Grid Security Infrastructure

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SRB supports two main methods of authentication, Grid Security Infrastructure (GSI) and an SRB secure password system known as Encrypt1.

GSI in SRB makes use of the same certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) as do Globus tools such as GridFTP. Users run grid-proxy-init which prompts for the password and generates a secure proxy certificate which is good for a few hours. During that period, Globus commands and Sinit and other SRB commands will automatically authenticate using the proxy certificate. GSI uses SSL libraries to verify signitures on certificates (using an RSA public/private key system) so that no authenticating information is sent on the network in the clear, so a network eavesdropper would still be unable to authenticate as the user. GSI authentication has been an available SRB option since 1999.

GSI uses X.509 certificates to securely authenticate users across the network. This same GSI authentication system that is used for Globus commands can also be used for SRB commands. For additional information on the Grid Security Infrastructure see the NPACI Globus Guide and the Globus Certificates and Distinguished Names pages.

Starting September, 2004, SRB also supports the Grid Toolkit 3 version of GSI in addition to previous versions we've supported for many years. See the GT 3 section below for more information on differences and changes. More recently, GT4 is also supported.


To Build

To build the SRB with GSI, you'll first need the Globus system, including the GSI libraries, installed. You'll need to know the GLOBUS_LOCATION (this is a Globus environment variable) under which the SRB can find the GSI include files, static libraries, and dynamic link libraries.

The rest of the needed software is now part of the SRB release and build procedure. To enable it, include --enable-gsi-auth on the configure line. The SRB build system has predefined locations for the globus system (GLOBUS_LOCATION) based on the architecture type; if you need to override this, include --enable-globus-location=path on the configure line.

Users running the GSI-enabled SRB Client

Users will need to get certificates to use GSI authentication. At NPACI sites this would normally be from the NPACI/SDSC Certificate Authority (CA) system. The Globus GSI system is set up to accept certificates issued from sites with trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs), and at NPACI sites this includes the NPACI CA. Other sites may accept certificates from different sites.

As described on the NPACI Globus Certificates and Distinguished Names page, users now get GSI certificates via the hotpage or by logging in and running 'cacl'. The 'cacl' system will automatically issue the user an NPACI certificate (after verifying their password), and setting it up properly for use (putting the certificate and password-protected key in their ~/.globus directory).

The certificate will contain a Distinguished Name (DN) that is unique, via a set of attributes including items such as Country, Organization, Organizational Unit, Common Name, and User id, for example /C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/CN=Wayne Schroeder/UID=schroede. These DNs need to be entered into the MCAT to map an individual DN to a particular SRB user (this is comparable to the Globus grid-mapfile which maps DNs to local logins). This can be done via the new SRB Admin Tool (GUI-mode), or via the MCAT utility commands.

After getting established (receiving a certificate and having their DN registered into the SRB), users then run 'grid-proxy-init' and enter their certificate-key password. This generates a proxy certificate (kind of a "sub-certificate") that is good for a few hours (like a kerberos 'kinit'). This will let them run the SRB Sinit to establish an SRB session (as well as other GSI-enabled applications) during the period that the proxy certificate is valid.

Users also need to set an environment variable, SERVER_DN, to tell the GSI system the DN of the SRB server (as defined in the SRB server's certificate). At SDSC this is '/C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/UID=srb/CN=Storage Resource Broker/'. Typically, users would add this to their ~/.srb/.MdasEnv file, for example:
SERVER_DN /C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/UID=srb/CN=Storage Resource Broker/

To run GSI-enabled 'C' programs (Sinit and the other Scommands, for example), users need to set the environment variable LD_LIBRARY_PATH so that the GSI libraries can find the GSI dynamic link libraries. If this is not set, users will see an error something like this: "error while loading shared can't open shared object, no such file or directory". The preferred way to do this would be with:

  setenv GLOBUS_LOCATION /usr/local/apps/nmi-2.1    
  source $GLOBUS_LOCATION/etc/globus-user-env.csh

as this globus script will set up various things, including the LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Of course, your installation of Globus may be at some other location, different than /user/local/apps/nmi-2.1, and so users would enter that. Instead of sourcing globus-user-env.csh, one could also just set LD_LIBRARY_PATH via something like: 'setenv LD_LIBRARY_PATH $GLOBUS_LOCATION/lib'.

Running the GSI-enabled SRB Server

Like for client 'C' programs, the GSI-enabled SRB Server needs to be able to find the Globus dynamic libraries. So before running 'runsrb' you need to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH as described in the paragraph above for clients.

The SRB Server also needs a certificate, so that client programs can confirm the identity of the server they are connecting to. For server to server connections we generally use ENCRYPT1 authentication to avoid certificate compatibility problems.

Getting a server certificate is not as automated as getting user certificates. At SDSC, one would contact Bill Link, our CA administrator, and he can manually create one and provide it to you. The server DNs may have a somewhat different form, usually with a hostname. For testing, for example, I used a certificate with a DN of /C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/ By setting SERVER_DN on the client-side to this value, my test SRB client/server code worked fine.

