NETWORK WORKING GROUP                                        N. Williams
Internet-Draft                                                       Sun
Expires: January 13, August 23, 2005                               February 22, 2005                                  July 15, 2004

           On the Use of Channel Bindings to Secure Channels

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   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004). (2005).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document defines and formalizes the concept of channel bindings
   to secure layers and defines the channel bindings for several types
   of secure channels.

   The concept of channel bindings allows applications to prove that the
   end-points of two secure channels at different network layers are the
   same by binding authentication at one channel to the session
   protection at the other channel.  The use of channel bindings allows
   applications to delegate session protection to lower layers, which
   may significantly improve performance for some applications.

Table of Contents

   1.  Conventions used in this document  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   3.  Definitions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Authentication protocols and channel bindings  . . . . . . . .  7
     4.1   The GSS-API and channel bindings . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     4.2   SASL and channel bindings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   5.  Channel bindings for various secure layers . . . . . . . . . .  8  9
     5.1   Bindings to SSHv2 channels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8  9
     5.2   Bindings to TLS channels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8  9
     5.3   Bindings to IPsec  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8  9
       5.3.1   Interfaces for creating IPsec channels . . . . . . . .  9 10
     5.4   Bindings to other types of channels  . . . . . . . . . . .  9 10
   6.  Benefits of channel bindings to secure channels  . . . . . . . 10 11
   7.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 12
   8.  References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 13
   8.1   Normative  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 13
   8.2   Informative  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 13
       Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 13
   A.  Acknowledgments  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 14
       Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements . . . . . . . . 14 15

1.  Conventions used in this document

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2.  Introduction

   Over the years several attempts have been made to delegate session
   protection at one network layer to another, for performance and/or
   scalability as well as for design elegance and also to avoid having
   to reinvent the wheel (that is, cryptographic session protection) for
   every new application or security layer.

   The critical security problem to solve in order to achieve such
   delegation of session protection is always the same: how to ensure
   that there is no man-in-the-middle (MITM), from the point of view the
   application, at the lower network layer to which session protection
   is to be delegated.

   An alternative statement of the problem: how does one ensure that the
   end-points of two secure channels at different network layers are the

   And there may well be a MITM, particularly if the lower network layer
   either provides no authentication or if there is no connection
   between the authentication or principals used at the application and
   those used at the lower network layer.

   Such MITM attacks can be effected by, for example, spoofing IP
   address lookups (which is possible, for example, when using DNS but
   not DNSSEC) in a way that the application may not detect but which
   directs the client application or network stack to connect to a
   different host than had been intended (e.g., to the MITM's host).

   Even if such MITM attacks seem particularly difficult to effect, the
   attacks must be prevented for certain applications to be able to make
   effective use of technologies such as IPsec.

   A solution to this problem is highly desirable, particularly where
   multi-user applications are run over secure network layers (e.g., NFS
   over IPsec).  For such applications the authentication model used at
   the application layer (usually user<->server) is generally very
   different from that used by secure, lower network layers, such as
   IPsec (usually client<->server or single-user<->server), and may even
   use different authentication infrastructures altogether (e.g.,
   Kerberos V for the application layer, x.509 certificates at the lower
   layer).  Such applications cannot, at present, generally leverage the
   security provided by the lower network layers, which, if they could,
   would allow them to offload session security to the secure lower

   One solution involves ensuring the use of secure name services for
   hostname to network address translation along with the use of secure
   networks (e.g., IPsec).  This approach can prevent the MITM attack
   described above, but does not offer applications any guarantees that
   there is no MITM in the lower layer.

   This document describes another solution: the use of "channel
   bindings" (a GSS-API concept [RFC2743]) to bind authentication at
   application layers to secure transports at lower layers in the
   network stack.

   "Channel bindings" are data which securely identify a secure channel
   such that, when verified to match on both endpoints of end-to-end
   application connections, leave no doubt that the endpoints of two
   secure channels (the one identified by the bindings and the one used
   to exchange/verify the bindings) are the same.

   Because many applications exist which provide for authentication at
   the application layer, because many such applications use generic
   authentication frameworks, such as the GSS-API and SASL and are
   already deployed along with a common authentication infrastructure
   (e.g., Kerberos V, PKI, etc...), because such applications exist
   which multiplex multiple users onto a single session (and so cannot
   leverage network [e.g., IKE] authentication), the use of channel
   bindings is an elegant solution even where secure name services and
   networks are deployed.

   A formal definition of the channel bindings concept is given below,
   as well as the specific formulation of channel bindings for various
   protocols that provide for session security.

   Specific instructions for the use of channel bindings with GSS-API
   instructions is given elsewhere.

