Factotum is a user–level file system that acts as the authentication
agent for a user. It does so by managing a set of keys. A key
is a collection of information used to authenticate a particular
action. Stored as a list of attribute=value pairs, a key typically
contains a user, an authentication domain, a protocol, and some
Factotum presents a two level directory. The first level contains
a single directory factotum, which in turn contains:
rpc each open represents a new private channel to factotum
proto when read lists the protocols available
confirm for confiming the use of key
needkey allows external programs to control the addition of new
log a log of actions
ctl for maintaining keys; when read, it returns a list of keys.
For secret attributes, only the attribute name follow by a ? is
In any authentication, the caller typically acts as a client and
the callee as a server. The server determines the authentication
domain, sometimes after a negotiation with the client. Authentication
always requires the client to prove its identity to the server.
Under some protocols, the authentication is mutual. Proof is
accomplished using secret information kept by factotum in conjunction
with a cryptographic protocol.
Factotum can act in the role of client for any process possessing
the same user id as it. For select protocols such as p9sk1 it
can also act as a client for other processes provided its user
id may speak for the other process' user id (see authsrv(6)).
Factotum can act in the role of server for any process.
Factotum's structure is independent of any particular authentication
protocol. Factotum supports the following protocols:
p9any a metaprotocol used to negotiate which actual protocol to
p9sk1 a Plan 9 shared key protocol described in authsrv(6)'s ``File
p9sk2 a variant of p9sk1 described in authsrv(6)'s ``Remote Execution''
p9cr a Plan 9 protocol that can use either p9sk1 keys or SecureID
apop the challenge/response protocol used by POP3 mail servers.
cram the challenge/response protocol also used by POP3 mail servers.
chap the challenge/response protocols used by PPP and PPTP.
mschap a proprietary Microsoft protocol also used by PPP and PPTP.
rsa RSA public key decryption, used by SSH and TLS.
pass passwords in the clear.
wep WEP passwords for wireless ethernet cards.
The options are:
–a supplies the address of the authentication server to use. Without
this option, it will attempt to find an authentication server
by querying the connection server, the file <mtpt>/ndb, and finally
the network database in /lib/ndb.
–m specifies the mount point to use, by default /mnt.
–s specifies the service name to use. Without this option, factotum
does not create a service file in /srv.
–D turns on 9P tracing, written to standard error.
–d turns on debugging, written to standard error.
–g causes the agent to prompt for the key, write it to the ctl file,
and exit. The agent will prompt for values for any of the attributes
ending with a question mark (?) and will append all the supplied
attribute = value pairs. See the section on key templates below.
–n don't look for a secstore.
–S indicates that the agent is running on a CPU server. On starting,
it will attempt to get a p9sk1 key from NVRAM using readnvram
(see authsrv(2)), prompting for anything it needs. It will never
subsequently prompt for a key that it doesn't have. This option
is typically used by the kernel at boot time.
–k causes the NVRAM to be written. It is only valid with the –S option.
This option is typically used by the kernel at boot time.
–u causes the agent to prompt for user id and writes it to /dev/hostowner.
It is mutually exclusive with –k and –S. This option is typically
used by the kernel at boot time.
–p causes the agent not to mark itself `private' via proc(3), so
that it can be debugged. It is implied by –d.
Fgui is a graphic user interface for confirming key usage and
entering new keys. It hides the window in which it starts and
waits reading requests from confirm and needkey. For each requests,
it unhides itself and waits for user input. See the sections on
key confirmation and key prompting below.
A key tuple is a space delimited list of attribute=value pairs.
An attribute whose name begins with an exclamation point (!) does
not appear when reading the ctl file. The required attributes
depend on the authentication protocol.
P9sk1, p9sk2, and p9cr all require a key with proto=p9sk1, a dom
attribute identifying the authentication domain, a user name valid
in that domain, and either a !password or !hex attribute specifying
the password or hexadecimal secret to be used. Here is an example:
Apop, cram, chap, and mschap, require a key with a proto attribute
whose value matches the protocol, in addition to server, user,
and !password attributes; e.g.
proto=p9sk1 dom=avayalabs.com user=presotto !password=lucent
Vnc is similar but does not require a user attribute.
proto=apop server=mit.edu user=rsc !password=nerdsRus
Pass requires a key with proto=pass in addition to user and !password
Rsa requires a key with proto=rsa in addition to all the hex attributes
defining an RSA key: ek, n, !p, !q, !kp, !kq, !c2, and !dk. By
convention, programs using the RSA protocol also require a service
attribute set to ssh, sshserve, or tls.
proto=pass user=tb !password=does.it.matter
Wep requires a key1, key2, or key3 set to the password to be used.
Starting the protocol causes factotum to configure the wireless
ethernet card #l/ether0 for WEP encryption with the given password.
All keys can have additional attributes that act either as comments
or as selectors to distinguish them in the auth(2) library calls.
The factotum owner can use any key stored by factotum. Any key
may have one or more owner attributes listing the users who can
use the key as though they were the owner. For example, the TLS
and SSH host keys on a server often have an attribute owner=*
to allow any user (and in particular, none) to run the
TLS or SSH server–side protocol.
