27. Securing AMPS

One of the most important considerations when using AMPS in production is keeping your data safe. This means both ensuring that subscribers only have access to the data that they are allowed to have and that only authorized publishers are allowed to publish messages into the system. This chapter describes the mechanisms within AMPS to protect access to AMPS resources through client, administrative, and replication connections.

In this chapter, we describe the AMPS security infrastructure and present general information about securing an AMPS installation. AMPS uses a plugin model for providing authentication and entitlement, and allows a great deal of freedom in how a given module implements security checks. This chapter discusses the concepts, principles, and guarantees that AMPS provides. The specific steps and configuration you use to secure an installation of AMPS depend on the plugin you use to secure AMPS.

There are three aspects to securing connections to AMPS:

  • Authentication assigns an identity to a connection and verifies that identity
  • Entitlement enforces permission to access AMPS and read or write AMPS resources based on the identity assigned to a connection
  • The AMPS process may also need to provide credentials to another AMPS instance (for example, to secure outgoing replication)

AMPS installations typically create custom plugins for securing AMPS. These plugins integrate with the enterprise authentication and entitlement system, and are designed to enforce the policies for the specific site. For more information on developing modules for use with AMPS, contact 60East support for the AMPS Server SDK.

The AMPS distribution includes an auxiliary module that contacts a web service for authentication and entitlement. This module is described in the section Authentication and Entitlement using a Web Service.

The AMPS distribution also contains an entitlement module that can be used to restrict access to specific topics for all users. This module is described in the section Entitlement with the Simple Access Module.

For applications that need to connect with an existing Kerberos or LDAP system for authentication, the AMPS includes an auxiliary module that can use either a Kerberos or LDAP system for authentication. This module is described in the section Authentication With the AMPS Multimechanism Authentication Module.

If an installation uses Kerberos for replication security, the AMPS server must be able to provide a kerberos token to authenticate itself to a downstream instance. For this situation, the AMPS distribution includes an authenticator that can provide Kerberos tokens, as described in the section Providing Replication Credentials With the AMPS Multimechanism Authenticator Module.

Authentication

The first part of securing AMPS is developing a strategy to verify the identity of connected clients. AMPS maintains an identity for each client connection, and uses that identity for entitlement requests. Once an identity is assigned to a connection, that identity stays the same for the lifetime of the connection. If an application needs to use different identities to work with AMPS, that application needs to make a separate connection for each identity.

There are two ways that AMPS assigns an identity to a client:

  1. When an application explicitly sends a logon command, AMPS uses the credentials in the message for the authentication process. If authentication is successful, AMPS associates the user name provided in the initial logon with the connection. If authentication fails, AMPS closes the connection.
  2. When an application issues any other command after connecting but before sending a logon command, AMPS treats this as an implicit logon and begins the authentication process with an empty user name and password. If authentication is successful, AMPS associates an empty user name with the connection. If authentication fails, AMPS closes the connection. AMPS does not allow implicit logon by default in 5.0 and later versions. However, you can enable implicit logon as described below.

In both cases, authentication occurs through the AMPS security infrastructure.

When authenticating a client, AMPS locates the authentication module in use for client’s transport (or, for the admin interface, the special amps-admin transport). If there is an authentication module specified for that Transport, AMPS uses that module. Otherwise, the transport uses an instance of the authentication module specified for the instance. When the configuration for the instance doesn’t include an instance level authentication module, the default module for the transport is amps-default-authentication-module, which requires a logon, but accepts any user name and password provided and sets the authenticated user name to an empty string.

Once AMPS has located the module instance, AMPS provides the user name and the password to that instance of the module. The module can accept the credentials, reject the credentials, or return a challenge that the application must respond to. When the module returns a challenge, the connection remains unauthenticated until the application requesting authentication responds to the challenge and the module accepts the response.

For most production systems, AMPS security is integrated with the overall security fabric of the organization. 60East provides the AMPS Server SDK to help developers create authentication modules that implement the unique policies and procedures required by a particular organization.

Simple Authentication Modules

AMPS includes three simple authentication modules in the AMPS distribution. These modules provide very simple policies for authentication, and are most useful in testing and development environments.

Module Description
amps-default-authentication-module Allows any user name and password. Does not allow implicit logon by default. Does not provide the user name to AMPS by default.
amps-implicit-authentication-module Allows any user name and password. Allows implicit logon by default. Does not provide the user name to AMPS by default.
amps-default-no-authentication-module Does not allow authentication regardless of the username and password provided. This can be useful for testing application behavior when logon is denied, or for setting a policy for the instance that individual transports must override.

