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Timed Efficient Stream Loss-Tolerant Authentication (TESLA): Multicast Source Authentication Transform Introduction

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 4082.
Authors Adrian Perrig , Ran Canetti , Dawn Song , Professor Doug Tygar , Bob Briscoe
Last updated 2018-12-20 (Latest revision 2004-12-08)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Informational
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
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IESG IESG state Became RFC 4082 (Informational)
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Responsible AD Russ Housley
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Internet Engineering Task Force   Perrig, Canetti, Song, Tygar, Briscoe
MSEC Working Group                   CMU / IBM / CMU / UC Berkeley / BT
Expires: June 2005                                        December 2004

     TESLA: Multicast Source Authentication Transform Introduction


   By submitting this Internet-Draft, I certify that any applicable
   patent or other IPR claims of which I am aware have been disclosed,
   or will be disclosed, and any of which I become aware will be
   disclosed, in accordance with RFC 3668.
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   This document introduces TESLA, short for Timed Efficient Stream
   Loss-tolerant Authentication. TESLA allows all receivers to check the
   integrity and authenticate the source of each packet in multicast or
   broadcast data streams. TESLA requires no trust between receivers;
   uses low cost operations per packet at both sender and receiver; can
   tolerate any level of loss without retransmissions; and requires no
   per-receiver state at the sender. TESLA can protect receivers against
   denial of service attacks in certain circumstances. Each receiver
   must be loosely time synchronized with the source in order to verify
   messages, but otherwise receivers need send no messages. TESLA alone
   cannot support non-repudiation of the data source to third parties.

   This informational document is intended to assist in writing
   standardizable and secure specifications for protocols based on TESLA
   in different contexts.

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                           Table of Contents

1.         Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
1.1.       Notation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
2.         Functionality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
2.1.       Threat Model and Security Guarantee . . . . . . . . . . .   5
2.2.       Assumptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
3.         The Basic TESLA Protocol  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
3.1.       Protocol sketch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
3.2.       Sender Setup  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
3.3.       Bootstrapping Receivers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
3.3.1.     Time Synchronization. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
3.4.       Broadcasting Authenticated Messages . . . . . . . . . . .   9
3.5.       Authentication at Receiver  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
3.6.       Determining the Key Disclosure Delay  . . . . . . . . . .  12
3.7.       An alternative delay description method . . . . . . . . .  12
3.8.       Denial of service protection. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
3.8.1.     Additional group authentication . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
3.8.2.     Not re-using keys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
3.8.3.     Sender buffering. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
3.9.       Some extensions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
4.         Layer placement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
5.         IANA considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
6.         Security considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
7.         Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
8.         References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
A.         Author Contact Information  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
B.         Full Copyright Statement, IPR Notice and Disclaimer . . .  22

1. Introduction

   In multicast, a single packet can reach millions of receivers. This
   unfortunately also introduces the danger that an attacker can
   potentially also reach millions of receivers with a malicious packet.
   Through source authentication, receivers can ensure that a received
   multicast packet originates from the correct source. In these
   respects, a multicast is equivalent to a broadcast to a superset of
   the multicast receivers.

   In unicast communication, we can achieve data authentication through
   a simple mechanism: the sender and the receiver share a secret key to
   compute a message authentication code (MAC) of all communicated data.
   When a message with a correct MAC arrives, the receiver is assured
   that the sender generated that message. Standard mechanisms achieve
   unicast authentication this way, for example TLS or IPsec [1,2].

   Symmetric MAC authentication is not secure in a broadcast setting.
   Consider a sender that broadcasts authentic data to mutually

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   mistrusting receivers. The symmetric MAC is not secure: every
   receiver knows the MAC key, and hence could impersonate the sender
   and forge messages to other receivers. Intuitively, we need an
   asymmetric mechanism to achieve authenticated broadcast, such that
   every receiver can verify the authenticity of messages it receives,
   without being able to generate authentic messages. Achieving this in
   an efficient way is a challenging problem [3].

   The standard approach to achieve such asymmetry for authentication is
   to use asymmetric cryptography, e.g., a digital signature. Digital
   signatures have the required asymmetric property: the sender
   generates the signature with its private key, and all receivers can
   verify the signature with the sender's public key, but a receiver
   with the public key alone cannot generate a digital signature for a
   new message. A digital signature provides non-repudiation, a stronger
   property than authentication. However, digital signatures have a high
   cost: they have a high computation overhead for both the sender and
   the receiver, and most signatures also have a high bandwidth
   overhead. Since we assume broadcast settings where the sender does
   not retransmit lost packets, and the receiver still wants to
   immediately authenticate each packet it receives, we would need to
   attach a digital signature to each message. Because of the high
   overhead of asymmetric cryptography, this approach would restrict us
   to low-rate streams, and to senders and receivers with powerful
   workstations. We can try to amortize one digital signature over
   multiple messages.  However, such an approach is still expensive in
   contrast to symmetric cryptography, since symmetric cryptography is
   in general 3 to 5 orders of magnitude more efficient than asymmetric
   cryptography. In addition, the straight-forward amortization of one
   digital signature over multiple packets requires reliability, as the
   receiver needs to receive all packets to verify the signature. A
   number of schemes that follow this approach are [4,5,6,7,8]. See [9]
   for more details.