3.  Definitions

   The GSS-API [RFC2743] is a generic interface to GSS-API security
   mechanisms which provides for authentication and session
   cryptographic protection.  One facility provided by the GSS-API is a
   concept of "channel bindings" which consists of some data which must
   be provided, if at all, by both, initiators and acceptors, and which
   the GSS-API security mechanisms ensure are the same for both, the
   initiator and acceptor of any given GSS-API security context - if the
   channel bindings provided by them do not match then the mechanism
   fails to establish the security context.

   o  Channel bindings
         Generally some data which names a channel or its end-points.
         The security properties and channel bindings of the channel,
         once established, MUST NOT change for the lifetime of the

         More formally, there are two types of channel bindings:

         +  bindings that name a channel in a cryptographically secure
            manner (e.g., the session ID in SSHv2; see below);
         +  bindings that name the authenticated end-points of a channel
            (e.g., as in IPsec; see below) which are, in turn, securely
            bound to the channel.

         Applications can exchange authenticated, integrity-protected
         verifiers of channel bindings data to prove that the end-points
         of some channel are the logically the same as the application
         endpoints and thus, there can be no MITM at the lower layer.
   o  Channel bindings to network addresses
         The GSS-API originally defined only channel bindings to network
         The network addresses of a channel's end-points typically say
         nothing about the protection afforded by that channel, and
         where the channel can be said to be secure the network
         addresses may not be securely bound to the channel anyways.
         In practice channel bindings to network addresses have mostly
         just caused trouble with Network Address Translation (NAT).

4.  Authentication protocols and channel bindings

   Some authentication services provide for channel bindings, such as
   the GSS-API and some GSS-API mechanisms, whereas others may not, such
   as SASL.

   Where suitable channel bindings facilities are not provided
   application protocol designers may include a separate, protected
   (where the authentication service provides message protection
   services) exchange of channel bindings material.

4.1  The GSS-API and channel bindings

   The GSS-API provides for the use of channel bindings during
   initialization of GSS-API security contexts, though GSS-API
   mechanisms are not required to support this facility.

   This channel bindings facility is described in detail in RFC2744.

   GSS-API applications must agree a priori, through negotiation or
   otherwise, on the use of channel bindings.  This is because the
   GSS-API does not have a way to indicate that a security context was
   successfully established but that the channel bindings supplied could
   not be verified to be the same for both peers.

   Fortunately, it is possible to design GSS-API pseudo-mechanisms that
   simply wrap around existing mechanisms for the purpose of allowing
   applications to negotiate the use of channel bindings within their
   existing methods for negotiating GSS-API mechanisms.  For example,
   NFSv4 [RFC3530] provides its own GSS-API mechanism negotiation, as
   does the SSHv2 protocol [SECSH-GSSAPI].  Such pseudo-mechanisms are
   being proposed separately.  [NOTE:  Indirect reference to CCM...]

   However, it does not, at this time, seem feasible to use SPNEGO with
   such pseudo-mechanisms for negotiating the use of channel bindings.

4.2  SASL and channel bindings

   SASL does not provide for the use of channel bindings during
   initialization of SASL contexts.

   SASL applications MAY define their own exchange of integrity-
   integrity-protected channel bindings using established SASL integrity

   Alternatively, SASL applications MAY use the GSS-* SASL mechanisms
   (which correspond to GSS-API mechanisms) to ensure the use of channel
   bindings through the GSS-API's facilities; this approach may require
   more study and specification elsewhere.

5.  Channel bindings for various secure layers

   Not every secure session protocol or interface provides for secure
   channels, and not every secure session protocol provides data
   suitable for use as channel bindings.

5.1  Bindings to SSHv2 channels

   SSHv2 provides both, a secure channel and material (the SSHv2
   "session ID") that is suitable for use as channel bindings.

   Thus it is RECOMMENDED that the SSHv2 "session ID" be used as the
   channel bindings for SSHv2.

5.2  Bindings to TLS channels

   TLS provides both, a secure channel and material (the TLS "finished"
   messages), that is suitable for use as channel bindings.

   Thus it is RECOMMENDED that the concatenation of the client's and
   server's "finished" messages, in that order, be used as the channel
   bindings for TLS.

   Note that the TLS "session ID," in spite of being named similarly to
   the SSHv2 session ID, is not suitable for use as channel bindings
   because it is assigned by the server, so a MITM could assign the same
   session ID on the client side as it gets from the server.

5.3  Bindings to IPsec

   IPsec does not provide for secure channels by itself, as it protects
   individual packets.  Further, the IPsec SAs used to protect the
   packets for some channel (e.g., a TCP connection) over its lifetime
   need not be related in any way that allows for construction of
   channel bindings.

