Ubuntu SSO 2nd factor authentication FAQs
Ubuntu SSO 2nd factor authentication FAQs
What is 2nd factor authentication?
Two factor authentication increases computer security further than just a user name and password. In addition to a password (the first factor) you need something else in order to access a system. Common ways to provide this extra level of security are:
- A USB key (like the Yubikey)
- A smart card
- A special device or app running on a smart-phone
- A fingerprint or retinal scan
By using more than one of these factors (eg: adding a 2nd factor), you increase the security of your system. See the 2-factor authentication article on Wikipedia for more information.
Note: We do not have plans to implement biometric 2-factor methods, such as a fingerprint scanner. This type of method is not compatible with OATH/HOTP, and is vulnerable to network-based attacks such as traffic capture and replay. The one-time password solution works because it changes at each login, but your fingerprint does not change.
Can I use it?
As of April 2014, 2-factor authentication is available only to beta-testers. If you are interested in trying it, go to launchpad.net/~sso-2f-testers and add yourself to the group. The feature will be fully rolled out to the public as soon as it's ready.
Its use is, nowadays, enforced for all Canonical employees as well as for people working on projects that are marked to use it. It's no longer possible to be in the 2fa testers group and not use it.
Is it hard to use?
Not really. This adds one additional step to the login process. Instead of just username and password, you will need to enter your username, password, and one-time passcode. The one-time passcode changes each time.
How does it work?
Our 2-factor solution uses a standard, open, event-based OATH/HOTP protocol. What this means is that the client and server both have a shared key and a sequence counter, and from this data they generate a predictable sequence of one-time passcodes. Each passcode is 6 decimal digits, from 000000 to 999999.
The shared key is 40 hex digits, and the sequence counter is a simple number that starts at 0 and increases by 1 each time you log in.
NOTE: SSO's 2-factor solution is not time-based. So, it doesn't matter how much time passes between generating a passcode and consuming the passcode. Also, it means that you should avoid generating passcodes without using them, because it will cause the client and server to get out of sync and reject your login.
To help protect against accidental passcode consumption, the server will accept any of the next three passcodes in the sequence. This means you can 'click' your Yubikey up to twice between logins without getting locked out, but the third code should go to SSO or the client will get out of sync with the server and lock you out.
Why are you adding this to Ubuntu SSO?
Ubuntu SSO is the single identity and authentication system guarding a wealth of information at a large number of sites and services. We added this additional optional layer of security to help people protect their accounts and data when desired.
How do I add a new authentication device and start using 2-factor authentication?
This is fairly simple:
Go to launchpad.net/~sso-2f-testers and add yourself to the group
Log in to https://login.ubuntu.com/
- Click the "Authentication Devices" tab.
- Click "Add a new authentication device".
- Select a device type.
- Follow the instructions on screen.
- Select "Always" for "Require an authentication device", and click "Update".
We recommend adding a second device as a backup, in case your primary device gets lost or out of sync. A fairly easy option is to add paper codes: you can print them and have them stored somewhere secure (but handy) in case your main device gets lost, needs to be replaced, reflashed, etc.
What devices are supported?
These types of devices are officially supported right now:
- Smartphones: Ubuntu Phone, Android, iOS, and Blackberry.
- Yubikey USB devices, running in OATH mode.
- Feitian OTP c100 keyfobs.
What unsupported devices work?
- Smartphones: Maemo devices (Nokia N9 / N900).
- Any other OATH/HOTP-compatible device.
Supported devices are those which run Ubuntu Phone, Android, iOS, or Blackberry.
Maemo-based devices (Nokia N9 / N900) can work too, using the unsupported HTML5 app detailed below.
Warning: If you flash your phone, make sure to do a full backup first! Otherwise, make sure you have a backup auth device and expect to delete and reconfigure 2-factor auth on your phone. Flashing the phone will make it forget your 2-factor login data and may lock you out.
Go to https://login.ubuntu.com/device-list and follow the instructions to "Add a new authentication device". It will walk you through setting up "Google Authenticator" which is our supported app for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices and is free to download from official app stores. You can also use Authenticator in Ubuntu Phone, which is configured and works in a similar way.
