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TLS 1.3 Authentication and Integrity-Only Cipher Suites
RFC 9150

Document Type RFC - Informational (April 2022)
Authors Nancy Cam-Winget , Jack Visoky
Last updated 2022-04-21
RFC stream Independent Submission
IESG Responsible AD (None)
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RFC 9150

Independent Submission                                     N. Cam-Winget
Request for Comments: 9150                                 Cisco Systems
Category: Informational                                        J. Visoky
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                     ODVA
                                                              April 2022

        TLS 1.3 Authentication and Integrity-Only Cipher Suites


   This document defines the use of cipher suites for TLS 1.3 based on
   Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC).  Using these cipher suites
   provides server and, optionally, mutual authentication and data
   authenticity, but not data confidentiality.  Cipher suites with these
   properties are not of general applicability, but there are use cases,
   specifically in Internet of Things (IoT) and constrained
   environments, that do not require confidentiality of exchanged
   messages while still requiring integrity protection, server
   authentication, and optional client authentication.  This document
   gives examples of such use cases, with the caveat that prior to using
   these integrity-only cipher suites, a threat model for the situation
   at hand is needed, and a threat analysis must be performed within
   that model to determine whether the use of integrity-only cipher
   suites is appropriate.  The approach described in this document is
   not endorsed by the IETF and does not have IETF consensus, but it is
   presented here to enable interoperable implementation of a reduced-
   security mechanism that provides authentication and message integrity
   without supporting confidentiality.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other
   RFC stream.  The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at
   its discretion and makes no statement about its value for
   implementation or deployment.  Documents approved for publication by
   the RFC Editor are not candidates for any level of Internet Standard;
   see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   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) 2022 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
   2.  Terminology
   3.  Applicability Statement
   4.  Cryptographic Negotiation Using Integrity-Only Cipher Suites
   5.  Record Payload Protection for Integrity-Only Cipher Suites
   6.  Key Schedule when Using Integrity-Only Cipher Suites
   7.  Error Alerts
   8.  IANA Considerations
   9.  Security and Privacy Considerations
   10. References
     10.1.  Normative References
     10.2.  Informative References
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   There are several use cases in which communications privacy is not
   strictly needed, although authenticity of the communications
   transport is still very important.  For example, within the
   industrial automation space, there could be TCP or UDP communications
   that command a robotic arm to move a certain distance at a certain
   speed.  Without authenticity guarantees, an attacker could modify the
   packets to change the movement of the robotic arm, potentially
   causing physical damage.  However, the motion control commands are
   not always considered to be sensitive information, and thus there is
   no requirement to provide confidentiality.  Another Internet of
   Things (IoT) example with no strong requirement for confidentiality
   is the reporting of weather information; however, message
   authenticity is required to ensure integrity of the message.

   There is no requirement to encrypt messages in environments where the
   information is not confidential, such as when there is no
   intellectual property associated with the processes, or where the
   threat model does not indicate any outsider attacks (such as in a
   closed system).  Note, however, that this situation will not apply
   equally to all use cases (for example, in one case a robotic arm
   might be used for a process that does not involve any intellectual
   property but in another case might be used in a different process
   that does contain intellectual property).  Therefore, it is important
   that a user or system developer carefully examine both the
   sensitivity of the data and the system threat model to determine the
   need for encryption before deploying equipment and security

   Besides having a strong need for authenticity and no need for
   confidentiality, many of these systems also have a strong requirement
   for low latency.  Furthermore, several classes of IoT devices
   (industrial or otherwise) have limited processing capability.
   However, these IoT systems still gain great benefit from leveraging
   TLS 1.3 for secure communications.  Given the reduced need for
   confidentiality, TLS 1.3 cipher suites [RFC8446] that maintain data
   integrity without confidentiality are described in this document.
   These cipher suites are not meant for general use, as they do not
   meet the confidentiality and privacy goals of TLS.  They should only
   be used in cases where confidentiality and privacy are not a concern
   and there are constraints on using cipher suites that provide the
   full set of security properties.  The approach described in this
   document is not endorsed by the IETF and does not have IETF
   consensus, but it is presented here to enable interoperable
   implementation of a reduced-security mechanism that provides
   authentication and message integrity with supporting confidentiality.

