Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack
RFC 7258

Document Type RFC - Best Current Practice (May 2014; No errata)
Also known as BCP 188
Was draft-farrell-perpass-attack (individual in gen area)
Authors Stephen Farrell  , Hannes Tschofenig 
Last updated 2015-10-14
Stream IETF
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Document shepherd Sean Turner
Shepherd write-up Show (last changed 2014-01-22)
IESG IESG state RFC 7258 (Best Current Practice)
Consensus Boilerplate Yes
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Responsible AD Jari Arkko
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IANA IANA review state Version Changed - Review Needed
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Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                        S. Farrell
Request for Comments: 7258                        Trinity College Dublin
BCP: 188                                                   H. Tschofenig
Category: Best Current Practice                                 ARM Ltd.
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                 May 2014

                   Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack


   Pervasive monitoring is a technical attack that should be mitigated
   in the design of IETF protocols, where possible.

Status of This Memo

   This memo documents an Internet Best Current Practice.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Further information on
   BCPs is available in Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2014 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
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   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Farrell & Tschofenig      Best Current Practice                 [Page 1]
RFC 7258            Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack           May 2014

1.  Pervasive Monitoring Is a Widespread Attack on Privacy

   Pervasive Monitoring (PM) is widespread (and often covert)
   surveillance through intrusive gathering of protocol artefacts,
   including application content, or protocol metadata such as headers.
   Active or passive wiretaps and traffic analysis, (e.g., correlation,
   timing or measuring packet sizes), or subverting the cryptographic
   keys used to secure protocols can also be used as part of pervasive
   monitoring.  PM is distinguished by being indiscriminate and very
   large scale, rather than by introducing new types of technical

   The IETF community's technical assessment is that PM is an attack on
   the privacy of Internet users and organisations.  The IETF community
   has expressed strong agreement that PM is an attack that needs to be
   mitigated where possible, via the design of protocols that make PM
   significantly more expensive or infeasible.  Pervasive monitoring was
   discussed at the technical plenary of the November 2013 IETF meeting
   [IETF88Plenary] and then through extensive exchanges on IETF mailing
   lists.  This document records the IETF community's consensus and
   establishes the technical nature of PM.

   The term "attack" is used here in a technical sense that differs
   somewhat from common English usage.  In common English usage, an
   attack is an aggressive action perpetrated by an opponent, intended
   to enforce the opponent's will on the attacked party.  The term is
   used here to refer to behavior that subverts the intent of
   communicating parties without the agreement of those parties.  An
   attack may change the content of the communication, record the
   content or external characteristics of the communication, or through
   correlation with other communication events, reveal information the
   parties did not intend to be revealed.  It may also have other
   effects that similarly subvert the intent of a communicator.
   [RFC4949] contains a more complete definition for the term "attack".
   We also use the term in the singular here, even though PM in reality
   may consist of a multifaceted set of coordinated attacks.

   In particular, the term "attack", used technically, implies nothing
   about the motivation of the actor mounting the attack.  The
   motivation for PM can range from non-targeted nation-state
   surveillance, to legal but privacy-unfriendly purposes by commercial
   enterprises, to illegal actions by criminals.  The same techniques to
   achieve PM can be used regardless of motivation.  Thus, we cannot
   defend against the most nefarious actors while allowing monitoring by
   other actors no matter how benevolent some might consider them to be,
   since the actions required of the attacker are indistinguishable from
   other attacks.  The motivation for PM is, therefore, not relevant for
   how PM is mitigated in IETF protocols.

Farrell & Tschofenig      Best Current Practice                 [Page 2]
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