SSPI (Security Support Provider Interface)
SSPI allows an application to use various security models available on a computer or network without changing the interface to the security system.
Kerberos is a network authentication protocol. It is designed to provide strong authentication for client/server applications by using secret-key cryptography. A free implementation of this protocol is available from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kerberos is available in many commercial products as well.
The Internet is an insecure place. Many of the protocols used in the Internet do not provide any security. Tools to “sniff” passwords off of the network are in common use by malicious hackers. Thus, applications which send an unencrypted password over the network are extremely vulnerable. Worse yet, other client/server applications rely on the client program to be “honest” about the identity of the user who is using it. Other applications rely on the client to restrict its activities to those which it is allowed to do, with no other enforcement by the server.
Some sites attempt to use firewalls to solve their network security problems. Unfortunately, firewalls assume that “the bad guys” are on the outside, which is often a very bad assumption. Most of the really damaging incidents of computer crime are carried out by insiders. Firewalls also have a significant disadvantage in that they restrict how your users can use the Internet. (After all, firewalls are simply a less extreme example of the dictum that there is nothing more secure then a computer which is not connected to the network — and powered off!) In many places, these restrictions are simply unrealistic and unacceptable.
Kerberos was created by MIT as a solution to these network security problems. The Kerberos protocol uses strong cryptography so that a client can prove its identity to a server (and vice versa) across an insecure network connection. After a client and server has used Kerberos to prove their identity, they can also encrypt all of their communications to assure privacy and data integrity as they go about their business.
Kerberos is freely available from MIT, under copyright permissions very similar those used for the BSD operating system and the X Window System. MIT provides Kerberos in source form so that anyone who wishes to use it may look over the code for themselves and assure themselves that the code is trustworthy. In addition, for those who prefer to rely on a professionally supported product, Kerberos is available as a product from many different vendors.
In summary, Kerberos is a solution to your network security problems. It provides the tools of authentication and strong cryptography over the network to help you secure your information systems across your entire enterprise. We hope you find Kerberos as useful as it has been to us. At MIT, Kerberos has been invaluable to our Information/Technology architecture.
NTLM (NT LAN Manager)
NTLM is a suite of authentication and session security protocols used in various Microsoft network protocol implementations and supported by the NTLM Security Support Provider (“NTLMSSP”). Originally used for authentication and negotiation of secure DCE/RPC, NTLM is also used throughout Microsoft’s systems as an integrated single sign-on mechanism. It is probably best recognized as part of the “Integrated Windows Authentication” stack for HTTP authentication; however, it is also used in Microsoft implementations of SMTP, POP3, IMAP (all part of Exchange), CIFS/SMB, Telnet, SIP, and possibly others.
The NTLM Security Support Provider provides authentication, integrity, and confidentiality services within the Window Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI) framework. SSPI specifies a core set of security functionality that is implemented by supporting providers; the NTLMSSP is such a provider. The SSPI specifies, and the NTLMSSP implements, the following core operations:
1. Authentication — NTLM provides a challenge-response authentication mechanism, in which clients are able to prove their identities without sending a password to the server.
2. Signing — The NTLMSSP provides a means of applying a digital “signature” to a message. This ensures that the signed message has not been modified (either accidentally or intentionally) and that that signing party has knowledge of a shared secret. NTLM implements a symmetric signature scheme (Message Authentication Code, or MAC); that is, a valid signature can only be generated and verified by parties that possess the common shared key.
3. Sealing — The NTLMSSP implements a symmetric-key encryption mechanism, which provides message confidentiality. In the case of NTLM, sealing also implies signing (a signed message is not necessarily sealed, but all sealed messages are signed).
NTLM has been largely supplanted by Kerberos as the authentication protocol of choice for domain-based scenarios. However, Kerberos is a trusted-third-party scheme, and cannot be used in situations where no trusted third party exists; for example, member servers (servers that are not part of a domain), local accounts, and authentication to resources in an untrusted domain. In such scenarios, NTLM continues to be the primary authentication mechanism (and likely will be for a long time).
How to make sure that you are using Kerberos authentication
SQL Server 2005 supports Kerberos authentication indirectly through the Windows Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI) when you are using Windows integrated authentication instead of SQL authentication. However, SQL Server will only use Kerberos authentication under certain circumstances when SQL Server can use SSPI to negotiate the authentication protocol to use. If SQL Server cannot use Kerberos authentication, Windows will use NTLM authentication. For security reasons, we recommend that you use Kerberos authentication instead of NTLM authentication. Administrators and users should know how to make sure that they are using Kerberos authentication for remote connections.
To use Kerberos authentication, you must make sure that all the following conditions are true:
• Both the server and the client computers must be members of the same Windows domain or members of trusted domains.
• The server’s service principal name (SPN) must be registered in the Active Directory service.
• The instance of SQL Server 2005 must enable the TCP/IP protocol.
• The client must connect to the instance of SQL Server 2005 by using the TCP/IP protocol. For example, you can put the TCP/IP protocol at the top of the client’s protocol order. Or you can add the prefix “tcp:” in the connection string to specify that the connection will use the TCP/IP protocol.
After you connected to an instance of SQL Server 2005, run the following Transact-SQL statement in SQL Server Management Studio:
select auth_scheme from sys.dm_exec_connections where session_id=@@spid
If SQL Server is using Kerberos authentication, a character string that is listed as “KERBEROS” appears in the auth_scheme column in the result window.