ipv6 rfcs

RFC 1981 – Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6

 
Network Working Group                                          J. McCann
Request for Comments: 1981 Digital Equipment Corporation
Category: Standards Track S. Deering
Xerox PARC
J. Mogul
Digital Equipment Corporation
August 1996

Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6

Status of this Memo

This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Abstract

This document describes Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6. It is
largely derived from RFC 1191, which describes Path MTU Discovery for
IP version 4.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction.................................................2
2. Terminology..................................................2
3. Protocol overview............................................3
4. Protocol Requirements........................................4
5. Implementation Issues........................................5
5.1. Layering...................................................5
5.2. Storing PMTU information...................................6
5.3. Purging stale PMTU information.............................8
5.4. TCP layer actions..........................................9
5.5. Issues for other transport protocols......................11
5.6. Management interface......................................12
6. Security Considerations.....................................12
Acknowledgements...............................................13
Appendix A - Comparison to RFC 1191............................14
References.....................................................14
Authors' Addresses.............................................15

1. Introduction

When one IPv6 node has a large amount of data to send to another
node, the data is transmitted in a series of IPv6 packets. It is
usually preferable that these packets be of the largest size that can
successfully traverse the path from the source node to the
destination node. This packet size is referred to as the Path MTU
(PMTU), and it is equal to the minimum link MTU of all the links in a
path. IPv6 defines a standard mechanism for a node to discover the
PMTU of an arbitrary path.

IPv6 nodes SHOULD implement Path MTU Discovery in order to discover
and take advantage of paths with PMTU greater than the IPv6 minimum
link MTU [IPv6-SPEC]. A minimal IPv6 implementation (e.g., in a boot
ROM) may choose to omit implementation of Path MTU Discovery.

Nodes not implementing Path MTU Discovery use the IPv6 minimum link
MTU defined in [IPv6-SPEC] as the maximum packet size. In most
cases, this will result in the use of smaller packets than necessary,
because most paths have a PMTU greater than the IPv6 minimum link
MTU. A node sending packets much smaller than the Path MTU allows is
wasting network resources and probably getting suboptimal throughput.

2. Terminology

node - a device that implements IPv6.

router - a node that forwards IPv6 packets not explicitly
addressed to itself.

host - any node that is not a router.

upper layer - a protocol layer immediately above IPv6. Examples are
transport protocols such as TCP and UDP, control
protocols such as ICMP, routing protocols such as OSPF,
and internet or lower-layer protocols being "tunneled"
over (i.e., encapsulated in) IPv6 such as IPX,
AppleTalk, or IPv6 itself.

link - a communication facility or medium over which nodes can
communicate at the link layer, i.e., the layer
immediately below IPv6. Examples are Ethernets (simple
or bridged); PPP links; X.25, Frame Relay, or ATM
networks; and internet (or higher) layer "tunnels",
such as tunnels over IPv4 or IPv6 itself.

interface - a node's attachment to a link.

address - an IPv6-layer identifier for an interface or a set of
interfaces.

packet - an IPv6 header plus payload.

link MTU - the maximum transmission unit, i.e., maximum packet
size in octets, that can be conveyed in one piece over
a link.

path - the set of links traversed by a packet between a source
node and a destination node

path MTU - the minimum link MTU of all the links in a path between
a source node and a destination node.

PMTU - path MTU

Path MTU
Discovery - process by which a node learns the PMTU of a path

flow - a sequence of packets sent from a particular source
to a particular (unicast or multicast) destination for
which the source desires special handling by the
intervening routers.

flow id - a combination of a source address and a non-zero
flow label.

3. Protocol overview

This memo describes a technique to dynamically discover the PMTU of a
path. The basic idea is that a source node initially assumes that
the PMTU of a path is the (known) MTU of the first hop in the path.
If any of the packets sent on that path are too large to be forwarded
by some node along the path, that node will discard them and return
ICMPv6 Packet Too Big messages [ICMPv6]. Upon receipt of such a
message, the source node reduces its assumed PMTU for the path based
on the MTU of the constricting hop as reported in the Packet Too Big
message.

The Path MTU Discovery process ends when the node's estimate of the
PMTU is less than or equal to the actual PMTU. Note that several
iterations of the packet-sent/Packet-Too-Big-message-received cycle
may occur before the Path MTU Discovery process ends, as there may be
links with smaller MTUs further along the path.

Alternatively, the node may elect to end the discovery process by
ceasing to send packets larger than the IPv6 minimum link MTU.

