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Intermediate System to Intermediate System (IS-IS) Cryptographic Authentication

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 3567.
Authors Ran Atkinson , Tony Li
Last updated 2015-10-14 (Latest revision 2003-04-23)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Proposed Standard
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state (None)
Document shepherd (None)
IESG IESG state Became RFC 3567 (Informational)
Action Holders
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Ross Callon
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group
                                               Tony Li
INTERNET DRAFT                                 Procket Networks
                                               Atkinson RJ
                                               Extreme Networks
draft-ietf-isis-hmac-04.txt                    22 April 2003                                                                      

                   IS-IS Cryptographic Authentication


   This document is an Internet-Draft and is subject to all provisions
of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that other
groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
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cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

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   This  document  describes  the authentication of IS-IS PDUs using the
   HMAC-MD5 algorithm as found in RFC 2104.  IS-IS is specified  in  ISO
   10589  and RFC 1142, with extensions to support IPv4 described in RFC
   1195.  The base specification includes  an  authentication  mechanism
   that   allows  for  multiple  authentication  algorithms.   The  base
   specification only specifies the algorithm for cleartext passwords.

   This document proposes an extension to that specification that allows
   the  use  of  the  HMAC-MD5  authentication  algorithm  to be used in

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   conjunction with the existing authentication mechanisms.

1. Introduction

   The IS-IS protocol, as  specified  in  ISO  10589  and  RFC  1142[1],
   provides for the authentication of Link State PDUs (LSPs) through the
   inclusion of authentication information as part  of  the  LSP.   This
   authentication  information  is  encoded as a Type-Length-Value (TLV)
   tuple.  The use of IS-IS for IPv4 networks is described in [2].

   The type of the TLV is specified as 10.  The length  of  the  TLV  is
   variable.   The  value  of  the  TLV  depends  on  the authentication
   algorithm and related secrets being used.  The  first  octet  of  the
   value  is  used  to  specify  the  authentication  type.   Type  0 is
   reserved, type 1 indicates a cleartext password, and type 255 is used
   for  routing domain private authentication methods.  The remainder of
   the TLV value is known as the Authentication Value.

   This document  extends  the  above  situation  by  allocating  a  new
   authentication  type  for  HMAC-MD5 and specifying the algorithms for
   the computation of the  Authentication  Value.   This  document  also
   describes  modifications  to  the  base  protocol  to insure that the
   authentication mechanisms described in this document are effective.

   This document is a publication of the IS-IS Working Group within  the
   IETF,  and  is  a  contribution  to  ISO  IEC  JTC1/SC6, for eventual
   inclusion with ISO 10589.

2. Authentication Procedures

   The authentication type used for HMAC-MD5 is 54 (0x36).   The  length
   of  the Authentication Value for HMAC-MD5 is 16, and the length field
   in the TLV is 17.

   The HMAC-MD5 algorithm requires a key K and text T as input [3].  The
   key  K  is  the password for the PDU type, as specified in ISO 10589.
   The  text  T  is  the  IS-IS  PDU  to  be  authenticated   with   the
   Authentication  Value  field inside of the Authentication Information
   TLV set to zero.  Note that the Authentication Type is set to 54  and
   the length of the TLV is set to 17 before authentication is computed.
   When LSPs are authenticated,  the  Checksum  and  Remaining  Lifetime
   fields  are  set  to zero (0) before authentication is computed.  The
   result of the algorithm is placed in the Authentication Value  field.

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   When  calculating the HMAC-MD5 result for Sequence Number PDUs, Level
   1 Sequence Number PDUs SHALL use the Area Authentication string as in
   Level  1 Link State PDUs.  Level 2 Sequence Number PDUs shall use the
   domain authentication string as in Level 2 Link  State  PDUs.   IS-IS
   HELLO  PDUs SHALL use the Link Level Authentication String, which MAY
   be different from that of Link State PDUs.  The HMAC-MD5  result  for
   the  IS-IS  HELLO PDUs SHALL be calculated after the Packet is padded
   to the MTU size, if padding is not  disabled.   Implementations  that
   support  the optional checksum for the Sequence Number PDUs and IS-IS
   HELLO PDUs MUST NOT include the Checksum TLV.

   To authenticate an incoming PDU, a system should save the  values  of
   the  Authentication  Value  field,  the  Checksum  and  the Remaining
   Lifetime field, set these fields to zero, compute authentication, and
   then restore the values of these fields.

   An   implementation   that  implements  HMAC-MD5  authentication  and
   receives HMAC-MD5 Authentication Information MUST discard the PDU  if
   the Authentication Value is incorrect.

   An  implementation MAY have a transition mode where it includes HMAC-
   MD5 Authentication Information in PDUs but does not verify the  HMAC-
   MD5  authentication  information.   This  is  a  transition  aid  for
   networks in the process of deploying authentication.

   An implementation MAY check a set of  passwords  when  verifying  the
   Authentication  Value.   This  provides a mechanism for incrementally
   changing passwords in a network.