   This document presents the Timed Efficient Stream Loss-tolerant
   Authentication protocol (TESLA). TESLA uses mainly symmetric
   cryptography, and uses time delayed key disclosure to achieve the
   required asymmetry property. However, TESLA requires loosely
   synchronized clocks between the sender and the receivers. See more
   details in Section 3.3.1. Other schemes that follow a similar
   approach to TESLA are [10,11,12].

1.1. Notation

   To denote the subscript or an index of a variable, we use the
   underscore between the variable name and the index, e.g., the key K
   with index i is K_i, the key K with index i+d is K_{i+d}. To write a
   superscript we use the caret, e.g., function F with the argument x
   executed i times is F^i(x).

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2. Functionality

   TESLA provides delayed per-packet data authentication and integrity
   checking. The key idea to providing both efficiency and security is a
   delayed disclosure of keys. The delayed key disclosure results in an
   authentication delay. In practice, the delay is on the order of one
   RTT (round-trip-time).

   TESLA has the following properties:

     o Low computation overhead for generation and verification of
       authentication information

     o Low communication overhead

     o Limited buffering required for the sender and the receiver, hence
       timely authentication for each individual packet

     o Strong robustness to packet loss

     o Scales to a large number of receivers

     o Protects receivers against denial of service attacks in certain
       circumstances if configured appropriately

     o Each receiver cannot verify message authenticity unless it is
       loosely time synchronized with the source, where synchronization
       can take place at session set-up. Once the session is in
       progress, receivers need not send any messages or

     o Non-repudiation is not supported - each receiver can know that a
       stream is from an authentic source, but not prove this to others

   TESLA can be used either in the network layer, or in the transport
   layer, or in the application layer. Delayed authentication, however,
   requires buffering of packets until authentication is completed.
   Certain applications intolerant of delay may be willing to process
   packets in parallel to being buffered awaiting authentication, as
   long as roll-back is possible if packets are later found to be
   unauthenticated. For instance, an interactive video may play-out
   packets still awaiting authentication, but if they are later found to
   be unauthenticated, it could stop further play-out and warn the
   viewer that the last x msec were unauthenticated and should be
   ignored. However, in the remainder of this document, for brevity, we
   will assume packets are not processed in parallel to buffering.

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2.1. Threat Model and Security Guarantee

   We design TESLA to be secure against a powerful adversary with the
   following capabilities:

     o Full control over the network. The adversary can eavesdrop,
       capture, drop, re-send, delay, and alter packets.

     o Access to a fast network with negligible delay.

     o The adversary's computational resources may be very large, but
       not unbounded. In particular, this means that the adversary can
       perform efficient computations, such as computing a reasonable
       number of pseudo-random function applications and MACs with
       negligible delay. Nonetheless, the adversary cannot find the key
       of a pseudo-random function (or distinguish it from a random
       function) with non-negligible probability.

   The security property of TESLA guarantees that the receiver never
   accepts M_i as an authentic message unless the sender really sent
   M_i. A scheme that provides this guarantee is called a secure
   broadcast authentication scheme.

   Since TESLA expects the receiver to buffer packets before
   authentication, the receiver needs to protect itself from a potential
   denial-of-service (DOS) attack due to a flood of bogus packets (see
   section 3.8).

2.2. Assumptions

   TESLA makes the following assumptions in order to provide security:

     1.  The sender and the receiver must be able to loosely
         synchronize. Specifically, each receiver must be able to
         compute an upper bound on the lag of the receiver clock
         relative to the sender clock. We denote this quantity by D_t.
         (That is, D_t = sender time - receiver time).  We note that an
         upper bound on D_t can be easily obtained via a simple
         two-message exchange. (Such an exchange can be piggybacked on
         any secure session initiation protocol. Alternatively, standard
         protocols such as NTP [16] can be used.

     2.  TESLA MUST be bootstrapped at session set-up through a
         regular data authentication system. One option is to use a
         digital signature algorithm for this purpose, in which case
         the receiver is required to have an authentic copy of either
         the sender's public key certificate or a root key certificate
         in case of a PKI (public-key infrastructure). Alternatively,
         this initialization step can be done using any secure session
         initiation protocol.

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     3.  TESLA uses cryptographic MAC and PRF (pseudo-random functions).
     These MUST be cryptographically secure. Further details on the
     instantiation of the MAC and PRF are in Section 3.4.

     4.  We would like to emphasize that the security of TESLA does NOT
         rely on any assumptions on network propagation delay.

3. The Basic TESLA Protocol

   TESLA is described in several academic publications: A book on
   broadcast security [13], a journal paper [14], and two conference
   papers [8,15]. Please refer to these publications for in-depth proofs
   of security, experimental results, etc.

   We first outline the main ideas behind TESLA.

3.1. Protocol sketch

   As we argue in the introduction, broadcast authentication requires
   a source of asymmetry. TESLA uses time for asymmetry. We first make
   sure that the sender and receivers are loosely time synchronized as
   described above. Next, the sender forms a one-way chain of keys,
   where each key in chain is associated with a time interval (say, a
   second). Here is the basic approach:

     o The sender attaches a MAC to each packet. The MAC is computed
       over the contents of the packet. For each packet, the sender
       uses the current key from the one-way chain as a cryptographic
       key to compute the MAC.

     o The sender discloses a key from the one-way chain after some
       pre-defined time delay. (e.g., the key used in time interval i
       is disclosed at time interval i+3.)

     o Each receiver receives the packet. Each receiver knows the
       schedule for disclosing keys and, since it has an upper bound
       on the local time at the sender, it can check that the key used
       to compute the MAC was not yet disclosed by the sender. If so,
       then the receiver buffers the packet. Otherwise the packet is
       dropped due to inability to authenticate.  Note that we do not
       know for sure whether a "late packet" is a bogus one or simply
       a delayed packet. We drop the packet since we are unable to
       authenticate it. (Of course, an implementation may choose to
       not drop packets and use them unauthenticated.)

     o Each receiver checks that the disclosed key belongs to the
       hash-chain (by checking against previously released keys in the
       chain) and then checks the correctness of the MAC. If the MAC
       is correct, the receiver accepts the packet.