The PMTU of a path may change over time, due to changes in the
routing topology. Reductions of the PMTU are detected by Packet Too
Big messages. To detect increases in a path's PMTU, a node
periodically increases its assumed PMTU. This will almost always
result in packets being discarded and Packet Too Big messages being
generated, because in most cases the PMTU of the path will not have
changed. Therefore, attempts to detect increases in a path's PMTU
should be done infrequently.

Path MTU Discovery supports multicast as well as unicast
destinations. In the case of a multicast destination, copies of a
packet may traverse many different paths to many different nodes.
Each path may have a different PMTU, and a single multicast packet
may result in multiple Packet Too Big messages, each reporting a
different next-hop MTU. The minimum PMTU value across the set of
paths in use determines the size of subsequent packets sent to the
multicast destination.

Note that Path MTU Discovery must be performed even in cases where a
node "thinks" a destination is attached to the same link as itself.
In a situation such as when a neighboring router acts as proxy [ND]
for some destination, the destination can to appear to be directly
connected but is in fact more than one hop away.

4. Protocol Requirements

As discussed in section 1, IPv6 nodes are not required to implement
Path MTU Discovery. The requirements in this section apply only to
those implementations that include Path MTU Discovery.

When a node receives a Packet Too Big message, it MUST reduce its
estimate of the PMTU for the relevant path, based on the value of the
MTU field in the message. The precise behavior of a node in this
circumstance is not specified, since different applications may have
different requirements, and since different implementation
architectures may favor different strategies.

After receiving a Packet Too Big message, a node MUST attempt to
avoid eliciting more such messages in the near future. The node MUST
reduce the size of the packets it is sending along the path. Using a
PMTU estimate larger than the IPv6 minimum link MTU may continue to
elicit Packet Too Big messages. Since each of these messages (and
the dropped packets they respond to) consume network resources, the
node MUST force the Path MTU Discovery process to end.

Nodes using Path MTU Discovery MUST detect decreases in PMTU as fast
as possible. Nodes MAY detect increases in PMTU, but because doing
so requires sending packets larger than the current estimated PMTU,

and because the likelihood is that the PMTU will not have increased,
this MUST be done at infrequent intervals. An attempt to detect an
increase (by sending a packet larger than the current estimate) MUST
NOT be done less than 5 minutes after a Packet Too Big message has
been received for the given path. The recommended setting for this
timer is twice its minimum value (10 minutes).

A node MUST NOT reduce its estimate of the Path MTU below the IPv6
minimum link MTU.

Note: A node may receive a Packet Too Big message reporting a
next-hop MTU that is less than the IPv6 minimum link MTU. In that
case, the node is not required to reduce the size of subsequent
packets sent on the path to less than the IPv6 minimun link MTU,
but rather must include a Fragment header in those packets [IPv6-
SPEC].

A node MUST NOT increase its estimate of the Path MTU in response to
the contents of a Packet Too Big message. A message purporting to
announce an increase in the Path MTU might be a stale packet that has
been floating around in the network, a false packet injected as part
of a denial-of-service attack, or the result of having multiple paths
to the destination, each with a different PMTU.

5. Implementation Issues

This section discusses a number of issues related to the
implementation of Path MTU Discovery. This is not a specification,
but rather a set of notes provided as an aid for implementors.

The issues include:

- What layer or layers implement Path MTU Discovery?

- How is the PMTU information cached?

- How is stale PMTU information removed?

- What must transport and higher layers do?

5.1. Layering

In the IP architecture, the choice of what size packet to send is
made by a protocol at a layer above IP. This memo refers to such a
protocol as a "packetization protocol". Packetization protocols are
usually transport protocols (for example, TCP) but can also be
higher-layer protocols (for example, protocols built on top of UDP).

Implementing Path MTU Discovery in the packetization layers
simplifies some of the inter-layer issues, but has several drawbacks:
the implementation may have to be redone for each packetization
protocol, it becomes hard to share PMTU information between different
packetization layers, and the connection-oriented state maintained by
some packetization layers may not easily extend to save PMTU
information for long periods.

It is therefore suggested that the IP layer store PMTU information
and that the ICMP layer process received Packet Too Big messages.
The packetization layers may respond to changes in the PMTU, by
changing the size of the messages they send. To support this
layering, packetization layers require a way to learn of changes in
the value of MMS_S, the "maximum send transport-message size". The
MMS_S is derived from the Path MTU by subtracting the size of the
IPv6 header plus space reserved by the IP layer for additional
headers (if any).

