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5.3 Errors and Solutions

With the debugging tools presented above, we'll run through a few problem scenarios, from the initial symptoms of a problem through to its solution.

5.3.1 Errors Obtaining an Initial Ticket

Several errors can occur when attempting to obtain an initial Ticket Granting Ticket from a Kerberos KDC. Since there are many ways to obtain a TGT, such as through integrated login with a PAM Kerberos module, the best way to narrow down problems is by using the Unix kinit program manually. This will work even if your KDC is a Windows domain controller, given that the principal you're testing has been set up for DES encryption (see Chapter 8).

Let's go through a few examples:

> kinit
Password for jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG:
kinit(v5): Preauthentication failed while getting initial credentials

If your realm requires pre-authentication (see Chapter 6), then this message is typically just Kerberos-speak for "incorrect password." Note that Windows domain controllers require pre-authentication by default. Also note that this message can result from a client that does not support the pre-authentication type required by the KDC. However, all of the Kerberos implementations we cover here support the Encrypted Timestamp (PA-ENC-TIMESTAMP) pre-authentication method. Of course, if you are interoperating with a Kerberos implementation that does not support pre-authentication, and your realm requires it, you will have to disable pre-authentication in the KDC policy.

Next, there is a possibility that the KDC could not find an appropriate encryption key with which to encrypt the response. When a Kerberos 5 client contacts a KDC through the AS exchange for an initial Ticket Granting Ticket, the client sends a list of encryption types that it understands. If the KDC cannot find a secret key associated with one of the encryption types included in the request, it will return an error.

Encryption type mismatches can also occur later on in the Kerberos exchange, and we'll cover that in a later section. Errors obtaining an initial ticket can also be caused by hostname/DNS misconfiguration, or a missing or incorrect Kerberos configuration file. These possibilities will also be covered soon in a later section.

Finally, another common error that can cause the pre-authentication failed message is a clock synchronization problem (which can cause all sorts of other strange problems, as well), covered next.

5.3.2 Unsynchronized Clocks

Another common root cause of Kerberos problems is the lack of clock synchronization between all participating hosts. Usually the error message produced when there is a clock mismatch is self-explanatory. For example:

krb5_rd_req failed: Clock skew too great

It is recommended that all participating hosts in a Kerberos realm be synchronized to a central time source. The Network Time Protocol (NTP) fits this bill perfectly. NTP is discussed briefly in Section 4.3 in Chapter 4, and more information can be found at the NTP home page at http://www.ntp.org.

Since NTP and Kerberos both use Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) to compare clocks, time zone differences do not affect the operation of Kerberos.

5.3.3 Incorrect or Missing Kerberos Configuration

Every client needs to know two things: the realm that every host it wishes to communicate with belongs to, and the KDCs that are responsible for those realms. Therefore, a client requires a mapping between domain names and realms, as well as realms and their KDCs. Traditionally, these mappings are hardcoded inside a configuration file, /etc/krb5.conf, on Unix hosts. However, with the advent of Windows 2000, DNS realm and KDC mapping is becoming more popular, as Windows 2000 and above use DNS to find realm and KDC information by default.

Either way that your realm (and other realms your hosts may communicate with) handles its Kerberos configuration, incorrect or missing Kerberos configuration information will cause requests for tickets to fail, sometimes silently—giving no error messages to point toward the cause of failure, or worse yet, misleading error messages that give no indication of the root cause of failure.

Let's begin with some simple examples from a Unix client running MIT. Our client has no /etc/krb5.conf file. If there is a pre-existing credential cache (pointed to by the environment variable KRB5CCACHE, by default /tmp/krb5cc_UID where UID is the Unix UID of the current user), then kinit will request a ticket as that principal from the KDC. When there is no pre-existing credential cache, MIT kinit forms the user principal by using the Unix username as the username portion of the principal, and the realm is determined by the default_realm variable in the libdefaults stanza of /etc/krb5.conf. Since, in this case, there is no /etc/krb5.conf file, kinit will complain:

> whoami
> kinit
kinit(v5): Configuration file does not specify default realm when parsing name jgarman

Now let's create a minimalist /etc/krb5.conf file:

        default_realm = WEDGIE.ORG

With this in place, MIT Kerberos can now determine the default realm. Note that even if a correct DNS domain name-to-realm mapping is available in DNS, MIT still requires a default_realm entry in /etc/krb5.conf to work correctly. Also, without a default realm defined, some GSSAPI applications may also behave incorrectly, giving "generic error" messages.