2.  Terminology

   This document adopts the conventions for normative language to
   provide clarity of instructions to the implementer.  The key words
   in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14
   [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals,
   as shown here.

3.  Applicability Statement

   The two cipher suites defined in this document, which are based on
   Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC) SHAs [RFC6234], are
   intended for a small limited set of applications where
   confidentiality requirements are relaxed and the need to minimize the
   number of cryptographic algorithms is prioritized.  This section
   describes some of those applicable use cases.

   Use cases in the industrial automation industry, while requiring data
   integrity, often do not require confidential communications.  Mainly,
   data communicated to unmanned machines to execute repetitive tasks
   does not convey private information.  For example, there could be a
   system with a robotic arm that paints the body of a car.  This
   equipment is used within a car manufacturing plant and is just one
   piece of equipment in a multi-step manufacturing process.  The
   movements of this robotic arm are likely not a trade secret or
   sensitive intellectual property, although some portions of the
   manufacturing of the car might very well contain sensitive
   intellectual property.  Even the mixture for the paint itself might
   be confidential, but the mixing is done by a completely different
   piece of equipment and therefore communication to/from that equipment
   can be encrypted without requiring the communication to/from the
   robotic arm to be encrypted.  Modern manufacturing often has
   segmented equipment with different levels of risk related to
   intellectual property, although nearly every communication
   interaction has strong data authenticity requirements.

   Another use case that is closely related is that of fine-grained time
   updates.  Motion systems often rely on time synchronization to ensure
   proper execution.  Time updates are essentially public; there is no
   threat from an attacker knowing the time update information.  This
   should make intuitive sense to those not familiar with these
   applications; rarely if ever does time information present a serious
   attack surface dealing with privacy.  However, the authenticity is
   still quite important.  The consequences of maliciously modified time
   data can vary from mere denial of service to actual physical damage,
   depending on the particular situation and attacker capability.  As
   these time synchronization updates are very fine-grained, it is again
   important for latency to be very low.

   A third use case deals with data related to alarms.  Industrial
   control sensing equipment can be configured to send alarm information
   when it meets certain conditions -- for example, temperature goes
   above or below a given threshold.  Oftentimes, this data is used to
   detect certain out-of-tolerance conditions, allowing an operator or
   automated system to take corrective action.  Once again, in many
   systems the reading of this data doesn't grant the attacker
   information that can be exploited; it is generally just information
   regarding the physical state of the system.  At the same time, being
   able to modify this data would allow an attacker to either trigger
   alarms falsely or cover up evidence of an attack that might allow for
   detection of their malicious activity.  Furthermore, sensors are
   often low-powered devices that might struggle to process encrypted
   and authenticated data.  These sensors might be very cost sensitive
   such that there is not enough processing power for data encryption.
   Sending data that is just authenticated but not encrypted eases the
   burden placed on these devices yet still allows the data to be
   protected against any tampering threats.  A user can always choose to
   pay more for a sensor with encryption capability, but for some, data
   authenticity will be sufficient.

   A fourth use case considers the protection of commands in the railway
   industry.  In railway control systems, no confidentiality
   requirements are applied for the command exchange between an
   interlocking controller and a railway equipment controller (for
   instance, a railway point controller of a tram track where the
   position of the controlled point is publicly available).  However,
   protecting the integrity and authenticity of those commands is vital;
   otherwise, an adversary could change the target position of the point
   by modifying the commands, which consequently could lead to the
   derailment of a passing train.  Furthermore, requirements for
   providing flight-data recording of the safety-related network traffic
   can only be fulfilled through using authenticity-only ciphers as,
   typically, the recording is used by a third party responsible for the
   analysis after an accident.  The analysis requires such third party
   to extract the safety-related commands from the recording.

