Product Documentation

Federated Authentication Service security and network configuration

Sep 23, 2016

The Citrix Federated Authentication Service (FAS) is tightly integrated with Microsoft Active Directory and the Microsoft certification authority (CA).  It is essential to ensure that the system is managed and secured appropriately, developing a security policy as you would for a domain controller or other critical infrastructure.  

This document provides an overview of security issues to consider when deploying the FAS.  It also provides an overview of features available that may assist in securing your infrastructure.

Network architecture

The following diagram shows the main components and security boundaries used in an FAS deployment.

The FAS server should be treated as part of the security-critical infrastructure, along with the CA and domain controller.  In a federated environment, Citrix NetScaler and Citrix Storefront are components that are trusted to perform user authentication;  other XenApp and XenDesktop components are unaffected by introducing the FAS.

localized image

Firewall and network security

Communication between NetScaler, StoreFront and the Delivery Controller components should be protected by TLS over port 443.  The StoreFront server performs only outgoing connections, and the NetScaler Gateway should accept only connections over the Internet using HTTPS port 443.

The StoreFront server contacts the FAS server over port 80 using mutually authenticated Kerberos.  Authentication uses the Kerberos HOST/fqdn identity of the FAS server, and the Kerberos machine account identity of the StoreFront server.  This generates a single use “credential handle” needed by the Citrix Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) to log on the user.

When an HDX session is connected to the VDA, the VDA also contacts the FAS server over port 80.  Authentication uses the Kerberos HOST/fqdn identity of the FAS server, and the Kerberos machine identity of the VDA.  Additionally, the VDA must supply the “credential handle” to access the certificate and private key.

The Microsoft CA accepts communication using Kerberos authenticated DCOM, which can be configured to use a fixed TCP port.  The CA additionally requires that the FAS server supply a CMC packet signed by a trusted enrollment agent certificate.


Firewall Ports

Federated Authentication Service

[in] Kerberos over HTTP from StoreFront and VDAs

[out] DCOM to Microsoft CA


[in] HTTPS from client machines

[in/out] HTTPS to/from StoreFront server

[out] HDX to VDA


[in] HTTPS from NetScaler

[out] HTTPS to Delivery Controller

[out] Kerberos HTTP to FAS

Delivery Controller

[in] HTTPS from StoreFront server

[in/out] Kerberos over HTTP from VDAs


[in/out] Kerberos over HTTP from Delivery Controller

[in] HDX from NetScaler Gateway

[out] Kerberos HTTP to FAS

Microsoft CA

[in] DCOM & signed from FAS


Administration responsibilities

Administration of the environment can be divided into the following groups:



Enterprise Administrator

Install and secure certificate templates in the forest

Domain Administrator

Configure Group Policy settings

CA Administrator

Configure the certificate authority

FAS Administrator

Install and configure the FAS server

StoreFront/Netscaler Admin

Configure user authentication

XenDesktop Administrator

Configure VDAs and Controllers

Each administrator controls different aspects of the overall security model, allowing a defense-in-depth approach to securing the system.

Group Policy settings

Trusted FAS machines are identified by a lookup table of “index number -> FQDN” configured through Group Policy.  When contacting an FAS server, clients verify the FAS server’s HOST\<fqdn> Kerberos identity.  All servers that access the FAS server must have identical FQDN configurations for the same index; otherwise, StoreFront and VDAs may contact different FAS servers.  

To avoid misconfiguration, Citrix recommends that a single policy be applied to all machines in the environment.  Take care when modifying the list of FAS servers, especially when removing or reordering entries.

Control of this GPO should be limited to FAS administrators (and/or domain administrators) who install and decommission FAS servers.  Take care to avoid reusing a machine FQDN name shortly after decommissioning an FAS server.

Certificate templates

Certificate templates are installed “forest-wide” by the enterprise administrator.  There are four main security considerations.

Installation of registration authority templates

The FAS installer provides two types of certificate templates:  the registration authority (RA) templates and the smart card logon template. 

Only the smart card logon template is needed at run time, so the other RA templates can either not be installed (meaning that RA certificates must be issued manually using a separate offline CA), or the RA templates can be disabled after an FAS server has been authorized.

Application policy OID

RA certificates are identified by including a “Certificate Request Agent” object identifier (OID) in the Enhanced Key Usage extensions.  If there is potential for this OID to be in use by a different system, this can be changed to a completely custom OID.

localized image

Access Control List (ACL)

Each template has an ACL that controls which users and computers can issue certificates.

