Network Working Group                                           R. Khare
Internet-Draft                                 4K Associates / UC Irvine
Expires: April 21, 2000                                      S. Lawrence
                                                    Agranat Systems, Inc.
                                                         October 22, 1999

                     Upgrading to TLS Within HTTP/1.1

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 groups may also distribute working documents as

    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."

     The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

     The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

    This Internet-Draft will expire on April 21, 2000.

Copyright Notice

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1999). All Rights Reserved.


    This memo explains how to use the Upgrade mechanism in HTTP/1.1 to
    initiate Transport Layer Security (TLS) over an existing TCP
    connection. This allows unsecured and secured HTTP traffic to share
    the same well known port (in this case, http: at 80 rather than
    https: at 443). It also enables "virtual hosting," so a single HTTP
    + TLS server can disambiguate traffic intended for several hostnames
    at a single IP address.

    Since HTTP/1.1[1] defines Upgrade as a hop-by-hop mechanism, this
    memo also documents the HTTP CONNECT method for establishing
    end-to-end tunnels across HTTP proxies. Finally, this memo
    establishes new IANA registries for public HTTP status codes, as
    well as public or private Upgrade product tokens.

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 1]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    This memo does NOT affect the current definition of the 'https' URI
    scheme, which already defines a separate namespace
    ( and are not equivalent).

Status Notes

    This memo is intended to proceed directly to Proposed Standard,
    since its functionality has been extensively debated, but not
    implemented, over the last two years. It is expected to update RFC

Table of Contents

    1.  Motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
    2.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
    3.  Client Requested Upgrade to HTTP over TLS  . . . . . . . . . .  4
    3.1 Optional Upgrade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
    3.2 Mandatory Upgrade  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
    3.3 Server Acceptance of Upgrade Request . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
    4.  Server Requested Upgrade to HTTP over TLS  . . . . . . . . . .  5
    4.1 Optional Advertisement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
    4.2 Mandatory Advertisement  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
    5.  Upgrade across Proxies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
    5.1 Implications of Hop By Hop Upgrade . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
    5.2 Requesting a Tunnel with CONNECT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
    5.3 Establishing a Tunnel with CONNECT . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
    6.  Rationale for the use of a 4xx (client error) Status Code  . .  8
    7.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
    7.1 HTTP Status Code Registry  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
    7.2 HTTP Upgrade Token Registry  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
    8.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
    8.1 Implications for the https: URI Scheme . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
    8.2 Security Considerations for CONNECT  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
        References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
        Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
    A.  Acknowledgments  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
        Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 2]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

1. Motivation

    The historical practice of deploying HTTP over SSL3 [3] has
    distinguished the combination from HTTP alone by a unique URI scheme
    and the TCP port number. The scheme 'http' meant the HTTP protocol
    alone on port 80, while 'https' meant the HTTP protocol over SSL on
    port 443.  Parallel well-known port numbers have similarly been
    requested -- and in some cases, granted -- to distinguish between
    secured and unsecured use of other application protocols (e.g.
    snews, ftps). This approach effectively halves the number of
    available well known ports.

    At the Washington DC IETF meeting in December 1997, the Applications
    Area Directors and the IESG reaffirmed that the practice of issuing
    parallel "secure" port numbers should be deprecated. The HTTP/1.1
    Upgrade mechanism can apply Transport Layer Security[6] to an open
    HTTP connection.

    In the nearly two years since, there has been broad acceptance of
    the concept behind this proposal, but little interest in
    implementing alternatives to port 443 for generic Web browsing. In
    fact, nothing in this memo affects the current interpretation of
    https: URIs. However, new application protocols built atop HTTP,
    such as the Internet Printing Protocol[7], call for just such a
    mechanism in order to move ahead in the IETF standards process.

    The Upgrade mechanism also solves the "virtual hosting" problem.
    Rather than allocating multiple IP addresses to a single host, an
    HTTP/1.1 server will use the Host: header to disambiguate the
    intended web service. As HTTP/1.1 usage has grown more prevalent,
    more ISPs are offering name-based virtual hosting, thus delaying IP
    address space exhaustion.

