I have a situation that, while I was able to work around it (as the repro will show), I don't understand. Here are the high points

  • Two databases, ChainingSource and ChainDestination, both of which have cross database chaining set to true
  • A stored procedure in ChainingSource accesses, through an EXEC(@sql), accesses a table in ChainingDestination
  • The stored procedure is defined with an execute as clause
  • If I try to execute the procedure as is, it says the server principal of the execution context is unable to access ChainingDestination
  • So I add a certificate and code signing into the mix. That is, I add a certificate mapped login to the server, mapped user to each of the databases, and grant permissions to the certificate mapped user accordingly
  • If I leave the execute as clause in place, I get the same error.
  • If I remove the execute as clause, everything is fine.

It's the second-to-last point that I'm confused about. Or, specifically, why that one doesn't work and the last one does.


/******************************

            Setup

******************************/
USE [master];
go
IF EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM [sys].[databases] WHERE [name] = 'ChainingSource')
BEGIN
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET OFFLINE WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET ONLINE;
    DROP DATABASE [ChainingSource];
END
IF EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM [sys].[databases] WHERE [name] = 'ChainingDestination')
BEGIN
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET OFFLINE WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET ONLINE;
    DROP DATABASE [ChainingDestination];
END
GO

EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'sa';
CREATE DATABASE [ChainingSource];
CREATE DATABASE [ChainingDestination];
GO
REVERT;
GO

ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING ON;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING ON;

IF SUSER_ID('myAppUser') IS null
    CREATE LOGIN [myAppUser] WITH password = 'p@ssw0rd!23';

IF SUSER_ID('myAppUserEscalated') IS null
    CREATE LOGIN [myAppUserEscalated] WITH password = 'p@ssw0rd!23';

IF NOT EXISTS (
    SELECT * FROM sys.[symmetric_keys] AS [sk]
    WHERE name = '##MS_DatabaseMasterKey##'
)
BEGIN
    CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'f00bar!23';
    PRINT 'Created master key in databse [master]';
END

IF CERT_ID('myAppCert') IS NULL
    CREATE CERTIFICATE [myAppCert] AUTHORIZATION dbo FROM BINARY = 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f00bar!23')
IF SUSER_ID('myAppCert') IS NULL
    CREATE LOGIN [myAppCert] FROM CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];


USE [ChainingDestination];
CREATE USER [myAppUser];
CREATE USER [myAppUserEscalated];

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'f00bar!23';
CREATE CERTIFICATE [myAppCert] AUTHORIZATION dbo FROM BINARY = 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f00bar!23')
CREATE USER [myAppCert];
GO


CREATE TABLE [dbo].[topSecret] ([ID] INT IDENTITY, [Secrets] NVARCHAR(100));
INSERT INTO [dbo].[topSecret] ([Secrets]) VALUES ('Nuke Codes!');

GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppUserEscalated];
GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppCert];

GO

USE [ChainingSource];
GO
CREATE USER [myAppUser]
CREATE USER [myAppUserEscalated];

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'f00bar!23';
CREATE CERTIFICATE [myAppCert] AUTHORIZATION dbo FROM BINARY = 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f00bar!23')
CREATE USER [myAppCert];
GO

CREATE SYNONYM [dbo].[topSecret] FOR [ChainingDestination].[dbo].[topSecret];
GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppUserEscalated];
GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppCert];

GO

IF OBJECT_ID('[dbo].[getSecrets]') IS NOT null
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecrets]
GO

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecrets]
WITH EXECUTE AS 'myAppUserEscalated'
AS
BEGIN

    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    EXEC('SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];');
END
GO
GRANT EXECUTE ON [dbo].[getSecrets] TO [myAppUser];
GO

/******************************

            DEMO

******************************/

-- EXECUTE AS clause only
EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
GO
EXEC dbo.[getSecrets]
GO
REVERT;
GO

-- no bueno. let's try to add a signature!