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   Note that one-way chains have the property that if intermediate
   values of the one-way chain are lost, they can be recomputed using
   subsequent values in the chain . So, even if some key disclosures are
   lost, a receiver can recover the corresponding keys and check the
   correctness of earlier packets.

   We now describe the stages of the basic TESLA protocol in this
   order: sender setup, receiver bootstrap, sender transmission of
   authenticated broadcast messages, and receiver authentication of
   broadcast messages.

3.2. Sender Setup

   The sender divides the time into uniform intervals of duration T_int.
   The sender assigns one key from the one-way chain to each time
   interval in sequence.

   The sender determines the length N of the one-way chain K_0, K_1,
   ..., K_N, and this length limits the maximum transmission duration
   before a new one-way chain must be created. The sender picks a random
   value for K_N. Using a pseudo-random function (PRF) f, the sender
   constructs the one-way function F: F(k) = f_k(0). The rest of the
   chain is computed recursively using K_i = F(K_{i+1}). Note that this
   gives us K_i = F^{N-i}(K_N), so the receiver can compute any value in
   the key chain from K_N even if is does not have intermediate values.
   The key K_i will be used to authenticate packets sent in time
   interval i.

   Jakobsson [21], and Coppersmith and Jakobsson [22] present a storage
   and computation efficient mechanism for one-way chains. For a chain
   of length N, storage is about log(N) elements, and the computation
   overhead to reconstruct each element is also about log(N).

   The sender determines the duration of a time interval, T_int, and the
   key disclosure delay, d. (T_int is measured in time units, say
   milliseconds, and d is measured in number of time intervals. That is,
   a key that is used for time interval i will be disclosed in time
   interval i+d.) It is stressed that the scheme remains secure for any
   values of T_int and d.  Still, correct choice of T_int and d is
   crucial for the usability of the scheme. The choice is influenced by
   the estimated network delay, the length of the transmission, and the
   tolerable delay at the receiver. T_int that is too short will cause
   the keys to run out too soon. T_int that is too long will cause
   excessive delay in authentication for some of the packets (those that
   were sent at the beginning of a time period). Delay d that is too
   short will cause too many packets to be unverifiable by the receiver.
   Delay d that is too long will cause excessive delay in

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   The sender estimates a reasonable upper bound on the network delay
   between the sender and any receiver as m milliseconds. This includes
   any delay expected in the stack (see section 4 on layer placement).
   If the sender expects to send a packet every n milliseconds, then a
   reasonable value for T_int is max(n,m). Based on T_int, a rule of
   thumb for determining the key disclosure delay, d, is given in
   section 3.6.

   The above value for T_int is neither an upper or lower bound, merely
   the value that reduces key change processing to a minimum without
   causing authentication delay to be higher than necessary. So if the
   application can tolerate higher authentication delay then T_int can
   be made appropriately larger. Also, if m (or n) increases during the
   session, perhaps due to congestion or a late joiner on a high delay
   path, T_int need not be revised.

   Finally, the sender needs to allow each receiver to synchronize its
   time with the sender. See more details on how this can be done in
   section 3.3.1. (It is stressed that estimating the network delay is a
   separate task than the time synchronization between the sender and
   the receivers.)

3.3. Bootstrapping Receivers

   Before a receiver can authenticate messages with TESLA, it needs to

     o An upper bound D_t on the lag of its own clock with respect to
       the clock of the sender. (That is, if the local time reading is
       t, the current time reading at the sender is at most t+D_t.).

     o One authenticated key of the one-way key chain. (Typically, this
       will be the last key in the chain, i.e. K_0, this key will be
       signed by the sender, and all receivers will verify the signature
       against the public key of the signer.

     o The disclosure schedule of keys:

         - T_int, the interval duration.
         - T_0, the start time of interval 1.
         - N, the length of the one-way key chain.
         - d, the key disclosure delay d (in number of intervals).

   The receiver can perform the time synchronization and getting the
   authenticated TESLA parameters in a two-round message exchange, as
   described below. We stress again that time synchronization can be
   performed as part of the registration protocol between any receiver
   (including late joiners) and the sender, or between any receiver and
   a group controller.

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3.3.1. Time Synchronization

   Various approaches exist for time synchronization [16,17,18,19].
   TESLA only requires the receiver to know an upper bound on the delay
   of its local clock with respect to the sender's clock, so a simple
   algorithm is sufficient. TESLA can be used with direct, indirect, and
   delayed synchronization as three default options. The specific
   synchronization method will be part of each instantiation of TESLA.