    TLS (and SSL) have been hobbled by the same limitation as earlier
    versions of HTTP: the initial handshake does not specify the
    intended hostname, relying exclusively on the IP address. Using a
    cleartext HTTP/1.1 Upgrade: preamble to the TLS handshake --
    choosing the certificates based on the initial Host: header -- will
    allow ISPs to provide secure name-based virtual hosting as well.

2. Introduction

    TLS, a/k/a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes a private
    end-to-end connection, optionally including strong mutual
    authentication, using a variety of cryptosystems. Initially, a
    handshake phase uses three subprotocols to set up a record layer,
    authenticate endpoints, set parameters, as well as report errors.
    Then, there is an ongoing layered record protocol that handles
    encryption, compression, and reassembly for the remainder of the

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 3]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    connection. The latter is intended to be completely transparent. For
    example, there is no dependency between TLS's record markers and or
    certificates and HTTP/1.1's chunked encoding or authentication.

    Either the client or server can use the HTTP/1.1[1] Upgrade
    mechanism (Section 14.42) to indicate that a TLS-secured connection
    is desired or necessary. This draft defines the "TLS/1.0" Upgrade
    token, and a new HTTP Status Code, "426 Upgrade Required".

    Section 3 and Section 4 describe the operation of a directly
    connected client and server. Intermediate proxies must establish an
    end-to-end tunnel before applying those operations, as explained in
    Section 5.

3. Client Requested Upgrade to HTTP over TLS

    When the client sends an HTTP/1.1 request with an Upgrade header
    field containing the token "TLS/1.0", it is requesting the server to
    complete the current HTTP/1.1 request after switching to TLS/1.0.

3.1 Optional Upgrade

    A client MAY offer to switch to secured operation during any clear
    HTTP request when an unsecured response would be acceptable:

          GET HTTP/1.1
          Upgrade: TLS/1.0
          Connection: Upgrade

    In this case, the server MAY respond to the clear HTTP operation
    normally, OR switch to secured operation (as detailed in the next

    Note that HTTP/1.1[1] specifies "the upgrade keyword MUST be
    supplied within a Connection header field (section 14.10) whenever
    Upgrade is present in an HTTP/1.1 message."

3.2 Mandatory Upgrade

    If an unsecured response would be unacceptable, a client MUST send
    an OPTIONS request first to complete the switch to TLS/1.0 (if

           OPTIONS * HTTP/1.1
           Upgrade: TLS/1.0
           Connection: Upgrade

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 4]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

3.3 Server Acceptance of Upgrade Request

     As specified in HTTP/1.1[1], if the server is prepared to initiate
    the TLS handshake, it MUST send the intermediate "101 Switching
    Protocol" and MUST include an Upgrade response header specifying the
    tokens of the protocol stack it is switching to:

          HTTP/1.1 101 Switching Protocols
          Upgrade: TLS/1.0, HTTP/1.1
          Connection: Upgrade

     Note that the protocol tokens listed in the Upgrade header of a 101
    Switching Protocols response specify an ordered 'bottom-up' stack.

    As specified in  HTTP/1.1[1], Section 10.1.2: "The server will
    switch protocols to those defined by the response's Upgrade header
    field immediately after the empty line which terminates the 101

    Once the TLS handshake completes successfully, the server MUST
    continue with the response to the original request. Any TLS
    handshake failure MUST lead to disconnection, per the TLS error
    alert specification.

4. Server Requested Upgrade to HTTP over TLS

    The Upgrade response header field advertises possible protocol
    upgrades a server MAY accept. In conjunction with the "426 Upgrade
    Required" status code, a server can advertise the exact protocol
    upgrade(s) that a client MUST accept to complete the request.

4.1 Optional Advertisement

    As specified in HTTP/1.1[1], the server MAY include an Upgrade
    header in any response other than 101 or 426 to indicate a
    willingness to switch to any (combination) of the protocols listed.

4.2 Mandatory Advertisement

    A server MAY indicate that a client request can not be completed
    without TLS using the "426 Upgrade Required" status code, which MUST
    include an an Upgrade header field specifying the token of the
    required TLS version.

          HTTP/1.1 426 Upgrade Required
          Upgrade: TLS/1.0, HTTP/1.1
          Connection: Upgrade

    The server SHOULD include a message body in the 426 response which

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 5]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    indicates in human readable form the reason for the error and
    describes any alternative courses which may be available to the

    Note that even if a client is willing to use TLS, it must use the
    operations in Section 3 to proceed; the TLS handshake cannot begin
    immediately after the 426 response.

5. Upgrade across Proxies

    As a hop-by-hop header, Upgrade is negotiated between each pair of
    HTTP counterparties.  If a User Agent sends a request with an
    Upgrade header to a proxy, it is requesting a change to the protocol
    between itself and the proxy, not an end-to-end change.

    Since TLS, in particular, requires end-to-end connectivity to
    provide authentication and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, this
    memo specifies the CONNECT method to establish a tunnel across

    Once a tunnel is established, any of the operations in Section 3 can
    be used to establish a TLS connection.

5.1 Implications of Hop By Hop Upgrade

    If an origin server receives an Upgrade header from a proxy and
    responds with a 101 Switching Protocols response, it is changing the
    protocol only on the connection between the proxy and itself.
    Similarly, a proxy might return a 101 response to its client to
    change the protocol on that connection independently of the
    protocols it is using to communicate toward the origin server.

    These scenarios also complicate diagnosis of a 426 response.  Since
    Upgrade is a hop-by-hop header, a proxy that does not recognize 426
    might remove the accompanying Upgrade header and prevent the client
    from determining the required protocol switch.  If a client receives
    a 426 status without an accompanying Upgrade header, it will need to
    request an end to end tunnel connection as described in Section 5.2
    and repeat the request in order to obtain the required upgrade

    This hop-by-hop definition of Upgrade was a deliberate choice.  It
    allows for incremental deployment on either side of proxies, and for
    optimized protocols between cascaded proxies without the knowledge
    of the parties that are not a part of the change.

5.2 Requesting a Tunnel with CONNECT

    A CONNECT method requests that a proxy establish a tunnel connection

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 6]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    on its behalf. The Request-URI portion of the Request-Line is always
    an 'authority' as defined by URI Generic Syntax[2], which is to say
    the host name and port number destination of the requested
    connection separated by a colon:

         CONNECT HTTP/1.1

    Other HTTP mechanisms can be used normally with the CONNECT method
    -- except end-to-end protocol Upgrade requests, of course, since the
    tunnel must be established first.

     For example, proxy authentication might be used to establish the
    authority to create a tunnel:

         CONNECT HTTP/1.1
         Proxy-Authorization: basic aGVsbG86d29ybGQ=

    Like any other pipelined HTTP/1.1 request, data to be tunneled may
    be sent immediately after the blank line. The usual caveats also
    apply: data may be discarded if the eventual response is negative,
    and the connection may be reset with no response if more than one
    TCP segment is outstanding.

5.3 Establishing a Tunnel with CONNECT

    Any successful (2xx) response to a CONNECT request indicates that
    the proxy has established a connection to the requested host and
    port, and has switched to tunneling the current connection to that
    server connection.

    It may be the case that the proxy itself can only reach the
    requested origin server through another proxy.  In this case, the
    first proxy SHOULD make a CONNECT request of that next proxy,
    requesting a tunnel to the authority.  A proxy MUST NOT respond with
    any 2xx status code unless it has either a direct or tunnel
    connection established to the authority.

    An origin server which receives a CONNECT request for itself MAY
    respond with a 2xx status code to indicate that a connection is

    If at any point either one of the peers gets disconnected, any
    outstanding data that came from that peer will be passed to the
    other one, and after that also the other connection will be
    terminated by the proxy. If there is outstanding data to that peer
    undelivered, that data will be discarded.

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 7]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

6. Rationale for the use of a 4xx (client error) Status Code

    Reliable, interoperable negotiation of Upgrade features requires an
    unambiguous failure signal. The 426 Upgrade Required status code
    allows a server to definitively state the precise protocol
    extensions a given resource must be served with.

    It might at first appear that the response should have been some
    form of redirection (a 3xx code), by analogy to an old-style
    redirection to an https: URI.  User agents that do not understand
    Upgrade: preclude this.

    Suppose that a 3xx code had been assigned for "Upgrade Required"; a
    user agent that did not recognize it would treat it as 300.  It
    would then properly look for a "Location" header in the response and
    attempt to repeat the request at the URL in that header field. Since
    it did not know to Upgrade to incorporate the TLS layer, it would at
    best fail again at the new URL.

7. IANA Considerations

    IANA shall create registries for two name spaces, as described in
    BCP 26[10]:
    o  HTTP Status Codes
    o  HTTP Upgrade Tokens

7.1 HTTP Status Code Registry

    The HTTP Status Code Registry defines the name space for the
    Status-Code token in the Status line of an HTTP response.  The
    initial values for this name space are those specified by
    1.  Draft Standard for HTTP/1.1[1]
    2.  Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning[4] [defines 420-424]
    3.  WebDAV Advanced Collections[5] (Work in Progress) [defines 425]
    4.  Section 6 [defines 426]

    Values to be added to this name space SHOULD be subject to review in
    the form of a standards track document within the IETF Applications
    Area.  Any such document SHOULD be traceable through statuses of
    either 'Obsoletes' or 'Updates' to the Draft Standard for

7.2 HTTP Upgrade Token Registry

    The HTTP Upgrade Token Registry defines the name space for product
    tokens used to identify protocols in the Upgrade HTTP header field.
    Each registered token should be associated with one or a set of
    specifications, and with contact information.

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 8]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    The Draft Standard for HTTP/1.1[1] specifies that these tokens obey
    the production for 'product':

         product         = token ["/" product-version]
         product-version = token

    Registrations should be allowed on a First Come First Served basis
    as described in BCP 26[10]. These specifications need not be IETF
    documents or be subject to IESG review, but should obey the
    following rules:

    1.  A token, once registered, stays registered forever.
    2.  The registration MUST name a responsible party for the
    3.  The registration MUST name a point of contact.
    4.  The registration MAY name the documentation required for the
    5.  The responsible party MAY change the registration at any time.
        The IANA will keep a record of all such changes, and make them
        available upon request.
    6.  The responsible party for the first registration of a "product"
        token MUST approve later registrations of a "version" token
        together with that "product" token before they can be registered.
    7.  If absolutely required, the IESG MAY reassign the responsibility
        for a token. This will normally only be used in the case when a
        responsible party cannot be contacted.

    This specification defines the protocol token "TLS/1.0" as the
    identifier for the protocol specified by The TLS Protocol[6].

    It is NOT required that specifications for upgrade tokens be made
    publicly available, but the contact information for the registration
    SHOULD be.

8. Security Considerations

    The potential for a man-in-the-middle attack (deleting the Upgrade
    header) remains the same as current, mixed http/https practice:
    o  Removing the Upgrade header is similar to rewriting web pages to
       change https:// links to http:// links.
    o  The risk is only present if the server is willing to vend such
       information over both a secure and an insecure channel in the
       first place.
    o  If the client knows for a fact that a server is TLS-compliant, it
       can insist on it by only sending an Upgrade request with a no-op
       method like OPTIONS.
    o  Finally, as the https: specification warns, "users should
       carefully examine the certificate presented by the server to
       determine if it meets their expectations."

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                 [Page 9]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

    Furthermore, for clients that do not explicitly try to invoke TLS,
    servers can use the Upgrade header in any response other than 101 or
    426 to advertise TLS compliance. Since TLS compliance should be
    considered a feature of the server and not the resource at hand, it
    should be sufficient to send it once, and let clients cache that

8.1 Implications for the https: URI Scheme

    While nothing in this memo affects the definition of the 'https' URI
    scheme, widespread adoption of this mechanism for HyperText content
    could use 'http' to identify both secure and non-secure resources.

    The choice of what security characteristics are required on the
    connection is left to the client and server.  This allows either
    party to use any information available in making this determination.
    For example, user agents may rely on user preference settings or
    information about the security of the network such as 'TLS required
    on all POST operations not on my local net', or servers may apply
    resource access rules such as 'the FORM on this page must be served
    and submitted using TLS'.

