Authentication is an integral part of any real world OpenStack deployment and so careful thought should be given to this aspect of system design. A complete treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this guide however some key topics are presented in the following sections.

At its most basic, authentication is the process of confirming identity - that a user is actually who they claim to be. A familiar example is providing a username and password when logging in to a system.

The OpenStack Identity service (keystone) supports multiple methods of authentication, including user name & password, LDAP, and external authentication methods. Upon successful authentication, The Identity service provides the user with an authorization token used for subsequent service requests.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) provides authentication between services and persons using X.509 certificates. Although the default mode for TLS is server-side only authentication, certificates may also be used for client authentication.

Invalid login attempts

The Identity service does not provide a method to limit access to accounts after repeated unsuccessful login attempts. A pattern of repetitive failed login attempts is generally an indicator of brute-force attacks (refer to Attack types). This type of attack is more prevalent in public cloud deployments.

Prevention is possible by using an external authentication system that blocks out an account after some configured number of failed login attempts. The account then may only be unlocked with further side-channel intervention.

If prevention is not an option, detection can be used to mitigate damage. Detection involves frequent review of access control logs to identify unauthorized attempts to access accounts. Possible remediation would include reviewing the strength of the user password, or blocking the network source of the attack through firewall rules. Firewall rules on the keystone server that restrict the number of connections could be used to reduce the attack effectiveness, and thus dissuade the attacker.

In addition, it is useful to examine account activity for unusual login times and suspicious actions, and take corrective actions such as disabling the account. Oftentimes this approach is taken by credit card providers for fraud detection and alert.

Multi-factor authentication

Employ multi-factor authentication for network access to privileged user accounts. The Identity service supports external authentication services through the Apache web server that can provide this functionality. Servers may also enforce client-side authentication using certificates.

This recommendation provides insulation from brute force, social engineering, and both spear and mass phishing attacks that may compromise administrator passwords.

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