CardSpace for the rest of us

I&#39ve been a Jon Udell fan for so long that I can&#39t even admit to myself just how long it is!  So I&#39ll avoid that calculation and just say I&#39m really delighted to see the CardSpace team get kudos for its long-tail (no-ssl) work in Jon&#39s recent CardSpace for the rest of us

Hat tip to the CardSpace team for enabling “long tail” use of Information Card technology by lots of folks who are (understandably) daunted by the prospect of installing SSL certificates onto web servers. Kim Cameron’s screencast walks through the scenario in PHP, but anyone who can parse a bit of XML in any language will be able to follow along. The demo shows how to create a simple http: (not https:) web page that invokes an identity selector, and then parses out and reports the attributes sent by the client.

As Kim points out this is advisable only in low-value scenarios where an unencrypted exchange may be deemed acceptable. But when you count blogs, and other kinds of lightweight or ad-hoc services, there are a lot of those scenarios.

Kim adds the following key point:

Students and others who want to see the basic ideas of the Metasystem can therefore get into the game more easily, and upgrade to certificates once they’ve mastered the basics.

Exactly. Understanding the logistics of SSL is unrelated to understanding how identity claims can be represented and exchanged. Separating those concerns is a great way to grow the latter understanding.

I&#39ve never been able to put it this well, even though it&#39s just what I was trying to do.  Jon really nails it.  I guess that&#39s why he&#39s such a good writer while I have to content myself with being an architect.

Ultimate simplicity: 30 lines of code

With the latest CardSpace bits anyone who is handy with HTML and PHP, Ruby, C#, Python or almost any other language can set up CardSpace on their site in minutes – without the pain and expense of installing a certificate.  They can do this without using any of the special libraries necessary to support high security Information Card exchanges.

This approach is only advisable for personal sites like blogs – but of course, there are millions of blogs being born every second, or… something like that.  Students and others who want to see the basic ideas of the Metasystem can therefore get into the game more easily, and upgrade to certificates once they&#39ve mastered the basics.

I&#39ve put together a demo of everything it takes to be successful (assuming you have the right software installed, as described later in this piece).

From the high security end of the spectrum to the long tail

Given the time pressures of shipping Vista, those of us working on CardSpace had to prioritize (i.e. cut) our features in order to get everything tested and out the door on schedule.  One assumption we decided to make for V1.0 was that every site would have an X.509 certificate.  We wanted our design to start from the high end of the security spectrum so the fundamental security architecture would be right.  Our thinking was that if we could get these cases working, enabling the “long tail” of sites that don&#39t have certificates would be possible too.

Let&#39s face it.  Getting a certificate, setting up a dedicated external IP address, and configuring your web server to use https is non-trivial for the average person.  Nor does it make much sense to require certificates for personal web sites with no actual monetary or hacker value.  I would even say that without proper security analysis, vetting of software and rigorous operating procedures, SSL isn&#39t even likey to offer much protection against common attacks.  We need to evolve our whole digital framework towards better security practices, not just mandate certificates and think we&#39re done.

So again, when all is said and done, it is best to promote an inclusive Identity Metasystem embracing the full range of identity scenarios – including support for the “long tail” of personal and non-commercial sites.  One way to do this is through OpenID support.  But in addition, we have extended CardSpace to work with sites that don&#39t have a certificate.

The user experience makes the difference clear – we are careful to clearly point out that the exchange of identity is not encrypted. 

Warnings are presented in words and graphics

In spite of this, CardSpace continues to provide significant protection against attack when compared with current browsers.  You are shown the DNS name of the site you are visiting as part of the CardSpace ceremony, not on some random screen under the control (or manipulation) of a potentially evil party.  And if you have been redirected to a “look-alike” site containing an unknown DNS name, you will get the “Introductory” ceremony rather than the more streamlined “Known site” ceremony.  This unexpected behavior has been shown to make people much more careful about what is appearing on their screen.  Ruchi from the CardSpace blog has a great discussion of all the potential issues here.

