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Adding Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to TCP control packets and TCP retransmissions

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Document Type This is an older version of an Internet-Draft whose latest revision is Replaced
Authors Marcelo Bagnulo , Bob Briscoe
Last updated 2017-04-18 (Latest revision 2017-04-13)
Replaces draft-bagnulo-tsvwg-generalized-ecn
Replaced by draft-ietf-tcpm-generalized-ecn
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Network Working Group                                         M. Bagnulo
Internet-Draft                                                      UC3M
Intended status: Experimental                                 B. Briscoe
Expires: October 19, 2017                            Simula Research Lab
                                                          April 17, 2017

Adding Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to TCP control packets and
                          TCP retransmissions


   This document describes an experimental modification to ECN when used
   with TCP.  It allows the use of ECN on the following TCP packets:
   SYNs, pure ACKs, Window probes, FINs, RSTs and retransmissions.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on October 19, 2017.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Motivation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.2.  Experiment Goals  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.3.  Document Structure  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.1.  Network (e.g. Firewall) Behaviour . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.2.  Endpoint Behaviour  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       3.2.1.  SYN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       3.2.2.  SYN-ACK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       3.2.3.  Pure ACK  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       3.2.4.  Window Probe  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.2.5.  FIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.2.6.  RST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.2.7.  Retransmissions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   4.  Interaction with popular variants or derivatives of TCP . . .  14
     4.1.  SCTP  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.2.  TFO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.3.  IW10  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   5.  Discussion of the Arguments in the RFC Series . . . . . . . .  15
     5.1.  The Reliability Argument  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     5.2.  SYNs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
       5.2.1.  Argument 1a: Unrecognized CE on the SYN . . . . . . .  17
       5.2.2.  Argument 1b: Unrecognized ECT on the SYN  . . . . . .  19
       5.2.3.  Argument 2: DoS Attacks.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
     5.3.  Pure ACKs.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       5.3.1.  Cwnd Response to CE-Marked Pure ACKs  . . . . . . . .  22
       5.3.2.  ACK Rate Response to CE-Marked Pure ACKs  . . . . . .  23
       5.3.3.  Summary: Enabling ECN on Pure ACKs  . . . . . . . . .  24
     5.4.  Window Probes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
     5.5.  Retransmitted Packets.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     9.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     9.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29

1.  Introduction

   RFC 3168 [RFC3168] specifies support of Explicit Congestion
   Notification (ECN) in IP (v4 and v6).  By using the ECN capability,
   switches performing Active Queue Management (AQM) can use ECN marks
   instead of packet drops to signal congestion to the endpoints of a
   communication.  This results in lower packet loss and increased

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   performance.  RFC 3168 also specifies support for ECN in TCP, but
   solely on data packets.  For various reasons it precludes the use of
   ECN on TCP control packets (TCP SYN, TCP SYN-ACK, pure ACKs, Window
   probes) and on retransmitted packets.  RFC 3168 is silent about the
   use of ECN on RST and FIN packets.  RFC 5562 [RFC5562] is an
   experimental modification to ECN that enables ECN support for TCP
   SYN-ACK packets.

   This document defines an experimental modification to ECN [RFC3168]
   that enables ECN support on all the aforementioned types of TCP
   packet.  [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-ecn-experimentation] is a standards track
   procedural device that updates RFC 3168 to allow the present
   experiment, which RFC 3168 would otherwise prohibit.

1.1.  Motivation

   The absence of ECN support on TCP control packets and retransmissions
   has a potential harmful effect.  In any ECN deployment, non-ECN-
   capable packets suffer a penalty when they traverse a congested
   bottleneck.  For instance, with a drop probability of 1%, 1% of
   connection attempts suffer a timeout of about 1 second before the SYN
   is retransmitted, which is highly detrimental to the performance of
   short flows.  TCP control packets, such as TCP SYNs and pure ACKs,
   are important for performance, so dropping them is best avoided.

   Non-ECN control packets particularly harm performance in environments
   where the ECN marking level is high.  For example, [judd-nsdi] shows
   that in a data centre (DC) environment where ECN is used (in
   conjunction with DCTCP), the probability of being able to establish a
   new connection using a non-ECN SYN packet drops to close to zero even
   when there are only 16 ongoing TCP flows transmitting at full speed.
   In this data centre context, the issue is that DCTCP's aggressive
   response to packet marking leads to a high marking probability for
   ECN-capable packets, and in turn a high drop probability for non-ECN
   packets.  Therefore non-ECN SYNs are dropped aggressively, rendering
   it nearly impossible to establish a new connection in the presence of
   even mild traffic load.

   Finally, there are ongoing experimental efforts to promote the
   adoption of a slightly modified variant of DCTCP (and similar
   congestion controls) over the Internet to achieve low latency, low
   loss and scalable throughput (L4S) for all communications
   [I-D.briscoe-tsvwg-l4s-arch].  In such an approach, L4S packets
   identify themselves using an ECN codepoint.  Preventing TCP control
   packets from obtaining the benefits of ECN would not only expose them
   to the prevailing level of congestion loss, but it would also stop
   them from being classified into the low latency (L4S) queue, which
   would greatly degrade L4S performance.

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1.2.  Experiment Goals

   The goal of the experimental modifications defined in this document
   is to allow the use of ECN on all TCP packets.  Experiments are
   expected in the public Internet as well as in controlled environments
   to understand the following issues:

   o  How SYNs, Window probes, pure ACKs, FINs, RSTs and retransmissions
      that carry the ECT(0), ECT(1) or CE codepoints are processed by
      the TCP endpoints and the network (including routers, firewalls
      and other middleboxes).  In particular we would like to learn if
      these packets are frequently blocked or if these packets are
      usually forwarded and processed.

   o  The scale of deployment of the different flavours of ECN,
      including [RFC3168], [RFC5562], [RFC3540] and

   o  How much the performance of TCP communications is improved by
      allowing ECN marking of each packet type.

   o  To identify any issues (including security issues) raised by
      enabling ECN marking of these packets.

   The data gathered through the experiments described in this document,
   particularly under the first 2 bullets above, will help in the design
   of the final mechanism (if any) for adding ECN support to the
   different packet types considered in this document.  Whenever data
   input is needed to assist in a design choice, it is spelled out
   throughout the document.

   Success criteria: The experiment will be a success if we obtain
   enough data to have a clearer view of the deployability and benefits
   of enabling ECN on all TCP packets, as well as any issues.  If the
   results of the experiment show that it is feasible to deploy such
   changes; that there are gains to be achieved though the changes
   described in this specification; and that no other major issues may
   interfere with the deployment of the proposed changes; then it would
   be reasonable to adopt the proposed changes in a standards track
   specification that would update RFC 3168.