It is possible that a packetization layer, perhaps a UDP application
outside the kernel, is unable to change the size of messages it
sends. This may result in a packet size that exceeds the Path MTU.
To accommodate such situations, IPv6 defines a mechanism that allows
large payloads to be divided into fragments, with each fragment sent
in a separate packet (see [IPv6-SPEC] section "Fragment Header").
However, packetization layers are encouraged to avoid sending
messages that will require fragmentation (for the case against
fragmentation, see [FRAG]).

5.2. Storing PMTU information

Ideally, a PMTU value should be associated with a specific path
traversed by packets exchanged between the source and destination
nodes. However, in most cases a node will not have enough
information to completely and accurately identify such a path.
Rather, a node must associate a PMTU value with some local
representation of a path. It is left to the implementation to select
the local representation of a path.

In the case of a multicast destination address, copies of a packet
may traverse many different paths to reach many different nodes. The
local representation of the "path" to a multicast destination must in
fact represent a potentially large set of paths.

Minimally, an implementation could maintain a single PMTU value to be
used for all packets originated from the node. This PMTU value would
be the minimum PMTU learned across the set of all paths in use by the
node. This approach is likely to result in the use of smaller
packets than is necessary for many paths.

An implementation could use the destination address as the local
representation of a path. The PMTU value associated with a
destination would be the minimum PMTU learned across the set of all
paths in use to that destination. The set of paths in use to a
particular destination is expected to be small, in many cases
consisting of a single path. This approach will result in the use of
optimally sized packets on a per-destination basis. This approach
integrates nicely with the conceptual model of a host as described in
[ND]: a PMTU value could be stored with the corresponding entry in
the destination cache.

If flows [IPv6-SPEC] are in use, an implementation could use the flow
id as the local representation of a path. Packets sent to a
particular destination but belonging to different flows may use
different paths, with the choice of path depending on the flow id.
This approach will result in the use of optimally sized packets on a
per-flow basis, providing finer granularity than PMTU values
maintained on a per-destination basis.

For source routed packets (i.e. packets containing an IPv6 Routing
header [IPv6-SPEC]), the source route may further qualify the local
representation of a path. In particular, a packet containing a type
0 Routing header in which all bits in the Strict/Loose Bit Map are
equal to 1 contains a complete path specification. An implementation
could use source route information in the local representation of a
path.

Note: Some paths may be further distinguished by different
security classifications. The details of such classifications are
beyond the scope of this memo.

Initially, the PMTU value for a path is assumed to be the (known) MTU
of the first-hop link.

When a Packet Too Big message is received, the node determines which
path the message applies to based on the contents of the Packet Too
Big message. For example, if the destination address is used as the
local representation of a path, the destination address from the
original packet would be used to determine which path the message
applies to.

Note: if the original packet contained a Routing header, the
Routing header should be used to determine the location of the
destination address within the original packet. If Segments Left
is equal to zero, the destination address is in the Destination
Address field in the IPv6 header. If Segments Left is greater
than zero, the destination address is the last address
(Address[n]) in the Routing header.

The node then uses the value in the MTU field in the Packet Too Big
message as a tentative PMTU value, and compares the tentative PMTU to
the existing PMTU. If the tentative PMTU is less than the existing
PMTU estimate, the tentative PMTU replaces the existing PMTU as the
PMTU value for the path.

The packetization layers must be notified about decreases in the
PMTU. Any packetization layer instance (for example, a TCP
connection) that is actively using the path must be notified if the
PMTU estimate is decreased.

Note: even if the Packet Too Big message contains an Original
Packet Header that refers to a UDP packet, the TCP layer must be
notified if any of its connections use the given path.

Also, the instance that sent the packet that elicited the Packet Too
Big message should be notified that its packet has been dropped, even
if the PMTU estimate has not changed, so that it may retransmit the
dropped data.

Note: An implementation can avoid the use of an asynchronous
notification mechanism for PMTU decreases by postponing
notification until the next attempt to send a packet larger than
the PMTU estimate. In this approach, when an attempt is made to
SEND a packet that is larger than the PMTU estimate, the SEND
function should fail and return a suitable error indication. This
approach may be more suitable to a connectionless packetization
layer (such as one using UDP), which (in some implementations) may
be hard to "notify" from the ICMP layer. In this case, the normal
timeout-based retransmission mechanisms would be used to recover
from the dropped packets.

