Smartcard authentication - Testing with AD

As mentioned on SmartcardAuthenticationStep1 the primary focus of the development was the authentication to an IPA client. Nevertheless, the general authentication code path is the same and when the needed requirements are met it can be used to authenticate on a AD domain client as well. But please note that as with an IPA client this will only be a local authentication, so far no Kerberos tickets will be available after authentication. pkinit will be added in one of the next steps.

As with IPA the current requirement is that the full certificate is stored in the user’s LDAP entry in AD. Since the AD CA uses the userCertificate attribute for this as well we will further assume that this attribute is used to store the certificate.

By default the SSSD AD provider does not read certificates, so this must be set in sssd.conf with the option

ldap_user_certificate = userCertificate;binary

(I guess it would make sense to set this by default)

Additionally, the AD provider will not create the indication file for the pam_sss client that pre-authentication is available and it has to be created manually

touch /var/lib/sss/pubconf/pam_preauth_available

(I guess it would make sense that the PAM responder creates the file is certificate authentication is enabled.)

Next, certificate authentication must be enabled in the pam section of sssd.conf by setting

pam_cert_auth = True

Finally, CA certificates should be imported in the systems NSS database to be able to verify the certificate.

certutil -d /etc/pki/nssdb -A -n 'My Issuer' -t CT,CT,CT -a -i /path/to/cert/in/PEM/format

These steps are needed on the client and now we will discuss how a certificate can be added to the AD user entry and together with the keys to a Smartcard.

Certificates from AD CA

If you do not have a Certificate Server in your AD domain you have to install one by enabling the ‘Active Directory Certificate Service’ on one of the servers in the domain.

To allow users to request certificates follow the steps in .

Now AD user should be able to request a user certificate from the AD CA. For this the user should open the Management Console, e.g. via Start->Run->mmc. In the Management Console the Certificates snap-in can be activated via File->Add/Remove-Snap-ins. In the Certificates snap-in the ‘All Tasks’ context menu should offer ‘Automatically Enroll and Retrieve Certificates’ where you can choose new user certificate template which was created in the instructions from MSDN. If no templates are available you should check the steps from the MSDN instructions again or check if there is already a certificate generated for the user by looking at the ‘Personal’ folder of the Certificates snap-in. Here you will find the freshly created certificate as well.

Now you have to write the certificate and the keys to a Smartcard. You can use a suitable Windows tool for this. Or you can export the data and write it to a Smartcard from a GNU/Linux client which will be explained in the following.

To export the certificate select it in the Certificates Snap-in and call ‘Export’ from the ‘All Tasks’ context menu. In the export wizard the private key must be exported as well. The generated file can now be copied to a GNU/Linux host.

The file created on the AD side is PKCS#12 formatted and can be inspected on the GNU/Linux side with the openssl pkcs12 utility. NSS, which is currently used by SSSD to access the Smartcard, expected that the Smartcard will contain the certificate together with the public and private key in separate objects, connected by the same label and id. We will use pkcs11-tool from the opensc package to write the data to the card. In general p11tool from the gnutls project can be used as well but support for writing public keys was added quite recently (gnutls-3.4.6) so it might no be available on your platform. There might be an issue with pkcs11-tool as well, if after writing to the card the certificate and the public key are only visible after you logged into the card, i.e. entered the PIN, you need a newer version of pkcs11-tool as well.

Extracting keys and certificate from PKCS#12 file

Extracting the certificate and storing it in DER encoding

openssl pkcs12 -in ./ad_user.pfx -nokeys -out ./cert.pem
openssl x509 -in ./cert.pem -outform der -out ./cert.der

Extracting the private key and storing it in DER format. Please note that the private key in priv.pem and priv.der is not encrypted, please remove the files as soon as possible

openssl pkcs12 -in ./ad_user.pfx -nocerts -nodes -out ./priv.pem
openssl rsa -in ./priv.pem -outform der -out ./priv.der

Extracting the public key from the certificate and storing it in DER encoding

openssl x509 -in ./cert.pem -pubkey -noout | openssl rsa -pubin -outform der -out ./pubkey.der

