SASL Authentication and SCRAM
Its main benefits are in offering both a method to salt and hash the password in storage and in transit. This page aims to give a short introduction on how to implement it in a client.
"When using the SASL SCRAM mechanism, the SCRAM-SHA-256-PLUS variant SHOULD be preferred over the SCRAM-SHA-256 variant, and SHA-256 variants [RFC7677] SHOULD be preferred over SHA-1 variants [RFC5802]".
Please note that there is now RFC7677: SCRAM-SHA-256 and SCRAM-SHA-256-PLUS Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) Mechanisms, already integrated by several XMPP software servers (Isode M-Link, Jackal, Metronome, Prosody 0.12.x, Tigase 8.0) and several XMPP sotware clients (Conversations, Gajim 1.2.0-dev, KDE Kaidan, Psi/Psi+, Tigase Beagle IM, Tigase Siskin IM, Tigase Stork IM, UWPX).
The basic overview of how this mechanism works is:
- The client sends the username it wants to authenticate as.
- The server sends back the salt for that user and the number of iterations (either by generating them or looking them up in its database for the given username).
- The client hashes the password with the given salt for the given number of iterations.
- The client sends the result back.
- The server does a variation of the hashing and sends it result back to the client, so the client can also verify that the server had the password/a hash of the password.
- First normalize the password (using SASLprep), this will be
normalizedPassword. This is to ensure the UTF8 encoding can't contain variations of the same password.
- Pick a random string (for example 32 hex encoded bytes). This will be
- The initialMessage is:
"n=" .. username .. ",r=" .. clientNonce
- The client prepends the GS2 header (
"n,,") to the initialMessage and base64-encodes the result. It sends this as its first message:
<auth xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:xmpp-sasl" mechanism="SCRAM-SHA-1"> biwsbj1yb21lbyxyPTZkNDQyYjVkOWU1MWE3NDBmMzY5ZTNkY2VjZjMxNzhl </auth>
- The server responds with a challenge. The data of the challenge is base64 encoded:
<challenge xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:xmpp-sasl"> cj02ZDQ0MmI1ZDllNTFhNzQwZjM2OWUzZGNlY2YzMTc4ZWMxMmIzOTg1YmJkNGE4ZTZmODE0YjQyMmFiNzY2NTczLHM9UVNYQ1IrUTZzZWs4YmY5MixpPTQwOTY= </challenge>
- The client base64 decodes it:
- The client parses this:
- r = This is the serverNonce. The client MUST ensure that it starts with the clientNonce it sent in its initial message.
- s = This is the salt, base64 encoded (yes, this is base64-encoded twice!)
- i = This is the number of iterations, i.
- The client computes:
clientFinalMessageBare = "c=biws,r=" .. serverNonce saltedPassword = PBKDF2-SHA-1(normalizedPassword, salt, i) clientKey = HMAC-SHA-1(saltedPassword, "Client Key") storedKey = SHA-1(clientKey) authMessage = initialMessage .. "," .. serverFirstMessage .. "," .. clientFinalMessageBare clientSignature = HMAC-SHA-1(storedKey, authMessage) clientProof = clientKey XOR clientSignature serverKey = HMAC-SHA-1(saltedPassword, "Server Key") serverSignature = HMAC-SHA-1(serverKey, authMessage) clientFinalMessage = clientFinalMessageBare .. ",p=" .. base64(clientProof)
- The client base64 encodes the
clientFinalMessageand sends it as a response:
<response xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:xmpp-sasl"> Yz1iaXdzLHI9NmQ0NDJiNWQ5ZTUxYTc0MGYzNjllM2RjZWNmMzE3OGVjMTJiMzk4NWJiZDRhOGU2ZjgxNGI0MjJhYjc2NjU3MyxwPXlxbTcyWWxmc2hFTmpQUjFYeGFucG5IUVA4bz0= </response>
If everything went well, you'll get a
<success>response from the server:
<success xmlns='urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:xmpp-sasl'> dj1wTk5ERlZFUXh1WHhDb1NFaVc4R0VaKzFSU289 </success>
Base64 decoded this contains:
- The client MUST make sure the value of v is the base64 encoding of the
serverSignature(yes, this value is also base64-encoded twice).
This is the basic version of the algorithm. You can extend it to do:
- Channel binding. This mixes in some information from the TLS connection to the procedure to prevent MitM attacks.
- Hashed storage. If the server always sends the same salt and i values, then the client can store only
clientKey, instead of the user's password. This is more secure (as the client doesn't need to store the password, just a hard to reverse salt) and faster, as the client doesn't need to do all the hashing every time.
- Don't assume anything about the length of the nonces or salt (though if you generate them, make sure they are long enough and cryptographically random).
- The salt is base64 encoded and can contain any data (embedded NULs).
- Not using SASLprep may work fine for people using ASCII passwords, but it may completely break logging in for people using other scripts.
initialMessagepart of the
authMessagedoes not include the GS2 header (in most situations, this is
Here is a complete example:
Client generates the random nonce
Server generates the random nonce
The salt (hex):
Client final message bare:
Salted password (hex):
Client key (hex):
Stored key (hex):
Client signature (hex):
Client proof (hex):
Server key (hex):
Server signature (hex):
Client final message:
Server final message:
Server's server signature (hex):
It is supported by several XMPP software servers (Isode M-Link, Jackal, Metronome, Prosody 0.12.x, Tigase 8.0) and several XMPP sotware clients (Conversations, Gajim 1.2.0-dev, KDE Kaidan, Psi/Psi+, Tigase Beagle IM, Tigase Siskin IM, Tigase Stork IM, UWPX).