PKI: Public Key Infrastructure in .NET

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9.2.1.1 Certificate Subjects for Mobile Devices In the following we provide a couple of alternatives for identities that can be used as certificate subject names and discuss their pros and cons. Network access identifiers (NAI) These may be a better candidate for identifying devices or users than IP addresses. To identify a device, one can define the NAI as MAC-Address@domain-name, where the MAC address can be chosen to be unique for the device and the domain name or realm name will be the realm to which the device will belong to, e.g. Chicago police department . NAI is much more permanent than the IP address, since it is typically assigned based on affiliation to a domain rather than the current point of connectivity. Also NAI can be assigned at initialization by the network operator. However, NAI has issues with roaming or cases where a single client may be associated to multiple realms. This means the client may still need to obtain multiple NAIs. This means either the client must obtain one certificate per realm or obtain a multiple-identity certificate and know all its NAIs at the time it obtains the certificate. The problem that arises with the latter approach is that each realm may have its own certificate authority (CA). Another problem with using NAI as certificate subject name is that normally the NAI is assigned by the network operator. As a result, the CA operator cannot issue an NAI-based certificate until the NAI has been issued to the device by the network operator and properly verified by the CA operator. MAC identifiers Nowadays many devices are marked with IEEE MAC addresses. Normally the manufacturer receives a batch of consecutive IEEE MAC address and assigns one MAC address to each of the devices in the factory. This makes the MAC identifier a very attractive candidate for certificate subject name, since not only the manufactured-issued MAC identifier is unique for each device, it is also static regardless of the network domain or the operator it is going to connect to. Motorola goes as far as issuing and downloading the certificates into the cable modems during production. Despite all their advantages, using MAC identifiers as certificate subject names also has its disadvantages. For legacy devices or devices that have not been assigned a unique MAC identifier, a system-specific identifier needs to be assigned so that it is unique in the system that it is going to be used. The certificate will be based on this ID. The term system has a broader meaning than the administrative domain, otherwise multiple certificates may be required. The use of the MAC identifier for the certificate subject name brings up certain issues that must be resolved:
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The MAC identifier is a link layer identifier that is not recognized at higher protocol stack layers. A device can easily present a certificate with its MAC ID as identity to an entity that is a single hop away and hence can verify the sender s MAC address on the link. This opens the door to MAC identifier spoofing, unless proper layer-2 security mechanisms are in place. For nodes that are multiple hops away and can recognize the sender only by the IP address, there is no way to check the MAC ID that the sender presents in its certificate, unless the sender includes a specific extension including its MAC ID and signs it with its private key. After authenticating this client, the other end may still need to create the MAC
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ID-IP address binding to be able to control the traffic from this client. Both of these issues add to the complexity of signaling and security management. If the certificate subject name is the device MAC identifier, only MAC ID can be used to look up the certificate for the device. This is an added inconvenience for domain name servers (DNS) that are in charge of providing mappings between fully qualified domain names (FQDN) and IP addresses. When other entities on the Internet need to communicate with another entity, a query can be made to the DNS using the FQDN to find the entity s IP address. However, when MAC IDs are used as identities on the certificates, such translation is difficult. A device may have more than one MAC ID. For instance, the laptop may have a MAC ID on the wired Ethernet that is different from the MAC ID of the WLAN NIC card inserted in the laptop. This can mean the device must have a different certificate from each of the MAC IDs associated with it.
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9.2.1.2 Certificate Subjects for Human Users Traditionally, users authenticate using secrets that are easy to remember by humans. Examples of such secrets are passwords, or pin numbers. As we will see in the next chapter, in mobile wireless environments, legacy authentication methods must be enhanced to meet the tougher security threats within those environments. For instance, exchanges based on the password alone would not be enough for a secure authentication. In some methods such as CHAP ( 2), a module on the device uses the password entered by the user to calculate the content for authentication messaging (such as response to a challenge). However, as mentioned earlier, care must be taken to separate the credentials for the user from the credentials for the device. If the password remains on the device after being used by the device module, it can be hijacked by others if the device falls into the hands of unintended users. SIM-based authentication ( 2) used in cellular systems is intended as a user authentication scheme. However, the subscribers rarely take the SIM cards out of the phones, so the SIM card may be considered as a device credential. Some more careful subscribers use a PIN to lock the SIM card. In such cases, the separation of user and device credentials is only as good as the entropy that a 4-digit PIN provides. Our job in this section is to convince the reader to use certificates for both users and devices. User certificate is not an entirely new concept; many organizations have been using certificates for their employees or students for a long time and have well-defined policies for registration, issuance of certificates and publication of CRLs. However, issuing certificates for mobile users that roam between multiple administrative domains (organizations and/or operators) and deal with a variety of access networks using multiple devices can be a tricky task. We will come back to the issues involved. For now we will focus only on identity management for user certificates. The choice of certificate subject name for user certificate can vary depending on the scenario. It might make sense to have an NAI format of userID@domain_name as the subject name in the certificate. UserID can be anything from person s name or credit card number to a number assigned by the IT department of the organization to which the user is affiliated. In any case, the user must comply with both the security policy and the technology assigned by the network operator. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, NAI is domain-dependent, which means a user associated with multiple domains needs multiple NAIs and possibly multiple certificates, since each domain typically has its own trust anchor CA.
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