   The fifth use case deals with data related to civil aviation
   airplanes and ground communication.  Pilots can send and receive
   messages to/from ground control, such as airplane route-of-flight
   updates, weather information, controller and pilot communication, and
   airline back-office communication.  Similarly, the Air Traffic
   Control (ATC) service uses air-to-ground communication to receive the
   surveillance data that relies on (is dependent on) downlink reports
   from an airplane's avionics.  This communication occurs automatically
   in accordance with contracts established between the ATC ground
   system and the airplane's avionics.  Reports can be sent whenever
   specific events occur or specific time intervals are reached.  In
   many systems, the reading of this data doesn't grant the attacker
   information that can be exploited; it is generally just information
   regarding the states of the airplane, controller pilot communication,
   meteorological information, etc.  At the same time, being able to
   modify this data would allow an attacker to either put aircraft in
   the wrong flight trajectory or provide false information to ground
   control that might delay flights, damage property, or harm life.
   Sending data that is not encrypted but is authenticated allows the
   data to be protected against any tampering threats.  Data
   authenticity is sufficient for the air traffic, weather, and
   surveillance information exchanges between airplanes and the ground

   The above use cases describe the requirements where confidentiality
   is not needed and/or interferes with other requirements.  Some of
   these use cases are based on devices that come with a small runtime
   memory footprint and reduced processing power; therefore, the need to
   minimize the number of cryptographic algorithms used is a priority.
   Despite this, it is noted that memory, performance, and processing
   power implications of any given algorithm or set of algorithms are
   highly dependent on hardware and software architecture.  Therefore,
   although these cipher suites may provide performance benefits, they
   will not necessarily provide these benefits in all cases on all
   platforms.  Furthermore, in some use cases, third-party inspection of
   data is specifically needed, which is also supported through the lack
   of confidentiality mechanisms.

4.  Cryptographic Negotiation Using Integrity-Only Cipher Suites

   The cryptographic negotiation as specified in [RFC8446],
   Section 4.1.1 remains the same, with the inclusion of the following
   cipher suites:

      TLS_SHA256_SHA256 {0xC0,0xB4}

      TLS_SHA384_SHA384 {0xC0,0xB5}

   As defined in [RFC8446], TLS 1.3 cipher suites denote the
   Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data (AEAD) algorithm for
   record protection and the hash algorithm to use with the HMAC-based
   Key Derivation Function (HKDF).  The cipher suites provided by this
   document are defined in a similar way, but they use the HMAC
   authentication tag to model the AEAD interface, as only an HMAC is
   provided for record protection (without encryption).  These cipher
   suites allow the use of SHA-256 or SHA-384 as the HMAC for data
   integrity protection as well as its use for the HKDF.  The
   authentication mechanisms remain unchanged with the intent to only
   update the cipher suites to relax the need for confidentiality.

   Given that these cipher suites do not support confidentiality, they
   MUST NOT be used with authentication and key exchange methods that
   rely on confidentiality.

5.  Record Payload Protection for Integrity-Only Cipher Suites

   Record payload protection as defined in [RFC8446] is retained in
   modified form when integrity-only cipher suites are used.  Note that
   due to the purposeful use of hash algorithms, instead of AEAD
   algorithms, confidentiality protection of the record payload is not
   provided.  This section describes the mapping of record payload
   structures when integrity-only cipher suites are employed.

   Given that there is no encryption to be done at the record layer, the
   operations "Protect" and "Unprotect" take the place of "AEAD-Encrypt"
   and "AEAD-Decrypt" [RFC8446], respectively.

   As integrity protection is provided over the full record, the
   encrypted_record in the TLSCiphertext along with the additional_data
   input to protected_data (termed AEADEncrypted data in [RFC8446]) as
   defined in Section 5.2 of [RFC8446] remain the same.  The
   TLSCiphertext.length for the integrity cipher suites will be:

      TLSCiphertext.length = TLSInnerPlaintext_length + 32

      TLSCiphertext.length = TLSInnerPlaintext_length + 48

   Note that TLSInnerPlaintext_length is not defined as an explicit
   field in [RFC8446]; this refers to the length of the encoded
   TLSInnerPlaintext structure.