1.3.  Document Structure

   The remainder of this document is structured as follows.  In
   Section 2, we present the terminology used in the rest of the
   document.  In Section 3, we specify the modifications to provide ECN
   support to TCP SYNs, pure ACKs, Window probes, FINs, RSTs and
   retransmissions.  We describe both the network behaviour and the

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   endpoint behaviour.  Section 4 discusses variations of the
   specification that will be necessary to interwork with a number of
   popular variants or derivatives of TCP.  RFC 3168 provides a number
   of specific reasons why ECN support is not appropriate for each
   packet type.  In Section 5, we revisit each of these arguments for
   each packet type to justify why it is reasonable to conduct this

2.  Terminology

   SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
   document, are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

   Pure ACK: A TCP segment with the ACK flag set and no data payload.

   SYN: A TCP segment with the SYN (synchronize) flag set.

   Window probe: Defined in [RFC0793], a window probe is a TCP segment
   with only one byte of data sent to learn if the receive window is
   still zero.

   FIN: A TCP segment with the FIN (finish) flag set.

   RST: A TCP segment with the RST (reset) flag set.

   Retransmission: A TCP segment that has been retransmitted by the TCP

   ECT: ECN-Capable Transport.  One of the two codepoints ECT(0) or
   ECT(1) in the ECN field [RFC3168] of the IP header (v4 or v6).  An
   ECN-capable sender sets one of these to indicate that both transport
   end-points support ECN.  When this specification says the sender sets
   an ECT codepoint, by default it means ECT(0).  Optionally, it could
   mean ECT(1), which is in the process of being redefined for use by
   L4S experiments [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-ecn-experimentation]

   Not-ECT: The ECN codepoint set by senders that indicates that the
   transport is not ECN-capable.

   CE: Congestion Experienced.  The ECN codepoint that an intermediate
   node sets to indicate congestion [RFC3168].  A node sets an
   increasing proportion of ECT packets to CE as the level of congestion

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3.  Specification

3.1.  Network (e.g.  Firewall) Behaviour

   Previously the specification of ECN for TCP [RFC3168] required the
   sender to set not-ECT on TCP control packets and retransmissions.
   Some readers of RFC 3168 might have erroneously interpreted this as a
   requirement for firewalls, intrusion detection systems, etc. to check
   and enforce this behaviour.  Section 4.3 of
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-ecn-experimentation] updates RFC 3168 to remove this
   ambiguity.  It require firewalls or any intermediate nodes not to
   treat certain types of ECN-capable TCP segment differently (except
   potentially in one attack scenario).  This is likely to only involve
   a firewall rule change in a fraction of cases (at most 0.4% of paths
   according to the tests reported in Section 5.2.2).

   In case a TCP sender encounters a middlebox blocking ECT on certain
   TCP segments, the specification below includes behaviour to fall back
   to non-ECN.  However, this loses the benefit of ECN on control
   packets.  So operators are encouraged to alter their firewall rules
   to comply with the requirement referred to above (section 4.3 of

3.2.  Endpoint Behaviour

   The changes to the specification of TCP over ECN [RFC3168] defined
   here solely alter the behaviour of the sending host for each half-
   connection.  All changes can be deployed at each end-point
   independently of others.

   The feedback behaviour at the receiver depends on whether classic ECN
   TCP feedback [RFC3168] or Accurate ECN (AccECN) TCP feedback
   [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn] has been negotiated.  Nonetheless,
   neither receiver feedback behaviour is altered by the present

   For each type of control packet or retransmission, the following
   sections detail changes to the sender's behaviour in two respects: i)
   whether it sets ECT; and ii) its response to congestion feedback.
   Table 1 summarises these two behaviours for each type of packet, but
   the relevant subsection below should be referred to for the detailed
   behaviour.  The subsection on the SYN is more complex than the
   others, because it has to include fall-back behaviour if the ECT
   packet appears not to have got through, and caching of the outcome to
   detect persistent failures.

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   | TCP       | ECN field if    | ECN field if    | Congestion        |
   | packet    | AccECN f/b      | RFC3168 f/b     | Response          |
   | type      | negotiated*     | negotiated*     |                   |
   | SYN       | ECT             | not-ECT         | Reduce IW         |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | SYN-ACK   | ECT             | ECT             | Reduce IW as in   |
   | [RFC5562] |                 |                 | [RFC5562]         |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | Pure ACK  | ECT             | ECT             | Usual cwnd        |
   |           |                 |                 | response and      |
   |           |                 |                 | optionally        |
   |           |                 |                 | [RFC5690]         |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | W Probe   | ECT             | ECT             | Usual cwnd        |
   |           |                 |                 | response          |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | FIN       | ECT             | ECT             | None or           |
   |           |                 |                 | optionally        |
   |           |                 |                 | [RFC5690]         |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | RST       | ECT             | ECT             | N/A               |
   |           |                 |                 |                   |
   | Re-XMT    | ECT             | ECT             | Usual cwnd        |
   |           |                 |                 | response          |

   Window probe and retransmission are abbreviated to W Probe an Re-XMT.
               * For a SYN, "negotiated" means "requested".

     Table 1: Summary of sender behaviour.  In each case the relevant
      section below should be referred to for the detailed behaviour

   It can be seen that the sender can set ECT in all cases, except if it
   is not requesting AccECN feedback on the SYN.  Therefore it is
   RECOMMENDED that the experimental AccECN specification
   [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn] is implemented (as well as the present
   specification), because it is expected that ECT on the SYN will give
   the most significant performance gain, particularly for short flows.
   Nonetheless, this specification also caters for the case where AccECN
   feedback is not implemented.

3.2.1.  SYN

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   With classic [RFC3168] ECN feedback, the SYN was never expected to be
   ECN-capable, so the flag provided to feed back congestion was put to
   another use (it is used in combination with other flags to indicate
   that the responder supports ECN).  In contrast, Accurate ECN (AccECN)
   feedback [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn] provides two codepoints in the
   SYN-ACK for the responder to feed back whether or not the SYN arrived
   marked CE.

   Therefore, a TCP initiator MUST NOT set ECT on a SYN unless it also
   attempts to negotiate Accurate ECN feedback in the same SYN.

   For the experiments proposed here, if the SYN is requesting AccECN
   feedback, the TCP sender will also set ECT on the SYN.  It can ignore
   the prohibition in section 6.1.1 of RFC 3168 against setting ECT on
   such a SYN.

   The following subsections about the SYN solely apply to this case
   where the initiator sent an ECT SYN.  Caching Failed Connection Attempts

   Until AccECN servers become widely deployed, a TCP initiator that
   implements AccECN and sets ECT on a SYN SHOULD also maintain a cache
   per server to record any failure of the previous attempt.  It SHOULD
   record whether a server does not support AccECN and MAY record
   whether the ECT SYN is persistently lost (see fall-back below).  The
   TCP initiator will not subsequently attempt any behaviour recorded as
   persistently problematic.  However, the cache should be arranged to
   expire so that the initiator will infrequently attempt to check
   whether each problem has been resolved.

   There is no need to cache successful attempts, because the default
   ECT SYN behaviour performs optimally on success anyway.  Servers that
   do not support ECN as a whole probably do not need to be recorded
   separately from non-support of AccECN because, even when a server
   does not support classic [RFC3168] ECN, there is no performance
   penalty in always requesting to use it.