ADD SIGNATURE TO [dbo].[getSecrets]
    BY CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];

EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
GO
EXEC dbo.[getSecrets]
GO
REVERT;
GO

-- still no bueno. 
-- let's take off the EXECUTE AS clause and sign

ALTER PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecrets]
AS
BEGIN

    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    EXEC('SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];');
END
GO

ADD SIGNATURE TO [dbo].[getSecrets]
    BY CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];

EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
GO
EXEC dbo.[getSecrets]
GO
REVERT;
GO
 -- bueno
  • 2
    The primary issue should be that the Dynamic SQL (i.e. the EXEC() ) breaks ownership-chaining. I say "should be" as I am not able to test it right now, but I would be surprised if that wasn't the main problem. Another potentially complicating factor is the EXECUTE AS clause of the CREATE PROCEDURE, which is Impersonation, which also might not work well via Dynamic SQL. Regardless, you no longer need DB_CHAINING ON in either DB. Module Signing replaces the need for it and EXECUTE AS entirely. I will post an answer with details tomorrow, but it's very late and I'm falling asleep :-(. – Solomon Rutzky Oct 21 '16 at 5:28
  • But the part I'm confused by is if I look at sys.login_token while the proc is signed, it shows the certificate based user in both cases, but has "deny only" when the proc also has an execute as clause and "grant or deny"without it. Why doesn't it trust the certificate user under impersonation? Also, chaining is on for other reasons (we're doing dynamic SQL in only a handful of procs; the rest will get their perms through chaining). I just didn't know if it was relevant to the scenario. – Ben Thul Oct 21 '16 at 6:01
  • Ben, I pretty much have it figured out. It is the Impersonation that is the issue, at least in a general sense. It can be fixed (i.e. work with the EXECUTE AS and without the module signing) by running ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY ON;. That has its own issues, of course. I will submit an answer in a bit. gotta go pick up the kids :) – Solomon Rutzky Oct 21 '16 at 17:09
  • Yep. I found TRUSTWORTHY as well. I don't think we're going to flip that switch here as it has other implications. I appreciate your looking into this, though! – Ben Thul Oct 21 '16 at 17:35
  • Ben, I was not suggesting to turn it on, and in fact, I recommend against that. I was just mentioning that it is a required piece to get Impersonated contexts to work cross-database. My recommendation will be something else. – Solomon Rutzky Oct 21 '16 at 17:48
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You were headed in the right direction and were very close. Now you just need to view the module signing as a replacement of EXECUTE AS instead of as something that is added to it. Removing EXECUTE AS and myAppUserEscalated entirely, and relying solely upon module signing (and the certificate-based Login and related Users) allows cross-DB permissions and maintaining permissions when ownership-chaining doesn't work (i.e. Dynamic SQL), all while keeping TRUSTWORTHY set to OFF (and even keeping DB_CHAINING set to OFF).

Below is a test script that is based on the script in the question, but modified to start with the minimum options (i.e. DB_CHAINING not turned on, and the Certificate and Certificate-based Login / Users not created). It also has 4 stored procedures to easily test the various combinations of:

  • Default (No Impersonation and No Dynamic SQL)
  • Impersonation (but no Dynamic SQL)
  • Dynamic SQL (but no Impersonation)
  • Impersonation and Dynamic SQL

There are six tests in the script:

  • Test 1 shows that by default, none of the combinations works. The stored procedure, getSecrets (no Impersonation or Dynamic SQL), gets farther than the straight SQL due to ownership chaining, but cannot access the other DB due to no Cross-DB Ownership Chaining. The two stored procedures with Dynamic SQL get the same error as the straight SQL due to the Dynamic SQL breaking the ownership-chain.

  • Test 2 shows that when only DB_CHAINING is set to ON, then the stored procedure, getSecrets (no Impersonation or Dynamic SQL), works as desired between Databases. But the getSecretsWithDynamicSql stored procedure fails due to the Dynamic SQL breaking the ownership-chain, hence it cannot benefit from the Cross-DB Ownership Chaining.

  • Test 3 shows that when only TRUSTWORTHY is set to ON (just for the "Source" DB), then code using Impersonation (i.e. EXECUTE AS), with or without Dynamic SQL, works as desired between Databases. But code not using Impersonation doesn't work, same as in Test 1. Of course, we don't want TRUSTWORTHY to be ON as it is a security risk. This test is just to show how things used to be, prior to module signing (i.e. that TRUSTWORTHY is required when using Impersonation, which in turn is required when using Dynamic SQL).

  • Test 4 shows that when both DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY are set to ON, then code not using Dynamic SQL works without needing Impersonation, and any code using Impersonation, whether or not there is Dynamic SQL, works as desired between Databases. But again, we don't want TRUSTWORTHY to be ON as it is a security risk. This test is just to show how things used to be, prior to module signing.