   For completeness, we sketch a simple method for direct
   synchronization between the sender and a receiver:

     o The receiver sends a (sync t_r) message to the sender and records
       its local time t_r at the moment of sending.

     o Upon receipt of the (sync t_r) message, the sender records its
       local time t_s and sends (synch, t_r,t_s) to the receiver.

     o Upon receiving (synch,t_r,t_s), the receiver sets D_t = t_s -
       t_r + S, where S is an estimated bound on the clock drift
       throughout the duration of the session.

     o Assuming that the messages are authentic (i.e., the message
       received by the receiver was actually sent by the sender), and
       assuming that the clock drift is at most S, then at any point
       throughout the session we have that T_s < T_r + D_t, where T_s
       is the current time at the sender and T_r is the current time at
       the receiver.

     o The exchange of sync messages needs to be authenticated. This can
       be done in a number of ways, for instance a secure NTP protocol,
       or in conjunction with a session set-up protocol.

   For indirect time synchronization (eg, synchronization via a group
   controller), the sender and the controller engage in a protocol for
   finding the value D^0_t between the sender and the controller. Next,
   each receiver R interacts with the group controller (say, when
   registering to the group) and finds the value D^R_t between the group
   controller and R. The overall value of D_t within R is set to the sum
   D_t = D^R_t + D^0_t.

3.4. Broadcasting Authenticated Messages

   Each key in the one-way key chain corresponds to a time interval.
   Every time a sender broadcasts a message, it appends a MAC to the
   message, using the key corresponding to the current time interval.
   The key remains secret for the next d-1 intervals, so messages a
   sender broadcasts in interval j effectively disclose key K_j-d. We
   call d the key disclosure delay.

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   We do not want to use the same key multiple times in different
   cryptographic operations, that is, to use key K_j to derive the
   previous key of the one-way key chain K_{j-1}, and to use the same
   key K_j as the key to compute the MACs in time interval j may
   potentially lead to a cryptographic weakness. Using a pseudo-random
   function (PRF) f', we construct the one-way function F': F'(k) =
   f'_k(1). We use F' to derive the key to compute the MAC of messages
   in each interval.  The sender derives the MAC key as follows: K'_i =
   F'(K_i). Figure 1 depicts the one-way key chain construction and MAC
   key derivation. To broadcast message M_j in interval i the sender
   constructs the packet

                P_j = {M_j || i || MAC(K'_i,M_j) || K_{i-d}}

   where || denotes concatenation.

                    F(K_i)     F(K_{i+1})      F(K_{i+2})
          K_{i-1} <------- K_i <------- K_{i+1} <------- K_{i+2}

              |             |              |
              | F'(K_{i-1}) | F'(K_i)      | F'(K_{i+1})
              |             |              |
              V             V              V

             K'_{i-1}      K'_i          K'_{i+1}

   Figure 1: At the top of the figure, we  see  the  one-way  key  chain
   (derived  using  the  one-way  function  F), and the derived MAC keys
   (derived using the one-way function F').

3.5. Authentication at Receiver

   Once a sender discloses a key, we must assume that all parties might
   have access to that key. An adversary could create a bogus message
   and forge a MAC using the disclosed key. So whenever a packet
   arrives, the receiver must verify that the MAC is based on a safe
   key; a safe key is one that is still secret (only known by the
   sender). We define a safe packet or safe message to be one with a MAC
   that is computed with a safe key.

   If a packet proves safe it will be buffered, only to be released when
   its own key, disclosed in a later packet, proves its authenticity.
   Although a newly arriving packet cannot immediately be authenticated,
   it may disclose a new key so that earlier, buffered packets can be
   authenticated. Any newly disclosed key must be checked to determine
   whether it is genuine, then authentication of buffered packets that
   have been waiting for it can proceed.

   We now describe TESLA authentication at the receiver with more
   precision, listing all of these steps in the exact order they should
   be carried out:

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     1.  Safe packet test: When the receiver receives packet P_j which
         carries an interval index i, and a disclosed key K_{i-d}, it
         first records local time T at which the packet arrived. The
         receiver then computes an upper bound t_j on the sender's clock
         at the time when the packet arrived: t_j = T + D_t. To test
         whether the packet is safe, the receiver then computes the
         highest interval x the sender could possibly be in, namely x =
         floor((t_j - T_0) / T_int). The receiver verifies that x < i +
         d (where i is the interval index), which implies that the
         sender is not yet in the interval during which it discloses the
         key K_i.

         Even if the packet is safe, the receiver cannot yet verify the
         authenticity of this packet sent in interval i without key K_i
         that will be disclosed later. Instead, it adds the triplet ( i,
         M_j, MAC( K'_i, M_j) ) to a buffer, and verifies the
         authenticity after it learns K'_i.

         If the packet is unsafe, then the receiver considers the packet 
         unauthenticated. It should discard unsafe packets but, at its 
         own risk it may choose to use them unverified.

     2.  New key index test: Next the receiver checks whether a key K_v
         has already been disclosed with the same or later index v than
         the current disclosed key K_{i-d}, that is with v >= i-d.

     3.  Key verification test: If the disclosed key index is new, the
         receiver checks the legitimacy of K_{i-d} by verifying, for
         some earlier disclosed key K_v (v<i-d), that K_v =

         If key verification fails, the newly arrived packet P_j should
         be discarded.

     4.  Message verification tests: If the disclosed key is legitimate,
         the receiver then verifies the authenticity of any earlier
         safe, buffered packets of interval i-d. To authenticate one of
         the buffered packets P_h containing message M_h protected with
         a MAC that used key index i-d, the receiver will compute
         K'_{i-d} = F'(K_{i-d}) from which it can compute MAC( K'_{i-d},

         If this MAC equals the MAC stored in the buffer, the packet is
         authenticated and can be released from the buffer. If the MACs
         do not agree, the buffered packet P_h should be discarded.