You need to set it up so that the SRB server software can securely access a certificate/key for authentication without requiring a password or other manual intervention. One could 'grid-proxy-init' command periodically, but that would put the password in a file so wouldn't be secure and wouldn't be very convenient either. Instead, you can create an unencrypted key file.

A certificate consists of two text files, a certificate file and a corresponding key file. The key file contains the private key needed to confirm the identity in the certificate, and it is normally encrypted via a pass-phrase. The command 'openssl rsa -in userkey.pem -out userkey2.pem' prompts for the userkey pass phrase and writes the userkey2.pem file without encryption. Or if your cert/key files are and, you would run something like 'openssl rsa -in -out zuri.privkey2'. Openssl is now released with Globus and can be found in GLOBUS_LOCATION/bin.

You then need to set two GSI environment variables, X509_USER_CERT and X509_USER_KEY, to point to your cert and key files, before starting the SRB server. The 'runsrb' script sets these variables, so modify the script for your file names. Then, if the key is unencrypted, the library will authenticate without asking for a passphrase.

setenv X509_USER_CERT /scratch/slocal/
setenv X509_USER_KEY /scratch/slocal/zuri.privkey2

It would be better to keep the key file on local disk (not NFS) to avoid sending the unencrypted key across the network. It is like a plain-text password.

Grid Toolkit 3 GSI support

Starting in September 2004, we now also support the Grid Toolkit 3 version of GSI. The current SRB can be linked with either the GT 3 libraries or the previous GT 2 ones.

The GT3 GSI has a number of new features, and capabilities built upon it; but the fundamental API that the SRB utilizes (the GSSAPI) is largely unchanged from GT2. See the Globus GSI documentation at and, in particular, the GT3 Grid Security Overview under

There are two changes you need to be aware of:

1) USERID and UID, and a simple workaround

As Keith Thompson of SDSC described a while ago in> , there's a problem with certain Distinguished Name (DN) objects (fields) which are called either USERID or UID. These objects are used by the NPACI/SDSC Certificate Authority, and some of the other CAs.

The more recent OpenSSL being used by GT3 GSI now defines this object, "0.9.2342.19200300.100.1.1", as "UID". Years ago, some of the SDSC software (in SRB), and some of the Globus software (I believe), would create this object itself. If I recall correctly, this was needed because our CA needed it but the OpenSSL at that time had no definition for it. So the code in SRB creates the object as the string "USERID".

But in GT3, with the newer OpenSSL, that object is now converted to the string "UID=". For example, GT3 grid-proxy-info shows my DN as: /C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/CN=Wayne Schroeder/UID=schroede whereas that same certificate, viewed via GT2 grid-proxy-info is: /C=US/O=NPACI/OU=SDSC/CN=Wayne Schroeder/USERID=schroede

When SRB authenticates users via GSI, it compares the elements of the DN individually, so that the order of the fields will not be critical.

So a simple solution was for us to add code to compare "/UID=" as equivalent to "/USERID=". This seems to work fine, and appears to be a good solution, allowing SRB to be compatible with either GT2 and GT3, and various versions of OpenSSL; admins don't need to change the SRB MCAT entries for user DNs (the equivalent of the gridmap file) for existing GSI users, and it doesn't matter which form users use or specify.

It appears that GT3 GSI does something similar too, since one can specify the server DN to which one is connecting to as either USERID=name or UID=name. Maybe it's converting it to and from an object representation and so normalizing the field name.

2) Pre-knowledge of server DN now required

For now, basic GSI_DELEGATE authentication mode will function, but operation in a multi-Zone Federation will not be available until a future release.

Ananta Manandhar of the Data Management Group of the CCLRC e-Science Centre, recently developed software for using GSI delegated certificates in the SRB system. In this mode (user authentication of type GSI_DELEGATE) the SRB server uses the user's delegated certificate to authenticate to another SRB server, that is to another Zone in the SRB Federation, or (soon) to connect to a GridFTP server.

In GSI_DELEGATE mode, we were using a GSI option to connect to a server without knowing ahead of time the DN for that server (via using GSS_C_NO_NAME as the ServerDN argument to gss_init_sec_context) but this is no longer allowed. (It returns the error "globus_gsi_gssapi: Bad argument: Need a target name for authorization prior to doing delegation".)

Also see the word document written by Ananta Manandhar, explaining this in more detail: GSI Delegation.

We have implemented some changes so that simple GSI_DELEGATE GT3 GSI authentication will work OK, using the user's DN_SERVER environment variable like regular GSI_AUTH mode does. But in multi-zone SRB federations where users make use of GSI_DELEGATE authentication, we will need to further extend SRB Server logic so that each will know the DN of other servers in the federation, and utilize those values while connecting. This will make it more secure, closing a potential hole allowing a man-in-the-middle attack.

We'd like to acknowledge and thank John Bresnahan of the GridFTP team at ANL for help in resolving some of these problems. These were some side-issues as we were developing some SRB-GridFTP interoperation capabilities a few weeks ago.