  • Test 5 turns DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY back to OFF, creates the Certificate and the associated Login and Users, and signs the two stored procedures that are not using Impersonation (because there is no longer a need to use Impersonation). Both of the signed stored procedures work as intended :-).

  • Test 6 removes the two stored procedures that used Impersonation, and even removes the "Escalated" Login and associated Users that were being impersonated. Running Test 5 again proves that all that is needed is the module signing (which is why it is the super-cool way of controlling permissions :-).

The test script:

/******************************

            Setup

******************************/

/*************************  CLEANUP *************************************/

USE [master];
GO
IF EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM [sys].[databases] WHERE [name] = N'ChainingSource')
BEGIN
    PRINT 'Dropping [ChainingSource] DB...';
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET OFFLINE WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET ONLINE;
    DROP DATABASE [ChainingSource];
END;

IF EXISTS (SELECT 1 FROM [sys].[databases] WHERE [name] = N'ChainingDestination')
BEGIN
    PRINT 'Dropping [ChainingDestination] DB...';
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET OFFLINE WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
    ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET ONLINE;
    DROP DATABASE [ChainingDestination];
END;

IF (SUSER_ID(N'myAppUser') IS NOT NULL)
BEGIN
  PRINT 'Dropping [myAppUser] Login...';
  DROP LOGIN [myAppUser];
END;

IF (SUSER_ID(N'myAppUserEscalated') IS NOT NULL)
BEGIN
  PRINT 'Dropping [myAppUserEscalated] Login...';
  DROP LOGIN [myAppUserEscalated];
END;
GO


/*************************  CREATE *************************************/

EXECUTE AS LOGIN = N'sa';
PRINT 'Creating databases...';
CREATE DATABASE [ChainingSource] COLLATE Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_SC;
CREATE DATABASE [ChainingDestination] COLLATE Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_SC;
REVERT;
GO


-- Set up Login/User: [myAppUser]
IF (SUSER_ID(N'myAppUser') IS NULL)
BEGIN
    EXEC(N'
      PRINT ''Creating [myAppUser]...'';
      USE [master];
      CREATE LOGIN [myAppUser] WITH PASSWORD = N''p@ssw0rd!23'';

      USE [ChainingDestination];
      CREATE USER [myAppUser];

      USE [ChainingSource];
      CREATE USER [myAppUser];
     ');
END;

-- Set up Login/User: [myAppUserEscalated]
IF (SUSER_ID(N'myAppUserEscalated') IS NULL)
BEGIN
    EXEC(N'
      PRINT ''Creating [myAppUserEscalated]...'';
      USE [master];
      CREATE LOGIN [myAppUserEscalated] WITH PASSWORD = N''p@ssw0rd!23'';

      USE [ChainingDestination];
      CREATE USER [myAppUserEscalated];

      USE [ChainingSource];
      CREATE USER [myAppUserEscalated];
     ');
END;
GO


USE [ChainingDestination];

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[topSecret] ([ID] INT IDENTITY, [Secrets] NVARCHAR(100));
INSERT INTO [dbo].[topSecret] ([Secrets]) VALUES (N'Nuke Codes!');

GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppUserEscalated];
GO


USE [ChainingSource];

CREATE SYNONYM [dbo].[topSecret] FOR [ChainingDestination].[dbo].[topSecret];

GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppUserEscalated];
GO

----
IF OBJECT_ID(N'[dbo].[getSecrets]') IS NOT NULL
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecrets]
GO

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecrets]
AS
BEGIN
    SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];
END
GO
GRANT EXECUTE ON [dbo].[getSecrets] TO [myAppUser];
GO
----
IF OBJECT_ID(N'[dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]') IS NOT NULL
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]
GO

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]
AS
BEGIN
    SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    EXEC(N'SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];');
END
GO
GRANT EXECUTE ON [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql] TO [myAppUser];
GO
----
IF OBJECT_ID(N'[dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]') IS NOT NULL
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]
GO

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]
WITH EXECUTE AS N'myAppUserEscalated'
AS
BEGIN
    SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    EXEC(N'SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];');
END
GO
GRANT EXECUTE ON [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation] TO [myAppUser];
GO
----
IF OBJECT_ID(N'[dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]') IS NOT NULL
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]
GO

