Network Working Group                                           S. Blank
Internet-Draft                                                  Valimail
Intended status: Informational                                N. Kumaran
Expires: September 12, 2019                                       Google
                                                          J. Levine, Ed.
                                                           Standcore LLC
                                                          March 11, 2019

                   An Overview of the Design of BIMI


   Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) provides a
   mechanism for mail senders to publish a validated logotype that mail
   receivers can display with the senders' messages.  This document
   provides a brief overview of BIMI and examines some of the trade offs
   and decisions in its design.

Discussion venue

   Comments on this draft may be directed to the BIMI list at

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
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

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

   This Internet-Draft will expire on September 12, 2019.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2019 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 1]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  High level architecture and data flow . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Risks and problems of BIMI  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.1.  Private club  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.2.  Inconsistent validation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.3.  Pay to Play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.4.  User Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  Indicator Publishing Options  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     4.1.  Message header  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     4.2.  S/MIME signatures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     4.3.  DNS assertion records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   5.  Validation Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     5.1.  Indicator Usage and Rights Validation Scenarios . . . . .   9
     5.2.  Registered Mark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     5.3.  Registered Mark (untrusted jurisdiction)  . . . . . . . .   9
     5.4.  Common Use Mark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.5.  Common Use Mark (untrusted jurisdiction)  . . . . . . . .  10
     5.6.  New/Rebranded Mark  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.7.  Mildly Altered Mark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.8.  Multiple Marks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     5.9.  Derivative Mark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     5.10. Co-marketing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     5.11. Franchisee  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   6.  Validator options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     6.1.  Pros and cons of validation approaches  . . . . . . . . .  13
     6.2.  Receiver Managed Reputation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     6.3.  Remote Reputation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.4.  Centralized system  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.5.  Self validation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.6.  Third Party Validation Publishing Options . . . . . . . .  15
       6.6.1.  Publishing validation: Certificates . . . . . . . . .  15
       6.6.2.  Publishing validation: API  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     6.7.  General Issues of Validation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   7.  Consuming the indicator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     7.1.  Issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   8.  Reporting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 2]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   9.  Threats and Remediation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     9.1.  Bad indicators  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     9.2.  Revoking Certificates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     9.3.  Geographic scope  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     9.4.  IMAP flags  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   10. Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19

1.  Introduction

   Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) provides a
   mechanism for mail senders to publish a validated indicator, which is
   typically a logotype, that mail receivers can display with the
   senders' messages.

   For senders, an indicator published with BIMI is available to any
   recipient without having to make individual arrangements with each
   recipient system.  BIMI indicators are only displayed with messages
   that are validated with DMARC [RFC7489].  For senders that want to
   have their indicator displayed ("brand impression") this may provide
   an incentive to make their mail streams DMARC compliant.

   For mail systems that display indicators next to messages, BIMI
   provides an automatic way to obtain indicators that have been
   validated by third parties, without having to individually research
   or contact each sender.

2.  High level architecture and data flow

   A sender publishes its indicator by putting a file containing the
   indicator's image on the web, or possibly several images if they want
   to show it in various forms.  The sender may arrange for a third
   party to verify that the sender is authorized to use the indicator.

   The sender then publishes one or more DNS records with names like, containing tags with the URIs of the
   indicator(s), and URIs of validation information if any.  If it wants
   to associate different indicators with different messages, it can
   publish several DNS records with the various indicator URIs, and the
   message can pick a selector (see below.)

   Then the sender sends mail the usual way, arranging for it to be
   DMARC validated.  If it wants to pick a particular indicator, a
   message can include a BIMI-selector header to pick a particular
   selector.  Otherwise it implicitly uses the "default" selector.
   (Note that this allows mail to use BIMI without having to include any
   new BIMI material at all.)

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 3]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   The recipient system receives the mail and does DMARC validation as
   usual.  If DMARC passes, it does a DNS lookup of the BIMI record
   using the DMARC validated domain and the appropriate selector.  It
   fetches the indicator(s) using the URIs in the DNS record, may check
   the third party validation, and may make other checks to decide
   whether the indicator is usable.