   The above strategy is named "optimistic ECT and cache failures".  It
   is believed to be sufficient based on initial measurements and
   assumptions detailed in Section 5.2.1, which also gives alternative
   strategies in case larger scale measurements uncover different

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   If the SYN-ACK returned to the TCP initiator confirms that the server
   supports AccECN, it will also indicate whether or not the SYN was CE-
   marked.  If the SYN was CE-marked, the initiator MUST reduce its
   Initial Window (IW) and SHOULD reduce it to 1 SMSS (sender maximum
   segment size).

   If the SYN-ACK shows that the server does not support AccECN, the TCP
   initiator MUST conservatively reduce its Initial Window and SHOULD
   reduce it to 1 SMSS.  A reduction to greater than 1 SMSS MAY be
   appropriate (see Section 5.2.1).  Conservatism is necessary because a
   non-AccECN SYN-ACK cannot show whether the SYN was CE-marked.

   If the TCP initiator (host A) receives a SYN from the remote end
   (host B) after it has sent a SYN to B, it indicates the (unusual)
   case of a simultaneous open.  Host A will respond with a SYN-ACK.
   Host A will probably then receive a SYN-ACK in response to its own
   SYN, after which it can follow the appropriate one of the two
   paragraphs above.

   In all the above cases, the initiator does not have to back off its
   retransmission timer as it would in response to a timeout following
   no response to its SYN [RFC6298], because both the SYN and the SYN-
   ACK have been successfully delivered through the network.  Also, the
   initiator does not need to exit slow start or reduce ssthresh, which
   is not even required when a SYN is lost [RFC5681].

   If TCP Fast Open (TFO [RFC7413]) or an initial window of 10 (IW10
   [RFC6928]) are implemented, Section 4 gives additional
   recommendations.  Fall-Back Following No Response to an ECT SYN)

   An ECT SYN might be lost due to an over-zealous path element (or
   server) blocking ECT packets that do not conform to RFC 3168.
   However, loss is commonplace for numerous other reasons, e.g.
   congestion loss at a non-ECN queue on the forward or reverse path,
   transmission errors, etc.  Alternatively, the cause of the blockage
   might be the attempt to negotiate AccECN, or possibly other unrelated
   options on the SYN.

   To expedite connection set-up if, after sending an ECT SYN, the
   retransmission timer expires, the TCP initiator SHOULD send a SYN
   with the not-ECT codepoint in the IP header and not attempt to
   negotiate AccECN.  It would make sense to also remove any other
   experimental fields or options on the SYN, but that will depend on
   the specification of the other option(s).  If the TCP initiator is

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   caching failed connection attempts, it SHOULD NOT give up using ECT
   on the first SYN of subsequent connection attempts until it is clear
   that the blockage persistently and specifically affects ECT on SYNs.
   This is because loss is so commonplace for other reasons.

   Other fall-back strategies MAY be adopted where applicable (see
   Section 5.2.2 for suggestions, and the conditions under which they
   would apply).

3.2.2.  SYN-ACK

   To comply with the present specification, the responder (server) part
   of a TCP implementation MUST also comply with [RFC5562], which
   defines the use of ECT on a SYN-ACK and the congestion response of
   the TCP listener if a SYN-ACK is CE-marked.

   Feedback by the initiator in response to a CE-marked SYN-ACK from the
   responder depends on whether classic ECN feedback or AccECN feedback
   [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn] has been negotiated.  In either case no
   change is required to RFC 5562 or the AccECN specification.

3.2.3.  Pure ACK

   For the experiments proposed here, the TCP implementation will set
   ECT on pure ACKs.  It can ignore the requirement in section 6.1.4 of
   RFC 3168 to set not-ECT on a pure ACK.

   A host that sets ECT on pure ACKs MUST reduce its congestion window
   in response to any congestion feedback, in order to regulate any data
   segments it might be sending amongst the pure ACKs.  It MAY also
   implement AckCC [RFC5690] to regulate the pure ACK rate, but this is
   not required.  Note that, in comparison, [RFC5681] does not require a
   TCP to detect or respond to loss of pure ACKs at all; it requires no
   reduction in congestion window or ACK rate.

   The question of whether the receiver of pure ACKs is required to feed
   back any CE marks on them is a matter for the relevant feedback
   specification ([RFC3168] or [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn]).  It is
   outside the scope of the present specification.

      DISCUSSION: Before the AccECN specification is published, a
      requirement to count CE marks on all packets could be added.

      DISCUSSION: An AccECN deployment or an implementation of RFC 3168
      that feeds back CE on pure ACKs will be at a disadvantage compared
      to an RFC 3168 implementation that does not.  To solve this, the
      WG could decide to prohibit setting ECT on pure ACKs unless AccECN
      has been negotiated.

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3.2.4.  Window Probe

   For the experiments proposed here, the TCP sender will set ECT on
   window probes.  It can ignore the prohibition in section 6.1.6 of RFC
   3168 against setting ECT on a window probe.

   A window probe contains a single octet, so it is no different from a
   regular TCP data segment.  Therefore a TCP receiver will feed back
   any CE marking on a window probe as normal (either using classic ECN
   feedback or AccECN feedback).  The sender of the probe will then
   reduce its congestion window as normal.

   A receive window of zero indicates that the application is not
   consuming data fast enough and does not imply anything about network
   congestion.  Once the receive window opens, the congestion window
   might become the limiting factor, so it is correct that CE-marked
   probes reduce the congestion window.  However, CE-marking on window
   probes does not reduce the rate of the probes themselves.  This is
   unlikely to present a problem, given the duration between window
   probes doubles [RFC1122] as long as the receiver is advertising a
   zero window (currently minimum 1 second, maximum at least 1 minute

3.2.5.  FIN

   A TCP implementation can set ECT on a FIN.

   The TCP data receiver MUST ignore the CE codepoint on incoming FINs
   that fail any validity check.  The validity check in section 5.2 of
   [RFC5961] is RECOMMENDED.

   A congestion response to a CE-marking on a FIN is not required.

   After sending a FIN, the endpoint will not send any more data in the
   connection.  Therefore, even if the FIN-ACK indicates that the FIN
   was CE-marked (whether using classic or AccECN feedback), reducing
   the congestion window will not affect anything.

   After sending a FIN, a host might send one or more pure ACKs.  If it
   is using one of the techniques in Section 3.2.3 to regulate the
   delayed ACK ratio for pure ACKs, it could equally be applied after a
   FIN.  But this is not required.

3.2.6.  RST

   A TCP implementation can set ECT on a RST.

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   The "challenge ACK" approach to checking the validity of RSTs
   (section 3.2 of [RFC5961] is RECOMMENDED at the data receiver.

   A congestion response to a CE-marking on a RST is not required (and
   actually not possible).  Rationale for ECT on RSTs

   The host generating the RST message does not have an open connection
   after sending it (either because there was no such connection when
   the packet that triggered the RST message was received or because the
   packet that triggered the RST message also triggered the closure of
   the connection).

