The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP has been in use by the World Wide Web global information initiative since 1990. This document is Part 7 of the seven-part specification that defines the protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.1" and, taken together, obsoletes RFC 2616.¶
Part 7 defines the HTTP Authentication framework.¶
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This document defines HTTP/1.1 access control and authentication. It includes the relevant parts of RFC 2616 with only minor changes, plus the general framework for HTTP authentication, as previously defined in "HTTP Authentication: Basic and Digest Access Authentication" ([RFC2617]).¶
HTTP provides several OPTIONAL challenge-response authentication mechanisms which can be used by a server to challenge a client request and by a client to provide authentication information. The "basic" and "digest" authentication schemes continue to be specified in RFC 2617.¶
This document defines conformance criteria for several roles in HTTP communication, including Senders, Recipients, Clients, Servers, User-Agents, Origin Servers, Intermediaries, Proxies and Gateways. See Section 2 of [Part1] for definitions of these terms.¶
An implementation is considered conformant if it complies with all of the requirements associated with its role(s). Note that SHOULD-level requirements are relevant here, unless one of the documented exceptions is applicable.¶
Unless noted otherwise, Recipients MAY take steps to recover a usable protocol element from an invalid construct. However, HTTP does not define specific error handling mechanisms, except in cases where it has direct impact on security. This is because different uses of the protocol require different error handling strategies; for example, a Web browser may wish to transparently recover from a response where the Location header field doesn't parse according to the ABNF, whereby in a systems control protocol using HTTP, this type of error recovery could lead to dangerous consequences.¶
This specification uses the Augmented Backus-Naur Form (ABNF) notation of [RFC5234] with the list rule extension defined in Section 1.2 of [Part1]. Appendix B shows the collected ABNF with the list rule expanded.¶
The following core rules are included by reference, as defined in [RFC5234], Appendix B.1: ALPHA (letters), CR (carriage return), CRLF (CR LF), CTL (controls), DIGIT (decimal 0-9), DQUOTE (double quote), HEXDIG (hexadecimal 0-9/A-F/a-f), LF (line feed), OCTET (any 8-bit sequence of data), SP (space), and VCHAR (any visible US-ASCII character).¶
HTTP provides a simple challenge-response authentication mechanism that can be used by a server to challenge a client request and by a client to provide authentication information. It uses an extensible, case-insensitive token to identify the authentication scheme, followed by additional information necessary for achieving authentication via that scheme. The latter can either be a comma-separated list of parameters or a single sequence of characters capable of holding base64-encoded information.¶
Parameters are name-value pairs where the name is matched case-insensitively, and each parameter name MUST only occur once per challenge.¶
The "b64token" syntax allows the 66 unreserved URI characters ([RFC3986]), plus a few others, so that it can hold a base64, base64url (URL and filename safe alphabet), base32, or base16 (hex) encoding, with or without padding, but excluding whitespace ([RFC4648]).¶
The 401 (Unauthorized) response message is used by an origin server to challenge the authorization of a user agent. This response MUST include a WWW-Authenticate header field containing at least one challenge applicable to the requested resource.¶
The 407 (Proxy Authentication Required) response message is used by a proxy to challenge the authorization of a client and MUST include a Proxy-Authenticate header field containing at least one challenge applicable to the proxy for the requested resource.¶
A user agent that wishes to authenticate itself with an origin server — usually, but not necessarily, after receiving a 401 (Unauthorized) — MAY do so by including an Authorization header field with the request.¶
A client that wishes to authenticate itself with a proxy — usually, but not necessarily, after receiving a 407 (Proxy Authentication Required) — MAY do so by including a Proxy-Authorization header field with the request.¶
Both the Authorization field value and the Proxy-Authorization field value consist of credentials containing the authentication information of the client for the realm of the resource being requested. The user agent MUST choose to use one of the challenges with the strongest auth-scheme it understands and request credentials from the user based upon that challenge.¶
If the origin server does not wish to accept the credentials sent with a request, it SHOULD return a 401 (Unauthorized) response. The response MUST include a WWW-Authenticate header field containing at least one (possibly new) challenge applicable to the requested resource.¶
