GSoC 2016: Progress #4

In order to have a working form of sync with the help of the Mozilla servers, there are mainly three steps that need to be taken:

  1. Obtain a sessionToken and a keyFetchToken from the Firefox Accounts Server. These are automatically sent by the server upon sign in. The former allows us to obtain a signed certificate needed to talk to the Token Server, while the latter allows us to retrieve the sync keys needed to encrypt/decrypt synchronized data records.
  2. Obtain the storage endpoint, together with the storage credentials (id + key) from the Token Server. The storage endpoint represents the URL of the Storage Server that is assigned to the user upon the creation of the account. The storage credentials are used to sign all the HAWK requests sent to the Storage Server.
  3. Develop an algorithm based on multiple GET/PUT/POST/DELETE requests to the Storage Server to implement the actual sync logic. This should not only keep the data up to date on both the server and the remote clients, but also resolve any conflicts that may appear between clients due to concurrent requests.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, step #1 is complete, so the last couple of weeks I have focused on steps #2 and #3. I’ll only talk about #2 now and leave #3 be the subject of another post later this week.

OK so, in order to talk to the Token Server, one must possess a so called signed BrowserID assertion. This is basically a signed certificate that Mozilla enforces in order to convince subsequent relying parties that we control the account. In order to obtain one, we need to do the following:

  • Derive the sessionToken into the tokenID.
  • Generate a random RSA key pair.
  • Use the RSA public key together with the tokenID to sign the HAWK request to the certificate/sign endpoint of the FxA Server.
  • Check if the certificate received from the server is valid (i.e. contains the correct uid and algorithm).
  • From the certificate and the RSA key pair, generate the BrowserID assertion for the URL of the Token Server.

Next, we append the previously computed BrowserID to the ‘authorization’ header of the request that is going to be sent to the Token Server. If everything is OK, the server will reply the endpoint of the Storage Server, together with an one-hour-valid storage credentials. As stated before, these will be later used to sign all the requests to the Storage Server.

I’ve only described brief parts of the algorithms, but I think this is just enough to get an idea of how the client-server communication works. Stay tuned for the next posts!


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