the line used all be called the “AS” or
>>>> simply “server” in the OAuth 1 days. As you say below, I don’t want the
>>>> client to have visibility on what happens on that side.
>>>> Note well: The Google+ logo labeled “IdP” in the diagram is not the AS,
>>>> as far as GNAP is concerned. It does not issue an access token that the RS
>>>> will accept. The elements to the left of the line could be a lot of things,
>>>> but they are NOT the AS — by definition. The client lives over on the left,
>>>> but so do any external inputs to the AS. These could be policy inputs on
>>>> behalf of the RO, they could be presentation artifacts, they could be
>>>> federated logins, they could be the output of policy decisions. How the AS
>>>> comes to trust those things is up to the AS’s implementation. It’s
>>>> something we can talk about, but ultimately GNAP won’t be in any position
>>>> to dictate because in practice some AS’s are simply going to internalize
>>>> all policies and we will never successfully force those open.
>>>> But with all that in mind, I think the key here is going to be looking
>>>> at what the inputs to the AS are, and how those can be defined in an
>>>> interoperable way for AS’s that can accept them. I think there’s a lot of
>>>> room for innovation and flexibility here that doesn’t break the trust model
>>>> or core use cases. If I have an AS-RS set that won’t accept my favorite
>>>> flavor of policy engine inputs, then I can decide not to use that one. But
>>>> this is a very different question than saying the RS itself needs to accept
>>>> my own AS — and we can’t keep conflating these two models.
>>>> So to me, GNAP can support a Zero Trust Architecture by LEVERAGING the
>>>> AS, not by subsuming or eliminating it. It is in fact the AS, not the
>>>> client and not the RS, that will request and consume the results of a
>>>> privacy-preserving zero-trust policy query thing. Anything that happens
>>>> downstream from that is of little concern to the zero-trust components
>>>> because, as you point out, it’s on the “other side” of the line.
>>>> I think we got this basic component model pretty right in OAuth: the AS
>>>> and RS and client working together. Where OAuth misses the mark is the
>>>> assumption that the user has to log in to the AS through a webpage and
>>>> interact directly, thereby proving they’re the RO. It’s this latter space
>>>> where I think we can both push innovation and also address the important
>>>> and compelling use cases like the ones you’re bringing.
>>>>  — Justin
>>>> On Mar 22, 2021, at 2:14 PM, Adrian Gropper <>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> I'm sorry, Justin. As a Resource Owner, I look at the RS trust boundary
>>>> (the dotted line in the diagram) as being the RS. I don't expect any
>>>> visibility into what's going on on the right.
>>>> My problem with the framing you propose is that requests are going to
>>>> the RS (or the AS-RS) and I don't want to share my policies with the AS-RS.
>>>> I want to keep the RS and AS-RS as ignorant as possible.
>>>> Adrian
>>>> On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 1:48 PM Justin Richer <> wrote:
>>>>> Adrian,
>>>>> What you’re discussing below, in terms of logging in to a site, is not
>>>>> approaching the RS. You are in fact approaching the client, and identifying
>>>>> both the AS and RS to the client. The client is a client *of your
>>>>> identity* in this model, and the RS is part of the identity provider.
>>>>> It’s really important that we don’t conflate the RS and client in this way
>>>>> as it leads to a lot of confusion downstream and a lot of broken trust
>>>>> boundaries.
>>>>> With that model in mind, approaching the “RS" and providing it your
>>>>> identity is really just a case of the “federated login to AS” pattern that
>>>>> we discussed on the WG call. The user here approaches an RS, which has its
>>>>> own AS. To share things from this RS, the RO has to authenticate to the
>>>>> RS’s AS. This particular AS allows the RO to do so using an external
>>>>> identity — in which case, the AS is now a “client” of a separate,
>>>>> disconnected (but layered) delegation. The ultimate client that eventually
>>>>> calls the RS down the way may or may not know about these layers.
>>>>> <PastedGraphic-1.png>
>>>>> This same AS, which is closely tied to the RS and trusted by the RS,
>>>>> might also take in FIDO credentials, or DIDs, or any number of other proof
>>>>> mechanisms. The output of this is an access token the RS trusts, but the
>>>>> input is up to the AS. The RS is not what you’re logging in to.
>>>>>  — Justin
>>>>> On Mar 22, 2021, at 1:28 PM, Adrian Gropper <>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I too am in favor of avoiding consolidation and correlation. Right
>>>>> now, when I approach a service provider (RS) for the first time, I'm
>>>>> offered the opportunity to identify my persona as: email, sign-in with
>>>>> Google, Facebook, or Apple. I know there are people who try to create
>>>>> one-off email addresses but that is mostly a waste of time.
>>>>> So, along come FIDO2 and DID wallets to the rescue. Now, in theory, I
>>>>> have a way to start out my RS relationship pseudonymously.
>>>>> When I want my resource to be discovered or shared I will post that RS
>>>>> URL including my pseudonym. If I then want to introduce a mediator in front
>>>>> of my AS or messaging service endpoint, I have that option. If I want to
>>>>> keep requests away from the mediator, I would publish an encryption key
>>>>> along with my pseudonym.
>>>>> - Adrian
>>>>> On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:55 AM Justin Richer <> wrote:
>>>>>> On Mar 21, 2021, at 1:18 PM, Benjamin Kaduk <> wrote:
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > On Sat, Mar 20, 2021 at 01:07:42AM -0400, Adrian Gropper wrote:
>>>>>> >> @Alan Karp <> shared a talk about the
>>>>>> Principle Of Least
>>>>>> >> Authority (POLA) in a recent comment
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> I recommend it.
