Network Working Group                                     Wesley Griffin
INTERNET-DRAFT                                                  NAI Labs
draft-ietf-secsh-dns-key-format-00.txt                          May 2001
Expires October 2001

                      Storing SSH Host Keys in DNS

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that other
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
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   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

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   This draft expires on October 30, 2001

   Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000). All rights reserved.


   DNS Security Extensions enables the secure distribution of public
   keys over the Internet. This is a desirable feature for the SSH
   protocol.  This document defines the format for storing SSH host keys
   in KEY resource records.

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1. Introduction

   Key distribution, whether shared secret or public key, is a lingering
   issue in many security-aware protocols, and the SSH protocol [SSH-
   ARCH] is not an exception. DNS Security Extensions [RFC-2535] can
   provide one form of a key infrastructure on the Internet. By allowing
   the client to verify the server key, even without prior knowledge of
   said key, and out of band of the SSH protocol, the security of the
   SSH protocol has increased.

   Familiarity with DNS Security Extensions and the SSH protocol is

2. SSH Key Resource Records

   SSH Host Keys are stored as KEY RRs. The following sections describe
   how the flags, protocol, and algorithm are set.

   2.1 The KEY RR Flag Field

       The "flags" field is set as follows:

       Key "type" (bits 0 and 1): 00 (This key can be used for both
       authentication and confidentiality.)

       Key "name" (bits 6 and 7): 10 (This key is an "entity" or host

   2.2 The Protocol Octect

       The protocol value is TBA by IANA.

   2.3 The KEY Algorithm Number Specification

       The algorithm is set as described in Section 3.2 of [RFC-2535].
       SSH does not place any additional restrictions on SSH host keys.
       RSA/MD5 keys use an algorithm value of 1, RSA/SHA1 keys use 5,
       and DSA keys use 3.

   2.4 KEY RDATA format

       Section 4.6 of the SSH transport layer protocol document [SSH-
       TRANS] describes the encoding format for SSH public keys. The DNS
       KEY encoding format is described in [RFC-2536] for DSA public
       keys and [RFC-2537] for RSA/MD5 public keys.

       The KEY RDATA format itself consists of the Flags Field, Protocol
       Octect, Algorithm, and public key, which can be converted from

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       the SSH encoding to the DNS encoding using the descriptions

3. Security Considerations

   Placing SSH host keys in DNS allows ssh programs and users to perform
   additional checks that may help foil man in the middle attacks. With
   DNSSEC deployed, SSH programs can rely on DNS as a secure key
   distribution mechanism, as discussed in the SSH architecture document

   There are 2 possible ways an SSH client can trust keys from DNS. The
   first is to perform full DNSSEC verification on the host key and all
   the zones containing the domain name up to a trusted zone. This
   requires the client to be configured with a trusted zone key and
   following the steps for SIG verification outlined in Sections 4 and
   6.3 of [RFC-2535].

   The other method is for the client to perform a SIG(0) or TSIG
   secured query to a nameserver. This method pushes the zone
   verification off to the nameserver, but uses SIG(0), defined in
   [RFC-2931], or TSIG, defined in [RFC-2845], to verify the query to
   the nameserver.

   This document only describes the format of the DNS KEY Resource
   Record.  Outlined above are two simple methods for trusting keys from
   DNS, however the more detailed and in-depth key trust discussion will
   appear in another document.

4. IANA Considerations

   This document specifies how SSH host keys can be placed in DNS, it
   also requests an assignment of a DNS KEY protocol value for this use.
   Guidance to IANA can be found in Section 3.1.3 of [RFC-2535].

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5. Acknowledgements

   Olafur Gudmundsson and Edward Lewis were instrumental in motivating
   and shaping this document.

6. Trademark Issues

   As of this writing, SSH Communications Security Oy claims ssh as its
   trademark. As with all IPR claims the IETF takes no position
   regarding the validity or scope of this trademark claim.

7. References

   Eastlake, D., "Domain Name System Security Extensions", RFC 2535,
   March 1999.

   Eastlake, D., "DSA KEYs and SIGs in the Domain Name System (DNS)",
   RFC 2536, March 1999.

   Eastlake, D., "RSA/MD5 KEYs and SIGs in the Domain Name System
   (DNS)", RFC 2537, March 1999.

   Vixie, P., et al, "Secret Key Transaction Authentication for DNS
   (TSIG)", RFC 2845, May 2000.

   Eastlake, D., "DNS Request and Transaction Signatures ( SIG(0)s )",
   RFC 2931, September 2000.

   Ylonen, T., et al, "SSH Protocol Architecture", Internet Draft,
   November 2000.

   Ylonen, T., et al, "SSH Transport Layer Protocol", Internet Draft,
   November 2000.

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Author's Address

      Wesley Griffin
         NAI Labs
         Network Associates, Inc.
         3060 Washington Rd. (Rt. 97)
         Glenwood, MD 21738
         +1 443 259 2388

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