Any key may have a role attribute for restricting how it can be
used. If this attribute is missing, the key can be used in any
role. The possible values are:
for authenticating outbound calls
for authenticating inbound calls
If a key has a disabled attribute (with any value), the key is
not used during any protocols. Factotum automatically marks keys
with disabled=by.factotum when they fail during certain authentication
protocols (in particular, the Plan 9 ones).
for authenticating processes whose user id does not match factotum's.
Whenever factotum runs as a server, it must have a p9sk1 key in
order to communicate with the authentication server for validating
passwords and challenge/responses of other users.
Key templates are used by routines that interface to factotum
such as auth_proxy and auth_challenge (see auth(2)) to specify
which key and protocol to use for an authentication. Like a key
tuple, a key template is also a list of attribute=value pairs.
It must specify at least the protocol and enough other
attributes to uniquely identify a key, or set of keys, to use.
The keys chosen are those that match all the attributes specified
in the template. The possible attribute/value formats are:
attr=val The attribute attr must exist in the key and its value
must exactly match val
attr? The attribute attr must exist in the key but its value doesn't
attr The attribute attr must exist in the key with a null value
Key templates are also used by factotum to request a key either
via an RPC error or via the needkey interface. The possible attribute/value
attr=val This pair must remain unchanged
attr? This attribute needs a value
attr The pair must remain unchanged
Control and Key Management
A number of messages can be written to the control file. The messages
add a new key. This will replace any old key whose public, i.e.
non ! attributes, match.
delete a key whose attributes match those given.
By default when factotum starts it looks for a secstore(1) account
on $auth for the user and, if one exists, prompts for a secstore
password in order to fetch the file factotum, which should contain
control file commands. An example would be
toggle debugging on and off, i.e., the debugging also turned on
by the –d option.
where the first line sets a password for challenge/response authentication,
strong against dictionary attack by being a long random string,
and the second line sets a public/private keypair for ssh authentication,
generated by ssh_genkey (see ssh(1)).
key dom=x.com proto=p9sk1 user=boyd !hex=26E522ADE2BBB2A229
key proto=rsa service=ssh size=1024 ek=3B !dk=...
Confirming key use
The confirm file provides a connection from factotum to a confirmation
server, normally the program auth/fgui. Whenever a key with the
confirm attribute is used, factotum requires confirmation of its
use. If no process has confirm opened, use of the key will be
denied. However, if the file is opened a request
can be read from it with the following format:
confirm tag=tagno <key template>
The reply, written back to confirm, consists of string:
If xxx is the string yes then the use is confirmed and the authentication
will proceed. Otherwise, it fails.
Confirm is exclusive open and can only be opened by a process
with the same user id as factotum.
Prompting for keys
The needkey file provides a connection from factotum to a key
server, normally the program auth/fgui. Whenever factotum needs
a new key, it first checks to see if needkey is opened. If it
isn't, it returns a error to its client. If the file is opened
a request can be read from it with the following format:
needkey tag=tagno <key template>
It is up to the reader to then query the user for any missing
fields, write the key tuple into the ctl file, and then reply
by writing into the needkey file the string:
Needkey is exclusive open and can only be opened by a process
with the same user id as factotum.
The RPC Protocol
Authentication is performed by
1) opening rpc
2) setting up the protocol and key to be used (see the start RPC
3) shuttling messages back and forth between factotum and the other
party (see the read and write RPC's) until done
4) if successful, reading back an AuthInfo structure (see authsrv(2)).
The RPC protocol is normally embodied by one of the routines in
auth(2). We describe it here should anyone want to extend the
An RPC consists of writing a request message to rpc followed by
reading a reply message back. RPC's are strictly ordered; requests
and replies of different RPC's cannot be interleaved. Messages
consist of a verb, a single space, and data. The data format depends
on the verb. The request verbs are:
readget data from factotum to send to the other party. The possible
start a new authentication. Attribute–value–pair–list must include
a proto attribute, a role attribute with value client or server,
and enough other attributes to uniquely identify a key to use.
A start RPC is required before any others. The possible replies
ok start succeeded.
where string is the reason.
ok read succeeded, this is zero length message.
doneauthentication has succeeded, no further RPC's are necessary
read succeeded, the data follows the space and is unformatted.
authentication has succeeded, an AuthInfo structure (see auth(2))
can be retrieved with an authinfo RPC
its not your turn to read, get some data from the other party
and return it with a write RPC.
protocol not started
authentication failed, string is the reason.
a start RPC needs to precede reads and writes
a key matching the argument is needed. This argument may be passed
as an argument to factotum –g in order to prompt for a key. After
that, the authentication may proceed, i.e., the read restarted.
send data from the other party to factotum. The possible replies
ok the write succeeded
the write is too short, get more data from the other party and
retry the write. n specifies the maximun total number of bytes.
its not your turn to write, get some data from factotum first.
attrretrieve the attributes used in the start RPC. The possible
retrieve the AuthInfo structure. The possible replies are:
is a marshaled form of the AuthInfo structure.
where string is the reason for the error.
where string is the reason for the error.