         The receiver continues to verify and release (or not) any
         remaining buffered packets that depend on the newly disclosed
         key K_{i-d}.

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   Using a disclosed key, we can calculate all previous disclosed keys,
   so even if packets are lost, we will still be able to verify
   buffered, safe packets from earlier time intervals. Thus, if i-d-v>1,
   the receiver can also verify the authenticity of the stored packets
   of intervals v+1 ... i-d-1.

3.6. Determining the Key Disclosure Delay

   An important TESLA parameter is the key disclosure delay d. Although
   the choice of the disclosure delay does not affect the security of
   the system, it is an important performance factor. A short disclosure
   delay will cause packets to lose their safety property, so receivers
   will not be able to authenticate them; but a long disclosure delay
   leads to a long authentication delay for receivers. We recommend
   determining the disclosure delay as follows: in direct time
   synchronization let the RTT, 2m, be a reasonable upper bound on the
   round trip time between the sender and any receiver including worst
   case congestion delay and worst case buffering delay in host stacks.
   Then choose d = ceil( 2m / T_int) + 1. Note that rounding up the
   quotient ensures that d >= 2. Also note that a disclosure delay of
   one time interval (d=1) does not work. Consider packets sent close to
   the boundary of the time interval: after the network propagation
   delay and the receiver time synchronization error, a receiver will
   not be able to authenticate the packet, because the sender will
   already be in the next time interval, when it discloses the
   corresponding key.

   Measuring the delay to each receiver before determining m will still
   not adequately predict the upper bound on delay to late joiners, or
   where congestion delay rises later in the session. It may be adequate
   to use a hard-coded historic estimate of worst-case delay (e.g. round
   trip delays to any host on the intra-planetary Internet rarely exceed
   500msec if routing remains stable). If such authentication delay is
   too pessimistic, the adaptive approach of section 3.7 may be an
   alternative, at the expense of extra packet overhead.

   We stress that the security of TESLA does not rely on any assumptions
   on network propagation delay: If the delay is longer than expected
   then authentic packets may be considered unauthenticated. Still, no
   inauthentic packet will be accepted as authentic.

3.7. An alternative delay description method

   The above description instructs the sender to include the time
   interval i in each packet. The receiver then uses i to determine the
   time at which the key authenticating the packet is disclosed. This
   method limits the the sender to a pre-determined schedule of
   disclosing keys.

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   Alternatively, the sender may directly include in each packet the
   time t_p at which it is going to disclose the key for this packet.
   This way, the receiver does not need to know the duration of
   intervals or the delay factor d. All the receiver needs to know is
   the bound D_t on the clock skew and T_0, the sender's local time at
   the initiation of the session. Then the receiver records the local
   time T when the packet has arrived, and verifies that

                           T <= T_0 + D_t + t_p.

   Else the packet is considered unauthenticated.

   Another advantage of this method is that the sender is able to change
   the duration of intervals and the key disclosure delay dynamically
   throughout the session. It is stressed, however, that the interval
   index i must still be included in the packet, to allow the receiver
   to know which key K_i should be used to verify the packet.

3.8. Denial of service protection

   Because TESLA authentication is delayed, receivers seem vulnerable to
   flooding attacks that cause them to buffer excess packets, even
   though they may eventually prove to be inauthentic. When TESLA is
   deployed in an environment with a threat of flooding attacks, the
   receiver can take a number of extra precautions.

   First we list simple DoS mitigation precautions that can and should
   be taken by any receiver independently of others, thus requiring no
   changes to the protocol or sender behaviour. We precisely specify
   where these extra steps interleave with the receiver authentication
   steps already given in section 3.5.

áá o Session validity test: Before the safe packet test (step 1), check
     that arriving packets have a valid source IP address and port 
     number for the session, that they do not replay a message already 
     received in the session and that they are not significantly larger 
     than the packet sizes expected in the session.

áá o Reasonable misordering test: Before the key verification test (step
     3), check the disclosed key index i-d of the arriving packet is
     within g of the previous highest disclosed key index v, thus for
     example i-d-v <= g. g sets the threshold beyond which an out of
     order key index is assumed to be malicious rather than just
     misordered. Without this test an attacker could exploit the
     iterated test in step 3 to make receivers consume inordinate CPU
     time checking along the hash chain for what appear to be extremely
     misordered packets.

     Each receiver can independently adapt g to prevailing attack
     conditions, for instance using the following algorithm. Initially,

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     g should be set to g_max (say 16). But whenever an arriving packet
     fails the reasonable misordering test above or the key verification
     test (step 3), g should be dropped to g_min (>0 and typically 1).
     At each successful key verification (step 3), g should be
     incremented by 1 unless it is already g_max. These precautions will
     guarantee that sustained attack packets cannot cause the receiver
     to execute more than an average of g_min hashes each, unless they
     are paced against genuine packets. In the latter case attacks are
     limited to g_max/(g_max-g_min) hashes per each genuine packet.

     g_max and g_min should be chosen knowing that they limit the
     average gap in a packet sequence to g.max(n,m)/n packets (see
     section 3.2 for definitions of n & m). So with g=1, m=100msec RTT
     and n=4msec inter-packet period, reordering would be limited to
     gaps of 25 packet on average. Bigger naturally occurring gaps would
     have to be written off as if they were losses.