Note that this minimalist /etc/krb5.conf file will only work if you have correct DNS entries for your Kerberos realm, as discussed in Section 4.5 in Chapter 4. There has to be a way for the client to find its KDC, either through static configuration files or through DNS. If the client cannot find the KDC for a given realm, it will report back accurately:

kinit(v5): Cannot resolve network address for KDC in requested realm while getting 
initial credentials

MIT Kerberos has a bug in which a KDC returns an error message claiming that it has no support for the requested encryption type to all ticket requests if the KDC has no /etc/krb5.conf file. Creating a /etc/krb5.conf file on the KDC, even if it is blank, will fix this problem.

Heimdal kinit also uses an existing credential cache file, if there is one, to determine the principal that kinit will acquire tickets for. If there is no /etc/krb5.conf file, or if it does not specify a default realm, it will use the domain name component of the local hosts' hostname as the realm. Heimdal will also consult DNS for DNS hostname-to-Kerberos realm mapping as well as KDC location, or use static configuration in /etc/krb5.conf.

In all cases, static configuration in /etc/krb5.conf will short-circuit the location of KDCs and domain-realm mappings. If static information is located in the configuration file, the static entries will override any DNS information available.

If issues remain, there could be a problem with your DNS domain name-to-Kerberos realm mapping. This is especially apparent when the DNS domain name and Kerberos realm names do not match. Every time a client acquires a ticket to communicate with a Kerberized application server, it needs to determine the realm that the application server belongs to. This mapping is controlled by the domain_realm stanza in the /etc/krb5.conf file, or TXT entries in the DNS (as described in Section 4.5 in Chapter 4). Failing to find an appropriate entry either in the configuration file or the DNS, the Kerberos libraries will try the host's DNS domain name, converted to uppercase, as the realm name. Problems related to the domain name-to-Kerberos realm mapping can be diagnosed by narrowing down the problem to a particular problematic domain or host.

Unfortunately, this problem can cause mysterious failures with no error messages. The most direct way to find whether there are mismatched realm-DNS mappings is to check the KDC logs for the client's default realm. If the client attempts to contact a Kerberized service that it thinks is in a different realm, it will attempt a cross-realm authentication to that other realm.

For example, we are on slave.wedgie.org, authenticated as jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG and attempting a Kerberized telnet to host freebsd.wedgie.org, which the slave thinks is in the BOGUS.COM realm, due to a configuration error. Therefore, it is trying to acquire service tickets for host/slave.wedgie.org@BOGUS.COM, but first needs to acquire cross-realm tickets for BOGUS.COM. In this example, the following log entries are located in the log file of the KDC responsible for WEDGIE.ORG:

Feb 26 21:32:20 freebsd krb5kdc[520]: TGS_REQ (3 etypes {16 3 1})
): UNKNOWN_SERVER: authtime 1046294981,  jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG for krbtgt/BOGUS.COM
@WEDGIE.ORG, Server not found in Kerberos database

The solution to a DNS-to-realm mismatch is to ensure that all clients have the correct mappings in place. In this rather contrived example, the default behavior of Kerberos is sufficient, since all machines in the DNS domain wedgie.org belong to the WEDGIE.ORG Kerberos realm. However, other organizations may have a realm name different from their DNS domain name, and it is this situation that requires special care.

5.3.4 Server Hostname Misconfiguration

Undoubtedly, you'll find yourself in the following situation. You've just installed Kerberos 5; your KDC works, as you can acquire tickets for your user principal. You've dutifully established a host principal for your test application server, and you're ready to test the first application.