   Assuming that all worked, the recipient system adds the usual
   Authentication-Results header with the DMARC and BIMI validation
   results, and a new BIMI-Location header that contains the URIs of the
   indicator files to the message.  An MUA, either one integrated into a
   webmail system or a separate one, can use the BIMI-Location header
   URIs to fetch the indicators to display to the user, per its own

3.  Risks and problems of BIMI

   BIMI inherently assumes that showing indicators with mail messages is
   desirable, and standardizing how this is done is of value for senders
   and perhaps for recipients.  Some mail systems have been showing
   logos and other per-sender images such as avatars or pictures of the
   sender for a long time.

   Since indicator validation requires human effort, there will always
   be avenues to show indicators that are confusing or malicious.  BIMI
   attempts to contain those abuse vectors in its validation process and
   ensure they are mitigatable at scale.  Even assuming abuse is
   successfully contained within the validation mechanisms, there are
   other inherent risks and potential problems that could arise out of
   the usage of BIMI if it is improperly architected or implemented.
   Some of the most concerning are detailed below.  The trade offs
   between potential problems and benefits remains unclear.

3.1.  Private club

   Currently large mail systems show indicators of large senders using
   fragmented methods to identify the senders' mail and the indicators
   to use.  One of the goals of BIMI is to open up the process to
   organizations that don't have access to representatives of receiving
   systems, or the ability to go through a separate process for each
   receiver, but if implemented poorly, it just changes the secret
   handshake.  While many domains may publish validated logos via BIMI,
   others will be unable to or intentionally decline to participate.
   Similarly BIMI can identify some set of indicators to tie to senders,
   but will never handle a complete set of validated indicators either.

   Depending on DMARC means that only senders with their own domain can
   use BIMI.  It can't identify many small senders that share their

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 4]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   providers' mail domains, e.g., a girl scout troop using a single
   address from their provider, such as, even though
   the troop has a license to use the Scouts' trefoil logo.  A modified
   design could address this, described later.

   Conversely, if the indicator has to be a registered trademark, that
   limits BIMI to organizations big enough to pay for and maintain a
   trademark registration (in the US typically several thousand dollars
   to get a trademark, and several hundred dollars every few years for
   maintenance.)  Some countries have no trademark registries, or do no
   meaningful examination, which means that people in those countries
   are out of luck.  On the other hand, if the indicator doesn't have to
   be registered, see the next section.

3.2.  Inconsistent validation

   To the extent that BIMI has multiple validation methods, it will
   produce different results on different mail systems.  If systems use
   their own reputation data to decide whose indicators to show,
   indicators that appear on one system may not appear on another.  If
   there are third party validators (certificate authorities or the
   like), there's no reason to assume that everyone will accept the same
   set of validators, any more than every HTTPS client trusts the same
   set of CA's.

   Determining whether an indicator in an SVG file is the same as one in
   a trademark registry is non-deterministic.  The picture in a
   trademark registry is typically a low resolution monochrome image.
   (For example, see the copy of the IETF logo at
   There is no mechanical way to decide whether two images in different
   resolutions and different sizes and colors drawn different ways are
   "the same".  At some point, people will have to look at them and
   decide, and they will not always decide the same way.  There is
   limited existing practice to work from, primarily trademark
   examination to determine whether a proposed trademark is
   "substantially similar" to one registered elsewhere.  Trademark legal
   disputes are invariably about whether marks are likely to be
   confused, not whether they are the same, and in any event the
   resolution of the dispute generally involves lawyers and expert
   witnesses.  Dispute resolution about indicators is unlikely to work
   at Internet scale.

   For the vast numbers of organizations that don't have registered
   trademarks, the problem is even worse since there's no agreed way to
   find the reference mark to compare the indicator to.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 5]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   And, of course, there's no guarantee that the third party validators
   will be consistently honest, competent, and diligent.  Experience
   with certificate authorities suggests that is improbable.

