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Xsecurity - X display access control
provides mechanism for implementing many access control systems. The sample
implementation includes six mechanisms:
Host Access Simple host-based access control.
MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 Shared plain-text "cookies".
XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 Secure DES based private-keys.
SUN-DES-1 Based on Sun's secure rpc system.
Server Interpreted Server-dependent methods of access control
Not all of these are available in all builds or implementations.
- Host Access
- Any client on a host in the host access control
list is allowed access to the X server. This system can work reasonably
well in an environment where everyone trusts everyone, or when only a single
person can log in to a given machine, and is easy to use when the list
of hosts used is small. This system does not work well when multiple people
can log in to a single machine and mutual trust does not exist. The list
of allowed hosts is stored in the X server and can be changed with the
xhost command. The list is stored in the server by network address, not
host names, so is not automatically updated if a host changes address while
the server is running. When using the more secure mechanisms listed below,
the host list is normally configured to be the empty list, so that only
authorized programs can connect to the display. See the GRANTING ACCESS
section of the Xserver man page for details on how this list is initialized
at server startup.
- When using MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1, the client
sends a 128 bit "cookie" along with the connection setup information. If
the cookie presented by the client matches one that the X server has, the
connection is allowed access. The cookie is chosen so that it is hard to
guess; xdm generates such cookies automatically when this form of access
control is used. The user's copy of the cookie is usually stored in the .Xauthority
file in the home directory, although the environment variable XAUTHORITY
can be used to specify an alternate location. Xdm automatically passes a
cookie to the server for each new login session, and stores the cookie
in the user file at login.
- The cookie is transmitted on the network without
- there is nothing to prevent a network snooper from obtaining
the data and using it to gain access to the X server. This system is useful
in an environment where many users are running applications on the same
machine and want to avoid interference from each other, with the caveat
that this control is only as good as the access control to the physical
network. In environments where network-level snooping is difficult, this
system can work reasonably well.
- Sites who compile with
DES support can use a DES-based access control mechanism called XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1.
It is similar in usage to MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 in that a key is stored in the
.Xauthority file and is shared with the X server. However, this key consists
of two parts - a 56 bit DES encryption key and 64 bits of random data used
as the authenticator.
- When connecting to the X server, the application generates
192 bits of data
- by combining the current time in seconds (since 00:00
1/1/1970 GMT) along with 48 bits of "identifier". For TCP/IPv4 connections,
the identifier is the address plus port number; for local connections it
is the process ID and 32 bits to form a unique id (in case multiple connections
to the same server are made from a single process). This 192 bit packet
is then encrypted using the DES key and sent to the X server, which is
able to verify if the requestor is authorized to connect by decrypting
with the same DES key and validating the authenticator and additional data.
This system is useful in many environments where host-based access control
is inappropriate and where network security cannot be ensured.
versions of SunOS (and some other systems) have included a secure public
key remote procedure call system. This system is based on the notion of
a network principal; a user name and NIS domain pair. Using this system,
the X server can securely discover the actual user name of the requesting
process. It involves encrypting data with the X server's public key, and
so the identity of the user who started the X server is needed for this;
this identity is stored in the .Xauthority file. By extending the semantics
of "host address" to include this notion of network principal, this form
of access control is very easy to use.
- To allow access by a new user, use
xhost. For example,
xhost keith@ email@example.com
adds "keith" from the NIS domain of the local machine, and "ruth" in the
"mit.edu" NIS domain. For keith or ruth to successfully connect to the display,
they must add the principal who started the server to their .Xauthority
file. For example:
xauth add expo.lcs.mit.edu:0 SUN-DES-1 firstname.lastname@example.org
This system only works on machines which support Secure RPC, and only for
users which have set up the appropriate public/private key pairs on their
system. See the Secure RPC documentation for details. To access the display
from a remote host, you may have to do a keylogin on the remote host first.
- Server Interpreted
- The Server Interpreted method provides two strings to
the X server for entry in the access control list. The first string represents
the type of entry, and the second string contains the value of the entry.