   Moreover, the receiver of a CE-marked RST message can either: i)
   accept the RST message and close the connection; ii) emit a so-called
   challenge ACK in response (with suitable throttling) [RFC5961] and
   otherwise ignore the RST (e.g.  because the sequence number is in-
   window but not the precise number expected next); or iii) discard the
   RST message (e.g.  because the sequence number is out-of-window).  In
   the first two cases there is no point in echoing any CE mark received
   because the sender closed its connection when it sent the RST.  In
   the third case it makes sense to discard the CE signal as well as the
   RST.  So, in all these cases it does not make sense to generate
   feedback about a CE mark on a RST message.

   The following factors have been considered before deciding whether
   ECT ought to be allowed on a RST message:

   o  As explained above, a congestion response by the sender of a CE-
      marked RST message is not possible;

   o  So the only reason for the sender setting ECT on a RST would be to
      improve the reliability of the message's delivery;

   o  RST messages are used to both mount and mitigate attacks:

      *  Spoofed RST messages are used by attackers to terminate ongoing
         connections, although the mitigations in RFC 5961 have
         considerably raised the bar against off-path RST attacks;

      *  Legitimate RST messages allow endpoints to inform their peers
         to eliminate existing state that correspond to non existing
         connections, liberating resources e.g. in DoS attacks

   o  AQMs are advised to disable ECN marking during persistent
      overload, so:

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      *  it is harder for an attacker to exploit ECN to intensify an

      *  it is harder for a legitimate user to exploit ECN to more
         reliably mitigate an attack

   o  Prohibiting ECT on a RST would deny the benefit of ECN to
      legitimate RST messages, but not to attackers who can disregard

   o  If ECT were prohibited on RSTs

      *  it would be easy for security middleboxes to discard all ECN-
         capable RSTs;

      *  However, unlike a SYN flood, it is already easy for a security
         middlebox (or host) to distinguish a RST flood from legitimate
         traffic [RFC5961], and even if a some legitimate RSTs are
         accidentally removed as well, legitimate connections still

   So, on balance, it has been decided that it is worth experimenting
   with ECT on RSTs.  During experiments, if the ECN capability on RSTs
   is found to open a vulnerability that is hard to close, this decision
   can be reversed, before it is specified for the standards track.

3.2.7.  Retransmissions

   For the experiments proposed here, the TCP sender will set ECT on
   retransmitted segments.  It can ignore the prohibition in section
   6.1.5 of RFC 3168 against setting ECT on retransmissions.

   Nonetheless, the TCP data receiver MUST ignore the CE codepoint on
   incoming segments that fail any validity check.  The validity check
   in section 5.2 of [RFC5961] is RECOMMENDED.  This will effectively
   mitigate an attack that uses spoofed data packets to fool the
   receiver into feeding back spoofed congestion indications to the
   sender, which in turn would be fooled into continually halving its
   congestion window.

   If the TCP sender receives feedback that a retransmitted packet was
   CE-marked, it will react as it would to any feedback of CE-marking on
   a data packet.

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4.  Interaction with popular variants or derivatives of TCP

   The following subsections specify additional behaviour necessary when
   setting ECT on all data and control packets while using the following
   popular variants or derivatives of TCP: SCTP, TFO, IW10.  The
   subsection on IW10 discusses changes to specifications but does not
   recommend any, because the specification as it stands is safe, and
   there is only a corner-case where performance could be occasionally

   TCP variants that have been assessed and found not to interact
   adversely with ECT on TCP control packets are: SYN cookies (see
   Appendix A of [RFC4987]) and L4S [I-D.briscoe-tsvwg-l4s-arch].

4.1.  SCTP

   Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP [RFC4960]) is a standards
   track protocol derived from TCP.  SCTP currently does not include ECN
   support, but Appendix A of RFC 4960 broadly describes how it would be
   supported and a draft on the addition of ECN to SCTP has been
   produced [I-D.stewart-tsvwg-sctpecn].  This draft avoids setting ECT
   on control packets and retransmissions, closely following the
   arguments in RFC 3168.  When ECN is finally added to SCTP, experience
   from experiments on adding ECN support to all TCP packets ought to be
   directly transferable to SCTP.

4.2.  TFO

   TCP Fast Open (TFO [RFC7413]) is an experiment to remove the round
   trip delay of TCP's 3-way hand-shake (3WHS).  A TFO initiator caches
   a cookie from a previous connection with a TFO-enabled server.  Then,
   for subsequent connections to the same server, any data included on
   the SYN and any other data segments sent directly after the SYN (up
   to the initial window limit) can be passed directly to the server
   application, which can then return response data with the SYN-ACK
   (again, up to the initial window limit).

   If a TFO initiator has cached that the server supported ECN in the
   previous connection, it would be safe to set ECT on any data segments
   it sends before a SYN-ACK returns from the responder (server).  Note
   that there is no space in the SYN-ACK itself (whether classic or
   AccECN feedback has been negotiated) to include feedback about any CE
   on data packets.  Nonetheless, it is safe to set ECT on data packets
   within the handshake because any CE-marking on these data segments
   can be fed back by the responder on the first data segment it sends
   after the SYN-ACK (or on an additional pure ACK if it has no more
   data to send).

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   Note that the prohibition in Section against setting ECT on
   the SYN if the same SYN is not requesting AccECN feedback still

   Strictly even a non-TFO TCP initiator can send data on a SYN and up
   to an initial window of data segments straight after the SYN.
   However, this is rare because a non-TFO TCP server will not deliver
   any data to the application until the 3WHS completes.  Therefore the
   question of ECT on data segments within the handshake only becomes
   important with TFO.  A TFO initiator's first ever connection with a
   server never uses a fast open, so the initiator always has a chance
   to cache whether a server supports ECN before it uses a fast open.

4.3.  IW10

   IW10 is an experiment to determine whether it is safe for TCP to use
   an initial window of 10 SMSS [RFC6928].

   This subsection does not recommend any additions to the present
   specification in order to interwork with IW10.  The specifications as
   they stand are safe, and there is only a corner-case where
   performance could be occasionally improved, as explained below.

   As specified in Section, a TCP initiator can only set ECT on
   the SYN if it requests AccECN support.  If, however, the SYN-ACK
   tells the initiator that the responder does not support AccECN,
   Section advises the initiator to conservatively reduce its
   initial window to 1 SMSS because, if the SYN was CE-marked, the SYN-
   ACK has no way to feed that back.

   If the initiator implements IW10, it seems rather over-conservative
   to reduce IW to 1 in this scenario.  Nonetheless, the reduction to 1
   SMSS will rarely harm performance, because:

   o  as long as the initiator is caching failures to negotiate AccECN,
      subsequent attempts to access the same server will not use ECT on
      the SYN anyway, so there will no longer be any need to
      conservatively reduce IW;

   o  currently it is not common for a TCP initiator (client) to have
      more than one segment to send {ToDo: evidence/reference?} - IW10
      is primarily exploited by TCP servers.

