Chapter 8. Authentication and Key Exchange

At first glance, it may not be clear that authentication and key exchange are two topics that go together. But they do. This chapter is really all about secure connection establishment—everything the client and server need to do before they start talking. Generally, the server will need to authenticate the client; the client will need to make sure the server is the correct machine (not some attacker). Then the two parties will need to come to some agreement on how to communicate securely beyond that, also agreeing on an encryption key (or a set of keys).

Yes, authentication doesn’t always happen over an insecure network connection—it is certainly possible to authenticate over a console or some other medium where network attacks pose little to no risk. In the real world, however, it’s rare that one can assume a secure channel for authentication.

Nonetheless, many authentication mechanisms need some kind of secure channel, such as an authenticated SSL connection, before they can offer even reasonable security levels.

In this chapter, we’ll sort through these technologies for connection establishment. Note that in these recipes we cover only standalone technologies for authentication and key exchange. In Chapter 9, we cover authentication with SSL/TLS, and in Chapter 10, we cover authentication in the context of public key infrastructures (PKI).

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