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The engine JSON-RPC interface, exposed by EL and consumed by CL, needs to be authenticated. The authentication scheme chosen for this purpose is JWT.

The type of attacks that this authentication scheme attempts to protect against are the following:

  • RPC port exposed towards the internet, allowing attackers to exchange messages with EL engine API.
  • RPC port exposed towards the browser, allowing malicious webpages to submit messages to the EL engine API.

The authentication scheme is not designed to

  • Prevent attackers with capability to read ('sniff') network traffic from reading the traffic,
  • Prevent attackers with capability to read ('sniff') network traffic from performing replay-attacks of earlier messages.

Authentication is performed as follows:

  • For HTTP dialogue, each jsonrpc request is individually authenticated by supplying JWT token in the HTTP header.
  • For a WebSocket dialogue, only the initial handshake is authenticated, after which the message dialogue proceeds without further use of JWT.
    • Clarification: The websocket handshake starts with the client performing a websocket upgrade request. This is a regular http GET request, and the actual parameters for the WS-handshake are carried in the http headers.
  • For inproc, a.k.a raw ipc communication, no authentication is required, under the assumption that a process able to access ipc channels for the process, which usually means local file access, is already sufficiently permissioned that further authentication requirements do not add security.

JWT specifications

  • Client software MUST expose the authenticated Engine API at a port independent from existing JSON-RPC API.
    • The default port for the authenticated Engine API is 8551. The Engine API is exposed under the engine namespace.
  • The EL MUST support at least the following alg HMAC + SHA256 (HS256)
  • The EL MUST reject the alg none.

The HMAC algorithm implies that several CLs will be able to use the same key, and from an authentication perspective, be able to impersonate each other. From a deployment perspective, it means that an EL does not need to be provisioned with individual keys for each CL.

Key distribution

The EL and CL clients MUST accept a cli/config parameter: jwt-secret, which designates a file containing the hex-encoded 256 bit secret key to be used for verifying/generating JWT tokens.

If such a parameter is not given, the client SHOULD generate such a token, valid for the duration of the execution, and store the hex-encoded secret as a jwt.hex file on the filesystem. This file can then be used to provision the counterpart client.

If such a parameter is given, but the file cannot be read, or does not contain a hex-encoded key of 256 bits, the client should treat this as an error: either abort the startup, or show error and continue without exposing the authenticated port.

JWT Claims

This specification utilizes the following list of JWT claims:

  • Required: iat (issued-at) claim. The EL SHOULD only accept iat timestamps which are within +-5 seconds from the current time.
  • Optional: id claim. The CL MAY use this to communicate a unique identifier for the individual CL node.
  • Optional: clv claim. The CL MAY use this to communicate the CL node type/version.

Other claims MAY be included in the JWT payload. If the EL sees claims it does not recognize, these MUST be ignored.


Todo, add some examples of JWT authentication here.