5.  Discussion of the Arguments in the RFC Series

   This section is informative, not normative.  It presents counter-
   arguments against the justifications in the RFC series for disabling
   ECN on TCP control segments and retransmissions.  First it addresses

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   over-arching arguments used for most packet types, then it addresses
   the specific arguments for each packet type in turn.

5.1.  The Reliability Argument

   Section 5.2 of RFC 3168 states:

      "To ensure the reliable delivery of the congestion indication of
      the CE codepoint, an ECT codepoint MUST NOT be set in a packet
      unless the loss of that packet [at a subsequent node] in the
      network would be detected by the end nodes and interpreted as an
      indication of congestion."

   We believe this argument is misplaced.  TCP does not deliver most
   control packets reliably.  So it is more important to allow control
   packets to be ECN-capable, which greatly improves reliable delivery
   of the control packets themselves (see motivation in Section 1.1).
   ECN also improves the reliability and latency of delivery of any
   congestion notification on control packets, particularly because TCP
   does not detect the loss of most types of control packet anyway.
   Both these points outweigh by far the concern that a CE marking
   applied to a control packet by one node might subsequently be dropped
   by another node.

   The principle to determine whether a packet can be ECN-capable ought
   to be "do no extra harm", meaning that the reliability of a
   congestion signal's delivery ought to be no worse with ECN than
   without.  In particular, setting the CE codepoint on the very same
   packet that would otherwise have been dropped fulfills this
   criterion, since either the packet is delivered and the CE signal is
   delivered to the endpoint, or the packet is dropped and the original
   congestion signal (packet loss) is delivered to the endpoint.

   The concern about a CE marking being dropped at a subsequent node
   might be motivated by the idea that ECN-marking a packet at the first
   node does not remove the packet, so it could go on to worsen
   congestion at a subsequent node.  However, it is not useful to reason
   about congestion by considering single packets.  The departure rate
   from the first node will generally be the same (fully utilized) with
   or without ECN, so this argument does not apply.

5.2.  SYNs

   RFC 5562 presents two arguments against ECT marking of SYN packets
   (quoted verbatim):

      "First, when the TCP SYN packet is sent, there are no guarantees
      that the other TCP endpoint (node B in Figure 2) is ECN-Capable,

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      or that it would be able to understand and react if the ECN CE
      codepoint was set by a congested router.

      Second, the ECN-Capable codepoint in TCP SYN packets could be
      misused by malicious clients to "improve" the well-known TCP SYN
      attack.  By setting an ECN-Capable codepoint in TCP SYN packets, a
      malicious host might be able to inject a large number of TCP SYN
      packets through a potentially congested ECN-enabled router,
      congesting it even further."

   The first point actually describes two subtly different issues.  So
   below three arguments are countered in turn.

5.2.1.  Argument 1a: Unrecognized CE on the SYN

   This argument certainly applied at the time RFC 5562 was written,
   when no ECN responder mechanism had any logic to recognize or feed
   back a CE marking on a SYN.  The problem was that, during the 3WHS,
   the flag in the TCP header for ECN feedback (called Echo Congestion
   Experienced) had been overloaded to negotiate the use of ECN itself.
   So there was no space for feedback in a SYN-ACK.

   The accurate ECN (AccECN) protocol [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn] has
   since been designed to solve this problem, using a two-pronged
   approach.  First AccECN uses the 3 ECN bits in the TCP header as 8
   codepoints, so there is space for the responder to feed back whether
   there was CE on the SYN.  Second a TCP initiator can always request
   AccECN support on every SYN, and any responder reveals its level of
   ECN support: AccECN, classic ECN, or no ECN.  Therefore, if a
   responder does indicate that it supports AccECN, the initiator can be
   sure that, if there is no CE feedback on the SYN-ACK, then there
   really was no CE on the SYN.

   An initiator can combine AccECN with three possible strategies for
   setting ECT on a SYN:

   (S1):  Pessimistic ECT and cache successes: The initiator always
          requests AccECN in the SYN, but without setting ECT.  Then it
          records those servers that confirm that they support AccECN in
          a cache.  On a subsequent connection to any server that
          supports AccECN, the initiator can then set ECT on the SYN.

   (S2):  Optimistic ECT: The initiator always sets ECT optimistically
          on the initial SYN and it always requests AccECN support.
          Then, if the server response shows it has no AccECN logic (so
          it cannot feed back a CE mark), the initiator conservatively
          behaves as if the SYN was CE-marked, by reducing its initial

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          A.  No cache: The optimistic ECT strategy ought to work fairly
              well without caching any responses.

          B.  Cache failures: The optimistic ECT strategy can be
              improved by recording solely those servers that do not
              support AccECN.  On subsequent connections to these non-
              AccECN servers, the initiator will still request AccECN
              but not set ECT on the SYN.  Then, the initiator can use
              its full initial window (if it has enough request data to
              need it).  Longer term, as servers upgrade to AccECN, the
              initiator will remove them from the cache and use ECT on
              subsequent SYNs to that server.

   (S3):  ECT by configuration: In a controlled environment, the
          administrator can make sure that servers support ECN-capable
          SYN packets.  Examples of controlled environments are single-
          tenant DCs, and possibly multi-tenant DCs if it is assumed
          that each tenant mostly communicates with its own VMs.

   For unmanaged environments like the public Internet, pragmatically
   the choice is between strategies (S1) and (S2B):

   o  The "pessimistic ECT and cache successes" strategy (S1) suffers
      from exposing the initial SYN to the prevailing loss level, even
      if the server supports ECT on SYNs, but only on the first
      connection to each AccECN server.

   o  The "optimistic ECT and cache failures" strategy (S2B) exploits a
      server's support for ECT on SYNs from the very first attempt.  But
      if the server turns out not to support AccECN, the initiator has
      to conservatively limit its initial window - usually
      unnecessarily.  Nonetheless, initiator request data (as opposed to
      server response data) is rarely larger than 1 SMSS anyway {ToDo:
      reference? (this information was given informally by Yuchung

   The normative specification for ECT on a SYN in Section 3.2.1 uses
   the "optimistic ECT and cache failures" strategy (S2B) on the
   assumption that an initial window of 1 SMSS is usually sufficient for
   client requests anyway.  Clients that often initially send more than
   1 SMSS of data could use strategy (S1) during initial deployment, and
   strategy (S2B) later (when the probability of servers supporting
   AccECN and the likelihood of seeing some CE marking is higher).
   Also, as deployment proceeds, caching successes (S1) starts off small
   then grows, while caching failures (S2B) becomes large at first, then

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      MEASUREMENTS NEEDED: Measurements are needed to determine whether
      one or the other strategy would be sufficient for any particular
      client, or whether a particular client would need both strategies
      in different circumstances.

