To KVNO or not to KVNO, what is the version!?


Shakespeare knew nothing about Kerberos V5… Nothing!

But, I still like him! And that, despite the fact that he had the audacity to paraphrase me in his play “Hamlet”. Of course no one believes me!

I must admit it would be much easier to convince you about this historic truth if I had been born about ~400 years BEFORE him.

But, oh well…

What I CAN probably convince you about is today’s topic… KVNO is not always as decisive as it’s thought to be.

Aha! I bet you did not see THAT one coming!

First things first: “What does KVNO stand for?”

KVNO stands for: Key Version Number.

Ok, good. Now: “What key are we talking about?”

Of course we are talking about the Client’s Secret Key, what did you expect?

Each machine on the network possesses a Long Term Key (Secret Key) that is used to authenticate with the KDC in order to obtain tickets and to encrypt those tickets when sending them within the AP_REQ.

Before you ask: “What’s an AP_REQ?”

The AP_REQ is the initial message that the client machine sends to the Server on the network in order to request Kerberos authentication and gain access to a specific Service on that Server. That service could be SMB, LDP or any service that the server has registered with the KDC and has a SPN.

Ok, now we need to understand: “What is the KVNO field for?”

The KVNO is a field on the AP_REQ that indicates what version of the key has been used to encrypt the service ticket.

This is where the KVNO is located when looking into the AP_REQ:


And, this is the description of the KVNO found in RFC4120:

   Key Version Number (kvno)

      A tag associated with encrypted data identifies which key was used

      for encryption when a long-lived key associated with a principal

      changes over time. It is used during the transition to a new key

      so that the party decrypting a message can tell whether the data

      was encrypted with the old or the new key.


Now, if there’s a KVNO field, it is safe to assume that there could be different versions of the key.

That leads to the next question: “When and how is the long term key changed?”

The key is generated by an algorithm that derives it from the account password.

With account I’m referring to the Active Directory object that represents the client computer. That account has a password just like any user account but, the one big difference is that the password for this account is not known or set by any user. Instead it’s by default automatically reset every 30 days by the computer itself.

Now, as we stated before, the key is derived from the password so… yes, you are right, the key has to change every time that the password changes. As you might have already figured out, the KVNO is incremented by 1 when this happens.

The big question now is: “What would be a scenario where the key used to encrypt the ticket is different from the one that the server has stored?”

Well, we can be facing this scenario in the following situation:

1) A Client obtains a valid ticket from the KDC (this ticket is kept and used until expired) and used the KVNO=5

2) The client then renews its password (if default, 30 days have passed since last reset)

3) KVNO will increase to 6 and change is picked up by the target server

4) Ticket is still valid since it has not expired nor the machine has been rebooted or the cache purged

5) Machine tries to access service on target server with ticket encrypted with KVNO=5

This scenario is fairly usual and it’s covered by the  RFC4120 as well:

 The ticket is decrypted using the version of the server's key specified by the ticket.  If the decryption routines detect a modification of the ticket (each encryption system MUST provide safeguards to detect modified ciphertext), the KRB_AP_ERR_BAD_INTEGRITY error is returned (chances are good that different keys were used to encrypt and decrypt).


I bet you are thinking: Ooohhhh!!! So that’s when KVNO saves the day right!?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it can be used for that. No, Windows does not pay attention to KVNO.

 It simply ignores it. Like if KVNO wasn’t even present (Editor’s Note: Any similarities with the life of the author are pure coincidence)

Windows server will follow these steps:

1) It will try to decrypt the service ticket in the AP_REQ with the current key

2) If it succeeds, it then sends the AP_REP to the client and the process moves forward

3) But if it fails, it will then make its best effort and try to decrypt the ticket with the previous version of the key (KVNO-1)

4) If it succeeds, AP_REP and process moves forward

5) If it fails, it will fail the AP_REQ and send an AP_REP with KRB_AP_ERR_MODIFIED

I can read your mind; I know you are eager to say: I got it! This is very interesting information! I should visit this blog more often!

Well, you will be even more surprised if I say to you: But wait! There’s more! If you read the next few lines in the next 30 seconds, you will also receive a wonderful CAVEAT!

And you reached this line so… here’s the caveat.

Not always, Windows has the chance to store the previous key (KVNO-1) and make its best effort to decrypt a ticket that was encrypted with an older key.

That will depend on a simple requirement:

In order for the server to store the previous version of a key, the password change for the computer account must have been done on that particular server.

What I mean with this is that the server that received the request and that processed the password change, saves the old password and can use it as the KVNO-1 key. The rest of the servers, do not have a KVNO-1 available and will fail the request with AP_REP with KRB_AP_ERR_MODIFIED after trying with the current key.

When the client receives a AP_REP with KRB_AP_ERR_MODIFIED, purges its tickets cache and requests a new ticket to the KDC. This time, the ticket will be encrypted with the current version of the key and the exchange would succeed.

One last juicy perk for having resisted your desire to close the browser and run away from me!

 A script to change the computer password on demand and thus be able to test all this details!

Or did you think that it was going to be as simple as right clicking somewhere?

Run this on the domain controller where you want to change the account password:

Dim objComputer

Set objComputer = GetObject("LDAP://CN=computername,CN=computers,DC=yourdomain,DC=yoursuffix")

objComputer.SetPassword "P@ssw0rd1"



Hope you found this information useful!

Hasta luego!