These strings are interpreted by the server and different implementations
and builds may support different types of entries. The types supported
in the sample implementation are defined in the SERVER INTERPRETED ACCESS
TYPES section below. Entries of this type can be manipulated via xhost.
For example to add a Server Interpreted entry of type localuser with a
value of root, the command is xhost +si:localuser:root.
Except for Host Access control and Server Interpreted Access Control,
each of these systems uses data stored in the .Xauthority file to generate
the correct authorization information to pass along to the X server at
connection setup. MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 and XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 store secret data
in the file; so anyone who can read the file can gain access to the X server.
SUN-DES-1 stores only the identity of the principal who started the server
(unix.hostname@domain when the server is started by xdm), and so it is not
useful to anyone not authorized to connect to the server.
Each entry in
the .Xauthority file matches a certain connection family (TCP/IP, DECnet
or local connections) and X display name (hostname plus display number).
This allows multiple authorization entries for different displays to share
the same data file. A special connection family (FamilyWild, value 65535)
causes an entry to match every display, allowing the entry to be used for
all connections. Each entry additionally contains the authorization name
and whatever private authorization data is needed by that authorization
type to generate the correct information at connection setup time.
program manipulates the .Xauthority file format. It understands the semantics
of the connection families and address formats, displaying them in an easy
to understand format. It also understands that SUN-DES-1 uses string values
for the authorization data, and displays them appropriately.
The X server
(when running on a workstation) reads authorization information from a
file name passed on the command line with the -auth option (see the Xserver
manual page). The authorization entries in the file are used to control
access to the server. In each of the authorization schemes listed above,
the data needed by the server to initialize an authorization scheme is
identical to the data needed by the client to generate the appropriate
authorization information, so the same file can be used by both processes.
This is especially useful when xinit is used.
sample implementation includes several Server Interpreted mechanisms:
- This system
uses 128 bits of data shared between the user and the X server. Any collection
of bits can be used. Xdm generates these keys using a cryptographically
secure pseudo random number generator, and so the key to the next session
cannot be computed from the current session key.
- This system
uses two pieces of information. First, 64 bits of random data, second a
56 bit DES encryption key (again, random data) stored in 8 bytes, the last
byte of which is ignored. Xdm generates these keys using the same random
number generator as is used for MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1.
- This system needs
a string representation of the principal which identifies the associated
X server. This information is used to encrypt the client's authority information
when it is sent to the X server. When xdm starts the X server, it uses the
root principal for the machine on which it is running (unix.hostname@domain,
e.g., "email@example.com"). Putting the correct principal
name in the .Xauthority file causes Xlib to generate the appropriate authorization
information using the secure RPC library.
IPv6 IPv6 literal addresses
hostname Network host name
localuser Local connection user id
localgroup Local connection group id
- A literal IPv6 address as defined in IETF RFC 3513. This allows adding
IPv6 addresses when the X server supports IPv6, but the xhost client was
compiled without IPv6 support.
- The value must be a hostname as defined
in IETF RFC 2396. Due to Mobile IP and dynamic DNS, the name service is
consulted at connection authentication time, unlike the traditional host
access control list which only contains numeric addresses and does not
automatically update when a host's address changes. Note that this definition
of hostname does not allow use of literal IP addresses.
- localuser & localgroup
systems which can determine in a secure fashion the credentials of a client
process, the "localuser" and "localgroup" authentication methods provide
access based on those credentials. The format of the values provided is
platform specific. For POSIX & UNIX platforms, if the value starts with
the character '#', the rest of the string is treated as a decimal uid or
gid, otherwise the string is defined as a user name or group name.
- If your
system supports this method and you use it, be warned that some
that proxy connections and are setuid or setgid may get authenticated as
the uid or gid of the proxy process. For instance, some versions of ssh
will be authenticated as the user root, no matter what user is running
the ssh client, so on systems with such software, adding access for localuser:root
may allow wider access than intended to the X display.
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