Pithos separate view domain

This document describes how the Pithos view accesses the protected Pithos resources and proposes a new design for granting access to specific resources. It sketches implementation details and configuration concerns.


We want to serve untrusted user content in a domain which does not have access to sensitive information. Therefore, we would like the Pithos view to be deployed in a domain outside the Astakos cookie domain.

We propose a design for the Pithos view to grant access to the access-restricted resource without consulting the cookie.

Briefly, the Pithos view will request a short-term access token for a specific resource from Astakos. Before requesting the access token, the view should obtain an authorization grant (authorization code) from Astakos, which will be presented by the view during the request for the access token.

The proposed scheme follows the guidelines of the OAuth 2.0 authentication framework as described in http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6749/.

Current state and shortcomings

Until now, Pithos, in order to identify the user who requests to view a Pithos resource, uses the information stored by Astakos in the cookie after a successful user authentication login.

The main drawback of this design is that the Pithos view which serves untrusted user content has access to the sensitive information stored in the Astakos cookie.

Proposed changes

We propose to alter the Pithos view to obtain authorization according to the authorization code grant flow.

The general flow comprises the following steps:

  1. The user requests to view the content of a protected resource.
  2. The view requests an authorization code from Astakos by providing its identifier, the requested scope, and a redirection URI.
  3. Astakos authenticates the user and validates that the redirection URI matches with the registered redirect URIs of the view. Once the Pithos view is considered a trusted client, Astakos grants the access request on behalf of the user.
  4. Astakos redirects the user-agent back to the view using the redirection URI provided earlier. The redirection URI includes an authorisation code.
  5. The view requests an access token from Astakos by including the authorisation code in the request. The view also posts its client identifier and its client secret in order to authenticate itself with Astakos. It also supplies the redirection URI used to obtain the authorisation code for verification.
  6. Astakos authenticates the view, validates the authorization code, and ensures that the redirection URI received matches the URI used to redirect the client. If valid, Astakos responds back with a short-term access token.
  7. The view exchanges with Astakos the access token for the information of the user to whom the authoritativeness was granted.
  8. The view responds with the resource contents if the user has access to the specific resource.

Implementation details

Pithos view registration to Astakos

The Pithos view has to authenticate itself with Astakos since the latter has to prevent serving requests by unknown/unauthorized clients.

Each OAuth client is identified by a client identifier (client_id). Moreover, the confidential clients are authenticated via a password (client_secret). Then, each client has to declare at least one redirect URI, so that Astakos will be able to validate the redirect URI provided during the authorization code request. If a client is trusted (like the Pithos view), Astakos grants access on behalf of the resource owner, otherwise the resource owner has to be asked.

We register an OAuth 2.0 client with the following command:

snf-manage oauth2-client-add <client_id> --secret=<secret> --is-trusted --url <redirect_uri>

For example:

snf-manage oauth2-client-add pithos-view --secret=12345 --is-trusted --url https://node2.example.com/pithos/ui/view

Configure view credentials in Pithos

We set the credentials used by the Pithos view to authenticate itself with Astakos during the resource access token generation procedure, in the PITHOS_OAUTH2_CLIENT_CREDENTIALS setting.

The value should be a (<client_id>, <client_secret>) tuple.

For example:

PITHOS_OAUTH2_CLIENT_CREDENTIALS = ("pithos-view", 12345)

Authorization code request

The view receives a request without either an access token or an authorization code. In that case it redirects to Astakos’ authorization endpoint by adding the following parameters to the query component using the application/x-www-form-urlencoded format:

    the absolute path of the view request
    the user specific part of the view request path

For example, the client directs the user-agent to make the following HTTP request using TLS (with extra line breaks for display purposes only):

GET /astakos/oauth2/auth?response_type=code&client_id=pithos-view
    &scope=/b0ee4760-9451-4b9a-85f0-605c48bebbdd/pithos/image.png HTTP/1.1
    Host: accounts.synnefo.live

Access token request

Astakos’ authorization endpoint responses to a valid authorization code request by redirecting the user-agent back to the requested view (redirect_uri parameter).

The view receives the request which includes the authorization code and makes a POST request to the Astakos’ token endpoint by sending the following parameters using the application/x-www-form-urlencoded format in the HTTP request entity-body:

    the authorization code received from the Astakos.
    the "redirect_uri" parameter was included in the authorization request

Since the Pithos view is registered as a confidential client it MUST authenticate with Astakos by providing an Authorization header including the encoded client credentials as described in http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2617#page-11.

For example, the view makes the following HTTP request using TLS (with extra line breaks for display purposes only):

POST /astakos/oauth2/token HTTP/1.1
Host: accounts.synnefo.live
Authorization: Basic cGl0aG9zLXZpZXc6MTIzNDU=
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded


Access to the protected resource

Astakos’ token endpoint replies to a valid token request with a 200 OK response:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/json;charset=UTF-8
Cache-Control: no-store
Pragma: no-cache


The view redirects the user-agent to itself by adding to the query component the access token.

The view receives the request which includes an access token and requests from Astakos to validate the token by making a GET HTTP request to the Astakos’ validation endpoint:

GET /astakos/identity/v2.0/tokens/2YotnFZFEjr1zCsicMWpAA?belongsTo=/b0ee4760-9451-4b9a-85f0-605c48bebbdd/pithos/image.png HTTP/1.1
Host: accounts.synnefo.live

The Astakos’ validation endpoint checks whether the token is valid, has not expired and that the belongsTo parameter matches with the scope parameter that was included in the token request. If not valid returns a 404 NOT FOUND response. If valid, returns the information of the user to whom the token was assigned.

In the former case the view redirects to the requested path (without the access token or the authorization code) in order to re-initiate the procedure by requesting an new authorization code.

In the latter case, the view proceeds with the request and if the user has access to the requested resource the resource’s data are returned, otherwise the access to the resource is forbidden.

Authorization code and access token invalidation

Authorization codes can be used only once (they are deleted after a successful token creation)

Token expiration can be set by changing the OAUTH2_TOKEN_EXPIRES setting. By default it is set to 20 seconds.

Tokens granted to a user are deleted after user logout or authentication token renewal.

Expired tokens presented to the validation endpoint are also deleted.

Authorization code and access token length

Authorization code length is adjustable by the OAUTH2_AUTHORIZATION_CODE_LENGTH setting. By default it is set to 60 characters.

Token length is adjustable by the OAUTH2_TOKEN_LENGTH setting. By default it is set to 30 characters.

Restrict file serving endpoints to a specific host

A new setting PITHOS_UNSAFE_DOMAIN has been introduced. When set, all API views that serve Pithos file contents will be restricted to be served only under the domain specified in the setting value.

If an invalid host is identified and request HTTP method is one of GET, HEAD, the server will redirect using a clone of the request with host replaced to the one the restriction applies to.