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]
WITH EXECUTE AS N'myAppUserEscalated'
AS
BEGIN
    SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
    SELECT * FROM sys.login_token;
    SELECT * FROM sys.user_token;
    SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret] AS [ts];
END
GO
GRANT EXECUTE ON [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation] TO [myAppUser];
GO

/******************************

            DEMO

******************************/

/******************  TEST 1 (both DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY OFF) ********************/

-- Default is OFF, but make resetting after running Tests 2 and 3 easier
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY OFF;


USE [ChainingSource];

EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret]; -- error:
-- Msg 229, Level 14, State 5, Line XXXXX
-- The SELECT permission was denied on the object 'topSecret',
--    database 'ChainingSource', schema 'dbo'.

EXEC [dbo].[getSecrets]; -- error:
-- Msg 229, Level 14, State 5, Procedure getSecrets, Line XXXXX
-- The SELECT permission was denied on the object 'topSecret',
--    database 'ChainingDestination', schema 'dbo'.

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]; -- error:
-- Msg 916, Level 14, State 1, Procedure getSecretsWithImpersonation, Line XXXXX
-- The server principal "myAppUserEscalated" is not able to access the database
--    "ChainingDestination" under the current security context.


EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]; -- error:
-- Msg 229, Level 14, State 5, Line XXXXX
-- The SELECT permission was denied on the object 'topSecret',
--    database 'ChainingSource', schema 'dbo'.

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]; -- error:
-- Msg 229, Level 14, State 5, Line XXXXX
-- The SELECT permission was denied on the object 'topSecret',
--    database 'ChainingSource', schema 'dbo'.

REVERT;
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO


/******************  TEST 2 (DB_CHAINING ON ; TRUSTWORTHY OFF) ************************/

ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING ON;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING ON;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY OFF;
GO


EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret]; -- error: same as in Test 1
EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]; -- error: same as in Test 1
EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]; -- error: same as in Test 1


EXEC [dbo].[getSecrets]; -- (different) success!

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]; -- (different) error:
-- Msg 916, Level 14, State 1, Line XXXXX
-- The server principal "myAppUserEscalated" is not able to access the database
--    "ChainingDestination" under the current security context.

REVERT;
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO


/******************  TEST 3 (DB_CHAINING OFF ; TRUSTWORTHY ON) **********************/

ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY ON;
GO


EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret]; -- error: same as in Tests 1 and 2
EXEC [dbo].[getSecrets]; -- error: same as in Test 1
EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]; -- error: same as in Tests 1 and 2


EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]; -- (different) success!

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]; -- (different) success:

REVERT;
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO


/******************  TEST 4 (both DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY ON) *********************/

ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING ON;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING ON;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY ON;
GO


EXECUTE AS LOGIN = 'myAppUser';
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret]; -- error: same as in Tests 1, 2, and 3
EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]; -- error: same as in Tests 1, 2, and 3

EXEC [dbo].[getSecrets]; -- success: same as in Test 2

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]; -- success: same as in Test 3

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]; -- success: same as in Test 3

REVERT;
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO





/*********************************************************************/
/* BEGIN: set up Certificate and cert-based Users for module signing */
/*********************************************************************/

USE [ChainingDestination];

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = N'f00bar!23';

CREATE CERTIFICATE [myAppCert]
  AUTHORIZATION [dbo]
  FROM BINARY = 0x\
308201BD30820126A003020102021061AF3EB269776BB74629F44629EF9216300D06092A864886F70D01\
01050500301C311A301806035504031311436F6465205369676E696E6720436572743020170D31363130\
32303232303932335A180F32303939303130313030303030305A301C311A301806035504031311436F64\
65205369676E696E67204365727430819F300D06092A864886F70D010101050003818D00308189028181\
00BCCA7DC1CF2F4874F341AF3C586F0B023CAAD16986ADDAC2F7BFB3BCE590F2A952218F51298067CE3B\
E9ED695A229DADD029510F0927F30484A587024E0F58EC83924BE49D227D2FE1FCCA0C682528D6A0658A\
AA6CA5D9F2405AB6950B7D5BA672BB971910D71CEE3B77FF0A4EF59F010AAB445FD127944966C141F7CF\
C3D5790203010001300D06092A864886F70D010105050003818100011525EDD191767041659701F13F43\
70F803E6C981A6E33D68863FDACADE709926AB7E3BC8D618EDD07FC52058EFE42D96CA49961CF2936F44\
6EDC4B7D55725FF2F1B37B326D564941CF6A7424551828FE198335AEFA0C892B375D3B676F35B708A48C\
67F80714643A34050CF9C557FBDD01274BC1ACCCA9A7AD3EC37DD2DA31;
-- no need for private key: nothing being signed in Destination


