## Choria AAA Improvements

Choria introduced a Centralized AAA model in 2019 that alleviate the need for managing certificates of every user and allow you to integrate Choria into your enterprise identity providers for Authentication, Auditing and Authorization.

For controlled environments this model is a huge boom, but there was one annoying thing - the need to still issue a TLS certificate to communicate with Choria Brokers. In this mode, these certificates do not form part of the security model of Choria but was nonetheless required to exist, you could share them but that was frowned upon.

In our next release we will introduce a new broker type that significantly simplifies the AAA security model by allowing clients holding no certificates to interact, safely, with Choria networks.

## Rego policies for Choria Server

Open Policy Agent is a CNCF incubating project that allow you to define Policy as code. It’s widely used in various projects like Istio, Kubernetes and more.

It allows you to express authorization policies - like our Action Policy - in a much more flexible way.

Building on the work that was done for aaasvc, I’ve added a rego engine to the choria server, which will allow us to do most of what actionpolicy allows, as well as:

• Assertions based on the arguments sent to actions
• Assertions based on other request fields like TTL and Collective
• Assertions based on if the server is set to provisioning mode or not

Read below the fold for our initial foray into OPA policies and what might come next.

## Open Policy Agent in AAA Service

Open Policy Agent is a CNCF incubating project that allow you to define Policy as code. It’s widely used in various projects like Istio, Kubernetes and more.

It allows you to express authorization policies - like our Action Policy - in a much more flexible way.

I’ve wanted to explore what is next for our general Authorization piece and I think this gets us to a very good place - and OPA have massive adoption so it’s always good to adopt widely used standards.

Using Open Policy we’ll be able to do a number of things we’ve never been able to do - but get asked about regularly:

• Make sure requests have filters associated to avoid huge blast radius
• Assertions based on the arguments sent to actions
• Assertions based on other request fields like TTL and Collective

And just generally be much more expressive about it.

Read below the fold for our initial foray into OPA policies and what might come next.

## New pkcs11 Security Provider

The latest release of Choria will have a new security provider, called pkcs11! This blog post will go over how to use it in various configurations. But first, a review of what pkcs11 is and how it’s useful.

## What is pkcs11?

pkcs11 stands for “Public Key Cryptography Standard #11”. It’s a set of standards for how to interact with a cryptographic token. You may have heard of HSMs or smart cards. pkcs11 is how software interacts with these things.

## Why should I use pkcs11?

You may be compelled to use it due to the environment you work in. Yubikeys and CACs are being used more and more in large-scale environments. But it’s a good idea to investigate the use of these things if you already aren’t. The power of HSMs is that the sensitive cryptographic material is generated on the hardware and never leaves it. So instead of opening your private key file and signing hashes with it, you’re handing the hash to your Yubikey, which signs it and returns the data. There are compliance advantages too (because of the stronger security). Some HSMs are FIPS-compliant, which some computing environments require.

## Centralised AAA

Choria is a very loosely coupled system with no central controller and in fact no shared infrastructure other than a middleware that is completely “dumb”. What this means is there is no per request processing anywhere centrally other than just to shift the packets. No inventory databases, user databases or other shared infrastructure to scale or maintain - though several integration options exist should you choose to do so.

There are many reasons for this - in a large scale environment there are always things broken and automation systems should do their best to keep working even in the face of uncertainty. This design extends from the servers, middleware all the way to the client code. The loosely coupled design ensures that what can be managed will be managed.

This is generally fine and works within my design parameters and goals. For the client though in enterprise environments this is problematic:

• Enterprises are heavily invested in SSO and entitlement based flows for permissions
• Enterprises and regulated environments have strong requirements for auditing to centralized systems
• Certificate management for individual users is a nearly impossible hurdle to scale

So today I would like to present a new extension point that allow you to fully centralize AAA for the Choria CLI.

If you have this concern the upcoming version 0.10.0 of the Choria Broker will include the ability to limit what networks clients can come from.