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Overview of XML Encryption

XML encryption classifies a course of action for encrypting plain text data, generating ciphertext, and decrypting the ciphertext to retrieve the plaintext data.

Both the <EncryptionMethod> and <KeyInfo> are optional i.e. the sender and receiver may agree on the encryption method and key in advance. Several elements use the definitions from the DSIG.

If the recipient does not know the decryption key in advance, then the sender generates and sends it. The key can be protected in transit by encrypting method or key agreement.

If the plaintext data to encrypt is an XML element or content, you encode it using UTF-8 and perform any necessary transforms to it, otherwise, if it is an external resource, you simply consider it as an octet sequence. You then encrypt the data, creating CipherValue, which you place in EncryptedData.

Care must be taken when signing content that may later be encrypted; clearly; the content must be restored to exactly the original plaintext form for the signature to validate properly. To restore the plaintext in the signed content, use the decryption transform method for XML signature defined by the XML encrypt joint W3C and IETF working group.

This transform also allows specifications of XML fragments that were encrypted and then signed with rest of the document and, therefore, are not decrypted to validate the signature. Often, encrypted fragments are removed from the signed information by using the XPATH transform in the reference element, since the meaningful information is the plaintext.

We can sign the plaintext version of an encrypted element by including the appropriate reference element pointing to it. When the signed document is confidential and encrypted after being signed, you should also protect against surreptitious forwarding in which the recipient forwards the signed confidential document to a competitor, encrypted by the competitor public key, trying to make it look as if the sender sent the confidential information. To prevent surreptitious forwarding, the signer should append the recipient identities to the document being signed.

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If the recipient does not know the decryption key in advance, then the sender generates and sends it. The key can be protected in transit by encrypting method or key agreement.

If the plaintext data to encrypt is an XML element or content, you encode it using UTF-8 and perform any necessary transforms to it, otherwise, if it is an external resource, you simply consider it as an octet sequence. You then encrypt the data, creating CipherValue, which you place in EncryptedData.

Care must be taken when signing content that may later be encrypted; clearly; the content must be restored to exactly the original plaintext form for the signature to validate properly. To restore the plaintext in the signed content, use the decryption transform method for XML signature defined by the XML encrypt joint W3C and IETF working group.

This transform also allows specifications of XML fragments that were encrypted and then signed with rest of the document and, therefore, are not decrypted to validate the signature. Often, encrypted fragments are removed from the signed information by using the XPATH transform in the reference element, since the meaningful information is the plaintext.

We can sign the plaintext version of an encrypted element by including the appropriate reference element pointing to it. When the signed document is confidential and encrypted after being signed, you should also protect against surreptitious forwarding in which the recipient forwards the signed confidential document to a competitor, encrypted by the competitor public key, trying to make it look as if the sender sent the confidential information. To prevent surreptitious forwarding, the signer should append the recipient identities to the document being signed.

About the Writer of this Article

Pawan Bangar, Technical Director, Birbals,India email: www.ebirbals.com www.birbals.com

Digital Signaturesin xml 

The XML Digital Signatures provides the security services of data integrity, authentication, and nonrepudiation.

In a simple shorthand notation the structures of DSIG signatures with its four elements. Elements appear zero or more times if followed by "*", zero or once if followed by"?", and once or more if followed by "+". When not followed by a symbol, elements appear only once.

Removing attributes and contents in the notation it becomes an example of signature object using three of its four elements.

The signature object contains the cryptographic hash of any signed information, and a reference to the information itself. The signed information may be an arbitrary document. However, often, it will be an XML object. The ability to sign only specific elements of XML documents is one of the most important features of DSIG. It lets the unsigned parts of the XML document is enhanced, modified, or removed for privacy or efficiency, keeping the signature valid.

DSIG signatures may contain either the signed XML object contained in the XML object, or detached from the signed object or document. When the signed XML object envelops the signature, the enveloped signature value itself is not included in the signature calculation and validation computation. For this you use the enveloped-signature transform, removing the whole signature element in which it is contained from the digest calculation.

