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Jans Lock Overview#

Lock provides a centralized control plane for domains to use Cedar to secure a network of distributed applications and audit the activity of both people and software.

Using a declarative syntax like Cedar for authorization policies is a best practice for enterprise application security. Using a policy engine enables developers to define security in their application without resorting to writing policies in the code. Cedar supports traditional access management strategies like RBAC, and more adaptive policies that consider a more nuanced model of the context. The Cedar Engine does this without sacrificing the security benefit of a deterministic policy engine.

There are three key components in the Lock architecture: (1) Cedarling--a WebAssembly ("WASM") component that runs the Amazon Rust Cedar Engine and performs JWT token validation; (2) Lock Master--a web service deployed by domains to manage a network of distributed ephemeral Cedarlings; (3) Agama Lab policy authoring tool for developers to easily design policies and publish their policy store in Github.

The Cedarling makes sense to secure even a single browser-based application. A developer could specify a local Cedarling policy store or retreive one from a Web URI (e.g. Github).

Jans Lock offers organizational control over a network of Cedarlings used for different applications, each with their own policy store. It does this by providing central endpoints that publish configuration, collect audit logs, and push real time updates to Cedarlings. In addition to publishing the Policy Store, the Lock Master server enables Cedarlings to subscibe to real time event notifications. A notification example is the latest OAuth Token Status List JWT from Jans Auth Server, or an updated Policy Store.


For years, security architects have conceptualized distributed authorization model in line with RFC 2409 and XACML, which describe several common roles:

Role Acronym Description
Policy Decision Point PDP Service which evaluates access requests against authorization policies before issuing access decisions
Policy Information Point PIP The source of "data", e.g. about people, clients and resources
Policy Enforcement Point PEP Service, website or API which queries the PDP for authorization
Policy Administration Point PAP Where admins manage the authorization infrastructure
Policy Retrieval Point PRP Repository where policies are stored

Jans Lock aligns with this model:

Role Lock Description
PDP Cedarling Evaluates policies versus input data
PIP JWT tokens Contain data to instantiate entities
PEP Application Must rely on Cedarling for decision
PAP Jans Config API Endpoints for Lock admin configuration
PRP Lock Master Endpoints to publish Policy Store and other PDP configuration

Lock Design Goals#

Following are a list of goals that informed the design of Jans Lock and the Cedarling:

  • Move the PDP to the edge of the network--even into the browser itself.
  • Make the PDP performant and deterministic (i.e. milliseond statup time and always return a PERMIT/DENY response).
  • Empower application developers to author policies appropriate for the resources and actions they need to protect.
  • Centralilze audit and health data collection
  • Publish centralized updates enabling the network to adapt in real time to attacks
  • Push updates to enable near-realtime responses to attacks

More information#

  • Lock Master configuration and operation docs
  • Cedarling Readme
  • RBAC Use Case
  • API Access Management Use Case
  • Real time token revocation Use Case
  • Cedarling Training (coming soon!)

Last update: 2024-07-02
Created: 2022-07-21