It is important to understand that the notification of the
packetization layer instances using the path about the change in the
PMTU is distinct from the notification of a specific instance that a
packet has been dropped. The latter should be done as soon as
practical (i.e., asynchronously from the point of view of the
packetization layer instance), while the former may be delayed until
a packetization layer instance wants to create a packet.
Retransmission should be done for only for those packets that are
known to be dropped, as indicated by a Packet Too Big message.

5.3. Purging stale PMTU information

Internetwork topology is dynamic; routes change over time. While the
local representation of a path may remain constant, the actual
path(s) in use may change. Thus, PMTU information cached by a node
can become stale.

If the stale PMTU value is too large, this will be discovered almost
immediately once a large enough packet is sent on the path. No such
mechanism exists for realizing that a stale PMTU value is too small,
so an implementation should "age" cached values. When a PMTU value
has not been decreased for a while (on the order of 10 minutes), the
PMTU estimate should be set to the MTU of the first-hop link, and the
packetization layers should be notified of the change. This will
cause the complete Path MTU Discovery process to take place again.

Note: an implementation should provide a means for changing the
timeout duration, including setting it to "infinity". For
example, nodes attached to an FDDI link which is then attached to
the rest of the Internet via a small MTU serial line are never
going to discover a new non-local PMTU, so they should not have to
put up with dropped packets every 10 minutes.

An upper layer must not retransmit data in response to an increase in
the PMTU estimate, since this increase never comes in response to an
indication of a dropped packet.

One approach to implementing PMTU aging is to associate a timestamp
field with a PMTU value. This field is initialized to a "reserved"
value, indicating that the PMTU is equal to the MTU of the first hop
link. Whenever the PMTU is decreased in response to a Packet Too Big
message, the timestamp is set to the current time.

Once a minute, a timer-driven procedure runs through all cached PMTU
values, and for each PMTU whose timestamp is not "reserved" and is
older than the timeout interval:

- The PMTU estimate is set to the MTU of the first hop link.

- The timestamp is set to the "reserved" value.

- Packetization layers using this path are notified of the increase.

5.4. TCP layer actions

The TCP layer must track the PMTU for the path(s) in use by a
connection; it should not send segments that would result in packets
larger than the PMTU. A simple implementation could ask the IP layer
for this value each time it created a new segment, but this could be
inefficient. Moreover, TCP implementations that follow the "slow-
start" congestion-avoidance algorithm [CONG] typically calculate and
cache several other values derived from the PMTU. It may be simpler
to receive asynchronous notification when the PMTU changes, so that
these variables may be updated.

A TCP implementation must also store the MSS value received from its
peer, and must not send any segment larger than this MSS, regardless
of the PMTU. In 4.xBSD-derived implementations, this may require
adding an additional field to the TCP state record.

The value sent in the TCP MSS option is independent of the PMTU.
This MSS option value is used by the other end of the connection,
which may be using an unrelated PMTU value. See [IPv6-SPEC] sections
"Packet Size Issues" and "Maximum Upper-Layer Payload Size" for
information on selecting a value for the TCP MSS option.

When a Packet Too Big message is received, it implies that a packet
was dropped by the node that sent the ICMP message. It is sufficient
to treat this as any other dropped segment, and wait until the
retransmission timer expires to cause retransmission of the segment.
If the Path MTU Discovery process requires several steps to find the
PMTU of the full path, this could delay the connection by many
round-trip times.

Alternatively, the retransmission could be done in immediate response
to a notification that the Path MTU has changed, but only for the
specific connection specified by the Packet Too Big message. The
packet size used in the retransmission should be no larger than the
new PMTU.

Note: A packetization layer must not retransmit in response to
every Packet Too Big message, since a burst of several oversized
segments will give rise to several such messages and hence several
retransmissions of the same data. If the new estimated PMTU is
still wrong, the process repeats, and there is an exponential
growth in the number of superfluous segments sent.

This means that the TCP layer must be able to recognize when a
Packet Too Big notification actually decreases the PMTU that it
has already used to send a packet on the given connection, and
should ignore any other notifications.

Many TCP implementations incorporate "congestion avoidance" and
"slow-start" algorithms to improve performance [CONG]. Unlike a
retransmission caused by a TCP retransmission timeout, a
retransmission caused by a Packet Too Big message should not change
the congestion window. It should, however, trigger the slow-start
mechanism (i.e., only one segment should be retransmitted until
acknowledgements begin to arrive again).

