Tag Archives: scp

SCP, SMB and more

Recently I was asked to add additional connection protocols as a means to submit samples to be analyzed by ourĀ  automated forensic analysis platform. We had our UI, and REST API and multiple REST clients (C#, Java and Python). These are all standard but all require integration or manual intervention. Protocols like FTP, SFTP, SCP, SMB and many others are used to transfer files for everyday use. They have commercially available clients and many operating systems already have built-in support as well. My challenge was providing a smart, powerful and flexible integration.

I knew that there are several open servers available to receive files. In order to integrate in to our architecture something would need to consume the uploaded files. Additionally, we would have to handle the authentication, authorization aspects necessary to upload to the server. We can’t just have users created for every system reading directories as that is clunky, error prone, and not scalable. I opted in for an alternate approach.

Our core components are mostly written in Java and I was looking for a solution that would directly integrate or by means of JNI. I began with SCP and immediately found the Apache project MINA. It provides a complete Java SSHD/SFTP/SCP solution from soup to nuts. The intention of the SCP/SFTP is to be written to disk but with little ingenuity I Was able to completely cut out that step stream directly into our system without ever writing to disk. We are already using Spring Security for our authentication. While I wasn’t going to take the time to extend Spring Security to handle the SSH protocol I did utilize the ThreadLocal security context SecurityContextHolder. This enabled connection between the authentication mechanism that MINA provides and the data transfer to identify the user based on the security context setup. This enable me to continue using the rest of the application I had already secured. The rest of the system thought it came from HTTP, or didn’t really care. Ideally I would extend some interfaces in Spring Security and actually bind the protocol but that would be a nice addon that I can recommend to the Spring Integration team who already support SFTP. Click here to view the gist for the scp integration.

Some of this code is just extending the ScpHelper and the ScpCommand. This provided an easy way to access my existing authentication service and setup the security context.

Scp was out of the way but SMB was the more challenging integration. I didn’t find nearly as much on the topic and there are a lot more complications to handle. SCP/SFTP is safeguarded with TLS the same encryption process that makes HTTPS secure using public/private key encryption. After the initial handshake all data sent over the wire is encrypted. This facilitates authentication in comparison to many other protocols out there. Much to my surprise and naivety I was hoping that I would be able to utilize the stored credentials already encrypted and protected which we use to access via Spring Security. Instead SMB usually send encrypted credentials that are compared to already obtained credentials. This is a typical practice passing challenge data as to conceal the secret information and prevent any false information. I had to result in storing the hash digest MD4 of the user’s password to be compared to the client provided hashes password.

The library I used was developed by Alfresco called JLAN. It is on the older side and scarcely maintained. Sadly, its documentation was slightly better than you’d expect to find from a Jboss product. There is a developer’s guide and installation guide. For general usage it may be fine, but for what I was planning on doing it was tad more challenging. Some software engineers try to protect their future code by using final for anything and everything and making things very rigid and hard to extend. They only let you access to very small selection of methods and may not even document those well. I wanted a way to hook in my UserAuthenticationService that we used in the scp service. My challenge was that the SecurityConfigSection would only let you specify the UsersInterface by specifying a String of the Class that implements said interface. That class is instantiated and made completely inaccessible there after. This made accessing my Spring managed bean very difficult to nearly impossible. Usually I would try to have @ComponentScan pickup the class and either @Autowired the interface or use the BeanFactory to retrieve it dynamically. I came up with a simple but really nice approach to handle this.

In my @Configuration class I set the BeanFactory in the enum making it statically accessible. Thus, even our annoying UsersInterface implementation can take advantage of our managed beans without having to deal with any final mess.

After I worked out that spring bean issues I still had to deal with the frustrations of learning the ins and outs of the SMB protocol. This approach also would allow for a transfer that requires no writes to disk and authentication that can flow through the existing system. Look here for a gist of the general approach. If you really want to use the JLAN library realize that Alfresco sells an enterprise license and probably supports a great deal of options with it.

Here is a snippet of what you will want to add to a POM (maven) to play around with these code samples.

More to come!