Does the smartphone need internet access to work (after installation)? I travel a lot and my phone doesn't always have data access.
No, it does not require internet access to work.
The Yubikey is a small USB device designed to fit onto a key ring. It pretends to be a USB keyboard, so it can type in your passcodes for you. This makes it both secure and convenient.
Can I keep using this for existing sites as well as adding SSO support?
Most likely, yes. Recent model Yubikeys have two configuration slots (one on short press, the other on long press) which can be programmed independently. As long as you haven't used both of these for other systems, you'll be fine. SSO provides instructions to do this when you add a Yubikey to your account.
The only difference from the general instructions above is that you must run a command-line tool to configure your Yubikey:
Before adding your first Yubikey device, run sudo apt-get install yubikey-personalization.
- The command for configuring your Yubikey will be displayed by SSO while adding a device. Copy/paste this into a terminal.
NOTE: If you are already using your Yubikey to authenticate at other sites, use the command for configuring slot 2! Otherwise, your existing configuration will be overwritten and cannot be recovered. It is possible to re-add Yubi-protocol functionality to your device, but your original key will be lost. If this happens, contact ISD support for instructions.
When SSO requests a one-time passcode, insert your Yubikey into a USB slot and then touch its button. The Yubikey should type in your passcode for you and press enter to submit the form.
Feitian OTP c100
This zero-footprint keyfob is small enough to fit on a key chain and works all by itself with no external power or connections. It has one button and an 8-digit LCD.
The device must be configured by an account administrator. Email ISD the shared AES key of your device and we will let you know when it's ready to use.
When SSO asks you for a one-time passcode, press the button on your c100 and copy the number onscreen into SSO.
Paper is simple, portable, low-tech, and pretty secure. Simply print a new sheet of one-time passcodes whenever you run out, then keep it in your wallet or purse for when you need it.
SSO now includes a feature for paper authentication. You need to log in, and click on "Add a new authentication device", and choose "Printable Backup Codes". Click on the button "Add device", and you will get a list of 25 codes, that you can print using the button "Print codes".
Whenever SSO asks for a one-time passcode, copy the next number from your sheet of codes and then cross it out. When you use up the entire sheet, generate and print a new one. You can have more than one device of type “Printable Backup Codes”, if you choose to do so, name the devices and the printed sheets appropriately (useful to know when your codes are finishing!) Take to account that when you generate a new set of codes the old ones will be invalidated. This means that every time a new set of codes is generated you’ll need to print the new ones again, as old ones aren’t good anymore.
Maemo devices (Nokia N9 / N900)
Maemo otp package
The Maemo distro has a client program which is compatible with SSO. It's called 'otp' and it's in extras-testing.
- On login.ubuntu.com, select "Generic HOTP device".
Install the 'otp' package from extras-testing (http://maemo.org/packages/view/otp/).
- Start OTP.
- Select "Create New Token" from the menu. In this dialog:
- Name: whatever you like, e.g. "Ubuntu SSO"
- Algorithm: HOTP
- Counter type: event-based
- Key: enter the shared AES key displayed on login.ubuntu.com
- Generate new key: don't tap this or it'll overwrite the key you just entered
- Tap OK.
- Select the token you just generated, e.g. "Ubuntu SSO".
- Select "Edit" from the menu.
- Uncheck "Display Hexadecimal" and change "Digits" to 8 (although 6 will work too).
- Press "Generate" to generate a one-time password for login.ubuntu.com.
Laptops / notebooks
If you travel with your notebook, we do not recommend using it as a 2-factor authentication device. It works, but it is less secure than having a physically-separate auth device.
I don't want to use the supported app. Can I use something else?
Yes, our 2nd factor authentication uses the open OATH/HOTP protocol so there are many apps which will work with it and it's relatively easy to write your own too. Be aware, however, that we won't support these alternative apps so you will be responsible for getting it working and for keeping it working.
What if I lose my Yubikey, my phone battery dies, or my authentication device is otherwise unavailable?
You can add multiple 2fa devices to your account; the system will auto-detect which one you use at each login. We recommend having at least two devices associated with your account so you will have a backup in case the main device fails or locks you out.