   Stronger DoS protection requires both senders and receivers to
   arrange additional constraints on the protocol. Below we outline
   three alternative extensions to basic TESLA; the first adding group
   authentication, the second not re-using keys during a time interval
   and the third moving buffering to the sender.

   It is important to understand the applicability of each scheme, as
   the first two schemes use slightly more (but bounded) resources in
   order to prevent attackers from consuming unbounded resources. Adding 
   group authentication requires larger per packet overhead. Never 
   re-using a key requires both ends to process two hashes per packet 
   (rather than per time interval) and the sender must store or 
   re-generate a longer hash chain. The merits of each scheme, 
   summarised after describing each below, must be weighed against these 
   additional costs.

3.8.1. Additional group authentication

   This scheme simply involves addition of a group MAC to every packet.
   That is, a shared key K_g common to the whole group is communicated
   as an additional step during receiver bootstrap (section 3.3). Then,
   during broadcast of message M_j (section 3.4) the sender computes the
   group MAC of each packet MAC(K_g, P_j), which it appends to the
   packet header. Note that the group MAC covers the whole packet P_j,
   that is the concatenation of the message M_j and the additional TESLA
   authentication material, using the formula in section 3.4.
   Immediately on packet arrival, each receiver can check that each
   packet came from a group member, by recomputing and comparing the
   group MAC.

   It should be noted that TESLA source authentication is only necessary
   when other group members cannot be trusted to refrain from spoofing
   the source, otherwise simpler group authentication would be

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   sufficient. Therefore, additional group authentication will only make
   sense in scenarios where other group members are trusted to refrain
   from flooding the group, but they are still not trusted to refrain
   from spoofing the source.

3.8.2. Not re-using keys

   In TESLA as described so far, each MAC key was used repeatedly for
   all the packets sent in a time interval. If instead the sender were
   to guarantee never to use a MAC key more than once, each disclosed
   key could assume an additional purpose on top of authenticating a
   previously buffered packet. Each key would also immediately show each
   receiver that the sender of each arriving packet knew the next key
   back along the hash chain, which is now only ever disclosed once,
   similar to S/KEY [23]. Therefore a reasonable receiver strategy would
   be to discard any arriving packets that disclosed a key seen already.
   The fill rate of the receiver's buffer would then be clocked by each
   packet revealed by the genuine sender, preventing memory flooding

   An attacker with control of a network element or of a faster bypass
   network could intercept messages and overtake or replace them with
   different messages but the same keys. However, as long as packets are
   only buffered if they also pass the delay safety test, such bogus
   packets will fail TESLA verification after the disclosure delay.
   Admittedly, receivers could be fooled into discarding genuine
   messages that had been overtaken by bogus ones. But it is hard to
   overtake messages without compromising a network element. And any
   attacker that can compromise a network element can discard genuine
   messages anyway. We will now describe this scheme in more detail.

   For the sender the scheme is hardly different from TESLA. It merely
   uses an interval duration short enough to ensure a new key back along
   the hash chain for each packet. So the rule of thumb given in section
   3.2 for an efficient re-keying interval T_int no longer applies.
   Instead, T_int is simply n, the inter-arrival time between packets in
   milliseconds. The rule of thumb for calculating d, the key disclosure
   delay, remains unchanged from that given in section 3.6, or the
   explicit disclosure delay method in section 3.7 can be used.

   If the packet rate is likely to vary, for safety n should be taken as
   the minimum inter-departure time between any two packets. (In fact, n
   need not be so strict; it can be the minimum average packet
   inter-departure time over any burst of d packets expected throughout
   the session.)

   Note that if the packet rate slows down, whenever no packets are sent
   in a key change interval the key index must increment along the hash
   chain once for each missed interval. (During a burst, if the less
   strict definition of n above has been used, packets may need to

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   depart before their key change interval. The sender can safely
   continue changing the key each packet, using keys from future key
   intervals, because if n has been chosen as defined above, such bursts
   will never sustain long enough to cause the associated key to be
   disclosed less than the disclosure delay later.)

   To be absolutely clear, the precise guarantees that the sender keeps
   to by following the above guidance are:

   o not to re-use a MAC key

   o not to use a MAC key K_i after its time interval i

   o not to disclose key K_i sooner than the disclosure delay d * T_int
     following the packet it protects

   Sender setup, receiver bootstrapping and broadcasting authenticated
   messages are otherwise all identical to the descriptions in sections
   3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 respectively. However, the following step must be
   added to the receiver authentication steps in section 3.5:

   o After step 2, if a packet arrives carrying a key index i-d that has
     already been received, it should not be buffered.

   This simple scheme would suffice against DoS, were it not for the
   fact that a network sometimes misorders packets without being
   compromised. Even without control of a network element, an attacker
   can opportunistically exploit such openings to fool a receiver into
   buffering a bogus packet and discarding a later genuine one. A
   receiver can choose to set aside a fixed size cache and manage it to
   minimise the chances of discarding a genuine packet. However, given
   such vulnerabilities are rare and unpredictable, it is simpler to
   count these events as additions to the network loss rate. As always, 
   TESLA authentication will still uncover any bogus packets after the 
   disclosure delay.