If a proxy does not accept the credentials sent with a request, it SHOULD return a 407 (Proxy Authentication Required). The response MUST include a Proxy-Authenticate header field containing a (possibly new) challenge applicable to the proxy for the requested resource.¶
The HTTP protocol does not restrict applications to this simple challenge-response mechanism for access authentication. Additional mechanisms MAY be used, such as encryption at the transport level or via message encapsulation, and with additional header fields specifying authentication information. However, such additional mechanisms are not defined by this specification.¶
The authentication parameter realm is reserved for use by authentication schemes that wish to indicate the scope of protection.¶
A protection space is defined by the canonical root URI (the scheme and authority components of the effective request URI; see Section 5.5 of [Part1]) of the server being accessed, in combination with the realm value if present. These realms allow the protected resources on a server to be partitioned into a set of protection spaces, each with its own authentication scheme and/or authorization database. The realm value is a string, generally assigned by the origin server, which can have additional semantics specific to the authentication scheme. Note that there can be multiple challenges with the same auth-scheme but different realms.¶
The protection space determines the domain over which credentials can be automatically applied. If a prior request has been authorized, the same credentials MAY be reused for all other requests within that protection space for a period of time determined by the authentication scheme, parameters, and/or user preference. Unless otherwise defined by the authentication scheme, a single protection space cannot extend outside the scope of its server.¶
For historical reasons, senders MUST only use the quoted-string syntax. Recipients might have to support both token and quoted-string syntax for maximum interoperability with existing clients that have been accepting both notations for a long time.¶
The HTTP Authentication Scheme Registry defines the name space for the authentication schemes in challenges and credentials.¶
Registrations MUST include the following fields: ¶
There are certain aspects of the HTTP Authentication Framework that put constraints on how new authentication schemes can work:¶
HTTP authentication is presumed to be stateless: all of the information necessary to authenticate a request MUST be provided in the request, rather than be dependent on the server remembering prior requests. Authentication based on, or bound to, the underlying connection is outside the scope of this specification and inherently flawed unless steps are taken to ensure that the connection cannot be used by any party other than the authenticated user (see Section 2.3 of [Part1]).
The authentication parameter "realm" is reserved for defining Protection Spaces as defined in Section 2.2. New schemes MUST NOT use it in a way incompatible with that definition.
The "b64token" notation was introduced for compatibility with existing authentication schemes and can only be used once per challenge/credentials. New schemes thus ought to use the "auth-param" syntax instead, because otherwise future extensions will be impossible.
The parsing of challenges and credentials is defined by this specification, and cannot be modified by new authentication schemes. When the auth-param syntax is used, all parameters ought to support both token and quoted-string syntax, and syntactical constraints ought to be defined on the field value after parsing (i.e., quoted-string processing). This is necessary so that recipients can use a generic parser that applies to all authentication schemes.
Note: the fact that the value syntax for the "realm" parameter is restricted to quoted-string was a bad design choice not to be repeated for new parameters.
Definitions of new schemes ought to define the treatment of unknown extension parameters. In general, a "must-ignore" rule is preferable over "must-understand", because otherwise it will be hard to introduce new parameters in the presence of legacy recipients. Furthermore, it's good to describe the policy for defining new parameters (such as "update the specification", or "use this registry").
Authentication schemes need to document whether they are usable in origin-server authentication (i.e., using WWW-Authenticate), and/or proxy authentication (i.e., using Proxy-Authenticate).
The credentials carried in an Authorization header field are specific to the User Agent, and therefore have the same effect on HTTP caches as the "private" Cache-Control response directive, within the scope of the request they appear in.
Therefore, new authentication schemes which choose not to carry credentials in the Authorization header (e.g., using a newly defined header) will need to explicitly disallow caching, by mandating the use of either Cache-Control request directives (e.g., "no-store") or response directives (e.g., "private").
