Selecting an ElastiCache (Redis) AUTH token

June 27, 2018 #aws #secretsmanager #redis #security

Redis Security highlights some items about selecting an AUTH token (password).

It should be long enough to prevent brute force attacks for two reasons:

  • Redis is very fast at serving queries. Many passwords per second can be tested by an external client.
  • The Redis password is stored inside the redis.conf file and inside the client configuration, so it does not need to be remembered by the system administrator, and thus it can be very long.

From Authenticating Users with Redis AUTH - Amazon ElastiCache for Redis we see some additional AUTH constraints.

AUTH Token Constraints when using with ElastiCache

  • Passwords must be at least 16 and a maximum of 128 printable characters.
  • The only permitted printable special characters are !, &, #, $, ^, <, >, and -. Other printable special characters cannot be used in the AUTH token.
  • AUTH can only be enabled when creating clusters where in-transit encryption is enabled.
  • The password set at cluster creation cannot be changed.

Since the special character set is limited, it makes sense to avoid them but generate a very long password.  This also has the side benefit of allowing a “double click” on the string to select it (which is usually hard with interior punctuation).  Below is an AWS CLI command that uses AWS Secrets Manager to generate that random string.

$ aws secretsmanager get-random-password --password-length 128 --exclude-punctuation 
    "RandomPassword": "FiXWVSsPAJmA1y4c6E63pc9p4YgM4m0lJzTVeRZD0hyJTiYPqZD5YkToDxBHX9N2APQqhnqVXYNipIkErKByFD9Gx38rbF5vE80z28u2v9NGD9vZz6GtgnElS1yqAfMk"

This secret is needed in plaintext during ElasticCache creation.  It should then be KMS encrypted and stored in Secrets Manager, the microservice needing access to Redis can retrieve it.

Note: I was glad to see the usage of time_independent_strcmp to avoid timing attacks in redis/server.c

void authCommand(client *c) {
    if (!server.requirepass) {
        addReplyError(c,"Client sent AUTH, but no password is set");
    } else if (!time_independent_strcmp(c->argv[1]->ptr, server.requirepass)) {
      c->authenticated = 1;
    } else {
      c->authenticated = 0;
      addReplyError(c,"invalid password");

Kevin Hakanson

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