TCP performance can be reduced if the sender's maximum window size is
not an exact multiple of the segment size in use (this is not the
congestion window size, which is always a multiple of the segment

size). In many systems (such as those derived from 4.2BSD), the
segment size is often set to 1024 octets, and the maximum window size
(the "send space") is usually a multiple of 1024 octets, so the
proper relationship holds by default. If Path MTU Discovery is used,
however, the segment size may not be a submultiple of the send space,
and it may change during a connection; this means that the TCP layer
may need to change the transmission window size when Path MTU
Discovery changes the PMTU value. The maximum window size should be
set to the greatest multiple of the segment size that is less than or
equal to the sender's buffer space size.

5.5. Issues for other transport protocols

Some transport protocols (such as ISO TP4 [ISOTP]) are not allowed to
repacketize when doing a retransmission. That is, once an attempt is
made to transmit a segment of a certain size, the transport cannot
split the contents of the segment into smaller segments for
retransmission. In such a case, the original segment can be
fragmented by the IP layer during retransmission. Subsequent
segments, when transmitted for the first time, should be no larger
than allowed by the Path MTU.

The Sun Network File System (NFS) uses a Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
protocol [RPC] that, when used over UDP, in many cases will generate
payloads that must be fragmented even for the first-hop link. This
might improve performance in certain cases, but it is known to cause
reliability and performance problems, especially when the client and
server are separated by routers.

It is recommended that NFS implementations use Path MTU Discovery
whenever routers are involved. Most NFS implementations allow the
RPC datagram size to be changed at mount-time (indirectly, by
changing the effective file system block size), but might require
some modification to support changes later on.

Also, since a single NFS operation cannot be split across several UDP
datagrams, certain operations (primarily, those operating on file
names and directories) require a minimum payload size that if sent in
a single packet would exceed the PMTU. NFS implementations should
not reduce the payload size below this threshold, even if Path MTU
Discovery suggests a lower value. In this case the payload will be
fragmented by the IP layer.

5.6. Management interface

It is suggested that an implementation provide a way for a system
utility program to:

- Specify that Path MTU Discovery not be done on a given path.

- Change the PMTU value associated with a given path.

The former can be accomplished by associating a flag with the path;
when a packet is sent on a path with this flag set, the IP layer does
not send packets larger than the IPv6 minimum link MTU.

These features might be used to work around an anomalous situation,
or by a routing protocol implementation that is able to obtain Path
MTU values.

The implementation should also provide a way to change the timeout
period for aging stale PMTU information.

6. Security Considerations

This Path MTU Discovery mechanism makes possible two denial-of-
service attacks, both based on a malicious party sending false Packet
Too Big messages to a node.

In the first attack, the false message indicates a PMTU much smaller
than reality. This should not entirely stop data flow, since the
victim node should never set its PMTU estimate below the IPv6 minimum
link MTU. It will, however, result in suboptimal performance.

In the second attack, the false message indicates a PMTU larger than
reality. If believed, this could cause temporary blockage as the
victim sends packets that will be dropped by some router. Within one
round-trip time, the node would discover its mistake (receiving
Packet Too Big messages from that router), but frequent repetition of
this attack could cause lots of packets to be dropped. A node,
however, should never raise its estimate of the PMTU based on a
Packet Too Big message, so should not be vulnerable to this attack.

A malicious party could also cause problems if it could stop a victim
from receiving legitimate Packet Too Big messages, but in this case
there are simpler denial-of-service attacks available.

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the authors of and contributors to
[RFC-1191], from which the majority of this document was derived. We
would also like to acknowledge the members of the IPng working group
for their careful review and constructive criticisms.

Appendix A - Comparison to RFC 1191

This document is based in large part on RFC 1191, which describes
Path MTU Discovery for IPv4. Certain portions of RFC 1191 were not
needed in this document:

router specification - Packet Too Big messages and corresponding
router behavior are defined in [ICMPv6]

Don't Fragment bit - there is no DF bit in IPv6 packets

TCP MSS discussion - selecting a value to send in the TCP MSS
option is discussed in [IPv6-SPEC]

old-style messages - all Packet Too Big messages report the
MTU of the constricting link

MTU plateau tables - not needed because there are no old-style
messages

References

[CONG] Van Jacobson. Congestion Avoidance and Control. Proc.
SIGCOMM '88 Symposium on Communications Architectures and
Protocols, pages 314-329. Stanford, CA, August, 1988.