CREATE USER [myAppCert] FROM CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];

GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppCert];
GO


USE [ChainingSource];

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = N'f00bar!23';

CREATE CERTIFICATE [myAppCert]
  AUTHORIZATION [dbo]
  FROM BINARY = 0x\
308201BD30820126A003020102021061AF3EB269776BB74629F44629EF9216300D06092A864886F70D01\
01050500301C311A301806035504031311436F6465205369676E696E6720436572743020170D31363130\
32303232303932335A180F32303939303130313030303030305A301C311A301806035504031311436F64\
65205369676E696E67204365727430819F300D06092A864886F70D010101050003818D00308189028181\
00BCCA7DC1CF2F4874F341AF3C586F0B023CAAD16986ADDAC2F7BFB3BCE590F2A952218F51298067CE3B\
E9ED695A229DADD029510F0927F30484A587024E0F58EC83924BE49D227D2FE1FCCA0C682528D6A0658A\
AA6CA5D9F2405AB6950B7D5BA672BB971910D71CEE3B77FF0A4EF59F010AAB445FD127944966C141F7CF\
C3D5790203010001300D06092A864886F70D010105050003818100011525EDD191767041659701F13F43\
70F803E6C981A6E33D68863FDACADE709926AB7E3BC8D618EDD07FC52058EFE42D96CA49961CF2936F44\
6EDC4B7D55725FF2F1B37B326D564941CF6A7424551828FE198335AEFA0C892B375D3B676F35B708A48C\
67F80714643A34050CF9C557FBDD01274BC1ACCCA9A7AD3EC37DD2DA31
  WITH PRIVATE KEY (
     BINARY = 0x\
1EF1B5B00000000001000000010000001000000054020000CF21B85A9464B60CDAB9F2E419B341490702\
000000A4000002E67BDF3CE02406E4D69A760D519B3BB6DA77FAFA7D710936EAE5267F072F98A1F75211\
10EB03955427B79FA386F7D70EDF6E977E92E59761DE0EB186F895AD975CE63C4D8A8B67BA487B9807ED\
B8B33C7C08EABCCD716E9505170A9729B6E165CE0ED0CA35B5C62D548367FEFC2C694060184D91853314\
66A0C64A9CB7BF8CA7AC0946A54091A4626978320C7290A784C6147BAF23FD866D9D1D4D1D79DA1B4D2D\
E213D11299F1417D8C421CC25A2E851FF9CEFA0ECA2006186C787692FDC28F2E702FCC7E76AFBEB95B95\
4B50AA3697E60FC6928392664CE0EDB794AA392C1CC6326102B7CE8A02B367D2F416269DBBF4C16F0967\
80517D32B4653E94DE5C24CE9D39EBC8E6A4EF1B9217F1B4F098F4F77F88CC11C40DDB312BE87CC1430C\
16AED8773E7691ADE8472BFC02B458B09B40404F61D2E02746AE576582DEE3EC5C09077E127BB4E996A9\
C4A840E6E0F59D85A3FC4E2844679927DBA6A571927A1F1C938716B8FC922B1D77FAA90BDBA49D108408\
1E4198A50506C5F6FE87F81B759EE0688428ABA7B2E8CC7D96AC6409DAE41937DB9C1E1CACCD7AE86A8F\
161316A07B05D523A116AB87022978312EE9853AE9FFA44FFF52114D084934D86D0FFD2D47B974769812\
BF0F4FE8276FD0DCE4069F11EC3915A68F4454166E3ABAAB9539530117597EE52213FEC7C87254634F10\
062C5C1D97CE5FEABB13252B22E210F56DB281FC1CE5432A7144FB4B89D00B4F8BC876C8C0F397DB9D22\
E15E2B07FBB44ADDDFBB6A75728917AC330E3A9F978847AC2D27913B3B6CBF54F1BAEF06072D15050ED1\
CA7BF9C5763A,
  DECRYPTION BY PASSWORD = N'f00bar!23');