3.3.  Pay to Play

   DMARC started with limited use to protect heavily phished domains,
   with being the usual example.  As DMARC rolled out in
   other fashions (such as AOL and Yahoo! using it to deal with address
   book theft), it soon became widely used and increasingly required.
   This is because DMARC is a fairly effective tool to deter exact
   domain phishing attacks and email-borne fraud.  However, DMARC has
   proved difficult to deploy for many organizations.  While there are
   some free resources to help people get their DMARC set up, in
   practice it means that businesses pay someone to make their DMARC
   work.  Similarly, although the current plan is for BIMI to be totally
   optional, it's not hard to see it going down the same path,
   especially if logo validation is perceived by senders as a signal to
   receiving systems to help disambiguate fraudulent mail streams.  Even
   if there are paths to getting a validated BIMI indicator without a
   full trademark registration, it's likely to be complex enough that
   most organizations will need a consultant.  Hence it would end up as
   another expensive hoop to jump through just so you can send some mail
   to your clients.

   Even if you do your BIMI implementation yourself, third party
   validators will not be free.  Validation is labor intensive, both the
   process of determining that your domain matches the organization that
   owns the indicator, and the process of comparing the reference
   indicator to the proposed indicator.  If it's a derivative or
   otherwise modified mark (the girl scout troop combines the trefoil
   with a picture of a local landmark) the process is even more labor
   intensive.  The work is similar to what trademark examiners do, and
   they are attorneys with experience in trademark law.

3.4.  User Security

   In the current draft, every time BIMI causes an MTA or MUA to fetch a
   remote resource, whoever runs that resource can tell something about
   the recipient.  As noted below, fetches in the MTA right after the
   message has been received leak relatively little, particularly on
   large systems where the resources are likely to be cached locally.
   Fetches from the URL in the BIMI-Location header are a definite web
   bug.  This can be fixed relatively easily as described later.  The
   risk here is with smaller mail systems or MUAs that do not have means
   to cache the logos.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 6]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

4.  Indicator Publishing Options

   The indicator(s) are published on the web as SVG files or potentially
   other formats.

   For a domain owner that wishes to assert a BIMI indicator, the
   process must be as lightweight and transparent as possible.  There
   are multiple options, each with its own inherent value and threats,
   that are possible to make this assertion.

4.1.  Message header

   BIMI indicators could be published by adding them in a new header
   field in participating messages, along the lines of a validated
   X-Face header.  This mechanism is simple, but has several
   disadvantages and threats:

   o  It requires all participating messages to have the header field;
      which is neither lightweight nor transparent.

   o  It requires per-message validation of the header field, instead of
      being cached at the domain level.

   o  It does not allow for the indicators to be pre-fetched and
      validated in advance, which opens attack vectors from CGI scripts
      and the like.

4.2.  S/MIME signatures

   In principle Indicators could be asserted through S/MIME
   certificates.  They don't share the same attack vectors as asserting
   through a naked header field, and they're self-validating to the
   extent the MUA trusts the signer.  S/MIME is unlikely to work at
   scale for a variety of reasons:

   o  Many senders don't have the skill to do the signing,

   o  major webmail systems don't interpret S/MIME signatures,

   o  and S/MIME certificates have all of the process issues of any
      other certificates.

   Requiring S/MIME for BIMI to function is neither lightweight nor
   transparent for domain owners.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 7]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

4.3.  DNS assertion records

   Publishing an assertion record in DNS has several advantages:

   o  There is exactly one mechanism for both simple and complex
      policies to be published.

   o  Operational complexity is reduced, and MTAs only need to check a
      single record per sending domain in a consistent manner to enforce

   o  Indicators can be verified and/or cached in advance, so that
      malicious headers cannot be used as an attack vector.

   o  By publishing a single DNS record, the indicator can be consumed
      by all receiving mail systems without needing to make any
      modifications to the email in transit, allowing for transparency
      regardless of the source of email.

   o  This looks and feels similar to a DMARC record, meaning a domain
      owner that is already using DMARC is familiar with the mechanism

   The downsides and threats of publishing an indicator in the DNS are
   that this requires BIMI be a domain-based standard, and can be
   compromised if a domain's DNS is compromised or hijacked.

