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Subject: Re: [security-services] comment on saml-loa-authncontext-profile:remove 800-63 schemas


As one of the PAPE authors I have to agree:)    The reference to  
800-63 has probably caused more confusion than it was worth.
In retrospect I should have pushed harder not to use it as an example  
of a custom assurance level namespace.

I agree overall with your other comments.

John B.

On 26-Apr-09, at 9:22 PM, RL 'Bob' Morgan wrote:

> Sections 3 and 4 of saml-loa-authncontext-profile-02 define a  
> profile for expressing LoA based on NIST 800-63.  I think I  
> understand the motivation for having this material in the document,  
> but I think it's a mistake and should be removed.  I argue that if  
> assurance concepts are going to be useful to the community,  
> assurance profiles have to be defined and supported by  
> organizational programs designed for that purpose, not just  
> technical specs.
> NIST 800-63 was originally written to support the US E- 
> Authentication program by specifying technical requirements based on  
> OMB-04-04, which defined the infamous 4 levels in business terms.   
> 800-63 is a great document, but it was explicitly just a part of an  
> assurance program. E-Auth incorporated the technical material in  
> 800-63 into a framework that included:
> * taking some elements where 800-63 says "you can do it this way or  
> that
>   way" or "methods might be developed to control this factor" and
>   providing the necessary additional definition;
> * an auditor-friendly checklist of assessment criteria;
> * an assessment process, including people to answer questions about
>   interpretation of the elements, and procedures resulting in  
> assignment
>   of level values;
> * assessment processes for relying parties to help them determine  
> their
>   LoA requirements;
> * operational specs supporting LoA, including defining how to  
> express the
>   levels as values of a SAML attribute.
> E-Auth is no more.  But this approach has been carried on by the  
> Liberty IAEG, and by the InCommon Federation Identity Assurance  
> program (http://incommonfederation.org/assurance).  In the InCommon  
> program we have followed the E-Auth model, including a framework  
> with processes for assessment, auditable checklists, and URIs that  
> are assigned representing assurance profiles (which may be used as  
> values in this SAML authncontext profile at some point).
> NIST continues to work on revising 800-63, but it is not operating  
> an assurance program.  If I have a question about interpreting  
> whether some practice in my IdP meets a provision of 800-63, as far  
> as I know there's no way to ask NIST that question.  You can't hand  
> 800-63 to an auditor and ask them to audit against it.  NIST doesn't  
> review organizations' claims to meet 800-63 provisions.  Nor has  
> NIST defined representations of the 4 levels in protocols such as  
> I don't think the SSTC intends, via the publication of this profile  
> with these defined 800-63-based schemas, to create an assurance  
> program.  As one example, when the next version of 800-63 comes out,  
> presumably the TC would be obliged to create a new set of URIs  
> referring to that version. That's not hard, but it would raise  
> questions about transition procedures, equivalence between the two  
> versions, etc.  The TC could leave these questions for someone else  
> to answer, but then have we really done the world a favor by  
> defining these schemas in the first place?
> It might be argued: these schemas are no different than a profile  
> like urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:Kerberos from saml-authn- 
> context, which is just out there, anyone can use it, it creates no  
> questions, needs no program.  And I'd respond: exactly; it has none  
> of those features, and it has essentially *no* value in helping  
> sites implement policies that meet the assurance needs of inter- 
> organizational federation.  We can treat assurance the same way, ie  
> as just a reference to a technical spec, but I think this would be  
> profoundly misleading, and would set a very bad precedent.
> If we agreed to take out the NIST 800-63 material, then the question  
> is
> whether to replace it with something that would be more suitable, or  
> just
> not include an example in this doc.  I think it would be OK to have  
> the
> doc not include an example.  Alternatively a dummy example could be
> included, eg with a http://www.example.com/assurance/foo URI.  If we  
> want
> to include a real example, I offer two possibilities.  Probably the  
> more
> appropriate would be schema for the Liberty IAF 1.0.  I can't tell  
> from
> the LIAF material whether there are URIs assigned for the various  
> levels.
> Maybe someone knows.  The other possibility would be the InCommon IAF.
> InCommon unfortunately hasn't started using SAML 2.0 yet, so this  
> would be
> a little speculative, but if people thought it was the best choice we
> could push on it.
> (Just to mention:  the OpenID PAPE spec has more or less the same  
> feature,
> ie a way of sending NIST 800-63 values.  This is also a mistake, in my
> view.)
> - RL "Bob"
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