Musings on Digital Identity

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Securing Verifiable Credentials using JOSE and COSE is now a W3C Candidate Recommendation

W3C logoThe Securing Verifiable Credentials using JOSE and COSE specification (a.k.a. VC-JOSE-COSE) has reached W3C Candidate Recommendation status. The Candidate Recommendation milestone is described in the W3C Process document. Please review the Candidate Recommendation of VC-JOSE-COSE. Thanks especially to Gabe Cohen, Orie Steele, and Brent Zundel for doing the hard work of getting us to this point!

Since I last wrote about this work, the W3C Verifiable Credentials Data Model (VCDM), which is also at Candidate Recommendation stage, has been narrowed to only use JSON-LD to represent credentials. VC-JOSE-COSE secures VCDM payloads with JOSE, SD-JWT, or COSE signatures. While I’m admittedly not a fan of JSON-LD, to the extent that Verifiable Credentials using the VCDM are in use, I’m committed to finishing a solid VC-JOSE-COSE specification so there is a simple, secure, standards-based way to sign these credentials.

Of course, there are lots of Verifiable Credential formats to choose from, and more on the way. Choices already existing include ISO mDoc, IETF SD-JWT, IETF JSON Web Proof (JWP), and W3C VCDM. The IETF is also planning to create a CBOR-based selective disclosure representation in the newly formed SPICE working group. It will be interesting to see how these all shake out in the marketplace!

Public Drafts of Third W3C WebAuthn and FIDO2 CTAP Specifications

W3C logoFIDO logoThe W3C WebAuthn and FIDO2 working groups have been actively creating third versions of the W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) and FIDO2 Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) specifications. While remaining compatible with the original and second standards, these third versions add features that have been motivated by experience with deployments of the previous versions. Additions include Cross-Origin Authentication within an iFrame, Credential Backup State, the isPasskeyPlatformAuthenticatorAvailable method, Conditional Mediation, Device-Bound Public Keys (since renamed Supplemental Public Keys), requesting Attestations during authenticatorGetAssertion, the Pseudo-Random Function (PRF) extension, the Hybrid Transport, and Third-Party Payment Authentication.

I often tell people that I use my blog as my external memory. I thought I’d post references to these drafts to help me and others find them. They are:

Thanks to John Bradley for helping me compile the list of deltas!

First Public Working Draft of Securing Verifiable Credentials using JSON Web Tokens

W3C logoThe First Public Working Draft (FPWD) of the Securing Verifiable Credentials using JSON Web Tokens (VC-JWT) specification has been published. The FPWD milestone is described in the W3C Process document. This draft is another step on the way to a Native JWT Representation for Verifiable Credentials.

Please review the First Public Working Draft of VC-JWT. Thanks especially to Orie Steele for making this happen!

Native JWT Representation for Verifiable Credentials

W3C logoFor the first time, there is now a native JSON Web Token (JWT) representation for Verifiable Credentials. This representation uses IANA-registered JWT claims whenever applicable. Among other improvements and simplifications, this means that we finally have a Verifiable Credentials representation that doesn’t require the use of JSON-LD.

The native JWT representation explicitly isn’t a mapping from the VC Data Model. This mapping in the VC 1.1 specification resulted in ambiguities about whether to duplicate VC Data Model claims in the VC-JWT representation (the “in addition to” option) or whether to delete them from the VC Data Model representation (the “instead of” option). These ambiguities harmed interoperability. Rather, the 2.0 VC-JWT representation is its own simpler native JWT data structure.

See the new native JWT VC representation in the Version 2 section of the “Securing Verifiable Credentials using JSON Web Tokens” specification. You can also compare it there to the Version 1.1 representation, which is a mapping from the VC Data Model with the “in addition to” and “instead of” choices.

This accomplishment is the product of the vision, passion, and perseverance of many advocates of simplifying Verifiable Credentials. Foremost among them is Orie Steele – my co-editor for the VC-JWT specification. I’ll also observe that the pull request creating this functionality had an unprecedented fifteen approvers – an indication of the broad support for this direction for Verifiable Credentials. I am proud to have played a role in making it happen.

Proof-of-possession (pop) AMR method added to OpenID Enhanced Authentication Profile spec

OpenID logoI’ve defined an Authentication Method Reference (AMR) value called “pop” to indicate that Proof-of-possession of a key was performed. Unlike the existing “hwk” (hardware key) and “swk” (software key) methods, it is intentionally unspecified whether the proof-of-possession key is hardware-secured or software-secured. Among other use cases, this AMR method is applicable whenever a WebAuthn or FIDO authenticator are used.

The specification is available at these locations:

Thanks to Christiaan Brand for suggesting this.

Second Version of W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) Now a Standard

W3C logoThe World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published this Recommendation for the Web Authentication (WebAuthn) Level 2 specification, meaning that it now a completed standard. While remaining compatible with the original standard, this second version adds additional features, among them for user verification enhancements, manageability, enterprise features, and an Apple attestation format. The companion second FIDO2 Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) specification is also approaching becoming a completed standard.