5.  Validation Requirements

   For an indicator to be considered validated, there must be a
   confirmed mapping among organization, domains, and indicators.  To
   prevent fraudulent representation of any of this mapping, all of the
   following criteria must be met:

   o  The organization is legitimate

   o  The domain names are controlled by the organization

   o  The party requesting validation is currently authorized to do so
      by the organization

   o  The party requesting the validation is who they say they are

   o  The organization has current rights to display the indicator

   The final requirement, that the organization has rights to display
   the indicator, is fraught with nuance, and BIMI could become a vector
   for phishing unless this is handled properly.  What follows are the

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 8]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   different types of indicators an organization might wish to prove
   they have the rights for, and how they can attest to those rights.

   None of the below attestation of rights are full proof; meeting these
   requirements does not mean a mail system will consider that
   sufficient evidence to display the indicator.  It is expected that
   both validators and receiving systems will choose which of these use
   cases they will support and which they will not.

5.1.  Indicator Usage and Rights Validation Scenarios

   There is a wide variety of ways that an indicator might be associated
   with an organization and its domain(s), and how the association can
   be verified.

   The intent is not for a domain owner to know which of these use case
   their indicator falls into and make a request accordingly, but for a
   validator to make sure they use appropriate validation criteria,
   given the type of indicator they are provided with.

   Further, in the short term, validators may choose to only validate
   indicators that can be verified using the highest standards, waiting
   to verify more complicated use cases until they're certain of their
   verification processes and confident they can prevent fraudulent
   requests against new types of indicators.

5.2.  Registered Mark

   Usable when an indicator has been registered in a well known and
   trustworthy jurisdiction.

   To prove a logo is associated with the organization, the
   registration, jurisdiction, issuance date, and expiration must be
   provided, and the registrant of that mark must match the organization
   requesting indication validation.

   The problem with registered marks, beyond what is discussed in
   Section 3.3, is that trademarks are not anti-phishing mechanisms.
   Rather, they are anti-confusion mechanisms within tightly scoped
   silos and jurisdictions, and they see frequent abuse and have slow
   and costly remediation processes.

5.3.  Registered Mark (untrusted jurisdiction)

   When a registered mark in a jurisdiction that is untrusted is
   provided, all the evidence should be reviewed, but validation should
   proceed as if a Common Use Mark had been provided, not a Registered

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019               [Page 9]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

5.4.  Common Use Mark

   A widely used but unregistered indicator.  Without providing for
   Common Use Marks, BIMI will certainly become a private club.  This
   is, however, the most difficult use case to provide rights for.  You
   must prove active usage of the indicator in the real world, and
   provide documentation showing that the rights to the logo have been
   properly assigned to your organization.

   The threat here is cousin or lookalike marks.  While BIMI has no
   direct protections for lookalike marks, allowing for Common Use Marks
   makes it far easier to validate such a mark.

5.5.  Common Use Mark (untrusted jurisdiction)

   Validation similar to above.

   The threat in untrusted jurisdictions for lookalike or cousin domains
   is much higher.

5.6.  New/Rebranded Mark

   A Registered or Common Use Mark that is not in wide enough use to
   pass the Common Use requirements.

   Many organizations come out with new products or wholly rebrand from
   time to time.  These common changes should be able to be reflected in
   BIMI, or systems that displayed BIMI indicators could be out of date
   for significant period of time until Common Usage could be proven or
   even longer until a registration was completed.

   Validation is the same as for Common Use, but instead of proving
   usage in the real world, you must prove intent to use.

   The threat here is that there is that bad actors could attempt to use
   this use case to validate arbitrary logos.

