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Checking Resource Consistency with HTTP Mirrors

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (privacypass WG)
Authors Benjamin Beurdouche , Matthew Finkel , Steven Valdez , Christopher A. Wood , Tommy Pauly
Last updated 2024-04-07 (Latest revision 2024-01-30)
Replaces draft-group-privacypass-consistency-mirror
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Privacy Pass                                               B. Beurdouche
Internet-Draft                                                   Mozilla
Intended status: Standards Track                               M. Finkel
Expires: 2 August 2024                                        Apple Inc.
                                                               S. Valdez
                                                              Google LLC
                                                              C. A. Wood
                                                                T. Pauly
                                                              Apple Inc.
                                                         30 January 2024

            Checking Resource Consistency with HTTP Mirrors


   This document describes the mirror protocol, an HTTP-based protocol
   for fetching mirrored HTTP resources.  The primary use case for the
   mirror protocol is to support HTTP resource consistency checks in
   protocols that require clients have a consistent view of some
   protocol-specific resource (typically, a public key) for security or
   privacy reasons, including Privacy Pass and Oblivious HTTP.  To that
   end, this document also describes how to use the mirror protocol to
   implement these consistency checks.

About This Document

   This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Status information for this document may be found at

   Discussion of this document takes place on the Privacy Pass Working
   Group mailing list (, which is archived
   at  Subscribe

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at

Status of This Memo

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

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 2 August 2024.

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   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
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   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Conventions and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  Mirror Protocol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     4.1.  Mirror Request and Response Example . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   5.  Using Mirrors for Consistency Checks  . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     5.1.  Handling Consistency Failures . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     5.2.  Selecting Mirror Servers  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     5.3.  Consistency Validity Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     5.4.  Privacy Pass Profile  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.5.  Oblivious HTTP Profile  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   8.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     8.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     8.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13

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1.  Introduction

   Privacy-enhancing protocols such as Privacy Pass [PRIVACYPASS] and
   Oblivious HTTP [OHTTP] require clients to obtain and use a public key
   for execution.  In Privacy Pass, public keys are used by clients when
   issuing and redeeming tokens for anonymous authorization.  In
   Oblivious HTTP (OHTTP), clients use public keys to encrypt messages
   to a gateway server.

   Deployments of protocols such as Privacy Pass and OHTTP requires that
   very large sets of clients share the same key, or even that all
   clients globally share the same key.  This is because the privacy
   properties depend on the client anonymity set size.  In other words,
   the key that's used determines the set to which a particular client
   belongs.  Using a unique, client-specific key would yield an
   anonymity set of size one, therefore violating the desired privacy
   goals of the system.  Clients that use the same key as one another
   are said to have a consistent view of the key.

   [CONSISTENCY] describes this notion of consistency in more detail.
   It also outlines several designs that can be used as the basis for
   consistency systems.  This document is a concrete instantiation of
   one of those designs, "Shared Cache Discovery".  In particular, this
   document describes the mirror protocol, which is a protocol for
   fetching a cached copy of an HTTP resource from so-called mirrors.
   In this context, a mirror is an HTTP resource that fetches and caches
   copies of other HTTP resources that can be returned to clients.  In
   turn, clients can then use these cached resource copies for
   consistency checks, i.e., to compare their expected representation of
   the resource against that which the mirrors provide.

   The mirror protocol can be run one or more times by an application to
   achieve the desired consistency criteria.  For example, the mirror
   protocol can be run once with a trusted mirror, or more than once
   with many, potentially less trusted mirrors, and used for determining
   consistency.  Section 5 provides general guidance for using the
   mirror protocol for consistency checks, along with specific profiles
   of the protocol for Privacy Pass and OHTTP in Section 5.4 and
   Section 5.5, respectively.

2.  Conventions and Definitions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

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3.  Terminology

   The following terms are used throughout this document:

   *  Resource: A HTTP resource identified by a URL.

   *  Normalized resource representation: A unique or otherwise
      protocol-specific representation that is derived from an HTTP
      resource.  The process of normalization is specific to a protocol
      and the resource in question.

   *  Mirror: A HTTP resource that fetches and caches HTTP resources.

4.  Mirror Protocol

   The mirror protocol is a simple HTTP-based protocol similar to a
   reverse proxy.  Each mirror resource, henceforth referred to as a
   mirror, is identified by a Mirror URI Template [RFC6570].  The scheme
   for the Mirror URI Template MUST be "https".  The Mirror URI Template
   uses the Level 3 encoding defined Section 1.2 of [RFC6570] and
   contains one variables: "target", which is the percent-encoded URL of
   a HTTP resource to be mirrored.  Example Mirror URI Templates are
   shown below.