5.2.2.  Argument 1b: Unrecognized ECT on the SYN

   Given, until now, ECT-marked SYN packets have been prohibited, it
   cannot be assumed they will be accepted.  According to a study using
   2014 data [ecn-pam] from a limited range of vantage points, out of
   the top 1M Alexa web sites, 4791 (0.82%) IPv4 sites and 104 (0.61%)
   IPv6 sites failed to establish a connection when they received a TCP
   SYN with any ECN codepoint set in the IP header and the appropriate
   ECN flags in the TCP header.  Of these, about 41% failed to establish
   a connection due to the ECN flags in the TCP header even with a Not-
   ECT ECN field in the IP header (i.e. despite full compliance with RFC
   3168).  Therefore adding the ECN-capability to SYNs was increasing
   connection establishment failures by about 0.4%.

      MEASUREMENTS NEEDED: In order to get these failures fixed, data
      will be needed on which of the possible causes below is behind

   RFC 3168 says "a host MUST NOT set ECT on SYN [...] packets", but it
   does not say what the responder should do if an ECN-capable SYN
   arrives.  So perhaps some responder implementations are checking that
   the SYN complies with RFC 3168, then silently ignoring non-compliant
   SYNs (or perhaps returning a RST).  Also some middleboxes (e.g.
   firewalls) might be discarding non-compliant SYNs.  For the future,
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-ecn-experimentation] updates RFC 3168 to clarify that
   middleboxes "SHOULD NOT" do this, but that does not alter the past.

   Whereas RSTs can be dealt with immediately, silent failures introduce
   a retransmission timeout delay (default 1 second) at the initiator
   before it attempts any fall back strategy.  Ironically, making SYNs
   ECN-capable is intended to avoid the timeout when a SYN is lost due
   to congestion.  Fortunately, where discard of ECN-capable SYNs is due
   to policy it will occur predictably, not randomly like congestion.
   So the initiator can avoid it by caching those sites that do not
   support ECN-capable SYNs.  This further justifies the use of the
   "optimistic ECT and cache failures" strategy in Section 3.2.1.

      MEASUREMENTS NEEDED: Experiments are needed to determine whether
      blocking of ECT on SYNs is widespread, and how many occurrences of
      problems would be masked by how few cache entries.

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   If blocking is too widespread for the "optimistic ECT and cache
   failures" strategy (S2B), the "pessimistic ECT and cache successes"
   strategy (Section 5.2.1) would be better.

      MEASUREMENTS NEEDED: Then measurements would be needed on whether
      failures were still widespread on the second connection attempt
      after the more careful ("pessimistic") first connection.

   If so, it might be necessary to send a not-ECT SYN soon after the
   first ECT SYN (possibly with a small delay between them) and only
   accept the non-ECT connection if it returned first.  This would
   reduce the performance penalty for those deploying ECT SYN support.
   However, based on the data above from [ecn-pam], even a cache of a
   dozen or so sites ought to avoid all ECN-related performance problems
   with roughly the Alexa top thousand.  So it is questionable whether
   sending two SYNs will be necessary, particularly given failures at
   well-maintained sites could reduce further once ECT SYNs are

5.2.3.  Argument 2: DoS Attacks.

   [RFC5562] says that ECT SYN packets could be misused by malicious
   clients to augment "the well-known TCP SYN attack".  It goes on to
   say "a malicious host might be able to inject a large number of TCP
   SYN packets through a potentially congested ECN-enabled router,
   congesting it even further."

   We assume this is a reference to the TCP SYN flood attack (see, which is an attack against
   a responder end point.  We assume the idea of this attack is to use
   ECT to get more packets through an ECN-enabled router in preference
   to other non-ECN traffic so that they can go on to use the SYN
   flooding attack to inflict more damage on the responder end point.
   This argument could apply to flooding with any type of packet, but we
   assume SYNs are singled out because their source address is easier to
   spoof, whereas floods of other types of packets are easier to block.

   Mandating Not-ECT in an RFC does not stop attackers using ECT for
   flooding.  Nonetheless, if a standard says SYNs are not meant to be
   ECT it would make it legitimate for firewalls to discard them.
   However this would negate the considerable benefit of ECT SYNs for
   compliant transports and seems unnecessary because RFC 3168 already
   provides the means to address this concern.  In section 7, RFC 3168
   says "During periods where ... the potential packet marking rate
   would be high, our recommendation is that routers drop packets rather
   then set the CE codepoint..." and this advice is repeated in
   [RFC7567] (section 4.2.1).  This makes it harder for flooding packets
   to gain from ECT.

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   Further experiments are needed to test how much malicious hosts can
   use ECT to augment flooding attacks without triggering AQMs to turn
   off ECN support (flying "just under the radar").  If it is found that
   ECT can only slightly augment flooding attacks, the risk of such
   attacks will need to be weighed against the performance benefits of
   ECT SYNs.

5.3.  Pure ACKs.

   Section 5.2 of RFC 3168 gives the following arguments for not
   allowing the ECT marking of pure ACKs (ACKs not piggy-backed on

      "To ensure the reliable delivery of the congestion indication of
      the CE codepoint, an ECT codepoint MUST NOT be set in a packet
      unless the loss of that packet in the network would be detected by
      the end nodes and interpreted as an indication of congestion.

      Transport protocols such as TCP do not necessarily detect all
      packet drops, such as the drop of a "pure" ACK packet; for
      example, TCP does not reduce the arrival rate of subsequent ACK
      packets in response to an earlier dropped ACK packet.  Any
      proposal for extending ECN-Capability to such packets would have
      to address issues such as the case of an ACK packet that was
      marked with the CE codepoint but was later dropped in the network.
      We believe that this aspect is still the subject of research, so
      this document specifies that at this time, "pure" ACK packets MUST
      NOT indicate ECN-Capability."

   Later on, in section 6.1.4 it reads:

      "For the current generation of TCP congestion control algorithms,
      pure acknowledgement packets (e.g., packets that do not contain
      any accompanying data) MUST be sent with the not-ECT codepoint.
      Current TCP receivers have no mechanisms for reducing traffic on
      the ACK-path in response to congestion notification.  Mechanisms
      for responding to congestion on the ACK-path are areas for current
      and future research.  (One simple possibility would be for the
      sender to reduce its congestion window when it receives a pure ACK
      packet with the CE codepoint set).  For current TCP
      implementations, a single dropped ACK generally has only a very
      small effect on the TCP's sending rate."

   We next address each of the arguments presented above.

   The first argument is a specific instance of the reliability argument
   for the case of pure ACKs.  This has already been addressed by
   countering the general reliability argument in Section 5.1.

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   The second argument says that ECN ought not to be enabled unless
   there is a mechanism to respond to it.  However, actually there _is_
   a mechanism to respond to congestion on a pure ACK that RFC 3168 has
   overlooked - the congestion window mechanism.  When data segments and
   pure ACKs are interspersed, congestion notifications ought to
   regulate the congestion window, whether they are on data segments or
   on pure ACKs.  Otherwise, if ECN is disabled on Pure ACKs, and if
   (say) 70% of the segments in one direction are Pure ACKs, about 70%
   of the congestion notifications will be missed and the data segments
   will not be correctly regulated.