What software is required? 

As my little demo shows, if you have a website to which you want to add CardSpace support, all you need to do is add an “object tag” to your login page and parse a bit of xml when you get the Information Card posted back to your site.

On the “client” side, if you are using IE, first you will need to install an updated browser specific extension that will work at a non-SSL site.  If you have IE7 you probably already have it as part of the October security update.  If not, download it from here.

Second you will need to install an updated version of Cardspace that does the right thing when a website (we call it the “relying party”) does not have a certificate.  The latest version of Cardspace can be downloaded as part of .Net Framework 3.5 from here.

For people using Mac and Linux clients, I look forward to the upcoming Internet Identity Workshop as an opportunity to catch up with my friends from Bandit, OpenInfoCard, Higgins and others about open source support for the same functionality.  I&#39ll pass on any information I can at that time.

Once you watch the demo, more information is available here and here and here.  The code snippets shown are here.

Download cheap oem discount software.

Getting claims when using no-ssl CardSpace

When a user tells CardSpace to “send” identity data from a self-issued card to a web site,  it posts a SAML token using the action attribute in the HTML form containing an x-informationCard Object tag.

In the simple, no-ssl case, this information will not be encrypted, so you can just treat it as an XML blob.  You can test this out by making the form&#39s action a script like this one:

This script just takes everything that is posted to the web server by CardSpace after processing the invocation form, and reflects it back as an “XML encoding”.  The result is shown in my demo, and in the no-ssl zip file as result.xml.

As pedagogical as the XML dump may be, it isn&#39t a good sample of how you would consume claims.  For that, let&#39s look at the following script:

GetClaims() shown above is just a way of pulling values out of an XML document – use your own instead.  You will see that the givenname and privatepersonalidentifier claims used here are retrieved with this simple code.

I hope all of this will become very clear by watching the demo and looking at the aforementioned zip file, which you can cut and paste for your own experiments.

[Note:  the raw XML display code above did not include the stripslashes function when I first posted it, which caused the function to fail in certain php configurations.  Thanks to Alex Fung from Hong Kong for the report.]

Claims in the self-issued Information Cards profile

This list of claims is taken from the Identity Selector Interoperability Profile, and specifies a set of claim (attribute) types and the corresponding URIs defined for some commonly used personal information…

The base XML namespace URI that is used by the claim types defined here is as follows: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims

For convenience, an XML Schema for the claim types defined here can be found here

8.5.1. First Name

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/givenname

Type: xs:string

Definition: (givenName in RFC 2256) Preferred name or first name of a subject. According to RFC 2256: “This attribute is used to hold the part of a person&#39s name which is not their surname nor middle name.”

8.5.2. Last Name

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/surname

Type: xs:string

Definition: (sn in RFC 2256) Surname or family name of a subject. According to RFC 2256: “This is the X.500 surname attribute which contains the family name of a person.”

8.5.3. Email Address

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/emailaddress

Type: xs:string

Definition: (mail in inetOrgPerson) Preferred address for the “To:” field of email to be sent to the subject, usually of the form @. According to inetOrgPerson using RFC 1274: “This attribute type specifies an electronic mailbox attribute following the syntax specified in RFC 822.”

8.5.4. Street Address

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/streetaddress

Type: xs:string

Definition: (street in RFC 2256) Street address component of a subject?s address information. According to RFC 2256: “This attribute contains the physical address of the object to which the entry corresponds, such as an address for package delivery.” Its content is arbitrary, but typically given as a PO Box number or apartment/house number followed by a street name, e.g. 303 Mulberry St.

8.5.5. Locality Name or City

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/locality

Type: xs:string

Definition: (l in RFC 2256) Locality component of a subject?s address information. According to RFC 2256: “This attribute contains the name of a locality, such as a city, county or other geographic region.” e.g. Redmond.