On the other hand, more auth devices means less secure. So, we recommend having no more than three auth devices associated with your account. So, if you ever stop permanently to use a device, please also delete it from your account.
I got locked out of my account. What should I do?
You have a backup auth device, right? Use it to log in, remove your broken primary auth device, and re-add the primary device with a fresh key.
Note that this is not possible with Feitian OTP c100 devices, since they cannot be reprogrammed. If your c100 stops working, skip to the next question.
No, I'm really locked out of my account. What should I do?
If you have trouble to log in because your device is ahead of sequence compared to the server, you'll be provided a link where you can enter 3 *consecutive* passcodes and the server will sync with the device.
If you still can't make it work, send an email to email@example.com with the subject '2fa locked out - my_sso_email@address'.
You should also tell us the type of device you are using for 2-factor authentication, and what your next 6-digit passcode is. This will allow us to re-sync the server to your device if possible.
We can't stress enough how cool for everybody it is to have a second authentication device (By the way, paper as secondary device is perfectly fine).
Why doesn't my 2F login work on staging?
The short version: Use a different 2F device on staging.
The long version:
Staging interacts strangely with 2F authentication. Normally, the data from production is copied over to staging each week, to provide a mostly up-to-date sandbox for testing. However, when 2F data is copied to staging, this causes strange results. If you were to log in to staging a few times, the production sites wouldn't get updated with your current 2F status and it would result in being locked out of production sites. However, even if just using staging, the data gets copied again each week so the 2F sequence would be broken each week.
So to address this problem, the staging servers now receive a copy of everything except the 2F data, which gets left alone. If you need 2F on staging, you will need to add a 2F device on login.staging.ubuntu.com. This 2F device is completely independent from your non-staging account and the passcodes are not interchangeable. It will not reset each week; instead it continues indefinitely just like a regular 2F passcode sequence.
How can I maximize my security?
2-factor auth security
If you are using a smartphone or Yubikey or c100, your security should already be pretty good. Just try not to lose both your notebook and your auth device at the same time.
If you don't have a dedicated auth device, these ideas can make the system more secure:
- Consider using paper, as described above.
- Don't keep your 2FA keys/sequences on your notebook. If you use a command-line app, use it from a remote server or USB stick instead, so you won't lose your keys if your notebook gets stolen.
- Make sure you have a strong password on your computer.
- Encrypt your home directory.
- Don't let your browser cache your password. Or, at least use a master password for your browser's password store.
- Take care to not leave your computer unattended or unlocked when you're not using it.
- Check to make sure that secure sites you're viewing are what they claim to be.
- Log out of sites as you finish using them, especially if you're using a shared computer or are in a public place.
- Use a password on your ssh keys. The inconvenience can be mitigated by using ssh-agent.
- If you work in public places, consider routing all your traffic (including DNS) over a trusted VPN.
Will this feature be released to the public?
Yes, we hope to release this to all of our users in the future. Right now, it's restricted to Canonical staff and a limited group of community testers but we do want to enable it for all of our users once we have sufficient self-service options in place and are sure it won't place an excessive support burden on us.
Can I see the code?
Yes, it's open source. You can get it at https://code.launchpad.net/canonical-identity-provider/
What does this feature protect me against?
That depends on how you use it. At a minimum, it will protect you against compromised SSO credentials; even if someone manages to guess or steal your username and password, they will still be unable to access protected sites via your account. If your 2nd factor software is running on the same machine you use to access sites (eg: your laptop or mobile device) and you also have your credentials saved in your browser on that device then it won't prevent someone who steals it from accessing protected sites via your account.
How is this different than RSA SecurID, which was compromised in 2011?
RSA SecurID had a central point of failure, which was the RSA company itself. RSA's database was compromised, thus giving away all the secret keys for every client. Our solution doesn't have this issue because we issue our own keys and don't depend on any third parties. The key is only stored on our server and on your auth device.
If your auth device is stolen or compromised, your password protects against usage until you invalidate the device with the server. If the server gets compromised, it can request that all users reinitialize their devices with fresh keys, which was not possible with SecurID.
So, our system is less likely to be compromised, and makes post-compromise recovery cheaper and easier.