SIGN-IN CREDENTIALS in .NET

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SIGN-IN CREDENTIALS
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You re in complete control of your sign-in credentials, and the password needs to be strong. Alternatively, you can use multifactor authentication, such as RSA s SecurID. This is highly recommended because it has been shown that multifactor authentication is much stronger than single-factor, particularly when the single factor is passwordbased. You can see the specification of sign-in credentials using a simple password in figure 4.4. You use sign-in credentials each time you want to access the web services for the cloud. But on every interaction with the service through its API, you have to provide an authentication key.
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Figure 4.3 The AWS screen during the identity verification out-of-band phone call asking the user to enter a PIN. This mechanism verifies that the user of the browser doing sign-up and the user receiving the phone call are one and the same individual whose billing validation has already been completed.
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Security and the private cloud
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Figure 4.4 The AWS step of providing sign-in credentials. In this case, it s single-factor, password-based. But multifactor authentication is highly recommended, such as using a time-based hardware token (something you have) in addition to a password (something you know). ACCESS KEYS
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Every API call to do anything with the cloud requires an access key. As part of the initiation process, you re given a generated secret key. (Actually, it s better to generate the key pair locally on your machine and provide the public key half of that pair back to the cloud providers, thus protecting the private key half all the more.) This key is then used in each API call to indicate that the initiator is legitimate. It s critical that you don t share this secret key. As the screen in figure 4.5 says, frequent rotation of this secret key is considered best practice.
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X.509 CERTIFICATES
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X.509 certificates are based on the idea of public key cryptography, which we discuss in the appendix to this book. Specifically, X.509 certificates consist of a certificate file and a companion private key file. In the X.509 certificate itself is the public key and related metadata. The X.509 and its incorporated public key aren t secret; they re included in each service request. The private key is used to calculate the digital signature to include in a request to the service. The private key is a secret and must never be shared.
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Figure 4.5 A secret key is generated by the service for your use in all API calls. Each call requires that this key be included so the service can validate that the call is from a legitimate user.
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Information security in the public cloud
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The cloud provider typically has a way to generate a certificate for you. This is never the most secure approach because they possess your private key, if only for a moment. Despite assurances that they never retain the key, you can t be 100 percent sure. Let s see how to use the X.509 in service requests. When you create a request, you create a digital signature with your private key and include it in the request, along with your certificate. When the provider gets the request, it uses the public key in the certificate to decrypt the signature and confirm that you re the request sender. The provider also verifies that the certificate you provide matches the one on file. Figure 4.6 shows the results of the process where we had AWS generate the certificate (again, not recommended for best security). The third and final type of access credentials is the key pair.
KEY PAIRS
The key pair constitutes the most important access credential for dealing with instances in the cloud. You have to use different key pairs for each service. You use a specifically assigned key pair each time you launch an instance. The key pair ensures that only you have access to the instance. You can t replace a particular key pair, but you can have as many as you like. You can use one key pair for all your instances or one pair for a particular type of instance you get to decide how you want to organize access. You must not lose the private key for an instance because then you could no longer access it. Amazon will create the EC2 key pair through the AWS Management Console if you chose not to generate them yourself on the local machine where the private key will reside. Figure 4.7 shows the fingerprint for the public key retained at AWS after a key pair is generated. AWS doesn t retain the private key it s to be kept secret by you.
Figure 4.6 The results of having the provider generate the X.509 certificate. A private key file was downloaded, and then the certificate file was as well. The provider doesn t retain the private key. But the provider does have it for a moment, and it s downloaded over the public internet to the browser, making this an insecure process. It s better to get a certificate from a Certificate Authority and upload the private key back to the cloud provider while retaining complete control over the private key.
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