CREATE USER [myAppCert] FROM CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];

GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[topSecret] TO [myAppCert];
GO

/*********************************************************************/
/* END: set up Certificate and cert-based Users for module signing */
/*********************************************************************/

-- Sign the two stored procedures that are NOT using Impersonation.
-- Ignore the two stored procedures that ARE using Impersonation.
ADD SIGNATURE TO [dbo].[getSecrets]
    BY CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];

ADD SIGNATURE TO [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]
    BY CERTIFICATE [myAppCert];
GO


/******************  TEST 5 (both DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY OFF) ********************/

ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingDestination] SET DB_CHAINING OFF;
-- Trustworthy? We don't need no stinkin' trustworthy ;-)
ALTER DATABASE [ChainingSource] SET TRUSTWORTHY OFF;
GO


EXECUTE AS LOGIN = N'myAppUser';
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[topSecret]; -- error: same as in Tests 1, 2, 3, and 4

EXEC [dbo].[getSecrets]; -- SUCCESS!!!

EXEC [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSql]; -- SUCCESS!!!
GO


REVERT;
SELECT SESSION_USER AS [User], ORIGINAL_LOGIN() AS [OriginalLogin];
GO


/************************  TEST 6 *************************************/
-- REMOVE Login/User: [myAppUserEscalated]
EXEC(N'
  USE [ChainingSource];
  IF (OBJECT_ID(N''[dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]'') IS NOT NULL)
  BEGIN
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithDynamicSqlAndImpersonation]
  END;
  IF (OBJECT_ID(N''[dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]'') IS NOT NULL)
  BEGIN
    DROP PROCEDURE [dbo].[getSecretsWithImpersonation]
  END;
  IF (SUSER_ID(N''myAppUserEscalated'') IS NOT NULL)
  BEGIN
    DROP USER [myAppUserEscalated];
  END;


  USE [ChainingDestination];
  IF (SUSER_ID(N''myAppUserEscalated'') IS NOT NULL)
  BEGIN
    DROP USER [myAppUserEscalated];
  END;


  USE [master];
  IF (SUSER_ID(N''myAppUserEscalated'') IS NOT NULL)
  BEGIN
    DROP LOGIN [myAppUserEscalated];
  END;

');
GO

-- Now, re-run Test 5, just to be sure that it is only the module-signing that matters


--========================================

Impersonation vs. Module Signing

The part I don't understand is why, when running under impersonation, module signing doesn't work. ... What about impersonation makes the module signing context change to "deny only"?

The problem is that these questions are framed incorrectly. Module signing isn't supposed to be used in addition to Impersonation, but as a replacement of it; they are not complimentary features. The issue here is not how Impersonation affects module signing, but how Impersonation works in general. The structure of the original test script (in the question) is based upon this misunderstanding of the relationship between Impersonation and module signing. It includes module signing too early such that the behavior of Impersonation, by itself, cannot be seen clearly, thus leading to misleading implications.

If you run through the test script posted above, you should see that when Impersonation is used by itself (i.e. TRUSTWORTHY is set to OFF -- tests 1 and 2) then the server-level "usage" is DENY ONLY. Meaning: when you use Database-level Impersonation, the security context is, by default, quarantined to that particular database. It is not allowed to go up to the server level, neither to get server-level permissions of the associated Login, nor to go back down to another database.

This has nothing to do with module signing since the Certificate, Login, and Users haven't even been created yet (assuming you are stepping through the example in order). And module signing -- which does add permissions, and which can allow for cross-database access -- cannot override the DENY since DENY permissions always take precedence over GRANT permissions. That DENY can only be circumvented by TRUSTWORTHY ON.

The only thing that can remove the server-level DENY permission when using Impersonation is setting TRUSTWORTHY to ON for the source database. Tests 3 and 4 show that once TRUSTWORTHY is enabled, then Impersonation is allowed to cross between databases. And again, this has nothing to do with module signing since that does not get set up until after test 4. Module signing isn't necessary to get the overall scenario working; all you need is Impersonation and TRUSTWORTHY ON. However, module signing is required if you don't want to enable TRUSTWORTHY, in which case it replaces the need for the Impersonation.

