[Search] [txt|pdfized|bibtex] [Tracker] [WG] [Email] [Diff1] [Diff2] [Nits]
Versions: 00 01                                                         
INTERNET-DRAFT                                            Andy Heffernan
<draft-ietf-idr-rfc2385bis-01.txt>                      Juniper Networks
                                                              March 2002

      Protection of BGP Sessions via the TCP MD5 Signature Option

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet Draft.  Internet Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its Areas,
   and its Working Groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet Drafts.

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

   Internet Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six
   months.  Internet Drafts may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by
   other documents at any time.  It is not appropriate to use Internet
   Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as a "working
   draft" or "work in progress."

   Please check the I-D abstract listing contained in each Internet
   Draft directory to learn the current status of this or any Internet


   This memo describes a TCP extension to enhance security for BGP.  It
   defines a new TCP option for carrying an MD5 [RFC1321] digest in a
   TCP segment.  This digest acts like a signature for that segment,
   incorporating information known only to the connection end points.
   Since BGP uses TCP as its transport, using this option in the way
   described in this paper significantly reduces the danger from certain
   security attacks on BGP.

1.0  Introduction

   The primary motivation for this option is to allow BGP to protect
   itself against the introduction of spoofed TCP segments into the
   connection stream.  Of particular concern are TCP resets.

   To spoof a connection using the scheme described in this paper, an
   attacker would not only have to guess TCP sequence numbers, but would

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 1]

INTERNET-DRAFT          TCP MD5 Signature Option              March 2002

   also have had to obtain the password included in the MD5 digest.
   This password never appears in the connection stream, and the actual
   form of the password is up to the application.  It could even change
   during the lifetime of a particular connection so long as this change
   was synchronized on both ends (although retransmission can become
   problematical in some TCP implementations with changing passwords).

   Finally, there is no negotiation for the use of this option in a
   connection, rather it is purely a matter of site policy whether or
   not its connections use the option.

2.0  Proposal

   Every segment sent on a TCP connection to be protected against
   spoofing will contain the 16-byte MD5 digest produced by applying the
   MD5 algorithm to these items in the following order:

       1. the TCP pseudo-header
       2. the TCP header, excluding options (but with a correct Data Offset
          field), and assuming a checksum of zero
       3. the TCP segment data (if any)
       4. an independently-specified key or password, known to both TCPs
          and presumably connection-specific

   For IPv4, the pseudo-header is as described in RFC 793, namely the
   32-bit source IP address, 32-bit destination IP address, zero-
   extended protocol number (to form 16 bits), and 16-bit segment
   length.  Note that this includes use of IPv4 via IPv4-mapped IPv6
   addresses, in which case the source and destination IP addresses are
   from the IPv4 portions of the IPv6 source and destination addresses,

   For IPv6, the pseudo-header is as described in RFC 2460, namely the
   128-bit source IPv6 address, 128-bit destination IPv6 address, zero-
   extended next header value (to form 32 bits), and 32-bit segment

   For any other network protocol, the pseudo-header is as described in
   the document that defines how upper-level protocols like TCP compute
   their checksums.

   The header and pseudo-header are in network byte order.  The nature
   of the key is deliberately left unspecified, but it must be known by
   both ends of the connection.  A particular TCP implementation will
   determine what the application may specify as the key.

   Upon receiving a signed segment, the receiver must validate it by

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 2]

INTERNET-DRAFT          TCP MD5 Signature Option              March 2002

   calculating its own digest from the same data (using its own key) and
   comparing the two digest.  A failing comparison must result in the
   segment being dropped and must not produce any response back to the
   sender.  Logging the failure is probably advisable.

   Unlike other TCP extensions (e.g., the Window Scale option
   [RFC1323]), the absence of the option in the SYN,ACK segment must not
   cause the sender to disable its sending of signatures.  This
   negotiation is typically done to prevent some TCP implementations
   from misbehaving upon receiving options in non-SYN segments.  This is
   not a problem for this option, since the SYN,ACK sent during
   connection negotiation will not be signed and will thus be ignored.
   The connection will never be made, and non-SYN segments with options
   will never be sent.  More importantly, the sending of signatures must
   be under the complete control of the application, not at the mercy of
   the remote host not understanding the option.

3.0  Syntax

   The proposed option has the following format:

             | Kind=19 |Length=18|   MD5 digest...   |
             |                                       |
             |                                       |
             |                                       |
             |                   |

   The MD5 digest is always 16 bytes in length, and the option would
   appear in every segment of a connection.

4.0  Some Implications

4.1  Connectionless Resets

   A connectionless reset will be ignored by the receiver of the reset,
   since the originator of that reset does not know the key, and so
   cannot generate the proper signature for the segment.  This means,
   for example, that connection attempts by a TCP which is generating
   signatures to a port with no listener will time out instead of being
   refused.  Similarly, resets generated by a TCP in response to

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 3]

INTERNET-DRAFT          TCP MD5 Signature Option              March 2002

   segments sent on a stale connection will also be ignored.
   Operationally this can be a problem since resets help BGP recover
   quickly from peer crashes.