   The resulting protected_record is the concatenation of the
   TLSInnerPlaintext with the resulting HMAC.  Note that this is
   analogous to the "encrypted_record" as defined in [RFC8446], although
   it is referred to as a "protected_record" because of the lack of
   confidentiality via encryption.  With this mapping, the record
   validation order as defined in Section 5.2 of [RFC8446] remains the
   same.  That is, the encrypted_record field of TLSCiphertext is set

      encrypted_record = TLS13-HMAC-Protected = TLSInnerPlaintext ||
      HMAC(write_key, nonce || additional_data || TLSInnerPlaintext)

   Here, "nonce" refers to the per-record nonce described in Section 5.3
   of [RFC8446].

   For DTLS 1.3, the DTLSCiphertext is set to:

      encrypted_record = DTLS13-HMAC-Protected = DTLSInnerPlaintext ||
      HMAC(write_key, nonce || additional_data || DTLSInnerPlaintext)

   The DTLS "nonce" refers to the per-record nonce described in
   Section 4.2.2 of [DTLS13].

   The Protect and Unprotect operations provide the integrity protection
   using HMAC SHA-256 or HMAC SHA-384 as described in [RFC6234].

   Due to the lack of encryption of the plaintext, record padding does
   not provide any obfuscation as to the plaintext size, although it can
   be optionally included.

6.  Key Schedule when Using Integrity-Only Cipher Suites

   The key derivation process for integrity-only cipher suites remains
   the same as that defined in [RFC8446].  The only difference is that
   the keys used to protect the tunnel apply to the negotiated HMAC
   SHA-256 or HMAC SHA-384 ciphers.  Note that the traffic key material
   (client_write_key, client_write_iv, server_write_key, and
   server_write_iv) MUST be calculated as per [RFC8446], Section 7.3.
   The key lengths and Initialization Vectors (IVs) for these cipher
   suites are according to the hash output lengths.  In other words, the
   following key lengths and IV lengths SHALL be:

              | Cipher Suite      | Key Length | IV Length |
              | TLS_SHA256_SHA256 | 32 Bytes   | 32 Bytes  |
              | TLS_SHA384_SHA384 | 48 Bytes   | 48 Bytes  |

                                 Table 1

7.  Error Alerts

   The error alerts as defined by [RFC8446] remain the same; in

   bad_record_mac:  This alert can also occur for a record whose message
      authentication code cannot be validated.  Since these cipher
      suites do not involve record encryption, this alert will only
      occur when the HMAC fails to verify.

   decrypt_error:  This alert, as described in [RFC8446], Section 6.2,
      occurs when the signature or message authentication code cannot be
      validated.  Note that this error is only sent during the
      handshake, not for an error in validating record HMACs.

8.  IANA Considerations

   IANA has registered the following cipher suites, defined by this
   document, in the "TLS Cipher Suites" registry:

         | Value     | Description       | DTLS-OK | Recommended |
         | 0xC0,0xB4 | TLS_SHA256_SHA256 | Y       | N           |
         | 0xC0,0xB5 | TLS_SHA384_SHA384 | Y       | N           |

                                  Table 2

9.  Security and Privacy Considerations

   In general, except for confidentiality and privacy, the security
   considerations detailed in [RFC8446] and [RFC5246] apply to this
   document.  Furthermore, as the cipher suites described in this
   document do not provide any confidentiality, it is important that
   they only be used in cases where there are no confidentiality or
   privacy requirements and concerns; the runtime memory requirements
   can accommodate support for authenticity-only cryptographic