Your shell output looks something like this:

> hostname
> klist
Ticket cache: FILE:/tmp/krb5cc_p82191
Default principal: jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG

Valid starting     Expires            Service principal
01/29/03 04:52:21  01/29/03 10:30:11  krbtgt/WEDGIE.ORG@WEDGIE.ORG

Kerberos 4 ticket cache: /tmp/tkt1000
klist: You have no tickets cached
> ftp freebsd
Connected to localhost.
220 freebsd.wedgie.org FTP server (Version 5.60) ready.
334 Using authentication type GSSAPI; ADAT must follow
GSSAPI accepted as authentication type
GSSAPI error major: Miscellaneous failure
GSSAPI error minor: Server not found in Kerberos database
GSSAPI error: initializing context
GSSAPI authentication failed
334 Using authentication type KERBEROS_V4; ADAT must follow
KERBEROS_V4 accepted as authentication type
Kerberos V4 krb_mk_req failed: You have no tickets cached
Name (localhost:jgarman): 
331 Password required for jgarman.

What just happened? It should work, after all. Let's double-check the principals in our Kerberos database:

% kadmin
Authenticating as principal jgarman/admin@WEDGIE.ORG with password.
Enter password:
kadmin:  listprincs

According to our Kerberos KDC, we have the correct service principal installed (specifically, ftp/freebsd.wedgie.org@WEDGIE.ORG). But still, ftp reports "Server not found in Kerberos database."

A hint to the problem can be seen in the ftp output. Note that the first line of the ftp client's output reads:

Connected to localhost.

This means that the hostname "freebsd" resolves to the loopback address. Sure enough, our /etc/hosts file contains the following line:  localhost localhost.wedgie.org freebsd freebsd.wedgie.org

Therefore, the ftp server receives the connection on the loopback interface. When the ftp daemon generates the service principal that it will use to validate the user's ticket, it performs an IP-to-name lookup on the interface on which it received the request. Therefore, if we examine the KDC request logs, we'll see a failed request for the nonexistent principal ftp/localhost@WEDGIE.ORG:

Jan 29 04:52:21 freebsd krb5kdc[35553]: TGS_REQ (3 etypes {16 3 1}) 
UNKNOWN_SERVER: authtime 1043800211,  jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG for ftp/localhost@WEDGIE.
ORG, Server not found in Kerberos database

Once the /etc/hosts file has been corrected with the correct IP-to-hostname mapping for our host, we get the intended result:

> ftp freebsd
Connected to freebsd.wedgie.org.
220 freebsd.wedgie.org FTP server (Version 5.60) ready.
334 Using authentication type GSSAPI; ADAT must follow
GSSAPI accepted as authentication type
GSSAPI authentication succeeded
Name (freebsd:jgarman): 
232 GSSAPI user jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG is authorized as jgarman

This example illustrates the importance of consistent resolver and DNS information to the proper functioning of Kerberos. This problem can manifest itself in many ways, but all with the same root cause of incorrect data in DNS or local host databases. The particular scenario depicted above can occur with most Linux distributions, which, out of the box, alias the hostname of the machine to the machine's loopback address. Similar scenarios occur with Solaris machines, which, by default, create /etc/hosts files that list the "short" hostname first, before the FQDN that Kerberos needs to form the correct service principal.

To ensure that Kerberized services can construct proper service principals, your local hosts database needs an entry like the following:  freebsd.wedgie.org  freebsd

Note that the hostname is mapped to the IP address of the appropriate interface (as opposed to the loopback IP address), and that the FQDN is given precedence over the short hostname.

Here's a similar error message that results from DNS and hostname misconfiguration:

Hostname cannot be canonicalized while verifying initial ticket

Essentially, this is caused when the application attempts to find its service principal name by performing a reverse lookup on the interface IP address that this request was received on. If that IP address does not resolve to a hostname, this message or the earlier "cannot find service principal" message will be generated.

Multi-homed hosts that have a different hostname for every interface also pose a problem for Kerberos. Depending on what interface a client's request arrives on, a different server hostname may be associated with that request. Therefore, each interface that has a different hostname has a different set of service principals based on that hostname, which can cause a problem if there is only one set of service principals defined for the host. It is recommended that multi-homed hosts have a single FQDN associated with all interfaces on the machine.