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> We might expect a protocol with authorization in the title to use
>>>>>> authority
>>>>>> >> as a core principle. I advocate for a GNAP design that maximizes
>>>>>> the power
>>>>>> >> of the RO, to be seen as a human rights issue when the RO is a
>>>>>> human. This
>>>>>> >> causes me to ask how to combine better security with better human
>>>>>> rights in
>>>>>> >> GNAP.
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> Who should have the least authority in the GNAP design?
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> The AS derives authority as a delegate of the RO. If we ask the RO
>>>>>> to
>>>>>> >> partition limited authority across dozens of different ASs by
>>>>>> domain and
>>>>>> >> function, then we are not using technology to empower the
>>>>>> individual.
>>>>>> >> Probably the opposite, as we introduce consent fatigue and burden
>>>>>> normal
>>>>>> >> people to partition their lives into non-overlapping domains.
>>>>>> >>
>>>>>> >> My experience says we should aim for one AS per persona because
>>>>>> that maps
>>>>>> >> into the way we manage our public and private identities. POLA
>>>>>> would then
>>>>>> >> teach care in keeping ASs and RSs related to work / public
>>>>>> separate from
>>>>>> >> ASs and RSs related to private life so that a policy vulnerability
>>>>>> in our
>>>>>> >> delegation to an AS would have the least likelihood of harm.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > Thinking about how least authority/least privilege would apply to
>>>>>> GNAP
>>>>>> > seems like a useful exercise.  I do want to point out some potential
>>>>>> > pitfalls with one-AS-per-persona that we can also be aware of.  If
>>>>>> > one-AS-per-persona becomes one-persona-per-AS as well, then the AS's
>>>>>> > identity in effect also serves as a persona identity and there are
>>>>>> privacy
>>>>>> > considerations to that.  If, on the other hand, the
>>>>>> > multiple-personas-per-AS (presumably corresponding to multiple
>>>>>> humans)
>>>>>> > route is taken, we should consider whether that would lead to
>>>>>> various
>>>>>> > (e.g., market) forces driving consolidation to just a handful of
>>>>>> > super-popular AS services.  That topic is a current matter of
>>>>>> concern to
>>>>>> > some IETF participants.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> Hi Ben, big +1 to this. This is something that we discussed ages ago
>>>>>> in the UMA working group, and it’s one of the biggest problems with the
>>>>>> personal AS (and personal data store) model. This kind of thing makes
>>>>>> RS-first trust models really difficult in practice.
>>>>>> As a strawman, let’s say that I’ve got software that wants to access
>>>>>> my medical information. It calls an RS and requests access, but it hasn’t
>>>>>> been granted anything yet. Now I as the RO have set up the RS so that it
>>>>>> talks to my personal AS, that only I use. In addition to the RS having to
>>>>>> be able to figure out which medical records are being requested from the
>>>>>> context of the unauthenticated request (which means it needs identifiers in
>>>>>> the URL or something similar for the RS to be able to tell, assuming that
>>>>>> it protects data for more than one person). So this client software doesn’t
>>>>>> know who I am and doesn’t know my medical record information, makes a
>>>>>> completely unauthorized request to the RS, and the RS says “Go to Justin’s
>>>>>> personal AS to get a token”. The client can now make a direct correlation
>>>>>> between the data that’s being protected at the RS and the person running
>>>>>> the AS that protects it. Importantly, this client makes this call with no
>>>>>> prior relationship to the RS and no really auditable way to track it down
>>>>>> after the fact. This is a design feature in the good case, and terrifying
>>>>>> in the bad case.
>>>>>> If the RS instead says “welcome to Medicine Doctor RS, please talk to
>>>>>> the Medicine Doctor AS to get access”, we haven’t exposed anything at all.
>>>>>> And from the perspective of both the patient and the RS, this is more
>>>>>> privacy-preserving, and it’s really the least surprising option. Once the
>>>>>> client gets to the AS, it can start a negotiation of figuring out who the
>>>>>> RO is for the information being accessed.
>>>>>> On top of this, the usability expectations of people managing their
>>>>>> own AS, or set of AS’s for multiple personas to keep things separate, is a
>>>>>> huge burden. Even in the tech community, I know people who can’t reliably
>>>>>> manage more than one email address for different purposes. I wouldn’t
>>>>>> expect my partner to do that — they have trouble enough balancing all the
>>>>>> logins and sessions required for different kids remote schooling, I
>>>>>> couldn’t imagine them having to understand all the requirements for
>>>>>> managing multiple authorization servers and associated policies. I also
>>>>>> don’t expect any person to “manage keys” — I’ve been on the internet for
>>>>>> decades and I can barely keep tabs on my GPG keys, and only use them when I
>>>>>> am forced to. This is exactly the kind of “market pressure” that I think
>>>>>> Ben mentions above, people will just want to outsource that to someone
>>>>>> else, and the reality will be a few popular providers.
>>>>>> In which case, we could end up doing a ton of work to allow an RS
>>>>>> choice only to end up with a world where the RS ends up making a limited
>>>>>> choice anyway. We see how that plays out with OpenID Connect — RP’s could
>>>>>> allow arbitrary IdPs but they choose Google because it works and that’s
>>>>>> where the users are. (And that’s not to say anything of the proprietary
>>>>>> OIDC-like protocols, but that’s another discussion).
>>>>>> For further reading on these topics, I recommend both “Why Johnny
>>>>>> Can’t Encrypt” and “Why CSCW Systems Fail”.
>>>>>> So what does this have to do with GNAP? I think we can be clear-eyed
>>>>>> on what kinds of expectations we have for the participants. If we expect
>>>>>> users (RO’s) to have to set up the AS-RS relationship, or expect them to
>>>>>> carry their AS, or manage their personal keys — I think we’ve lost the
>>>>>> battle for relevance.
>>>>>>  — Justin
>>>> --
>>> TXAuth mailing list