4.2  Performance

   The performance hit in calculating digests may inhibit the use of
   this option.  Some measurements of a sample implementation showed
   that on a 100 MHz R4600, generating a signature for simple ACK
   segment took an average of 0.0268 ms, while generating a signature
   for a data segment carrying 4096 bytes of data took 0.8776 ms on
   average.  These times would be applied to both the input and output
   paths, with the input path also bearing the cost of a 16-byte

4.3  TCP Header Size

   As with other options that are added to every segment, the size of
   the MD5 option must be factored into the MSS offered to the other
   side during connection negotiation.  Specifically, the size of the
   header to subtract from the MTU (whether it is the MTU of the
   outgoing interface or IP's minimal MTU of 576 bytes) is now at least
   18 bytes larger.

   The total header size is also an issue.  The TCP header specifies
   where segment data starts with a 4-bit field which gives the total
   size of the header (including options) in 32-byte words.  This means
   that the total size of the header plus option must be less than or
   equal to 60 bytes -- this leaves 40 bytes for options.

   As a concrete example, 4.4BSD defaults to sending window-scaling and
   timestamp information for connections it initiates.  The most loaded
   segment will be the initial SYN packet to start the connection.  With
   MD5 signatures, the SYN packet will contain the following:

       -- 4 bytes MSS option
       -- 4 bytes window scale option (3 bytes padded to 4 in 4.4BSD)
       -- 12 bytes for timestamp (4.4BSD pads the option as recommended
          in RFC 1323 Appendix A)
       -- 18 bytes for MD5 digest
       -- 2 bytes for end-of-option-list, to pad to a 32-bit boundary.

   This sums to 40 bytes, which just makes it.  (Note that other padding
   schemes are possible which would reduce the aggregate size.)

4.4 Key Configuration

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 4]

INTERNET-DRAFT          TCP MD5 Signature Option              March 2002

   It should be noted that the key configuration mechanism of routers
   may restrict the possible keys that may be used between peers.  It is
   strongly recommended that an implementation be able to support at
   minimum a key composed of a string of printable ASCII of 80 bytes or
   less, as this is current practice.

5.0 Security Considerations

   This document defines a weak but currently practiced security
   mechanism for BGP.  It is anticipated that future work will provide
   different stronger mechanisms for dealing with these issues.

5.1 MD5 as a hashing algorithm

   The MD5 algorithm has been found to be vulnerable to collision search
   attacks [Dobb], and is considered by some to be insufficiently strong
   for this type of application.

   This document specifies the MD5 algorithm, however, since the option
   has already been deployed operationally, and there is no "algorithm
   type" field defined to allow an upgrade using the same option number.
   The original draft did not specify a type field since this would
   require at least one more byte, and it was felt at the time that
   taking 19 bytes for the complete option (which would probably be
   padded to 20 bytes in TCP implementations) would be too much of a
   waste of the already limited option space.

   This does not prevent the deployment of another similar option which
   uses another hashing algorithm (like SHA-1).  Also, if most
   implementations pad the 18 byte option as defined to 20 bytes anyway,
   it would be just as well to define a new option which contains an
   algorithm type field.  This would need to be addressed in another
   draft, however.

5.2 Signature Coverage

   A further weakness exists due to the exclusion of option data from
   the signature.  This decision was made to simplify the protocol
   definition and implementation, but might possibly leave a connection
   vulnerable since option data can be rewritten without detection.

6.0  Changes from RFC 2385

   The previous version of this specification was published as RFC 2385.

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 5]

INTERNET-DRAFT          TCP MD5 Signature Option              March 2002

   The changes in this document are primarly to be more explicit about
   the data over which the MD5 signature is taken.  In particular,
   Section 2.0 describes the differences between IPv4 and IPv6 and their
   respective pseudo-header definitions.

   Additionally, section 4.3 adds a note about option padding.

   The former section 4.4 ("MD5 has a Hashing Algorithm") has moved to
   the Security Considerations section of the document as section 5.1
   and the former section 4.5 ("Key configuration") is now section 4.4.

   Finally, section 5.2 has been added to mention that the signature
   does not cover option data, which might be a vulnerability.

7.0  References

   [RFC793] Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol," RFC 793,
   September 1981.

   [RFC2460] Deering, S., and Hinden, R., "Internet Protocol,
    Version 6 (IPv6) Specification," RFC 2460, December 1998.

   [RFC1321] Rivest, R., "The MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm," RFC 1321,
   MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, April 1992.

   [RFC1323] Jacobson, V., Braden, R., and Borman, D., "TCP Extensions
   for High Performance", RFC 1323, LBL, USC/Information Sciences
   Institute, Cray Research, May 1992.

   [Dobb] Dobbertin, H., "The Status of MD5 After a Recent Attack", RSA
   Labs' CryptoBytes, Vol. 2 No. 2, Summer 1996.

Author's Address

   Andy Heffernan
   Juniper Networks
   1194 N. Mathilda Avenue
   Sunnyvale, CA  94089  USA

   Phone:  +1 408 745-2037
   Email:  ahh@juniper.net

Heffernan               Expires September 1, 2002               [Page 6]