   An implementation that does not implement HMAC-MD5 authentication MAY
   accept  a  PDU  that contains the HMAC-MD5 Authentication Type.  ISes
   (routers) that implement HMAC-MD5  authentication  and  initiate  LSP
   purges  MUST  remove  the  body of the LSP and add the authentication
   TLV.  ISes  implementing  HMAC-MD5  authentication  MUST  NOT  accept
   unauthenticated  purges.   ISes  MUST  NOT accept purges that contain
   TLVs other than  the  authentication  TLV.   These  restrictions  are
   necessary  to prevent a hostile system from receiving an LSP, setting
   the Remaining Lifetime  field  to  zero,  and  flooding  it,  thereby
   initiating a purge without knowing the authentication password.

2.1 Implementation Considerations

   There  is  an implementation issue just after password rollover on an
   IS-IS  router  that  might  benefit   from   additional   commentary.
   Immediately  after password rollover on the router, the router or IS-
   IS process may  restart.   If  this  happens,  this  causes  the  LSP
   Sequence  Number  restarts  from  the value 1 using the new password.
   However, neighbors will reject those new LSPs  because  the  Sequence

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   Number  is smaller.  The router can not increase its own LSP Sequence
   Number because  it  fails  to  authenticate  its  own  old  LSP  that
   neighbors  keep  sending to it.  So the router can not update its LSP
   Sequence Number to its neighbors until all the neighbors time out all
   of  the  original LSPs.  One possible solution to this problem is for
   the IS-IS process to detect if any inbound LSP with an authentication
   failure has the local System ID and also has a higher Sequence Number
   than the IS-IS process has.  In this event, the IS-IS process  SHOULD
   increase  its  own  LSP  Sequence Number accordingly and re-flood the
   LSPs.  However, as this scenario could also be triggered by an active
   attack by an adversary, it is recommended that a counter also be kept
   on this case to mitigate the risk from such an active attack.

3. Security Considerations

   This document enhances the security of the  IS-IS  routing  protocol.
   Because a routing protocol contains information that need not be kept
   secret, privacy is not a requirement.  However, authentication of the
   messages within the protocol is of interest, to reduce the risk of an
   adversary compromising the routing system by  deliberately  injecting
   false information into the routing system.

   The  technology in this document provides an authentication mechanism
   for IS-IS.  The mechanism described here is not perfect and does  not
   need to be perfect.  Instead, this mechanism represents a significant
   increase in the work function of an  adversary  attacking  the  IS-IS
   protocol,  while  not  causing  undue  implementation, deployment, or
   operational complexity.

   This mechanism does not prevent  replay  attacks,  however,  in  most
   cases,  such  attacks  would trigger existing mechanisms in the IS-IS
   protocol that would effectively reject old  information.   Denial  of
   service  attacks are not generally preventable in a useful networking
   protocol [4].

   Changes to the authentication mechanism described here (primarily: to
   add  a Key-ID field such as OSPFv2 and RIPv2 have) were considered at
   some length, but ultimately were rejected.  The  mechanism  here  was
   already  widely  implemented  in  1999.   As  of  this  writing, this
   mechanism is fairly widely deployed within the  users  interested  in
   cryptographic  authentication  of IS-IS.  The improvement provided by
   the proposed revised mechanism was not large enough  to  justify  the
   change,  given  the  installed  base and lack of operator interest in
   deploying the proposed revised mechanism.

   If and when a key management protocol appears  that  is  both  widely

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   implemented  and  easily deployed to secure routing protocols such as
   IS-IS, a different authentication mechanism that is designed for  use
   with that key management schema could be added if desired.

   If  a  stronger authentication were believed to be required, then the
   use of a full digital signature [5] would be an approach that  should
   be  seriously  considered.   It was rejected for this purpose at this
   time because the computational burden of full digital  signatures  is
   believed  to  be  much  higher  than  is reasonable given the current
   threat environment in operational commercial networks.


   The authors would like to thank (in alphabetical  order)  Dave  Katz,
   Steven Luong, Tony Przygienda, Nai-Ming Shen, and Henk Smit for their
   comments and suggestions on this document.


   [1] ISO, "Intermediate System to Intermediate System Intra- Domain
   Exchange Protocol for use in Conjunction with the Protocol for
   the Connectionless-mode Network Service (ISO 8473)", International
   10589 [Also republished as RFC 1142].

   [3] H. Krawczyk, M. Bellare, & R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed-Hashing for
   Authentication", RFC-2104, February 1997


   [2] R. Callon, "Use of OSI IS-IS for Routing in TCP/IP and Dual
   environments", RFC-1195, December 1990.

   [4] V.L. Voydock & S. T. Kent, "Security Mechanisms in High-level
   Networks", ACM Computing Surveys, Vol. 15, No. 2, June 1983.

   [5] S. Murphy, M. Badger, & B. Wellington, "OSPF with Digital
   RFC-2154,June 1997.

Author's Address

   Tony Li
   Procket Networks
   1100 Cadillac Ct.
   Milpitas, California
   95035  USA

   Phone: +1 (408) 635-7903

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   RJ Atkinson
   Extreme Networks
   3585 Monroe Street
   Santa Clara, CA
   95051  USA

   Phone: +1 (408) 579-2800

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