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February 4, 2011

Single Packet Authorization with simpleSPA

I was just made aware of simpleSPA, a recently-released Java implementation of Single Packet Authorization by Chris Chrysler. The package provides a Linux-only server-side daemon, and a Linux and Windows client. Although I haven’t testing it yet, I assume the client will also work on Mac OS X. This implementation requires a Linux server as it relies on iptables being the firewall. simpleSPA uses two RSA keys in order to encrypt the authentication information. The first key encrypts the username of the user requesting access, while the second key is used to encrypt a pre-shared key and a timestamp (for freshness). The resulting authorization packet is then sent via UDP to the server. Although a timestamp is used, there doesn’t appear to be an explicit check for previously-received packets (ie. using a hash), so there may be some for time-limited replay attacks. Because RSA and public-keys are used, it’s a shame to see that it doesn’t use digital signatures to protect the payload.

simpleSPA does not allow for dynamic configuration of the firewall. As such, upon receiving a valid authorization packet (using Jpcap to sniff the wire), the server looks at a pre-defined config file that defines the firewall port(s) to be opened for the requesting user. Furthermore the port is opened for the IP that made the request, thus not allowing the client to embed an IP within the request and open a port out-of-band. The author states that this implementation is primarily an academic proof-of-concept at this point, and so is nowhere near as complete as other implementations such as fwknop (Perl/C) and Aldaba (C). It is nice, however, to see continued research and development into SPA as well as a Java implementation!

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