   To summarise, avoiding re-using keys has the following properties,
   even under extreme flooding attacks:

   o After delayed TESLA authentication, packets arriving within the
     disclosure delay will always be identified as authentic if they are
     and inauthentic if they are not.

   o The fill rate of the receiver's buffer is clocked by each packet
     revealed by the genuine sender, preventing memory flooding attacks.

   o An attacker with control of a network element can cause any loss
     rate it chooses (but that's always true anyway).

   o Where attackers do not have control of any network elements, the
     effective loss rate is bounded by the sum of the network's actual
     loss rate and its re-ordering rate.

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3.8.3. Sender buffering

   Buffering of packets can be moved to the sender side, then receivers
   can authenticate packets immediately upon receipt. This method is
   described in [15].

3.9. Some extensions

   Let us mention two salient extensions of the basic TESLA scheme. A
   first extension allows having multiple TESLA authentication chains
   for a single stream, where each chain uses a different delay for
   disclosing the keys. This extension is typically used to deal with
   heterogeneous network delays within a single multicast transmission.
   A second extension allows having most of the buffering of packets at
   the sender side (rather than at the receiver side). Both extensions
   are described in [15].

   The requirement in TESLA to receive a key in a later packet for
   authentication prevents a receiver from authenticating the last part
   of a message. Thus, to enable authentication of the last part of a
   message or of the last message before a transmission suspension, the
   sender needs to send an empty message with the key to enable

4. Layer placement

   TESLA authentication can be performed at any layer in the networking
   stack. Three natural places are in the network, transport, or the
   application layer. We list some considerations regarding the choice
   of layer:

     o Performing TESLA in the network layer has the advantage that the
       transport or application layer only receives authenticated data,
       potentially aiding a reliability protocol and mitigating denial
       of service attacks. (Indeed, reliable multicast tools based on
       forward error correction are highly susceptible to denial of
       service due to bogus packets.)

     o Performing TESLA in either the transport or the application layer
       has the advantage that the network layer remains unchanged; but
       it has the potential drawback that packets are obtained by the
       application layer only after being processed by the transport
       layer. Consequently, if buffering is used in the transport then 
       this may introduce additional and unpredictable delays on top of 
       the unavoidable network delays.

     o It should be kept in mind that, since TESLA relies upon timing of
       packets, deploying TESLA on top of a protocol or layer which
       aggressively buffers packets and hides the true packet arrival
       time will significantly reduce TESLA's performance.

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5. IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.

6. Security Considerations

   See the academic publications on TESLA [8,14,20] for several
   security analyses. Regarding the security of implementations, by
   far the most delicate point is the verification of the timing
   conditions. Care should be taken to make sure that: (a) the
   value bound D_t on the clock skew is calculated according to the
   spec at session set-up; (b) the receiver records the arrival time
   of the packet as soon as possible after the packet's arrival, and
   computes the safety condition correctly.

   Finally, in common with all authentication schemes, if verification
   is located separately from the ultimate destination application (e.g.
   an IPSec tunnel end point), a trusted channel must be present between
   verification and the application. For instance, the interface between
   the verifier and the application might simply assume that packets
   received by the application must have been verified by the verifier
   (because otherwise they would have been dropped). The application is
   then vulnerable to reception of packets that have managed to bypass
   the verifier.

7. Acknowledgments

   We would like to thank the following for their feedback and support:
   Mike Luby, Mark Baugher, Mats Naslund, Dave McGrew, Ross Finlayson,
   Sylvie Laniepce, Lakshminath Dondeti, Russ Housley and the IESG

8. References

All references are informative.

   [1] T. Dierks and C. Allen, "The TLS protocol version 1.0." Internet
   Request for Comments RFC 2246, January 1999. Proposed standard.

   [2] IPsec, "IP Security Protocol, IETF working group."

   [3] D. Boneh, G. Durfee, and M. Franklin, "Lower bounds for multicast
   message authentication," in Advances in Cryptology -- EUROCRYPT '2001
   (B. Pfitzmann, ed.), vol. 2045 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science ,
   (Innsbruck, Austria), pp. 434--450, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Germany,

   [4] R. Gennaro and P. Rohatgi, "How to Sign Digital Streams," tech.
   rep., IBM T.J.Watson Research Center, 1997.

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   [5] P. Rohatgi, "A compact and fast hybrid signature scheme for mul-
   ticast packet authentication," in 6th ACM Conference on Computer and
   Communications Security , November 1999.

   [6] P. Rohatgi, "A hybrid signature scheme for multicast source
   authentication," Internet Draft, Internet Engineering Task Force,
   June 1999. Work in progress.

   [7] C. K. Wong and S. S. Lam, "Digital signatures for flows and mul-
   ticasts," in Proc. IEEE ICNP `98 , 1998.

   [8] A. Perrig, R. Canetti, J. Tygar, and D. X. Song, "Efficient
   authentication and signing of multicast streams over lossy channels,"
   in IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy , May 2000.

   [9] R. Canetti, J. Garay, G. Itkis, D. Micciancio, M. Naor, and B.
   Pinkas, "Multicast security: A taxonomy and some efficient construc-
   tions," in Infocom '99 , 1999.

   [10] S. Cheung, "An efficient message authentication scheme for link
   state routing," in 13th Annual Computer Security Applications Confer-
   ence , 1997.

   [11] F. Bergadano, D. Cavagnino, and B. Crispo, "Chained stream
   authentication," in Selected Areas in Cryptography 2000 , (Waterloo,
   Canada), August 2000. A talk describing this scheme was given at IBM
   Watson in August 1998.

