Disclaimer: This is a response on Heiko’s post about his security considerations with the domino-db module. It is good to have such a discussion, and hopefully this discussion will go on. This is my personal view on this topic. If you have another opinion, feel free to add a comment.
Edit: If I am using the term „You“, then I mean you, the reader of this post.
What is gRPC?
gRPC was designed for inter-system communication and remote procedure calls and uses HTTP/2 instead of HTTP.
Is it cool?
Yes. And super fast. Millenials will love it. It’s lightweight. Did I mention that it is super fast?
Can I use it in my node.js application for accessing Domino?
gRPC was designed exactly for this purpose. You can also directly use it for connections from a desktop or mobile app, if you want. Or for data access from IOT devices. It may be used directly within the browser in the future (if IBM/HCL gives us access to it.)
Is it safe?
Google developed it for its microservices architecture. If you are not trusting Google’s technical experience, you should shutdown your computer right now. And don’t power it on again.
Should others systems be allowed to access the Proton task directly?
Why not? This is inter-system communication. The traffic is encrypted when using certificates. If you need an additional security layer for limiting access, use a firewall. Or tunnel the traffic with VPN/SSH. This is the typical setup for cloud applications.
The Proton port shouldn’t be reachable from outside
Why not? NRPC is also open. And HTTP, HTTPS, LDAP, SMTP, IMAP, POP3, …
gRPC is bad and voodoo!
Really? What do you think does NRPC stands for? You are using RPC for decades… By the way, which encryption algorithms are you using on your Domino servers for NRPC?
What are theses client certificates?
The certificates are the same as a username / password. Nothing else. And nothing more. This has nothing to do with a Notes ID.
Isn’t it insecure to use client cerificates?
No, because it is the same as when you giving access to your system with username/password. Ever created a webservice provider or a REST API for a 3rd Party system? How do you give these systems access?
But I have to trust an external system…
Sure you need to. Same thing must other systems do when you are connecting to them from Domino. This is the reason why you have to fill out 500 pages and get a sign-off by a long list of involved persons before this is allowed (especially in the financial sector).
I am running a local node.js server on my domino…
Fine. This is still as insecure as running the system somewhere in the cloud. If you are doing the user authentication in your node.js application, you are still making a „insecure“ request to Domino, and Domino has to „trust“ the incoming request.
The client key is stored without password!
If the „other“ system is compromised, it doesn’t matter which kind of authentication was used. Where do you think are they storing username / password for accessing your WebService / REST API?
How to handle user authentication?
This is an open topic. domino-db is still a beta. But this must be solved by IBM/HCL. At least we need a way to run queries „in the name of“ a user.
But you also encrypt the keys…
Yes. But for other reasons: For preventing accidential check-ins in code repositories. And to prevent to store them in backups or direct access from „outside“ by a bug.
I have created a REST API with node.js as a wrapper for gRPC/domino-db
So why did you use the domino-db module? Write it directly on top of Domino, as Servlet or XPages REST API. Then you don’t have any limitations and the authentication problem is solved too.
But this is a secure approach to use it in production!
No. It’s a beta. Don’t use it in production. Period.
You, Sven, were sceptical about node.js & Domino
Yes, and I am still thinking there is a lot of work to do to use it. But please read again what I have written in my post:
"So far I am still open for a big surprise and hopefully HCL can convince me of the contrary."
I was not refering to gRPC being Vodoo or bad (where did I say that ?), I was refering to the existing security model in the beta. That’s something different but it interferes with the way I would like to use gRPC. We don’t have the full-blown security implementation yet as you say as well and for this given moment in time we have to be extra careful. End of story.
Btw., there are good reasons to build rest api on top of node.js and not on top of domino as node does that a whole lot easier/better/faster, but most of all it depends on the usecase. Using gRPC as a high-performance DB interaction protocol for Domino data is a welcomed extension here.
… And hopefully nobody is storing credentials for REST-APIs in client apps 🙂 Just my 5 cents… .
Hi Heiko, no you didn’t say this. These were Questions/Answers I had in mind after reading your post and thinking about it. Sorry for that.
My experience during the last years while working in different Domino environments is, that a lot of server ids are not password secured either. But before blaming some admins: When doing server-to-server access, there is always a configuration parameter, a file or something else (notes document) were the credentials are stored. They are protected, sometimes good and sometimes not so good, but they are somewhere on the system.
And just because they are certificates does not make it more or less insecure than any other method…
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