Kerberos Realm Crossover (using DANE)
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Kerberos Realm Crossover (using DANE)

The KXOVER daemon extends Kerberos’ Key Distribution Centres with a secure, impromptu method for realm crossover. Meaning, realms that never met before have a secure method of exchanging Principal Names and session keys, based on DANE and DNSSEC.


This package builds kxoverd, a stand-alone daemon that communicates with remote KDCs. In doing so, it uses DANE and DNSSEC to establish the security of the remote; the remote is assumed to do the same in opposite direction.

It is vital to understand that the client and service code does not need to be modified to use KXOVER; only the KDCs on the two realms need to be setup with the kxoverd and corresponding DNS structures.

The idea is that a KDC receiving a TGS-REQ for an unknown server hostname in a domain that is not configured locally, can cross-over to another realm with the following steps:

  1. Lookup the realm for the remote server in secure DNS
  2. Lookup the KDC's credentials for the remote server in secure DNS
  3. Exchange a key with the remote KDC
  4. Construct a TGS-REP and relay it back to the requester

The kxoverd daemon is a stand-alone program running on the same machine as the KDC. The implementation of KXOVER is stateless, with the exception of some running state. Any key established between realms is created in the key database.

Crossover keys follow the form


to allow any client in MYREALM to setup a session key to services in OTHREALM. This is normal for Kerberos; what KXOVER adds is a mechanism to negotiate these crossover keys without manual intervention, purely based on secure DNS mechanisms and direct communication between KDCs.

Crossover keys are usable in bulk, for any principal under MYREALM that wants to access OTHREALM principals. The opposite direction is not supported with the same crossover key; a separate one may be negotiated for that purpose. It is polite, as a general principle, to consider playing both roles. Local authorisation settings should be prepared to distinguish the local users from remote ones, and only grant access where this is warranted.

As you can tell, this is quite a change. Kerberos is often setup as an in-house or, at best, federated identity infrastructure. With KXOVER, we add a facility to make any realms interact. As a result, Kerberos is scaled up to the Internet at large. This is a serious contender for a market where provisioning of identities has a centralising tendency, quite in contrast with the distributed nature that makes the Internet as potent, failsafe and locally controllable as users would like.


To use kxoverd, first you need to patch your KDC. In the current release, we supply patches for MIT krb5 1.13.3.

Then build the code in the kxoverd directory, and run kxoverd as a daemon on the same machine as the KDC. The two will communicate through a UNIX domain socket. This has the disadvantage of not working remotely, but it has the advantage of requiring no additional security precautions.



DNS: _kerberos TXT, DANE, DNSSEC

Note: Timeouts in clients may be problematic; this may be overcome by setting up alternate SRV records in DNS to reach the server; the client will try each in turn until a connection succeeds. Something worth trying is to have a fallback to TCP; timeouts are not necessarily enforced over TCP because there is a clear notion of a connection, thus overruling UDP techniques.

Related Work

Realm in DNS: The client’s KDC needs to discover the service’s realm name, based on a server hostname. This can be done with _kerberos TXT records (which is currently with the RFC Editor).

Privacy: Under KXOVER, a ticket can be obtained to securely access any remote service. When doing this, we do share our client identity. Kerberos offers Anonymity Support, but when we hand out no details about our identity we cannot recall information from an earlier session. In the service of privacy, it would be good to have Pseudonymity Support as well.


This project is initiated by ARPA2, as part of the InternetWide Architecture which aims to give users of the Internet control over their online presence. This project is a first step to Bring Your Own IDentity based on an “IdentityHub” under your own control.

The following parties, in order of appearance, have contributed to this project: