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Last Call Review of draft-ietf-httpbis-header-compression-10

Request Review of draft-ietf-httpbis-header-compression
Requested revision No specific revision (document currently at 12)
Type Last Call Review
Team Security Area Directorate (secdir)
Deadline 2015-01-20
Requested 2015-01-02
Authors Roberto Peon , Herve Ruellan
Draft last updated 2015-01-22
Completed reviews Genart Last Call review of -10 by David L. Black (diff)
Secdir Last Call review of -10 by Matt Lepinski (diff)
Opsdir Last Call review of -10 by David L. Black (diff)
Assignment Reviewer Matt Lepinski
State Completed
Review review-ietf-httpbis-header-compression-10-secdir-lc-lepinski-2015-01-22
Reviewed revision 10 (document currently at 12)
Result Has Nits
Completed 2015-01-22
I have reviewed this document as part of the security directorate’s ongoing
effort to review all IETF documents being processed by the IESG.  These
comments were written with the intent of improving security requirements and
considerations in IETF drafts.  Comments not addressed in last call may be
included in AD reviews during the IESG review.  Document editors and WG chairs
should treat these comments just like any other last call comments.

This document specifies HPACK, the compression scheme used by HTTP/2. A new
compression scheme was needed for HTTP/2 because of attacks against systems
where traditional compression schemes were used to compress HTTP headers sent
over an encrypted TLS connection. (e.g., the CRIME attack against SPDY.) HPACK
is specifically designed to avoid CRIME and similar attacks.

I believe that this document is mature and nearly ready for publication.
However, I have one concern and would request a change to the document (see

After reviewing this document and looking at the PETAL paper it references, I
am satisfied that -- as the authors claim -- the HPACK scheme [when used to
compress HTTP headers] is secure relative to our (the security community)
current understanding of attacks against encryption of compressed data. That
is, I believe that the authors have adequately addressed -- in the design of
HPACK and the associated Security Considerations section -- all known security

That being said, since HPACK is a relatively new algorithm, and since
encryption of compressed headers is known to be somewhat perilous, it is
possible that a clever attacker will develop a new attack in the future (i.e.,
CRIME++ ) that works against HPACK-compressed header fields. I haven't read the
latest version of HTTP/2 carefully enough to know whether HTTP/2 has a
mechanism for an implementation to turn off use of HPACK if such an attack is
discovered. However, planning for a possible future attack against HPACK would
probably be wise.


REQUEST FOR CHANGE TO: draft-ietf-httpbis-header-compression

The Security Considerations in this document are extremely well-written
(particularly Sections 7.1.1 and 7.1.2). Based on experience with the CRIME
attack, there are significant security concerns (described in Section 7.1) with
encrypting compressed headers. Section 7.1.1 explains how these concerns relate
to HPACK and Section 7.1.2 describes steps that an HPACK encoder implementation
can take to mitigate these concerns. These sections are very important --
indeed, more important than the security considerations sections for many IETF

I would very much like to see a forward reference to Section 7.1.2 (or perhaps
just Section 7.1 as whole) at some point earlier in the document  when the
authors are describing the encoder (probably somewhere in Section 2). That is,
there are important mitigation techniques that an implementer should have in
mind when creating an HPACK encoder. I believe that referencing these
techniques when the encoding process is described would be a good idea.