Public key digital signatures that provide nonrepudiation, such as RSA, are computationally intensive operations; therefore, DSIG also allows shared-key authentication that provides authentication but nonrepudiation. Collision resistant hashing of the signed content is also used to save computational requirements.

Generating DSIG signatures:

1. Identity resources to be signed. 2. Calculating the digest value and composing reference elements for each resource. 3. Composing the signed info element from all references. 4. Computing value of signature method over identity resources to be signed element by applying algorithms like DSA, RSA-SHA1, etc 5. Composing the signature elements with signedInfo, signature value, identity key used to sign, and other optional objects like signature properties.

An XML DSIG may contain multiple reference elements in the same document

DSIG signatures may contain either the signed XML object contained in the XML object, or detached from the signed object or document. When the signed XML object envelops the signature, the enveloped signature value itself is not included in the signature calculation and validation computation. For this you use the enveloped-signature transform, removing the whole signature element in which it is contained from the digest calculation.

Public key digital signatures that provide nonrepudiation, such as RSA, are computationally intensive operations; therefore, DSIG also allows shared-key authentication that provides authentication but nonrepudiation. Collision resistant hashing of the signed content is also used to save computational requirements.

Generating DSIG signatures: 1. Identity resources to be signed. 2. Calculating the digest value and composing reference elements for each resource. 3. Composing the signed info element from all references. 4. Computing value of signature method over identity resources to be signed element by applying algorithms like DSA, RSA-SHA1, etc 5. Composing the signature elements with signedInfo, signature value, identity key used to sign, and other optional objects like signature properties.

An XML DSIG may contain multiple reference elements in the same document.

Pawan Bangar, Technical Director, Birbals, #1047,Sector 42-b, Chandigarh. www.ebirbals.com www.birbals.com

XML Promises and challenges

XML Born
XML (Extensible Markup Language) 1.0 standard was published February 10, 1998.
XML was born from the shortcomings of SGML [Structured Generalized Markup Language] which
was hugely complex, massively flexible and just plain hard to work with for many developers.
XML has taken off because it has all the best of SGML without many of the weakness.

XML Goal
XML took us beyond mere presentation of information and into the realm of representation
of information. This content is not just a mass of data to be rendered solely for viewing
on a web browser. Now the content could be structured and the meaning attached to this
structure could be transmitted as well.

HTML's difficulties:
1- HTML does not reveal anything about the information to which HTML tags are applied.
HTML tag names don't describe what content is, they only imply how content appears.
For example the html tag "Microsoft" appears on a web browser but HTML can not
tell is it a computer corporation? A Software? A Brand name?
2- Web applications relied too much on scripts at the server to process the data.
This makes the web slow and contributes to internet traffic.
3- You can't add new tags to HTML Language that are meaningful and useful.
4- HTML is a presentation technology only.

XML Success
The Java technology, enables browsers to function as generalized application platforms. The
result is True platform independence. XML provides information rich in metadata specified
in a standard format, XML and Java technology make it possible for more of an application's
work to be processed at a client side. This contrasts with the tendency of HTML pages to rely
on a script back at the server. With XML and Java technology, more client-based application
processing could reduce network and internet traffic, making the web faster.

XML challenges
Converting any information from a display format such as HTML, RTF, MIF, or PostScript to a
structured format like XML will require that you understand what your information really
contains. This requires a document analysis and the determination of information semantics on
which different parts of your enterprise rely. Many enterprises in different business sectors
have established industry standard information models that can be expressed in XML and, more
importantly, can be shared.

Once the relevant information models and their expressions in XML are constructed, the effort
to convert existing information into the XML format can proceed. It may or may not be painful,
depending on the condition of the existing documents. These efforts can be done in house, or they
can be completed with the help of qualified consultants.

XML Resources:
Easy XML is a simple XML editor that aids in the rapid building of XML applications.
Microsoft XML for SQL Web allows you to query database tables and receive the results as an XML document.

Microsoft XML Notepad is a simple HTML prototyping application for building and editing small sets of XML-based data.

Microsoft XML Validation Tool checks that an XML file is well formed.

XML Spy is a powerful XML editor.

XMetaL is an advanced, simple-to-deploy XML authoring tool that delivers an unprecedented ease of use.

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