Table 27.1: Simple Authentication Modules

Enabling Implicit Logon

60East recommends using explicit logon commands in your applications wherever possible, and the default authentication module disallows implicit logons. For backward compatibility with older versions of AMPS, AMPS includes the amps-implicit-authentication-module which allows implicit logon to restore the behavior of the previous AMPS versions. To use the amps-implicit-authentication-module for all of the transports in the instance, set the instance-level Authentication to use this module, as shown below:

<AMPSConfig>
  ...
  <Authentication>
     <Module>amps-implicit-authentication-module</Module>
  </Authentication>
  ...
</AMPSConfig>

Entitlement

The AMPS entitlement system controls access to individual resources in AMPS. Each entitlement request consists of a user, a specific action, and, where applicable, the type of resource and the resource name. For example, an entitlement request might arrive for the user Janice to write (that is, publish) to the topic named /orders/northamerica. Another entitlement request might be for the user Phil to logon to the instance. A third request might be for the user Jill to read (that is, subscribe or run a SOW query) from the topic named /orders/pacific/palau.

When checking entitlements, AMPS locates the entitlement module in use for the Transport that the client is connecting on (or, for the Admin interface, the special amps-admin transport). If there is an entitlement module specified for the Transport, AMPS uses that module. Otherwise, AMPS uses an instance of the entitlement module specified for the instance. When the configuration file for the instance doesn’t specify an instance-level entitlement module, the default module for the transport is amps-default-entitlement-module, which allows all permissions for any user.

AMPS caches the results of the entitlement check until the cache is explicitly reset, the transport is disabled, entitlements are disabled, or the AMPS server restarts. You can clear the entitlement cache for all users using the AMPS Administrative Actions. You can clear the entitlement cache for a single user using the AMPS external API. When the entitlement cache is cleared, AMPS disconnects the user. This ensures that, when the user reconnects, the user only has access to resources that match the current set of entitlements.

AMPS checks entitlements for a command when processing the command, and does not recheck permissions after the command is processed. For example, when Jill subscribes to /orders/pacific/palau, AMPS checks entitlements when creating the subscription. If the entitlement check returns an entitlement content filter, AMPS includes that entitlement filter on the subscription. Once the subscription has been created, AMPS applies the filter as a part of the standard filtering process, but AMPS does not check entitlements for the subscription as further messages arrive.

The following table lists the resource types that AMPS provides:

Resource Type Description
logon Permission to log on to the AMPS instance
replication_logon Permission to log on to the AMPS instance as a replication source
topic Permission to receive from or publish to a specific topic
admin Permission to read admin statistics or peform admin functions from the web interface

Table 27.2: AMPS Entitlement Resource Types

For the topic and admin resource types, AMPS also provides the name of the resource and whether the request is to read the resource or write to the resource.

The table below shows how AMPS commands translate to entitlement types:

AMPS Command Entitlement Type

delta_subscribe,

sow, sow_and_subscribe,

subscribe, sow_and_delta_subscribe

read

delta_publish, publish,

sow_delete

write
commands received over replication replication allowed

Table 27.3: Entitlement Types for Commands

Entitlement Caching

AMPS does not present a request to the entitlement module each time that an entitlement check is needed. Instead, AMPS presents the request the first time the entitlement is needed, and then caches the results from the module for subsequent entitlement checks. This improves performance, although it also means that when a module that reads entitlements from an external source (such as a central directory of permissions) that may change without requiring a restart of the AMPS instance, that module will need to establish a policy for resetting the entitlement cache.

Regular Expression Subscriptions

Each request from AMPS is for a specific resource name. When a client requests a regular expression subscription, AMPS makes a request for each topic that matches the subscription at the point that AMPS has a message to deliver for that topic. For example, if the user Nina enters a subscription for /parts/(mechanical|electrical), AMPS will make a request to the entitlement module for /parts/mechanical when there is a message to deliver for that topic, and will make a separate request for /parts/electrical when there is a message to deliver for that topic.

Content Filtered Entitlements

The entitlement system offers the ability to enforce content restrictions on subscriptions. When AMPS requests read access to a topic, the module that performs entitlement can also return a filter to AMPS. This filter is evaluated independently of any filter on the subscription, and messages must match both the subscription filter and the filter provided by the entitlement to be returned to the application. If a message does not match the entitlement filter, the message is not delivered, regardless of whether the message matches the filters provided by the application.