Writing certificate and keys to a Smartcard

First write the certificate data to the Smartcard by calling

pkcs11-tool --module --slot 0 -w ./cert.der -y cert -a 'My Label' --id 0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567

where and My Label should be replaced by suitable values. The id value is typically the Subject Key Identifier which is typically the sha1 hash value of the public key bit string from the certificate. The value can either obtained from the output of

openssl x509 -in ./cert.pem -text | grep -A 1 'Subject Key Identifier:'

or by inspecting the public key with

openssl asn1parse -inform der -in ./pubkey.der
    0:d=0  hl=4 l= 290 cons: SEQUENCE
    4:d=1  hl=2 l=  13 cons: SEQUENCE
    6:d=2  hl=2 l=   9 prim: OBJECT            :rsaEncryption
   17:d=2  hl=2 l=   0 prim: NULL
   19:d=1  hl=4 l= 271 prim: BIT STRING
openssl asn1parse -inform der -in ./pubkey.der -strparse 19 -noout -out /dev/stdout |sha1sum

where the 19 in the second call has to match the offset value shown for the BIT STRING component in the output of the first call.

The label and the id should be the same when writing the public and the private key object to indicated to applications that the 3 objects belong to each other.

As a second step the public key is written to the Smartcard by calling

pkcs11-tool --module --slot 0 -w ./pubkey.der -y pubkey -a 'My Label' --id 0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567

And finally the private key can be written by calling

pkcs11-tool --module --slot 0 -w ./priv.der -y privkey -a 'My Label' --id 0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567 -l

Since the private key must be protected by the PIN you have to login to the Smartcard first, this is done with the help of the -l option which instructs pkcs11-tool to ask for the PIN and login before writing the certificate.

Now the Smartcard content should look like

pkcs11-tool --module --slot 0 --list-objects -l
Logging in to "My Token".
Please enter User PIN:
Private Key Object; RSA
  label:      My Label
  ID:         0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567
  Usage:      decrypt, sign, unwrap
Public Key Object; RSA 2048 bits
  label:      My Label
  ID:         0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567
  Usage:      encrypt, verify, wrap
Certificate Object, type = X.509 cert
  label:      My Label
  ID:         0123456789abcdef0123456789abcdef01234567

If the PKCS#11 module is properly added to the system’s NSS database (see for details) p11_child should be able to return the certificate

/usr/libexec/sssd/p11_child --pre --nssdb=/etc/pki/nssdb

If this works well SSSD should now be able to authenticate the AD user with the help of the Smartcard.

Certificate from an external CA

There are various ways how to get a certificate from an external CA, see e.g. how to generate the keys on a Smartcard, request a certificate from a CA and store it on the Smartcard. As a result the certificate and all the needed keys are already on the Smartcard. In the following we will explain how to make AD aware of it and enable local Smartcard login for an AD user.

In other situations the certificate and the keys might be available as files. The previous section should help to convert the file content into DER encoded objects and write them to a Smartcard.

Reading the certificate from the Smartcard

The certificate can be read with various tools like certutil, pkcs11-tool or p11tool. But using SSSD’S p11_child has the advantage that it is verified that SSSD can access the certificate as well.

/usr/libexec/sssd/p11_child --pre --nssdb=/etc/pki/nssdb | tail -1 | base64 -d > ./cert.der

should write the DER encode certificate data into the file cert.der. If there are any issue you can call

/usr/libexec/sssd/p11_child --pre -d 10 --debug-fd=2 --nssdb=/etc/pki/nssdb

to see the full debug output which might help to identify what is going wrong.

Writing the certificate to AD

For the following operations the permissions of the AD user which should get the certificate are sufficient. So either login as the user or call kinit `aduser@AD.DOMAIN <mailto:aduser@AD.DOMAIN>`__.

First the distinguished name (DN) of the user object in AD has to be identified with

ldapsearch -Y GSSAPI -H ldap:// -b 'dc=ad,dc=domain' samAccountName=aduser dn

In the most easy case the DN will look like CN=aduser,CN=Users,DC=ad,DC=domain.

With this DN a simple LDIF file can be created

dn: CN=aduser,CN=Users,DC=ad,DC=domain
changetype: modify
add: userCertificate
userCertificate:< file:cert.der

With this LDIF file the certificate can be loaded into the aduser entry

ldapmodify -Y GSSAPI -H ldap:// -f file.ldif

Now SSSD can check if the certificate belongs to the aduser and can authenticate the aduser locally with the Smartcard. Please note that SSSD might have a valid user entry in the cache and will not read the freshly added certificate immediately. To force a refresh just call sss_cache -u `aduser@ad.domain <mailto:aduser@ad.domain>`__.