   The Mirror URI Template MUST contain the "target" variable exactly
   once.  The variable MUST be within the path or query components of
   the URI.

   In addition, each mirror is configured with a MIN_VALIDITY_WINDOW
   parameter, which is an integer indicating the minimum time for
   resources the mirror will cache according to their "max-age" response
   directive.  We refer to the validity window of the mirror response as
   the period of time determined by the Cache-Control headers as the

   Clients send requests to mirror resources after being configured with
   their corresponding Mirror URI Template.  Clients MUST ignore
   configurations that do not conform to this template.

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   Upon receipt of a mirror request, mirrors validate the incoming
   request.  If the request is invalid or malformed, e.g., the "target"
   parameter is not a correctly encoded URL, the mirror aborts and
   returns a a 4xx (Client Error) to the client.  The mirror SHOULD
   check that the target resource identified by the "target" parameter
   is allowed by policy, e.g., so that it is not abused to fetch
   arbitrary resources.  One way to implement this check is via an
   allowlist of target URLs.

   If the request is valid and allowed, the mirror checks to see if it
   has a cached version of the resource identified by the target URL.
   Mirrors can provide a cached response to a client request if the
   following criteria are met:

   1.  The target URL matches that of a cached response.

   2.  The cached response is fresh according to its Cache-Control
       header (see Section 4.2 of [CACHING]).

   If both criteria are met, the mirror encodes the cached response
   using Binary HTTP [BHTTP] and returns it to the client in a response.
   The mirror response includes a Cache-Control header with "max-age"
   directive set to that of the cached response.

   Otherwise, mirrors send a GET request to the target resource URL,
   copying the Accept header from the client request if present.  If
   this request fails, the mirror returns a 4xx error to the client.  If
   this request suceeeds, the mirror checks it for validity.  The
   response is considered valid and stored in the mirror's cache if the
   following criteria are met:

   1.  The response can be cached according to the rules in Section 3 of
       [CACHING].  In particular, if the request had a Vary header, this
       is used in determining whether the mirror's response is valid.

   2.  The Cache-Control header is present, has a "max-age" response
       directive that is greater than or equal to MIN_VALIDITY_WINDOW,
       and does not have a "no-store" or "private" directive.

   Mirrors purge this cache when the response is no longer valid
   according to the Cache-Control headers.

   To complete the client request, the mirror then encodes the response
   using Binary HTTP [BHTTP] and returns it to the client in a response.
   The mirror response incldues a Cache-Control header with "max-age"
   directive set to that of the cached response.

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   Clients recover the target's mirrored response by Binary HTTP
   decoding the mirror response content.

4.1.  Mirror Request and Response Example

   The following example shows two mirror request and response examples.
   The first one yields a mirror cache miss and the second one yields a
   mirror cache hit.  The Mirror URI Template is
   "https://mirror.example/mirror{?target}", and the target URL is

   The first client request to the mirror might be the following.

:method = GET
:scheme = https
:authority = mirror.example
:path = /mirror?target=https%3A%2F%2Fissuer.example%2F.well-known%2Fprivate-token-issuer-directory
accept = application/private-token-issuer-directory

   Upon receipt, the mirror decodes the "target" parameter, inspects its
   cache for a copy of the resource, and then constructs a HTTP request
   to the target URL to fetch the content.  If present, the relay copies
   the Accept header from the client request to the request sent to the
   target.  This mirror request to the target might be the following.

   :method = GET
   :scheme = https
   :authority = target.example
   :path = /.well-known/private-token-issuer-directory
   accept = application/private-token-issuer-directory

   The target response is then returned to the mirror, like so:

   :status = 200
   content-type = application/private-token-issuer-directory
   content-length = ...
   cache-control: max-age=3600

   <Bytes containing a private token issuer directory>

   The mirror caches this response content for the target URL, encodes
   it using Binary HTTP [BHTTP], and then returns the response to the

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   :status = 200
   content-length = ...
   cache-control: max-age=3600

   <Bytes containing the target's BHTTP-encoded response>

   When a second client asks for the same request by the mirror it can
   be served with the cached copy.  The second client's request might be
   the following:

:method = GET
:scheme = https
:authority = mirror.example
:path = /mirror?target=https%3A%2F%2Fissuer.example%2F.well-known%2Fprivate-token-issuer-directory

   The mirror validates the request, locates the cached copy of the
   content, and then returns it to the client without updating its
   cached copy.