See the W3C announcement of this achievement. Also, see Tim Cappalli‘s summary of the changes in the second versions of WebAuthn and FIDO2.

Second Version of W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) advances to Proposed Recommendation (PR)

W3C logoThe World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published this Proposed Recommendation (PR) for the Web Authentication (WebAuthn) Level 2 specification, bringing the second version of WebAuthn one step closer to becoming a completed standard. While remaining compatible with the original standard, this second version adds additional features, among them for user verification enhancements, manageability, enterprise features, and an Apple attestation format.

Near-Final Second W3C WebAuthn and FIDO2 CTAP Specifications

W3C logoFIDO logoThe W3C WebAuthn and FIDO2 working groups have been busy this year preparing to finish second versions of the W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) and FIDO2 Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) specifications. While remaining compatible with the original standards, these second versions add additional features, among them for user verification enhancements, manageability, enterprise features, and an Apple attestation format. Near-final review drafts of both have been published:

Expect these to become approved standards in early 2021. Happy New Year!

COSE and JOSE Registrations for Web Authentication (WebAuthn) Algorithms is now RFC 8812

IETF logoThe W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) working group and the IETF COSE working group created “CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) and JSON Object Signing and Encryption (JOSE) Registrations for Web Authentication (WebAuthn) Algorithms” to make some algorithms and elliptic curves used by WebAuthn and FIDO2 officially part of COSE and JOSE. The RSA algorithms are used by TPMs. The “secp256k1” curve registered (a.k.a., the Bitcoin curve) is also used in some decentralized identity applications. The completed specification has now been published as RFC 8812.

As described when the registrations recently occurred, the algorithms registered are:

  • RS256 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-256 — new for COSE
  • RS384 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-384 — new for COSE
  • RS512 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-512 — new for COSE
  • RS1 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-1 — new for COSE
  • ES256K — ECDSA using secp256k1 curve and SHA-256 — new for COSE and JOSE

The elliptic curves registered are:

  • secp256k1 — SECG secp256k1 curve — new for COSE and JOSE

See them in the IANA COSE Registry and the IANA JOSE Registry.

Registries for Web Authentication (WebAuthn) is now RFC 8809

IETF logoThe W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) working group created the IETF specification “Registries for Web Authentication (WebAuthn)” to establish registries needed for WebAuthn extension points. These IANA registries were populated in June 2020. Now the specification creating them has been published as RFC 8809.

Thanks again to Kathleen Moriarty and Benjamin Kaduk for their Area Director sponsorships of the specification and to Jeff Hodges and Giridhar Mandyam for their work on it.

Registrations for all WebAuthn algorithm identifiers completed

IETF logoWe wrote the specification COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms to create and register COSE and JOSE algorithm and elliptic curve identifiers for algorithms used by WebAuthn and CTAP2 that didn’t yet exist. I’m happy to report that all these registrations are now complete and the specification has progressed to the RFC Editor. Thanks to the COSE working group for supporting this work.

Search for WebAuthn in the IANA COSE Registry and the IANA JOSE Registry to see the registrations. These are now stable and can be used by applications, both in the WebAuthn/FIDO2 space and for other application areas, including decentralized identity (where the secp256k1 “bitcoin curve” is in widespread use).

The algorithms registered are:

  • RS256 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-256 — new for COSE
  • RS384 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-384 — new for COSE
  • RS512 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-512 — new for COSE
  • RS1 — RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-1 — new for COSE
  • ES256K — ECDSA using secp256k1 curve and SHA-256 — new for COSE and JOSE

The elliptic curves registered are:

  • secp256k1 — SECG secp256k1 curve — new for COSE and JOSE

secp256k1 curve and algorithm registered for JOSE use

IETF logoIANA has registered the “secp256k1” elliptic curve in the JSON Web Key Elliptic Curve registry and the corresponding “ES256K” signing algorithm in the JSON Web Signature and Encryption Algorithms registry. This curve is widely used among blockchain and decentralized identity implementations.

The registrations were specified by the COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms specification, which was created by the W3C Web Authentication working group and the IETF COSE working group because WebAuthn also allows the use of secp256k1. This specification is now in IETF Last Call. The corresponding COSE registrations will occur after the specification becomes an RFC.

Nearing completion on two WebAuthn-related specs at the IETF

IETF logoThis week we published updates to two IETF specifications that support the WebAuthn/FIDO2 ecosystem, as well as other uses, such as decentralized identity.

One is COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms. It registers algorithm and elliptic curve identifiers for algorithms used by WebAuthn and FIDO2. The “secp256k1” curve being registered is also used for signing in some decentralized identity applications. The specification has completed the Area Director review and has been submitted to the IESG for publication.

The other is Registries for Web Authentication (WebAuthn). This creates IANA registries enabling multiple kinds of extensions to W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) implementations to be registered. This specification has completed IETF last call and is scheduled for review by the IESG.