Citrix recommends that this ACL be reconfigured to explicitly allow only the machine accounts of the FAS servers to request certificates.  This can be further restricted using network firewall policies.

localized image

Subject name, extensions, and path name constraints

 The standard subject name and extensions can be configured using standard RFC 5280 features to control which purposes the issued certificates can be used for. This provides a basic level of control over what certificates issued through the public key infrastructure (PKI) can be used for.

Certificate authority administration

The CA administrator is responsible for the configuration of the CA server and the issuing certificate private key that it uses.

Publishing templates

For a certificate authority to issue certificates based on a template supplied by the enterprise administrator, the CA administrator must choose to publish that template. 

A simple security practice is to publish only the RA certificate templates when the FAS servers are being installed, or to insist on a completely offline issuance process.  In either case, the CA administrator should maintain complete control over authorizing RA certificate requests, and have a policy for authorizing FAS servers.

Firewall settings

Generally, the CA administrator will also have control of the network firewall settings of the CA, allowing control over incoming connections.  The CA administrator can configure DCOM TCP and firewall rules so that only FAS servers can request certificates.

Restricted enrollment

By default any holder of an RA certificate can issue certificates to any user, using any certificate template that allows access.  This should be restricted to a group of non-privileged users using the “Restrict enrollment agents” CA property.

localized image

Policy modules and auditing

For advanced deployments, custom security modules can be used to track and veto certificate issuance.

FAS administration

The FAS has several security features.

Restrict StoreFront, users, and VDAs through an ACL

At the center of the FAS security model is the control for which Kerberos accounts can access functionality:

Access Vector


StoreFront [IdP]

These Kerberos accounts are trusted to declare that a user has been correctly authenticated.  If one of these accounts is compromised, then certificates can be created and used for users allowed by the configuration of the FAS.

VDAs [Relying party]

These are the machines that are allowed to access the certificates and private keys.  A credential handle retrieved by the IdP is also needed, so a compromised VDA account in this group has limited scope to attack the system.


This controls which users can be asserted by the IdP.  Note that there is overlap with the “Restricted Enrollment Agent” configuration options at the CA. 

In general, it is advisable to include only non-privileged accounts in this list. This prevents a compromised StoreFront account from escalating privileges to a higher administrative level.  In particular, domain administrator accounts should not be allowed by this ACL.

Configure rules

Rules are useful if multiple independent XenApp or XenDesktop deployments use the same FAS server infrastructure.  Each rule has a separate set of configuration options; in particular, the ACLs can be configured independently.

Configure the CA and templates

Different certificate templates and CAs can be configured for different access rights.  Advanced configurations may choose to use less or more powerful certificates, depending on the environment.  For example, users identified as “external” may have a certificate with fewer privileges than “internal” users.

In-session and authentication certificates

The FAS administrator can control whether the certificate used to authenticate is available for use in the user’s session.  For example, this could be used to have only “signing” certificates available in-session, with the more powerful “logon” certificate being used only at logon.

Private key protection and key length

The FAS administrator can configure FAS to store private keys in a Hardware Security Module (HSM) or Trusted Platform Module (TPM).  Citrix recommends that at least the RA certificate private key is protected by storing it in a TPM; this option is provided as part of the “offline” certificate request process. 

Similarly, user certificate private keys can be stored in a TPM or HSM.  All keys should be generated as “non-exportable” and be at least 2048 bits in length.

Event logs

The FAS server provides detailed configuration and runtime event logs, which can be used for auditing and intrusion detection.

Administrative access and administration tools

The FAS includes remote administration features (mutually authenticated Kerberos) and tools.  Members of the “Local Administrators Group” have full control over FAS configuration. This list should be carefully maintained. 

XenApp, XenDesktop, and VDA administrators

In general, the use of the FAS doesn’t change the security model of the Delivery Controller and VDA administrators, as the FAS “credential handle” simply replaces the “Active Directory password.” Controller and VDA administration groups should contain only trusted users.  Auditing and event logs should be maintained.

General Windows server security

All servers should be fully patched and have standard firewall and anti-virus software available.  Security-critical infrastructure servers should be kept in a physically secure location, with care taken over disk encryption and virtual machine maintenance options.

Auditing and event logs should be stored securely on a remote machine.

RDP access should be limited to authorized administrators. Where possible, user accounts should require smart card logon, especially for CA and domain administrator accounts.

Related information