   [12] F. Bergadano, D. Cavalino, and B. Crispo, "Individual single
   source authentication on the mbone," in ICME 2000 , Aug 2000. A talk
   containing this work was given at IBM Watson, August 1998.

   [13] A. Perrig and J. D. Tygar, Secure Broadcast Communication in
   Wired and Wireless Networks Kluwer Academic Publishers, Oct. 2002.
   ISBN 0792376501.

   [14] A. Perrig, R. Canetti, J. D. Tygar, and D. Song, "The tesla
   broadcast authentication protocol," RSA CryptoBytes , vol. 5, no.
   Summer, 2002.

   [15] A. Perrig, R. Canetti, D. Song, and J. D. Tygar, "Efficient and
   secure source authentication for multicast," in Network and Dis-
   tributed System Security Symposium, NDSS '01 , pp. 35--46, February

   [16] D. L. Mills, "Network Time Protocol (Version 3) Specification,
   Implementation and Analysis." Internet Request for Comments, March
   1992. RFC 1305.

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   [17] B. Simons, J. Lundelius-Welch, and N. Lynch, "An overview of
   clock synchronization," in Fault-Tolerant Distributed Computing (B.
   Simons and A. Spector, eds.), no. 448 in LNCS, pp. 84--96, Springer-
   Verlag, Berlin Germany, 1990.

   [18] D. Mills, "Improved algorithms for synchronizing computer net-
   work clocks," in Proceedings of the conference on Communications
   architectures, protocols and applications, SIGCOMM 94 , (London,
   England), pp. 317--327, 1994.

   [19] L. Lamport and P. Melliar-Smith, "Synchronizing clocks in the
   presence of faults," J. ACM , vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 52--78, 1985.

   [20] Philippa Broadfoot and Gavin Lowe, "Analysing a Stream
   Authentication Protocol using Model Checking. In Proceedings of the
   7th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security (ESORICS),

   [21] M. Jakobsson, "Fractal hash sequence representation and traver¡
   sal."  Cryptology ePrint Archive,,
   Jan. 2002.

   [22] D. Coppersmith and M. Jakobsson, "Almost optimal hash sequence
   traversal," in Proceedings of the Sixth International Financial Cryp¡
   tography Conference (FC '02) , March 2002.

   [23] N. Haller, "The S/KEY one-time password system," IETF RFC 1760,
   February 1995.

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A. Author Contact Information

Adrian Perrig
ECE Department
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Ran Canetti
IBM Research
30 Saw Mill River Rd
Hawthorne, NY 10532

Dawn Song
ECE Department
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Doug Tygar
UC Berkeley
102 South Hall, 4600
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600

Bob Briscoe
BT Research
B54/77, BT Labs
Martlesham Heath
Ipswich, IP5 3RE

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B. Full Copyright Statement, IPR Notice and Disclaimer

      Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is
      subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP
      78, and except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their

      The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
      Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed
      to pertain to the implementation or use of the technology
      described in this document or the extent to which any license
      under such rights might or might not be available; nor does it
      represent that it has made any independent effort to identify any
      such rights.  Information on the procedures with respect to rights
      in RFC documents can be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

      Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
      assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
      attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use
      of such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
      specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository

      The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention
      any copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other
      proprietary rights that may cover technology that may be required
      to implement this standard.  Please address the information to the
      IETF at

      This document and the information contained herein are provided on

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Change log (to be removed before publication)

   Main changes from draft-03 are:

   * Abstract

     Completely re-written to fit length guidelines

   * Section 2. Functionality:

     Added some clarification of the properties of TESLA

   * Section 3. The Basic TESLA Protocol

     Clarified why other TESLA publications are not normative

   * Section 3.2 Sender Setup

     Removed the duplicate rule of thumb for determining d, and replaced
     with reference forward to section 3.6. Replaced the imprecise
     definition of m with half the precise definition of RTT from
     section 3.6:

     o Section 3.2 said d = ceil(2m/T_int);

     o Section 3.6 said d = ceil(RTT/T_int) + 1

     o Section 3.2 defined m as "the average network delay"

     o Section 3.6 defined RTT as "a reasonable upper bound on the round
       trip time between the sender and any receiver"

     Added extra discussion of choice of key interval wrt congestion
     and late joiners.

   * Section 3.3 Bootstrapping Receivers

     Clarified that any receiver including late joiners can do time
     synchronization independently of others.

   * Section 3.5 Receiver authentication

     I had to completely re-arrange this to better allow the DoS
     section to refer back to it. This was tough. Firstly, I enumerated
     each step and gave them names (which should also help when other
     standards refer to this one), so I could interleave steps
     later in the DoS section. Secondly, the original text focused on
     one packet, staying with it during buffering then eventual
     verification. Instead, I traced the procedures that would be

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     triggered as a packet arrived. This involved leaving it in the
     buffer for later and tracing through to the earlier packets it
     released from the buffer.

   * Section 3.6 Determining the Key Disclosure Delay

     Added extra discussion of choice of disclosure delay wrt congestion
     and late joiners.

   * Section 3.8 Denial of service protection

     Added whole new section

   * Section 6 Security Considerations

     Removed high level discussion of DoS

   * Throughout

     Spell-checked, fixed cross-referencing & nits, formatted.

   * Fixed all the other IESG comments in


     IANA considerations, boilerplate stuff, Acknowledgements, other
     content issues covered in the relevant sections.

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