AMPS also offers the ability to enforce content restrictions on publish commands. When AMPS requests write access to a topic, the module that performs entitlement can return a filter to AMPS. This filter is then evaluated against messages published to that topic by that user. If the message being published matches the filter, AMPS allows the message. Otherwise, AMPS rejects the message. For delta_publish commands, the content filter applies to the incoming delta message rather than the existing message in the SOW or the merged message that is the result of the delta_publish.

For sow_delete commands, content filtered entitlements apply to the message being removed. If the message to be removed matches the content filter, AMPS allows the delete. Otherwise, AMPS refuses to delete the message.

Entitlement Select Lists

For read entitlements, AMPS also allows the ability to restrict access to specific fields of a message. In this case, the entitlement module returns a select list. That select list will be applied to all messages delivered on that topic for that user.

When both a content filter and a select list are provided, the content filter is applied before the select list is applied. This means that an entitlement system can filter on fields that a given user is not allowed to view.

As with content filters in entitlements, an entitlement select list is evaluated indepdenently of any select list provided by the subscriber. An entitlement select list is evaluated before a select list provided by the subscriber, and the subscriber select list applies to the output of the entitlement select list.

The following table shows some examples:

Message Entitlement Select List Subscriber Select List Result
{"a":1,"b":2}
-/a
+/a
{"b":2}
{"a":1,"b":2}
-/,+/b
(none)
{"b":2}
{"a":1,
   "b":2,
   "c":
       {"c1":1,

        "c2":2,
        "c3":3}
 }
-/,+/b,+/c/c2
-/,+/c/c1,+/c/c2
{"c":
      {"c2":2}}

Message Queues

Message queues, since they are implemented as views over topics in the transaction log, present a special situation for the AMPS entitlement system in two ways. First, receiving a message from a queue implies that the subscriber has the ability to modify the contents of the queue. Second, a queue can specify a DefaultPublishTopic to receive publishes.

The AMPS entitlement system treats queues differently than other topics as follows:

  • read entitlement on a queue also grants a user the ability to delete messages from the queue that are leased to that user. No other write permissions are implied.
  • write entitlement on a queue grants the ability to publish to the queue, even in cases where AMPS translates that publish to the DefaultPublishTopic configured for the queue. No other permissions are implied. In particular, granting the write entitlement on a queue does not grant any entitlements on the DefaultPublishTopic directly: even though the message is delivered to the DefaultPublishTopic, the publish command must publish to the queue topic.

In all other respects, entitlements for message queues behave in the same way as entitlements for any other topic.

Providing an Identity for Outbound Connections (Authenticator)

For outgoing replication connections, AMPS may need to provide an identity and credentials to the replication destination. AMPS uses a module type called an authenticator to provide those credentials and handle any challenge/response protocol required by the authentication module in the remote system.

AMPS provides a default authenticator module, amps-default-authenticator-module, that is automatically configured as the Authenticator for the instance if no other instance Authenticator is provided. This module provides a user name with no password. To determine the user provided to AMPS, the module uses the value of the User option to the module if one is provided. Otherwise, the module uses the current user of the AMPS process: if the current user cannot be determined by the system, the module falls back to the value of the USER environment variable.

The amps-default-authenticator-module provides the ability to send a specific password (available in version 5.3.0.0 and higher). To provide a specific password, use one of the following options:

Option Description
Password Provide the contents of this option as the password.
PasswordFileName Read the password from the specified filename.
PasswordEnvironmentVariable Read the password from the specified environment variable.

Table 27.4: Password Options for Simple Authenticator Module

The Authenticator used for a replication Destination must provide credentials that are accepted by the Transport of the remote instance that the Destination is connecting to. See the AMPS Configuration Reference for information on configuring the Authenticator for a Destination.

If an installation uses Kerberos for replication security, the AMPS server must be able to provide a kerberos token to authenticate itself to a downstream instance. For this situation, the AMPS distribution includes an authenticator that can provide Kerberos tokens, as described in the section Providing Replication Credentials With the AMPS Multimechanism Authenticator Module. The multi-authenticator also provides the ability to provide credentials to an LDAP server, with functionality similar to the amps-default-authenticator-module.

Protecting Data in Transit Using SSL

AMPS provides the ability to use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections for communication with AMPS clients. See the AMPS Configuration Reference and the documentation for the AMPS clients for details.

AMPS uses SSL to encrypt network traffic between clients and servers. No information about the transport is passed to the AMPS authentication and entitlement system. Encryption at the network level is completely independent of the AMPS authentication and entitlement system, and these features can be used independently.