5.7.  Mildly Altered Mark

   For an indicator to look good within a BIMI context sometimes mild
   changes are required (i.e. to take a long logo and stack it so that
   it will fit within a square, to remove a background color, etc.).
   Specifically, a Mildly Altered Mark is a logo of one of the preceding
   types of marks that has been altered minimally (recolored, cropped,
   rotated, stretched, or reformatted or sliced and repositioned to fit
   in a different aspect ratio).  These mild modifications aren't new
   indicators worthy of registration or wouldn't pass common usage tests
   of their own.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 10]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   To validate a mildly altered mark, you must validate the unaltered
   mark, and the validator must further attest that the modifications
   are minimal per the above list and only for the purpose of working
   better within a BIMI context.

   The threat with mildly altered marks is that any defenses depending
   on automated detection will be confused by the alterations, which bad
   actors would presumably take advantage of.  Further, this relies on a
   human saying that an alteration is mild, which different people will
   do differently.

5.8.  Multiple Marks

   A logo comprised of more than one of the preceding types of marks,
   all from the same organization, with one or more marks potentially
   obscured by others.

   Validation requires validating each primary mark individually, and
   the validator attesting that any obscured mark is still
   distinguishable at its original self.  Again, automated detection
   could be confused by this, which bad actors can take advantage of.
   It is also possible that obscured marks could be a vector to create
   confusable indicators.

5.9.  Derivative Mark

   A logo comprised of more than one of the preceding types of marks, to
   which new imagery has been added, potentially obscuring the initial
   mark(s).  Derivative marks are common, as organizations frequently
   slap other images on top of their logos, such as in seasonal or
   geographic campaigns.  Providing this functionality dramatically
   expands the approachability of BIMI for many organizations' needs.

   As with Multiple Marks, anything that obscures the original mark
   could create a new confusable indicator.

5.10.  Co-marketing

   Multiple marks or derivative marks, but from separate organizations,
   where there is joint permission for use.  This occurs frequently with

   Validation is the same as for multiple marks, but each organization
   must prove all validation requirements for its mark, and all
   organizations must provide proof that their indicator can be used in
   conjunction with the other.  The expiration of the co-marketing must
   also be provided for.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 11]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   Validating a co-marketing indicator would likely depend on validating
   the underlying marks first.

   Threats here are again related to one indicator obscuring another, or
   two marks being put together in such a way as to become confusable
   with a more well known one.  .

5.11.  Franchisee

   It is common for an organization to have the rights to display an
   indicator without being the owner of the indicator.

   To validate this, the initial indicator must be validated, and the
   franchisee must prove they have the rights to display and prove they
   are in good standing with the licensor and those rights have not

   The indicator would likely have to be validated by its owner before
   franchisees can be granted their own validated indicator.

   Threats are franchisees who were legitimate when they got the
   indicator validated, but then lost standing and continued to use the

6.  Validator options

   There are multiple ways that a recipient system might validate a

   o  Third party validation: a mutually trusted third party attests
      that the domain is authorized to use the logo.  There are various
      ways the third party could publish the attestation.

   o  Local reputation: large systems track sender reputation, and could
      accept logos for senders with good reputations.

   o  Remote reputation: There might be a shared reputation service, or
      receivers could use sender characteristics like a domain in a TLD
      such as .BANK or .NGO that limits registrants to known

   o  Self validation: some systems know their own customers and/or are
      whitelist based, and may not require validation for published BIMI
      indicators so long as DMARC passes.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 12]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

6.1.  Pros and cons of validation approaches

   Third party validator


   o  Scalable solution that takes much of the burden off of senders and

   o  Senders bear a predictable cost for vetting, rather than receivers
      bearing the bulk of the burden, which allows smaller receivers to

   o  More flexibility and lower technical bar for domain owners


   o  Some cost component (e.g.  senders still have to pay.)

   o  Does not exist today; (almost) entirely new.

   o  Smaller receivers may not be able to tell which third parties are

6.2.  Receiver Managed Reputation


   o  If a receiver already trusts a brand, validation may be more

   o  Easy to set up; no additional steps on the sender side


   o  Impractical for smaller receivers due to lack of adequate local or
      shared reputation data.

   o  Reputation can be gamed.

   o  Lack of transparency and consistency

   o  Smaller senders may not send enough mail to generate trust data.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 13]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

6.3.  Remote Reputation

   Some registries limit registrants to verified members of a group such
   as NGOs, co-ops, or banks.


   o  Leverage existing validation at TLDs or similar groups.

   o  Easy to use, just see if the domain's in a validated name tree.


   o  Limited coverage

   o  Unknown and highly variable quality of remote reputation
      validator.  (Some TLDs only validate at application time, never
      check again later.)