Thanks to the COSE working group for their adoption of the algorithms specification, and to Ivaylo Petrov and Murray Kucherawy for their reviews of it. Thanks to Kathleen Moriarty and Benjamin Kaduk for their Area Director sponsorships of the registries specification and to Jeff Hodges for being primary author of it.

The specifications are available at:

COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms spec adding explanatory comments on design decisions

IETF logoThe “COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms” specification has been updated to add explanatory comments on design decisions made that were discussed on the mailing list that Jim Schaad requested be added to the draft.

The specification is available at:

An HTML-formatted version is also available at:

COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms spec addressing WGLC comments

IETF logoThe “COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms” specification has been updated to address working group last call (WGLC) feedback received. Thanks to J.C. Jones, Kevin Jacobs, Jim Schaad, Neil Madden, and Benjamin Kaduk for their useful reviews.

The specification is available at:

An HTML-formatted version is also available at:

Using OpenID Connect Self-Issued to Achieve DID Auth

OpenID logoMy co-authors and I recently competed the paper Using OpenID Connect Self-Issued to Achieve DID Auth, which was created as a result of discussions at the eighth Rebooting the Web of Trust workshop. The paper’s abstract is:

Proving control of a DID requires proving ownership of a private key corresponding to a public key for the DID. Of course, this could be done with a new DID-specific protocol. However, standard protocols for proving ownership of a public/private key pair already exist.

This paper describes how to reuse the Self-Issued OpenID Connect (SIOP) specification and related protocol messages to prove control of a DID. It describes both why and how to do this. Related topics, such as release of claims, are also touched upon.

Several people came to the workshop wanting to explore how to use the OpenID Connect Self-Issued OpenID Provider functionality to prove control of a Decentralized Identifier (DID), including myself. The paper describes the approach being taken by a number of groups using DIDs, including Microsoft. The paper’s publication is timely, as the W3C DID Working Group has just formed to create a DID standard. Microsoft is an active member of the working group.

Special thanks to Dmitri Zagidulin for getting the paper over the finish line!

Refinements to COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms

IETF logoThe “COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms” specification has been updated to address feedback received since working group adoption. The one breaking change is changing the secp256k1 curve identifier for JOSE from “P-256K” to “secp256k1“, for reasons described by John Mattsson. The draft now also specifies that the SHA-256 hash function is to be used with “ES256K” signatures – a clarification due to Matt Palmer.

The specification is available at:

An HTML-formatted version is also available at:

W3C WebAuthn and FIDO 2.0 win 2019 European Identity and Cloud Award

EIC logoThe W3C WebAuthn and FIDO 2.0 standards have won the 2019 European Identity and Cloud Award for Best Future Technology / Standard Project at the European Identity and Cloud (EIC) conference. This award recognizes the significance of these recently-approved standards, which enable password-less sign-in with platform authenticators, mobile devices, and security keys. They provide a huge step forward for online security, privacy, and convenience.

Thanks to Kuppinger Cole for recognizing the importance and impact of these important new standards!

EIC 2019 Award EIC 2019 Award Certificate

Working group adoption of “COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms”

IETF logoI’m pleased to report that the IETF COSE Working Group has adopted the specification “COSE and JOSE Registrations for WebAuthn Algorithms”. An abstract of what it does is:

This specification defines how to use several algorithms with COSE [RFC8152] that are used by implementations of the W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn) [WebAuthn] and FIDO2 Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) [CTAP] specifications. These algorithms are to be registered in the IANA “COSE Algorithms” registry [IANA.COSE.Algorithms] and also in the IANA “JSON Web Signature and Encryption Algorithms” registry [IANA.JOSE.Algorithms], when not already registered there.

The algorithms registered are RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 with four different hash functions and signing with the secp256k1 curve. Note that there was consensus in the working group meeting not to work on registrations for the Elliptic Curve Direct Anonymous Attestation (ECDAA) algorithms “ED256” and “ED512“, both because of issues that have been raised with them and because they are not in widespread use.

The -01 version will address the review comments received on the mailing list from Jim Schaad and John Mattsson.

The specification is available at:

An HTML-formatted version is also available at:

Additional COSE algorithms used by W3C Web Authentication (WebAuthn)

IETF logoThe new COSE working group charter includes this deliverable:

4. Define the algorithms needed for W3C Web Authentication for COSE using draft-jones-webauthn-cose-algorithms and draft-jones-webauthn-secp256k1 as a starting point (Informational).

I have written draft-jones-cose-additional-algorithms, which combines these starting points into a single draft, which registers these algorithms in the IANA COSE registries. When not already registered, this draft also registers these algorithms for use with JOSE in the IANA JOSE registries. I believe that this draft is ready for working group adoption to satisfy this deliverable.

The specification is available at:

An HTML-formatted version is also available at:

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