8.5.6. State or Province

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/stateorprovince

Type: xs:string

Definition: (st in RFC 2256) Abbreviation for state or province name of a subject?s address information. According to RFC 2256: “This attribute contains the full name of a state or province. The values should be coordinated on a national level and if well-known shortcuts exist – like the two-letter state abbreviations in the US – these abbreviations are preferred over longer full names.” e.g. WA.

8.5.7. Postal Code

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/postalcode

Type: xs:string

Definition: (postalCode in X.500) Postal code or zip code component of a subject?s address information. According to X.500(2001): “The postal code attribute type specifies the postal code of the named object. If this attribute value is present, it will be part of the object&#39s postal address – zip code in USA, postal code for other countries.”

8.5.8. Country

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/country

Type: xs:string

Definition: (c in RFC 2256) Country of a subject. According to RFC 2256: “This attribute contains a two-letter ISO 3166 country code.”

8.5.9. Primary or Home Telephone Number

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/homephone

Type: xs:string

Definition: (homePhone in inetOrgPerson) Primary or home telephone number of a subject. According to inetOrgPerson using RFC 1274: “This attribute type specifies a home telephone number associated with a person.” Attribute values should follow the agreed format for international telephone numbers, e.g. +44 71 123 4567.

8.5.10. Secondary or Work Telephone Number

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/otherphone

Type: xs:string

Definition: (telephoneNumber in X.500 Person) Secondary or work telephone number of a subject. According to X.500(2001): “This attribute type specifies an office/campus telephone number associated with a person.” Attribute values should follow the agreed format for international telephone numbers, e.g. +44 71 123 4567.

8.5.11. Mobile Telephone Number

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/mobilephone

Type: xs:string

Definition: (mobile in inetOrgPerson) Mobile telephone number of a subject. According to inetOrgPerson using RFC 1274: “This attribute type specifies a mobile telephone number associated with a person.” Attribute values should follow the agreed format for international telephone numbers, e.g. +44 71 123 4567.

8.5.12. Date of Birth

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/dateofbirth

Type: xs:date

Definition: The date of birth of a subject in a form allowed by the xs:date data type.

8.5.13. Gender

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/gender Type: xs:token

Definition: Gender of a subject that can have any of these exact string values –

  • 0 (meaning unspecified),
  • 1 (meaning Male) or
  • 2 (meaning Female). Using these values allows them to be language neutral.

8.5.14. Private Personal Identifier

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/privatepersonalidentifier

Type: xs:base64binary

Definition: A private personal identifier (PPID) that identifies the subject to a relying party. The word “private” is used in the sense that the subject identifier is specific to a given relying party and hence private to that relying party. A subject?s PPID at one relying party cannot be correlated with the subject?s PPID at another relying party…

 8.5.15. Web Page

URI: http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/webpage

Type: xs:string

Definition: The Web page of a subject expressed as a URL.

HTML to invoke CardSpace on your site

In an upcoming post called Ultimate Simplicity: 30 lines of code, I show how to tweak a web page so it presents the option of logging in with an information card – without requiring you to dirty your hands with certificates.

If you haven&#39t seen the demo yet, I start from a simple web page like this one:

I add an HTML form like this:

The form has an ID of “ctl00′, and a post action called “dump_input.php”.  In other words, when the form is submitted (by clicking on the icon specified in the “img” section) the contents will be posted and the script “dump_input.php” will be run on the web server.

The form contains an x-informationCard object tag, which takes a parameter of “RequiredClaims”.  This is followed by the claims the web page designer is asking for – in this case givenname and private personal identifier.

The zip of the sample code is here.

If you copy demo.html to your site, then when using the most recent release of CardSpace, you can navigate to that page, click on the icon, and you will be prompted for an infocard. 

The claims supported in CardSpace for simple self-issued cards are defined here - you could cut and past them into the “RequiredClaims” parameter of demo.php to alter the form&#39s behavior.