   :status = 200
   content-length = ...
   cache-control: max-age=3600

   <Bytes containing the target's BHTTP-encoded response>

5.  Using Mirrors for Consistency Checks

   Clients can use mirrors to implement consistency checks for a
   candidate HTTP resource.  In particular, in possession of the target
   URL at which the resource was obtained, as well as an authoritative
   representation of the resource, clients can check to see if this
   resource is consistent with that of the mirror's as follows:

   1.  Send a mirror request to the mirror for the target URL.  If the
       request fails, fail this consistency check.

   2.  Otherwise, compute the first valid representation of the resource
       based on the mirror's response.

   3.  Compare the computed representation to the input resource
       representation.  If they do not match, fail this consistency
       check.  Otherwise, this consistency check succeeds.

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   The benefits of using the mirror protocol to check consistency depend
   on a multitude of factors, including, but not limited to, the number
   of clients interacting with a particular mirror, whether or not the
   mirror is trustworthy, and application requirements for dealing with
   consistency check failures.

5.1.  Handling Consistency Failures

   If a consistency check fails because the mirrored resource did not
   match, the client MUST NOT use the original resource.  For cases
   where the check failed because the client was unable to communicate
   with the mirror, client policy dictates whether or not to assume the
   resource is consistent.  Client behavior for what to do in the case
   of inconsistency can vary depending on the protocol, availability of
   alternative services, and client policy.

   If the client has multiple options for equivalent services, it can
   choose to fall back from a service that failed a consistency check to
   one that passed all consistency checks.  For example, if a client has
   the option of using one of a set of Privacy Pass token issuers, it
   can choose an issuer that passes all consistency checks.

   If the service that failed the consistency check is an optional
   optimization for the client, the client can simply choose to not use
   the service.  For example, if a Privacy Pass token is used to avoid
   showing the user a CAPTCHA, but the Privacy Pass token issuer fails
   the consistency check, the client can fall back to showing the user a

   For cases where the client has no alternate services to use, and the
   service is required in order to perform user-facing functionality,
   the client SHOULD report the error in a visible way that presents the
   error to the user or an administrator.  This functionality can be
   similar to how invalid TLS certificates are reported.

5.2.  Selecting Mirror Servers

   In many of these systems where the mirror protocol might be used,
   including common configurations for Privacy Pass and OHTTP, there is
   already a party who is necessarily trusted to protect the user's
   privacy, and whose operational availability is already a prerequisite
   for using the system.  In OHTTP, this is the Relay; in Privacy Pass
   it might be the Attester (in Split Mode) or a transport proxy.

   When such a party exists, it is RECOMMENDED that they operate a
   mirror service for their users, and that clients do not use any other
   mirrors for the purposes of consistency checks.  This avoids
   revealing any metadata about the client's activity to additional

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   parties and reduces the likelihood of an outage.  More information
   for implementing this check in the context of Privacy Pass and OHTTP
   is provided in Section 5.4 and Section 5.5, respectively.

   In some cases, this trusted party can provide consistency enforcement
   through a protocol-specific mechanism (e.g.,
   [] for Privacy Pass in Split
   Mode).  Protocol-specific consistency mechanisms may be preferable to
   protocol-agnostic consistency checks based on the mirror protocol,
   especially if they provide equivalent consistency guarantees with
   better performance or reliability.

5.3.  Consistency Validity Period

   Executing a consistency check provides a client with some assurance
   that other clients may be using the same resource Section 6.
   However, this result only reflects a mirror's view of a resource at a
   particular point in time.  The client should periodically re-check
   consistency.  The frequency of re-checking depends on the
   requirements of the client Section 5.  Clients should re-confirm
   consistency of a cached resource if it is not fresh (see Section 4.2
   of [CACHING]).

   Two strategies for maintaining consistency are: 1.  Pre-emptively
   execute a consistency check for a resource that is expiring soon; and
   1.  Execute a consistency check of an expired resource at the time of
   its next use.

   For strategy 1, clients that execute consistency checks at the same
   time can induce a thundering herd that overwhelms the mirror
   resource.  Since coordinating consistency checks across clients is
   difficult, clients can instead execute consistency checks at random
   times before the resource expires.  Clients that have more
   information about a mirror's available capacity can choose different
   implementations for strategy 1.

   Strategy 2 might be preferrable for a service and resource that is
   infrequently used.  However, a consequence of this strategy is that
   it can reveal a client's usage patterns to the mirror.

   When the origin server has multiple versions of a resource
   corresponding to a URL, it should respond with the resource that is
   both currently valid and will remain fresh for the longest amount of
   time in the future.

