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Chapter 1. Introduction to the Enterprise Security Client

The Enterprise Security Client is a tool for Red Hat Certificate System which simplifies managing smart cards. End users can use security tokens (smart cards) to store user certificates used for applications such as single sign-on access and client authentication. End users are issued the tokens containing certificates and keys required for signing, encryption, and other cryptographic functions.
After a token is enrolled, applications such as Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird can be configured to recognize the token and use it for security operations, like client authentication and S/MIME mail. The Enterprise Security Client provides the following capabilities:
  • Supports Global Platform-compliant smart cards.
  • Enrolls security tokens so they are recognized by the token management system in Red Hat Certificate System.
  • Maintains the security token, such as re-enrolling a token.
  • Provides information about the current status of the token or tokens being managed.
  • Supports server-side key generation through the Certificate System subsystems so that keys can be archived and recovered on a separate token if a token is lost.

1.1. Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Single Sign-On, and Authentication

Network users frequently have to submit multiple passwords for the various services they use, such as email, web browsing and intranets, and servers on the network. Maintaining multiple passwords, and constantly being prompted to enter them, is a hassle for users and administrators. Single sign-on is a configuration which allows administrators to create a single password store so that users can log in once, using a single password, and be authenticated to all network resources.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 supports single sign-on for several resources, including logging into workstations and unlocking screensavers, accessing encrypted web pages using Mozilla Firefox, and sending encrypted email using Mozilla Thunderbird.
Single sign-on is both a convenience to users and another layer of security for the server and the network. Single sign-on hinges on secure and effective authentication. Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides two authentication mechanisms which can be used to enable single sign-on:
  • Kerberos-based authentication
  • Smart card-based authentication, using the Enterprise Security Client tied into the public-key infrastructure implemented by Red Hat Certificate System
One of the cornerstones of establishing a secure network environment is making sure that access is restricted to people who have the right to access the network. If access is allowed, users can authenticate to the system, meaning they can verify their identities.
Many systems use Kerberos to establish a system of short-lived credentials, called tickets, which are generated ad hoc at a user request. The user is required to present credentials in the form of a username-password pair that identify the user and indicate to the system that the user can be issued a ticket. This ticket can be referenced repeatedly by other services, like websites and email, requiring the user to go through only a single authentication process.
An alternative method of verifying an identity is presenting a certificate. A certificate is an electronic document which identifies the entity which presents it. With smart card-based authentication, these certificates are stored on a small hardware device called a smart card or token. When a user inserts a smart card, the smart card presents the certificates to the system and identifies the user so the user can be authenticated.
Single sign-on using smart cards goes through three steps:
  1. A user inserts a smart card into the card reader. This is detected by the pluggable authentication modules (PAM) on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  2. The system maps the certificate to the user entry and then compares the presented certificates on the smart card to the certificates stored in the user entry.
  3. If the certificate is successfully validated against the key distribution center (KDC), then the user is allowed to log in.
Smart card-based authentication builds on the simple authentication layer established by Kerberos by adding additional identification mechanisms (certificates) and physical access requirements.