   There is a set of IPsec parameters that may be kept constant for all
   IP packets for a given channel (e.g., a TCP connection):

   o  the peers' authenticated IPsec IDs
   o  the SA types (e.g., transport mode ESP)
   o  the privacy and integrity protection algorithms used

      [QUESTION:  Should IPsec traffic selectors, that is, the protocol
      (TCP, UDP, SCTP) and port numbers used for the channel be

   Provided interfaces for binding a channel to these IPsec parameters
   it is possible to construct a channel secured by IPsec.

   The channel bindings for such a channel, then, are the values of
   those IPsec parameters to which the channel is bound.

   Requirements for such interfaces to IPsec are specified in

5.3.1  Interfaces for creating IPsec channels

   In order to build an IPsec channel some additional application
   programming interfaces are needed to:

   o  indicate that an as yet unconnected channel is to be bound to
      IPsec IDs and
   o  explicitly specify one, the other or both of those IDs
   o  implicitly specify one, the other or both of those IDs (e.g., the
      ID corresponding to the current application program instance)
   o  indirectly specify one, the other or both of those IDs (e.g.,
      through IP addresses or hostnames)
   o  explicitly specify ESP and/or AH and associated algorithms


   o  discover the IPsec IDs parameters to which a channel is bound

   For connection-less datagram transports the IDs to be used need to be
   specified/discovered on a per-datagram basis.


5.4  Bindings to other types of channels

   Channel bindings for other secure session protocols are not specified

6.  Benefits of channel bindings to secure channels

   The use of channel bindings to delegate session cryptographic
   protection include:

   o  Performance improvements by avoiding double protection of
      application data in cases where IPsec is in use and applications
      provide their own secure channels.
   o  Performance improvements by leveraging hardware-accelerated IPsec.
   o  Performance improvements by allowing RDDP hardware offloading to
      be integrated with IPsec hardware acceleration.
         Where protocols layered above RDDP use privacy protection RDDP
         offload cannot be done, thus by using channel bindings to IPsec
         the privacy protection is moved to IPsec, which is layered
         below RDDP, so RDDP can address application protocol data
         that's in cleartext relative to the RDDP headers.
   o  Latency improvements for applications that multiplex multiple
      users onto a single channel, such as NFS w/ RPCSEC_GSS.

7.  Security Considerations

   When delegating session protection from one layer to another, one
   will almost certainly be making some session security trade-offs,
   such as using weaker cipher modes in one layer than might be used in
   the other.  Implementors and administrators SHOULD understand these

   Channel bindings cannot and MUST NOT be used without mutual
   authentication (of client/user/initiator and server/user/acceptor).

   Anonymous secure channels SHOULD NOT be used without authentication
   and corresponding use of their channel bindings at higher network

   The security of channel bindings depends on the security of the
   channels, the construction of the bindings and the security of the
   authentication and integrity protection used to exchange channel

8.  References

8.1  Normative

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

   [RFC2743]  Linn, J., "Generic Security Service Application Program
              Interface Version 2, Update 1", RFC 2743, January 2000.

   [RFC2744]  Wray, J., "Generic Security Service API Version 2 :
              C-bindings", RFC 2744, January 2000.

8.2  Informative

   [RFC0854]  Postel, J. and J. Reynolds, "Telnet Protocol
              Specification", STD 8, RFC 854, May 1983.

   [RFC1035]  Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - implementation and
              specification", STD 13, RFC 1035, November 1987.

   [RFC2025]  Adams, C., "The Simple Public-Key GSS-API Mechanism
              (SPKM)", RFC 2025, October 1996.

   [RFC2203]  Eisler, M., Chiu, A. and L. Ling, "RPCSEC_GSS Protocol
              Specification", RFC 2203, September 1997.

   [RFC2478]  Baize, E. and D. Pinkas, "The Simple and Protected GSS-API
              Negotiation Mechanism", RFC 2478, December 1998.

   [RFC2623]  Eisler, M., "NFS Version 2 and Version 3 Security Issues
              and the NFS Protocol's Use of RPCSEC_GSS and Kerberos V5",
              RFC 2623, June 1999.

   [RFC3530]  Shepler, S., Callaghan, B., Robinson, D., Thurlow, R.,
              Beame, C., Eisler, M. and D. Noveck, "Network File System
              (NFS) version 4 Protocol", RFC 3530, April 2003.

Author's Address

   Nicolas Williams
   Sun Microsystems
   5300 Riata Trace Ct
   Austin, TX  78727


Appendix A.  Acknowledgments

   The author would like to thank Mike Eisler for his work on the
   Channel Conjunction Mechanism I-D and for bringing the problem to a
   head, Sam Hartman for pointing out that channel bindings provide a
   general solution to the channel binding problem, Jeff Altman for his
   suggestion of using the TLS finished messages as the TLS channel
   bindings, Bill Sommerfeld, for his help in developing channel
   bindings for IPsec, and Radia Perlman for her most helpful comments.

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