   So RFC 3168 ought to have considered two congestion response
   mechanisms - reducing the congestion window (cwnd) and reducing the
   ACK rate - and only the latter was missing.  Further, RFC 3168 was
   incorrect to assume that, if one ACK was a pure ACK, all segments in
   the same direction would be pure ACKs.  Admittedly a continual stream
   of pure ACKs in one direction is quite a common case (e.g. a file
   download).  However, it is also common for the pure ACKs to be
   interspersed with data segments (e.g.  HTTP/2 browser requests
   controlling a web application).  Indeed, it is more likely that any
   congestion experienced by pure ACKs will be due to mixing with data
   segments, either within the same flow, or within competing flows.

   This insight swings the argument towards enabling ECN on pure ACKs so
   that CE marks can drive the cwnd response to congestion (whenever
   data segments are interspersed with the pure ACKs).  Then to
   separately decide whether an ACK rate response is also required (when
   they are ECN-enabled).  The two types of response are addressed
   separately in the following two subsections, then a final subsection
   draws conclusions.

5.3.1.  Cwnd Response to CE-Marked Pure ACKs

   If the sender of pure ACKs sets them to ECT, the bullets below assess
   whether the three stages of the congestion response mechanism will
   all work for each type of congestion feedback (classic ECN [RFC3168]
   and AccECN [I-D.ietf-tcpm-accurate-ecn]):

   Detection:  The receiver of a pure ACK can detect a CE marking on it:

      *  Classic feedback: the receiver will not expect CE marks on pure
         ACKs, so it will be implementation-dependent whether it happens
         to check for CE marks on all packets.

      *  AccECN feedback: currently the draft AccECN specification is
         written assuming pure ACKs are not ECN-capable.  However, if
         the present specification is adopted, before publication of

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         AccECN it will need to be updated to feed back CE-markings on
         pure ACKs. {ToDo: and this bullet will need to be updated}

   Feedback:  TCP never ACKs a pure ACK, but the receiver of a CE-mark
      on a pure ACK can feed it back when it sends a subsequent data
      segment (if it ever does):

      *  Classic feedback: the receiver (of the pure ACKs) would set the
         echo congestion experienced (ECE) flag in the TCP header as

      *  AccECN feedback: the receiver continually feeds back a count of
         the number of CE-marked packets that it has received (and, if
         possible, a count of CE-marked bytes).

   Congestion response:  In either case (classic or AccECN feedback), if
      the TCP sender does receive feedback about CE-markings on pure
      ACKs, it will react in the usual way by reducing its congestion
      window accordingly.  This will regulate the rate of any data
      packets it is sending amongst the pure ACKs.

5.3.2.  ACK Rate Response to CE-Marked Pure ACKs

   Reducing the congestion window will have no effect on the rate of
   pure ACKs.  The worst case here is if the bottleneck is congested
   solely with pure ACKs, but it could also be problematic if a large
   fraction of the load was from unresponsive ACKs, leaving little or no
   capacity for the load from responsive data.

   Since RFC 3168 was published, Acknowledgement Congestion Control
   (AckCC) techniques have been documented in [RFC5690] (informational).
   So any pair of TCP end-points can choose to agree to regulate the
   delayed ACK ratio in response to lost or CE-marked pure ACKs.
   However, the protocol has a number of open deployment issues (e.g. it
   relies on two new TCP options, one of which is required on the SYN
   where option space is at a premium and, if either option is blocked
   by a middlebox, no fall-back behaviour is specified).  The new TCP
   options addressed two problems, namely that TCP had: i) no mechanism
   to allow ECT to be set on pure ACKs; and ii) no mechanism to feed
   back loss or CE-marking of pure ACKs.  A combination of the present
   specification and AccECN addresses both these problems, at least for
   ECN marking.  So it might now be possible to design an ECN-specific
   ACK congestion control scheme without the extra TCP options proposed
   in RFC 5690.  However, such a mechanism is out of scope of the
   present document.

   Setting aside the practicality of RFC 5690, the need for AckCC has
   not been conclusively demonstrated.  It has been argued that the

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   Internet has survived so far with no mechanism to even detect loss of
   pure ACKs.  However, it has also been argued that ECN is not the same
   as loss.  Packet discard can naturally thin the ACK load to whatever
   the bottleneck can support, whereas ECN marking does not (it queues
   the ACKs instead).  Nonetheless, RFC 3168 (section 7) recommends that
   an AQM switches over from ECN marking to discard when the marking
   probability becomes high.  Therefore discard can still be relied on
   to thin out ECN-enabled pure ACKs as a last resort.

5.3.3.  Summary: Enabling ECN on Pure ACKs

   In the case when AccECN has been negotiated, the arguments for ECT
   (and CE) on pure ACKs heavily outweigh those against.  ECN is always
   more and never less reliable for delivery of congestion notification.
   The cwnd response has been overlooked as a mechanism for responding
   to congestion on pure ACKs, so it is incorrect not to set ECT on pure
   ACKs when they are interspersed with data segments.  And when they
   are not, packet discard still acts as the "congestion response of
   last resort".  In contrast, not setting ECT on pure ACKs is certainly
   detrimental to performance, because when a pure ACK is lost it can
   prevent the release of new data.  Separately, AckCC (or perhaps an
   improved variant exploiting AccECN) could optionally be used to
   regulate the spacing between pure ACKs.  However, it is not clear
   whether AckCC is justified.

   In the case when Classic ECN has been negotiated, there is still an
   argument for ECT (and CE) on pure ACKs, but it is less clear-cut.
   Some existing RFC 3168 implementations might happen to
   (unintentionally) provide the correct feedback to support a cwnd
   response.  Even for those that did not, setting ECT on pure ACKs
   would still be better for performance than not setting it and do no
   extra harm.  If AckCC was required, it is designed to work with RFC
   3168 ECN.

5.4.  Window Probes

   Section 6.1.6 of RFC 3168 presents only the reliability argument for
   prohibiting ECT on Window probes:

      "If a window probe packet is dropped in the network, this loss is
      not detected by the receiver.  Therefore, the TCP data sender MUST
      NOT set either an ECT codepoint or the CWR bit on window probe

      However, because window probes use exact sequence numbers, they
      cannot be easily spoofed in denial-of-service attacks.  Therefore,
      if a window probe arrives with the CE codepoint set, then the
      receiver SHOULD respond to the ECN indications."

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   The reliability argument has already been addressed in Section 5.1.

   Allowing ECT on window probes could considerably improve performance
   because, once the receive window has reopened, if a window probe is
   lost the sender will stall until the next window probe reaches the
   receiver, which might be after the maximum retransmission timeout (at
   least 1 minute [RFC6928]).

   On the bright side, RFC 3168 at least specifies the receiver
   behaviour if a CE-marked window probe arrives, so changing the
   behaviour ought to be less painful than for other packet types.