8.2 Security Considerations for CONNECT

    A generic TCP tunnel is fraught with security risks. First, such
    authorization should be limited to a small number of known ports.
    The Upgrade: mechanism defined here only requires onward tunneling
    at port 80. Second, since tunneled data is opaque to the proxy,
    there are additional risks to tunneling to other well-known or
    reserved ports. A putative HTTP client CONNECTing to port 25 could
    relay spam via SMTP, for example.


    [1]  Fielding, R.T. and et. al, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol --
         HTTP/1.1", RFC 2616, June 1999.

    [2]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R.T. and L. Masinter, "URI Generic
         Syntax", RFC 2396, August 1998.

    [3]  Rescorla, E.K., "HTTP Over TLS",  Internet-Draft (Work In
         Progress) (Non-Normative Background Information)
         draft-ietf-tls-https-02, September 1998.

    [4]  Goland, Y.Y., Whitehead, E.J. and  et. al, "Web Distributed
         Authoring and Versioning", RFC 2518, February 1999.

    [5]  Slein, J., Whitehead, E.J. and  et. al, "WebDAV Advanced
         Collections Protocol",  Internet-Draft (Work In Progress)

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                [Page 10]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

         (Non-Normative Background Information)
         draft-ietf-webdav-collection-protocol-04, June 1999.

    [6]  Dierks, T. and C. Allen, "The TLS Protocol", RFC 2246, January

    [7]  Herriot, R., Butler, S., Moore, P. and R. Turner, "Internet
         Printing Protocol/1.0: Encoding and Transport", RFC 2565, April

    [8]  Luotonen, A., "Tunneling TCP based protocols through Web proxy
         servers",  Internet-Draft (Work In Progress) (Non-Normative
         Historical Information; Also available in: Luotonen, Ari. Web
         Proxy Servers, Prentice-Hall, 1997 ISBN:0136806120)
         draft-luotonen-web-proxy-tunneling-01, August 1998.

    [9]  Rose, M.T., "Writing I-Ds and RFCs using XML", RFC 2629, June

    [10]  Narten, T. and H.T. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an
          IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26, October 1998.

Authors' Addresses

    Rohit Khare
    4K Associates / UC Irvine
    3207 Palo Verde
    Irvine, CA  92612

    Phone: +1 626 806 7574

    Scott Lawrence
    Agranat Systems, Inc.
    5 Clocktower Place
    Suite 400
    Maynard, MA  01754

    Phone: +1 978 461 0888

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                [Page 11]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

Appendix A. Acknowledgments

    The CONNECT method was originally described in an Internet-Draft
    titled Tunneling TCP based protocols through Web proxy servers[8] by
    Ari Luotonen of Netscape Communications Corporation.  It was widely
    implemented by HTTP proxies, but was never made a part of any IETF
    Standards Track document. The method name CONNECT was reserved, but
    not defined in [1].

    The definition provided here is derived directly from that earlier
    draft, with some editorial changes and conformance to the stylistic
    conventions since established in other HTTP specifications.

    Additional Thanks to:
    o  Paul Hoffman for his work on the STARTTLS command extension for
    o  Roy Fielding for assistance with the rationale behind Upgrade:
       and its interaction with OPTIONS.
    o  Eric Rescorla for his work on standardizing the existing https:
       practice to compare with.
    o  Marshall Rose, for the xml2rfc document type description and
    o  Jim Whitehead, for sorting out the current range of available
       HTTP status codes.
    o  Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, whose work on the Mandatory extension
       mechanism pointed out a hop-by-hop Upgrade still requires
    o  Harald Alvestrand for improvements to the token registration

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                [Page 12]

Internet-Draft            HTTP Upgrade to TLS               October 1999

Full Copyright Statement

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1999). All Rights Reserved.

    This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
    others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
    or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
    and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
    kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph
    are included on all such copies and derivative works. However, this
    document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
    the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
    Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
    developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
    copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
    followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than

    The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
    revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

    This document and the information contained herein is provided on an


    Funding for the RFC editor function is currently provided by the
    Internet Society.

Khare & Lawrence         Expires April 21, 2000                [Page 13]