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5.4.  Privacy Pass Profile

   Clients are given as input an issuer token key from an origin server
   and want to check whether it is consistent with the key that is given
   to other clients.  Let the input key be denoted token_key and its
   identifier be token_key_id.  Clients are also given as input the name
   of the issuer, from which they can construct the target URL for the
   issuer directory.  If clients have already checked this issuer’s
   token key, i.e., they’ve previously run a consistency check, they can
   simply reuse the result up to its expiration.  Otherwise, clients
   invoke a mirror-based consistency check in parallel with the issuance

   Each issuer directory can yield one or more normalized
   representations that clients use in the consistency check.  For
   example, given a mirrored token directory resource like the

     "issuer-request-uri": "",
     "token-keys": [
         "token-type": 2,
         "token-key": "MI...AB",
         "not-before": 1686913811,
         "token-type": 2,
         "token-key": "MI...AQ",

   Clients compute the first valid representation of this directory,
   i.e., the first entry in the list that the client can use, which
   might be the key ID of the first key in the "token-keys" list
   (depending on the "not-before" value), or the key ID of the second
   key in the "token-keys" list.  The key ID is computed as defined in
   Section 6.5 of [PRIVACYPASS-ISSUANCE].

5.5.  Oblivious HTTP Profile

   Clients can run consistency checks for OHTTP in several ways
   depending on the deployment.  In practice, common deployments are as

   1.  Clients are configured with gateway configurations; and

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   2.  Clients fetch gateway configurations before use.

   In both cases, clients begin with a gateway configuration and want to
   check it for consistency.  In OHTTP, there is exactly one
   representation for a gateway configuration – the configuration
   itself.  Before using the configuration to encrypt a binary HTTP
   message to the gateway, clients can run a consistency check with
   their configured mirror(s) to ensure that this configuration is
   correct for the given gateway.

6.  Security Considerations

   Consistency checks assume that the client-configured set of mirrors
   is honest.  Under this assumption, the consistency properties of
   consistency checks based on the mirror protocol are as follows:

   1.  With honest mirrors, clients that successfully check a resource
       are assured that they share the same copy of the resource with
       the union of mirror clients for each configured mirror.

   2.  Consistency only holds for the period of time of the minimum
       mirror validity window.

   3.  With at least one dishonest mirror, the probability of
       discovering an inconsistency is 1 - (1 / 2^(k-1)), where k is the
       number of disjoint consistency checks.  This is the probability
       that each individual consistency check succeeds.

   Unless all clients share the same configured mirrors, consistency
   checks using the mirror protocol do not achieve global consistency as
   is defined in [CONSISTENCY].

7.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [BHTTP]    Thomson, M. and C. A. Wood, "Binary Representation of HTTP
              Messages", RFC 9292, DOI 10.17487/RFC9292, August 2022,

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              Davidson, A., Finkel, M., Thomson, M., and C. A. Wood,
              "Key Consistency and Discovery", Work in Progress,
              Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-privacypass-key-consistency-01,
              10 July 2023, <

   [OHTTP]    Thomson, M. and C. A. Wood, "Oblivious HTTP", Work in
              Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-ohai-ohttp-10, 25
              August 2023, <

              Davidson, A., Iyengar, J., and C. A. Wood, "The Privacy
              Pass Architecture", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-ietf-privacypass-architecture-16, 25 September 2023,

              Celi, S., Davidson, A., Valdez, S., and C. A. Wood,
              "Privacy Pass Issuance Protocol", Work in Progress,
              Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-privacypass-protocol-16, 3
              October 2023, <

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

   [RFC6570]  Gregorio, J., Fielding, R., Hadley, M., Nottingham, M.,
              and D. Orchard, "URI Template", RFC 6570,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6570, March 2012,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

8.2.  Informative References

   [CACHING]  Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke,
              Ed., "HTTP Caching", STD 98, RFC 9111,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9111, June 2022,

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              Schwartz, B. M., "Key Consistency by Double-Checking via a
              Semi-Trusted Proxy", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-schwartz-ohai-consistency-doublecheck-03, 19 October
              2022, <

              Pauly, T. and C. A. Wood, "Privacy Pass In-Band Key
              Consistency Checks", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-pw-privacypass-in-band-consistency-00, 10 July 2023,


   This document is based on the [DOUBLE-CHECK] protocol from Benjamin

Authors' Addresses

   Benjamin Beurdouche

   Matthew Finkel
   Apple Inc.

   Steven Valdez
   Google LLC

   Christopher A. Wood

   Tommy Pauly
   Apple Inc.

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