5.5.  Retransmitted Packets.

   RFC 3168 says the sender "MUST NOT" set ECT on retransmitted packets.
   The rationale for this consumes nearly 2 pages of RFC 3168, so the
   reader is referred to section 6.1.5 of RFC 3168, rather than quoting
   it all here.  There are essentially three arguments, namely:
   reliability; DoS attacks; and over-reaction to congestion.  We
   address them in order below.

   The reliability argument has already been addressed in Section 5.1.

   Protection against DoS attacks is not afforded by prohibiting ECT on
   retransmitted packets.  An attacker can set CE on spoofed
   retransmissions whether or not it is prohibited by an RFC.
   Protection against the DoS attack described in section 6.1.5 of RFC
   3168 is solely afforded by the requirement that "the TCP data
   receiver SHOULD ignore the CE codepoint on out-of-window packets".
   Therefore in Section 3.2.7 the sender is allowed to set ECT on
   retransmitted packets, in order to reduce the chance of them being
   dropped.  We also strengthen the receiver's requirement from "SHOULD
   ignore" to "MUST ignore".  And we generalize the receiver's
   requirement to include failure of any validity check, not just out-
   of-window checks, in order to include the more stringent validity
   checks in RFC 5961 that have been developed since RFC 3168.

   A consequence is that, for those retransmitted packets that arrive at
   the receiver after the original packet has been properly received
   (so-called spurious retransmissions), any CE marking will be ignored.
   There is no problem with that because the fact that the original
   packet has been delivered implies that the sender's original
   congestion response (when it deemed the packet lost and retransmitted
   it) was unnecessary.

   Finally, the third argument is about over-reacting to congestion.
   The argument goes that, if a retransmitted packet is dropped, the
   sender will not detect it, so it will not react again to congestion

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   (it would have reduced its congestion window already when it
   retransmitted the packet).  Whereas, if retransmitted packets can be
   CE tagged instead of dropped, senders could potentially react more
   than once to congestion.  However, we argue that it is legitimate to
   respond again to congestion if it still persists in subsequent round

   Therefore, in all three cases, it is not incorrect to set ECT on

6.  Security Considerations

   Section 3.2.6 considers the question of whether ECT on RSTs will
   allow RST attacks to be intensified.  There are several security
   arguments presented in RFC 3168 for preventing the ECN marking of TCP
   control packets and retransmitted segments.  We believe all of them
   have been properly addressed in Section 5, particularly Section 5.2.3
   and Section 5.5 on DoS attacks using spoofed ECT-marked SYNs and
   spoofed CE-marked retransmissions.

7.  IANA Considerations

   There are no IANA considerations in this memo.

8.  Acknowledgments

   Thanks to Mirja Kuehlewind and David Black for their useful reviews.

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC3168]  Ramakrishnan, K., Floyd, S., and D. Black, "The Addition
              of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP",
              RFC 3168, DOI 10.17487/RFC3168, September 2001,

   [RFC5562]  Kuzmanovic, A., Mondal, A., Floyd, S., and K.
              Ramakrishnan, "Adding Explicit Congestion Notification
              (ECN) Capability to TCP's SYN/ACK Packets", RFC 5562,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5562, June 2009,

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   [RFC5961]  Ramaiah, A., Stewart, R., and M. Dalal, "Improving TCP's
              Robustness to Blind In-Window Attacks", RFC 5961,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5961, August 2010,

              Briscoe, B., Kuehlewind, M., and R. Scheffenegger, "More
              Accurate ECN Feedback in TCP", draft-ietf-tcpm-accurate-
              ecn-02 (work in progress), October 2016.

              Black, D., "Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)
              Experimentation", draft-ietf-tsvwg-ecn-experimentation-01
              (work in progress), March 2017.

9.2.  Informative References

   [RFC0793]  Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7,
              RFC 793, DOI 10.17487/RFC0793, September 1981,

   [RFC1122]  Braden, R., Ed., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -
              Communication Layers", STD 3, RFC 1122,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1122, October 1989,

   [RFC3540]  Spring, N., Wetherall, D., and D. Ely, "Robust Explicit
              Congestion Notification (ECN) Signaling with Nonces",
              RFC 3540, DOI 10.17487/RFC3540, June 2003,

   [RFC4960]  Stewart, R., Ed., "Stream Control Transmission Protocol",
              RFC 4960, DOI 10.17487/RFC4960, September 2007,

   [RFC4987]  Eddy, W., "TCP SYN Flooding Attacks and Common
              Mitigations", RFC 4987, DOI 10.17487/RFC4987, August 2007,

   [RFC5681]  Allman, M., Paxson, V., and E. Blanton, "TCP Congestion
              Control", RFC 5681, DOI 10.17487/RFC5681, September 2009,

   [RFC5690]  Floyd, S., Arcia, A., Ros, D., and J. Iyengar, "Adding
              Acknowledgement Congestion Control to TCP", RFC 5690,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5690, February 2010,

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   [RFC6298]  Paxson, V., Allman, M., Chu, J., and M. Sargent,
              "Computing TCP's Retransmission Timer", RFC 6298,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6298, June 2011,

   [RFC6928]  Chu, J., Dukkipati, N., Cheng, Y., and M. Mathis,
              "Increasing TCP's Initial Window", RFC 6928,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6928, April 2013,

   [RFC7413]  Cheng, Y., Chu, J., Radhakrishnan, S., and A. Jain, "TCP
              Fast Open", RFC 7413, DOI 10.17487/RFC7413, December 2014,

   [RFC7567]  Baker, F., Ed. and G. Fairhurst, Ed., "IETF
              Recommendations Regarding Active Queue Management",
              BCP 197, RFC 7567, DOI 10.17487/RFC7567, July 2015,

              Schepper, K., Briscoe, B., and I. Tsang, "Identifying
              Modified Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) Semantics
              for Ultra-Low Queuing Delay", draft-briscoe-tsvwg-ecn-l4s-
              id-02 (work in progress), October 2016.

              Briscoe, B., Schepper, K., and M. Bagnulo, "Low Latency,
              Low Loss, Scalable Throughput (L4S) Internet Service:
              Architecture", draft-briscoe-tsvwg-l4s-arch-02 (work in
              progress), March 2017.

              Stewart, R., Tuexen, M., and X. Dong, "ECN for Stream
              Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP)", draft-stewart-
              tsvwg-sctpecn-05 (work in progress), January 2014.

              Judd, G., "Attaining the promise and avoiding the pitfalls
              of TCP in the Datacenter", USENIX Symposium on Networked
              Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI'15) pp.145-157,
              May 2015.

   [ecn-pam]  Trammell, B., Kuehlewind, M., Boppart, D., Learmonth, I.,
              Fairhurst, G., and R. Scheffenegger, "Enabling Internet-
              Wide Deployment of Explicit Congestion Notification",
              Int'l Conf. on Passive and Active Network Measurement
              (PAM'15) pp193-205, 2015.

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Authors' Addresses

   Marcelo Bagnulo
   Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
   Av. Universidad 30
   Leganes, Madrid  28911

   Phone: 34 91 6249500

   Bob Briscoe
   Simula Research Lab


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