Best Practices from Oracle Development's A‑Team

Keystores and signing your SAML assertions

I've been working on a project recently that includes SOAP clients submitting messages via JMS and HTTP to Oracle Service Bus (OSB). OSB is supposed to validate the assertion, perhaps do some transformations on the SOAP, and then send the message off to some backend service. I'll probably talk about the last two thirds of the solution at some point in the future, but it's the first third that has raised a bunch of questions that other people probably have too.

Before I go into the details let me just remind you that the details here are specific to this customer's situation. I'm not advocating for, endorsing or otherwise suggesting that the info here is useful to YOUR situation. With that said...

The customer's architecture includes submitting the messages over a 2-way SSL channel and they want to use SAML 1.1 assertions with the Bearer confirmation method. Most people are probably more familiar with the Sender Vouches method in which the entity sending the SAML assertion (i.e. the SOAP client) is trusted by the receiving party - which means that every client needs a private key and the receiver needs to have the associated Certificate (or the issuer's Certificate).
In Bearer the sender of the message isn't necessarily the party that actually created the SAML Assertion; if they were then you could just use Sender Vouches and be done. In Bearer you're saying that the communication channel authenticates the caller; this also means that the party sending the message could get a SAML assertion from somewhere else and then just includes it in the SOAP message. There are a bunch of dangers in this sort of architecture, but you can mitigate most of them through appropriate architectural choices. What those dangers are and how you mitigate them is a subject for a separate post. There's a third confirmation method called Holder of Key which is, again, a great subject for another post.

In any case when you use the Bearer Confirmation Method you might want the assertion to be signed, especially if it comes from somewhere other than the client. So who has the private key? And what certificates do you need to put in the keystore?

When you install WebLogic the installer automatically creates a couple of keystores for you. Gerard Davison discusses this a bit in a blog post in the context of setting up SSL. We can use the same keystores for testing SOAP.First here's the table (shamelessly copied) from Gerard's post:

Property Value
Trust store location wlserver_10.3/ server/lib/DemoTrust.jks
Trust store password DemoTrustKeyStorePassPhrase
Key store location wlserver_10.3/ server/lib/DemoIdentity.jks
Key store password DemoIdentityKeyStorePassPhrase
Private key password DemoIdentityPassPhrase

As you can see there are two JKS files - DemoTrust.jks and DemoIdentity.jks. Take a look at the contents of them by using keytool:

keytool -list -keystore DemoIdentity.jks -storepass DemoIdentityKeyStorePassPhrase keytool -list -keystore DemoTrust.jks -storepass DemoTrustKeyStorePassPhrase

You'll find that DemoIdentity.jks contains a Private Key and DemoTrust.jks contains the associated Certificate (and a few others).
I'm a huge fan of automated unit test tools. I'll often invest literally tens of hours writing test drivers that will be thrown away when the project is done just so I can be sure that I haven't missed anything. More importantly I want to be 100% sure that we've got test coverage for all of the positive and negative cases we've thought of in the design phase.

So for my little SOAP tester in my test environment I can use the DemoIdentity.jks file to sign the SAML Assertion and as long as OSB is configured to use DemoTrust.jks it should accept my SAML Assertion.

In the real world you definitely won't be using the DemoTrust keystore. Instead you'll create another Key Store to be used on the OSB server and you'll probably put the Certificate of the SAML assertion generator in there (if it's a self-signed cert) or the Cert chain needed to verify the signature.

Hope this helps!

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