   With the lack of data encryption specified in this specification, no
   confidentiality or privacy is provided for the data transported via
   the TLS session.  That is, the record layer is not encrypted when
   using these cipher suites, nor is the handshake.  To highlight the
   loss of privacy, the information carried in the TLS handshake, which
   includes both the server and client certificates, while integrity
   protected, will be sent unencrypted.  Similarly, other TLS extensions
   that may be carried in the server's EncryptedExtensions message will
   only be integrity protected without provisions for confidentiality.
   Furthermore, with this lack of confidentiality, any private Pre-
   Shared Key (PSK) data MUST NOT be sent in the handshake while using
   these cipher suites.  However, as PSKs may be loaded externally,
   these cipher suites can be used with the 0-RTT handshake defined in
   [RFC8446], with the same security implications discussed therein

   Application protocols that build on TLS or DTLS for protection (e.g.,
   HTTP) may have implicit assumptions of data confidentiality.  Any
   assumption of data confidentiality is invalidated by the use of these
   cipher suites, as no data confidentiality is provided.  This applies
   to any data sent over the application-data channel (e.g., bearer
   tokens in HTTP), as data requiring confidentiality MUST NOT be sent
   using these cipher suites.

   Limits on key usage for AEAD-based ciphers are described in
   [RFC8446].  However, as the cipher suites discussed here are not
   AEAD, those same limits do not apply.  The general security
   properties of HMACs discussed in [RFC2104] and [BCK1] apply.
   Additionally, security considerations on the algorithm's strength
   based on the HMAC key length and truncation length further described
   in [RFC4868] also apply.  Until further cryptanalysis demonstrates
   limitations on key usage for HMACs, general practice for key usage
   recommends that implementations place limits on the lifetime of the
   HMAC keys and invoke a key update as described in [RFC8446] prior to
   reaching this limit.

   DTLS 1.3 defines a mechanism for encrypting the DTLS record sequence
   numbers.  However, as these cipher suites do not utilize encryption,
   the record sequence numbers are sent unencrypted.  That is, the
   procedure for DTLS record sequence number protection is to apply no
   protection for these cipher suites.

   Given the lack of confidentiality, these cipher suites MUST NOT be
   enabled by default.  As these cipher suites are meant to serve the
   IoT market, it is important that any IoT endpoint that uses them be
   explicitly configured with a policy of non-confidential

10.  References

10.1.  Normative References

   [BCK1]     Bellare, M., Canetti, R., and H. Krawczyk, "Keying Hash
              Functions for Message Authentication",
              DOI 10.1007/3-540-68697-5_1, 1996,

   [DTLS13]   Rescorla, E., Tschofenig, H., and N. Modadugu, "The
              Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) Protocol Version
              1.3", RFC 9147, DOI 10.17487/RFC9147, April 2022,

   [RFC2104]  Krawczyk, H., Bellare, M., and R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed-
              Hashing for Message Authentication", RFC 2104,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2104, February 1997,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC4868]  Kelly, S. and S. Frankel, "Using HMAC-SHA-256, HMAC-SHA-
              384, and HMAC-SHA-512 with IPsec", RFC 4868,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4868, May 2007,

   [RFC6234]  Eastlake 3rd, D. and T. Hansen, "US Secure Hash Algorithms
              (SHA and SHA-based HMAC and HKDF)", RFC 6234,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6234, May 2011,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8446]  Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol
              Version 1.3", RFC 8446, DOI 10.17487/RFC8446, August 2018,

10.2.  Informative References

   [RFC5246]  Dierks, T. and E. Rescorla, "The Transport Layer Security
              (TLS) Protocol Version 1.2", RFC 5246,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5246, August 2008,


   The authors would like to acknowledge the work done by Industrial
   Communications Standards Groups (such as ODVA) as the motivation for
   this document.  We would also like to thank Steffen Fries for
   providing a fourth use case and Madhu Niraula for a fifth use case.
   In addition, we are grateful for the advice and feedback from Joe
   Salowey, Blake Anderson, David McGrew, Clement Zeller, and Peter Wu.

Authors' Addresses

   Nancy Cam-Winget
   Cisco Systems
   3550 Cisco Way
   San Jose, CA 95134
   United States of America

   Jack Visoky
   1 Allen Bradley Dr
   Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
   United States of America