5.3.5 Encryption Type Mismatches

The extensible encryption type support in Kerberos 5 can result in some strange interactions when mixing different Kerberos 5 implementations. Most of the time the KDC can automatically determine the optimal set of encryption types for a given protocol exchange; however, sometimes it needs a little manual help.

This is necessary when you have keys stored for "stronger" encryption types in the KDC for a given service, but the service can only handle weaker encryption types. Since there's no direct communication between the service and the KDC, there is no way for the service to communicate its encryption-type support to the KDC. Instead, when the KDC returns a ticket to the client for use with the service, the KDC will use the strongest encryption type it has in its database for the service. Let's take an example.

We have a KDC freebsd.wedgie.org, running the MIT KDC, and an application server, slave.wedgie.org, running a Kererized telnet daemon with the MIT client libraries. We've created a host keytab for slave.wedgie.org, and copied it into that host's /etc/krb5.keytab. The KDC database and the keytab include keys for both triple DES and single DES encryption types, as illustrated below:

freebsd# /usr/local/sbin/kadmin
Authenticating as principal jgarman/admin@WEDGIE.ORG with password.
Enter password:
kadmin:  getprinc host/slave.wedgie.org
Principal: host/slave.wedgie.org@WEDGIE.ORG
Expiration date: [never]
Last password change: Sun Nov 24 00:42:14 GMT 2002
Password expiration date: [none]
Maximum ticket life: 0 days 10:00:00
Maximum renewable life: 0 days 00:00:00
Last modified: Sun Nov 24 00:42:14 GMT 2002 (jgarman/admin@WEDGIE.ORG)
Last successful authentication: [never]
Last failed authentication: [never]
Failed password attempts: 0
Number of keys: 2
Key: vno 3, Triple DES cbc mode with HMAC/sha1, no salt
Key: vno 3, DES cbc mode with CRC-32, no salt
Policy: [none]

The keytab on slave.wedgie.org contains both encryption types, and consequently Kerberized telnet works fine between the two hosts:

> telnet -a -f slave
Connected to slave.wedgie.org (
Escape character is '^]'.
[ Kerberos V5 accepts you as ``jgarman@WEDGIE.ORG'' ]
[ Kerberos V5 accepted forwarded credentials ]
Last login: Sun Feb 16 15:22:30 from

Now, let's see what happens when we erase the triple DES encryption key from slave's keytab. We'll use this to simulate a service that does not support triple DES encryption types. After we edit the keytab to remove the triple DES encryption key, we attempt another telnet into slave:

> telnet -a -f slave
Connected to slave.wedgie.org (
Escape character is '^]'.
[ Kerberos V5 refuses authentication because telnetd: krb5_rd_req failed: Key table 
entry not found ]
[ Kerberos V5 refuses authentication because telnetd: krb5_rd_req failed: Key table 
entry not found ]
[ Trying KERBEROS4 ... ]
mk_req failed: You have no tickets cached
[ Trying KERBEROS4 ... ]
mk_req failed: You have no tickets cached
Password for jgarman:

This error message can be somewhat misleading; after all, we do have a key table entry for host/slave.wedgie.org; however, the keytab entry contains a single DES key, when the KDC has issued the client a service ticket encrypted with triple DES. Since the service can't find an appropriate encryption key to decrypt the ticket, it gives up and returns this error message.

The solution here is to identify which encryption types your service supports and ensure that the Kerberos database only contains those key encryption types for that service. For example, in this case, if our telnet server only supports single DES encryption, we need to remove the triple DES encryption key from the Kerberos KDC, so that the KDC will only issue tickets for that service encrypted with single DES. In general, all Kerberos 5 implementations must support single DES encryption, so if there is suspicion of encryption type incompatibilities, it is recommended that you recreate the relevant principals with a single DES encryption type. Unfortunately, this reduces the security of those principals.

To solve this problem, we delete the host key for slave.wedgie.org, re-create it with only a single DES encryption type, and extract that keytab onto the host. Since the KDC now only has a single DES encryption key available, it will encrypt the service ticket with the single DES key.

The process of creating principals with a subset of encryption types varies from implementation to implementation.

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