The following chart shows the various scenarios and what they require:

     Scenario         -->                 Requirements A               XOR   Requirements B
     ----------                ---------------------------------        |    --------------

Scope     Dynamic SQL --> DB_CHAINING    Impersonation   TRUSTWORTHY   XOR   Module Signing
Local      No               No               No              No         |        No
Local      YES              No               YES             No         |        YES

Cross-DB   No               YES              No              No         |        YES
Cross-DB   YES              No               YES             YES        |        YES

Hopefully it is clear that module signing can completely replace the need for DB_CHAINING ON, Impersonation, and TRUSTWORTHY ON. Given the scenario of having both Cross-DB functionality, and some of that involving Dynamic SQL, your choices are:

  1. Set both DB_CHAINING ON and TRUSTWORTHY ON:

    This will allow you to not use Impersonation unless it is required due to Dynamic SQL being used. Hence only some modules get the EXECUTE AS clause.

  2. Set only TRUSTWORTHY ON:

    This requires that all modules use Impersonation (i.e. have the EXECUTE AS clause). But, you can set DB_CHAINING to OFF.

  3. Use only module signing:

    This requires that the Certificate and User be created in both DBs, and that all Cross-DB modules in the source DB get signed. But, you can set both DB_CHAINING and TRUSTWORTHY to OFF!! And there is no need for Impersonation, even for local Dynamic SQL. This option handles everything more cleanly and more securely.


Confirmation from Microsoft

  • Enabling Cross-Database Access in SQL Server

    Dynamic SQL

    Cross-database ownership chaining does not work in cases where dynamically created SQL statements are executed unless the same user exists in both databases. You can work around this in SQL Server by creating a stored procedure that accesses data in another database and signing the procedure with a certificate that exists in both databases. This gives users access to the database resources used by the procedure without granting them database access or permissions.

  • Extending Database Impersonation by Using EXECUTE AS

    Understanding Impersonation Scope

    ...

    However, when impersonating a principal by using the EXECUTE AS USER statement, or within a database-scoped module by using the EXECUTE AS clause, the scope of impersonation is restricted to the database by default. This means that references to objects outside the scope of the database will return an error.

Also, there is a lot of good information on the "Extending Database Impersonation by Using EXECUTE AS" MSDN page (linked above) that explains authenticators and the reasoning behind these rules.


For more information, please see:

  • All of the above makes sense. The part I don't understand is why, when running under impersonation, module signing doesn't work. I could run as the escalated user normally (i.e. not under impersonation) and it would work. What about impersonation makes the module signing context change to "deny only"? Or, perhaps a related question, what sort of attack would be possible if the current behavior was not in place? – Ben Thul Oct 31 '16 at 20:47
  • @BenThul Please see the new section I added, just below the example code. Hopefully that clarifies what is going on here. If not, please let me know. – Solomon Rutzky Nov 1 '16 at 16:27
  • I understand that I can use module signing by itself. The reality of the situation though is that I have a lot of procedures that already have an execute as clause and there is no way (to my knowledge) to remove only that procedure option without scripting out the procs, removing the clause, then running those alter procedure staements and signing the altered procedures all in one shot. So, everything you're saying is technically correct, but practically a huge PITA to implement. – Ben Thul Nov 1 '16 at 17:24
  • @BenThul Understood, but you have two options: 1) set TRUSTWORTHY ON, or 2) remove EXECUTE AS and sign the modules. Either way, as per Microsoft (I just added quotes from documentation to the end of my answer), everything I stated is accurate, and level of effort required to deal with the situation doesn't affect that validity. Also, it shouldn't be a PITA. You can easily SELECT REPLACE([definition], N'EXECUTE AS ...', N'') FROM sys.sql_modules WHERE... in a CURSOR, change the CREATE to ALTER, and EXEC it. Then EXEC results of SELECT 'ADD SIG TO ' + name FROM sys.sql_modules WHERE.... – Solomon Rutzky Nov 1 '16 at 19:19
  • @BenThul Another thought regarding making this change: this is a perfect opportunity to script all objects out to individual scripts and import into source control. Then it is really easy to do a find/replace over the files to remove the EXECUTE AS lines and add in the ADD SIGNATURE lines, then save again into source control so you have the history. then it should be trivial to create a deployment script by concatenating the scripts into 1 file and changing the CREATE into ALTER. – Solomon Rutzky Nov 1 '16 at 21:07

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