6.4.  Centralized system

   Similar to government, e.g.  USPTO, JIPDEC


   o  Risk of too much concentration of power, too slow in terms of
      responsiveness to customers and ability to execute, lack of

6.5.  Self validation


   o  No overhead to publishing an indicator


   o  No validation; no assurances about indicator

   o  Too easy to publish fraudulent indicators

   o  No meaningful way to evaluate as a receiving system unless the
      domain is on a whitelist, in which case it's like remote

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 14]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

6.6.  Third Party Validation Publishing Options

   Once a third party has validated an indicator, how can it tell
   consuming systems about it?

6.6.1.  Publishing validation: Certificates

   A third party validator could act as a CA and sign certificates that
   contain the sender's domain and logo, or for large logos perhaps a
   hash of the logo.  See [BIMICERT].


   o  Open standard, well defined and understood

   o  Costs borne by sender, certificates published by sender.  No
      centralized trusted authority that may fail catastrophically

   o  Technical security of certificates is well understood

   o  Certificate Transparency could be utilized, including
      prepublication for challenge.


   o  CAs have ongoing history of mismanagement, lack of trust and

   o  Revocation doesn't really work.  (See below Section 9.2.)

6.6.2.  Publishing validation: API

   Third party validator could provide an API where receivers could send
   queries with the domain and indicator and get back yes or no, or
   perhaps send the domain and get back a list of indicator hashes.


   o  Doesn't depend on CAs.

   o  Revocation is easy.

   o  More flexible than certificates (easier to add or remove domains
      that an indicator is validated for)


Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 15]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   o  Doesn't exist yet, needs to be defined, implemented, and

   o  Easily subverted into closed club or expensive (to receivers)

   o  Could end up with many of the same issues that CAs have

6.7.  General Issues of Validation

   Is there a reproducible way an authority can decide whether a
   proposed SVG image is close enough to an image in a registry that is
   likely lower resolution and not in color?  Does the expertise exist
   and if so is it widespread enough to support an adequate number of
   validation organizations?

   How if at all to audit validation.  CT logs or the like could
   prepublish certificates, and log all issued certificates to aid in
   forensics in case of mistakes.

   How is conflict of interest handled?  If third parties are paid to
   validate, what is their motivation to turn away business when that
   business appears to be fraudulent?

7.  Consuming the indicator

   The MTA fetches the certificate(s) and indicator(s) using the URIs in
   the DNS record, and checks the validation.

   Assuming that all worked, the recipient adds a new BIMI-Location
   header to the message that contains the URIs of the indicator files.

7.1.  Issues

   If MUAs fetch the indicator using a URI in the BIMI-Location header,
   that's a web bug with privacy issues.  If the MTA put a copy of the
   actual indicator as a data: URI in the header rather than an https
   pointer, that would solve the web bug problem and would also make the
   MUA faster.  If data: is too bulky, the MTA could cache the indicator
   and put a local URL in the header.  The MTA still has to fetch the
   indicator when the message is received, but since the message has
   just arrived, the sender knows the message has been received.  Since
   the indicator fetch is by the MTA before the message is delivered,
   the sender can't use the indicator fetch to tell when the user looks
   at it in an MUA.  The sender may be able to use the fetch to tell
   that the message got far enough to be worth BIMI validation.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 16]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

8.  Reporting

   BIMI currently has no provision for reporting its use, but indicator
   publishers say they want it.

   o  It must not be a mechanism for tracking whether messages were
      delivered or opened.  Caching certificates and indicators helps

   o  It must not be a mechanism for exposing the internals of mail
      systems, e.g, by leaking data about what of messages were
      delivered vs not.