The request requires user authentication. The response MUST include a WWW-Authenticate header field (Section 4.4) containing a challenge applicable to the target resource. The client MAY repeat the request with a suitable Authorization header field (Section 4.1). If the request already included Authorization credentials, then the 401 response indicates that authorization has been refused for those credentials. If the 401 response contains the same challenge as the prior response, and the user agent has already attempted authentication at least once, then the user SHOULD be presented the representation that was given in the response, since that representation might include relevant diagnostic information.¶
This code is similar to 401 (Unauthorized), but indicates that the client ought to first authenticate itself with the proxy. The proxy MUST return a Proxy-Authenticate header field (Section 4.2) containing a challenge applicable to the proxy for the target resource. The client MAY repeat the request with a suitable Proxy-Authorization header field (Section 4.3).¶
This section defines the syntax and semantics of HTTP/1.1 header fields related to authentication.¶
The "Proxy-Authenticate" header field consists of a challenge that indicates the authentication scheme and parameters applicable to the proxy for this effective request URI (Section 5.5 of [Part1]). It MUST be included as part of a 407 (Proxy Authentication Required) response.¶
Unlike WWW-Authenticate, the Proxy-Authenticate header field applies only to the current connection and SHOULD NOT be passed on to downstream clients. However, an intermediate proxy might need to obtain its own credentials by requesting them from the downstream client, which in some circumstances will appear as if the proxy is forwarding the Proxy-Authenticate header field.¶
It MUST be included in 401 (Unauthorized) response messages and MAY be included in other response messages to indicate that supplying credentials (or different credentials) might affect the response.¶
User agents are advised to take special care in parsing the WWW-Authenticate field value as it might contain more than one challenge, or if more than one WWW-Authenticate header field is provided, the contents of a challenge itself can contain a comma-separated list of authentication parameters.¶
WWW-Authenticate: Newauth realm="apps", type=1, title="Login to \"apps\"", Basic realm="simple"
This header field contains two challenges; one for the "Newauth" scheme with a realm value of "apps", and two additional parameters "type" and "title", and another one for the "Basic" scheme with a realm value of "simple".
The Message Header Field Registry located at <http://www.iana.org/assignments/message-headers/message-header-index.html> shall be updated with the permanent registrations below (see [RFC3864]):¶
|Header Field Name||Protocol||Status||Reference|
The change controller is: "IETF (email@example.com) - Internet Engineering Task Force".¶
This section is meant to inform application developers, information providers, and users of the security limitations in HTTP/1.1 as described by this document. The discussion does not include definitive solutions to the problems revealed, though it does make some suggestions for reducing security risks.¶
Existing HTTP clients and user agents typically retain authentication information indefinitely. HTTP/1.1 does not provide a method for a server to direct clients to discard these cached credentials. This is a significant defect that requires further extensions to HTTP. Circumstances under which credential caching can interfere with the application's security model include but are not limited to: ¶
This is currently under separate study. There are a number of work-arounds to parts of this problem, and we encourage the use of password protection in screen savers, idle time-outs, and other methods which mitigate the security problems inherent in this problem. In particular, user agents which cache credentials are encouraged to provide a readily accessible mechanism for discarding cached credentials under user control.¶
This specification takes over the definition of the HTTP Authentication Framework, previously defined in RFC 2617. We thank John Franks, Phillip M. Hallam-Baker, Jeffery L. Hostetler, Scott D. Lawrence, Paul J. Leach, Ari Luotonen, and Lawrence C. Stewart for their work on that specification. See Section 6 of [RFC2617] for further acknowledgements.¶
Authorization = credentials BWS = <BWS, defined in [Part1], Section 3.2.1> OWS = <OWS, defined in [Part1], Section 3.2.1> Proxy-Authenticate = *( "," OWS ) challenge *( OWS "," [ OWS challenge ] ) Proxy-Authorization = credentials WWW-Authenticate = *( "," OWS ) challenge *( OWS "," [ OWS challenge ] ) auth-param = token BWS "=" BWS ( token / quoted-string ) auth-scheme = token b64token = 1*( ALPHA / DIGIT / "-" / "." / "_" / "~" / "+" / "/" ) *"=" challenge = auth-scheme [ 1*SP ( b64token / [ ( "," / auth-param ) *( OWS "," [ OWS auth-param ] ) ] ) ] credentials = auth-scheme [ 1*SP ( b64token / [ ( "," / auth-param ) *( OWS "," [ OWS auth-param ] ) ] ) ] quoted-string = <quoted-string, defined in [Part1], Section 3.2.4> token = <token, defined in [Part1], Section 3.2.4>
; Authorization defined but not used ; Proxy-Authenticate defined but not used ; Proxy-Authorization defined but not used ; WWW-Authenticate defined but not used
No significant changes.¶
Closed issues: ¶
Closed issues: ¶