   One possibility would be a BIMI tag similar to DMARC reporting tags
   that reports how many BIMI eligible messages for a domain were
   received, but not what the MTA did with them.

9.  Threats and Remediation

   BIMI should have some mechanism for remediating problems that one
   receiver sees to make that available to all consumers in a timely

9.1.  Bad indicators

   An obvious threat is that a corrupt or incompetent validator approves
   a indicator that a domain owner shouldn't display.  There are two and
   a half somewhat different scenarios here:

   1.  The actual owner of the domain gets a validation with his domain
       and someone else's indicator.

   2.  A malicious third party tricks a validator into approving a
       totally fraudulent validation for someone other than the owner of
       the domain involved.

   3.  A malicious third party tricks a validator into validating an
       indicator with a lookalike domain ( vs.

   The second scenario doesn't seem important, because you can't use the
   certificate unless you can send DMARC aligned mail, which you can't
   do unless you control the actual domain's DNS.  (If the bad guy can
   take over your DNS all bets are off.)

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 17]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

9.2.  Revoking Certificates

   If BIMI validations are published with certificates, sometimes the
   validations will be wrong and a certificate will need to be revoked.
   As has been widely observed, certificate revocation has never worked
   very well.  But since this would be a fairly unusual application of
   certificates, maybe some other approaches would work if the
   validators issue certificates:

   1.  Taking a tip from Let's Encrypt, reissue the certificates every
       week.  Another possibility would be some sort of stapling, but if
       the CA has to do something anyway, it might as well reissue

   2.  Serve the certificates from the CA rather than from the sender.
       (Put something in the certificate that has to match the domain in
       the URI used to fetch it.)  Then if the certificate turns out to
       be bad, the CA can stop serving it.  This is essentially the API
       approach, but serving certificates rather than hashes.  Or under
       the assumption that most unexpired certificates are still good,
       perhaps just send a hash of the certificate and get back an
       answer whether it's still good, which is a lot less data.

   3.  Since the certificates will be validated in tens of thousands of
       MTAs rather than in a billion PCs and phones, some sort of
       revocation list that doesn't scale to a billion might still scale
       to tens of thousands.

9.3.  Geographic scope

   Trademarks and indicators have geographic scope.  A BIMI certificate
   could presumably have a list of country or other geographic codes but
   what is the recipient supposed to do with them?  Does the MDA attempt
   to know where its users live?  Does the code go into the BIMI-
   Location header (or in a certificate the header points to) so the MUA
   on my phone shows me different indicators in New York or Paris?  This
   is a user interface issue beyond the protocol, but there should be a
   plausible story that could calm the lawyers who'd be signing off on
   indicator publication.

9.4.  IMAP flags

   BIMI invents a flag for IMAP that the MDA can set on a message to
   mark that the BIMI-Location header is real.  It presumably stays with
   the message if it's moved to other folders.  This opens a narrow
   abuse channel if a malicious IMAP client can put messages with fake
   BIMI-Location headers and the IMAP flag, but if your client can do
   that, you will have far worse problems than bogus MUA indicators.

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 18]

Internet-Draft                BIMI Overview                   March 2019

   An alternative approach would be for the MDA to add a DKIM signature
   with recipient system's d= that includes the new BIMI-Location header
   and the MUA can check that signature to decide whether to believe it.
   This would require some careful sanitizing to prevent spoofing but I
   think it's doable.

10.  Informative References

              Chuang, W., Ed. and T. Loder, Ed., "Brand Indicator for
              Message Identification in X.509 certificates", internet-
              draft draft-chuang-bimi-certificate-00.txt, May 2018.

   [RFC7489]  Kucherawy, M., Ed. and E. Zwicky, Ed., "Domain-based
              Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance
              (DMARC)", RFC 7489, DOI 10.17487/RFC7489, March 2015,

Authors' Addresses

   Seth Blank


   Neil Kumaran


   John Levine (editor)
   Standcore LLC
   PO Box 727
   Trumansburg, NY  14886

   Phone: +1 6465701224

Blank, et al.          Expires September 12, 2019              [Page 19]