[FRAG] C. Kent and J. Mogul. Fragmentation Considered Harmful.
In Proc. SIGCOMM '87 Workshop on Frontiers in Computer
Communications Technology. August, 1987.

[ICMPv6] Conta, A., and S. Deering, "Internet Control Message
Protocol (ICMPv6) for the Internet Protocol Version 6
(IPv6) Specification", RFC 1885, December 1995.

[IPv6-SPEC] Deering, S., and R. Hinden, "Internet Protocol, Version
6 (IPv6) Specification", RFC 1883, December 1995.

[ISOTP] ISO. ISO Transport Protocol Specification: ISO DP 8073.
RFC 905, SRI Network Information Center, April, 1984.

[ND] Narten, T., Nordmark, E., and W. Simpson, "Neighbor
Discovery for IP Version 6 (IPv6)", Work in Progress.

[RFC-1191] Mogul, J., and S. Deering, "Path MTU Discovery",
RFC 1191, November 1990.

[RPC] Sun Microsystems, Inc., "RPC: Remote Procedure Call
Protocol", RFC 1057, SRI Network Information Center,
June, 1988.

Authors' Addresses

Jack McCann
Digital Equipment Corporation
110 Spitbrook Road, ZKO3-3/U14
Nashua, NH 03062
Phone: +1 603 881 2608

Fax: +1 603 881 0120
Email: mccann@zk3.dec.com

Stephen E. Deering
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
3333 Coyote Hill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: +1 415 812 4839

Fax: +1 415 812 4471
EMail: deering@parc.xerox.com

Jeffrey Mogul
Digital Equipment Corporation Western Research Laboratory
250 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: +1 415 617 3304

EMail: mogul@pa.dec.com


RFC 2406 – IP Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP)

 
Network Working Group                                            S. Kent
Request for Comments: 2406 BBN Corp
Obsoletes: 1827 R. Atkinson
Category: Standards Track @Home Network
November 1998

IP Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP)

Status of this Memo

This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction..................................................2
2. Encapsulating Security Payload Packet Format..................3
2.1 Security Parameters Index................................4
2.2 Sequence Number .........................................4
2.3 Payload Data.............................................5
2.4 Padding (for Encryption).................................5
2.5 Pad Length...............................................7
2.6 Next Header..............................................7
2.7 Authentication Data......................................7
3. Encapsulating Security Protocol Processing....................7
3.1 ESP Header Location......................................7
3.2 Algorithms..............................................10
3.2.1 Encryption Algorithms..............................10
3.2.2 Authentication Algorithms..........................10
3.3 Outbound Packet Processing..............................10
3.3.1 Security Association Lookup........................11
3.3.2 Packet Encryption..................................11
3.3.3 Sequence Number Generation.........................12
3.3.4 Integrity Check Value Calculation..................12
3.3.5 Fragmentation......................................13
3.4 Inbound Packet Processing...............................13
3.4.1 Reassembly.........................................13
3.4.2 Security Association Lookup........................13
3.4.3 Sequence Number Verification.......................14
3.4.4 Integrity Check Value Verification.................15

3.4.5 Packet Decryption..................................16
4. Auditing.....................................................17
5. Conformance Requirements.....................................18
6. Security Considerations......................................18
7. Differences from RFC 1827....................................18
Acknowledgements................................................19
References......................................................19
Disclaimer......................................................20
Author Information..............................................21
Full Copyright Statement........................................22

1. Introduction

The Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) header is designed to
provide a mix of security services in IPv4 and IPv6. ESP may be
applied alone, in combination with the IP Authentication Header (AH)
[KA97b], or in a nested fashion, e.g., through the use of tunnel mode
(see "Security Architecture for the Internet Protocol" [KA97a],
hereafter referred to as the Security Architecture document).
Security services can be provided between a pair of communicating
hosts, between a pair of communicating security gateways, or between
a security gateway and a host. For more details on how to use ESP
and AH in various network environments, see the Security Architecture
document [KA97a].

The ESP header is inserted after the IP header and before the upper
layer protocol header (transport mode) or before an encapsulated IP
header (tunnel mode). These modes are described in more detail
below.

ESP is used to provide confidentiality, data origin authentication,
connectionless integrity, an anti-replay service (a form of partial
sequence integrity), and limited traffic flow confidentiality. The
set of services provided depends on options selected at the time of
Security Association establishment and on the placement of the
implementation. Confidentiality may be selected independent of all
other services. However, use of confidentiality without
integrity/authentication (either in ESP or separately in AH) may
subject traffic to certain forms of active attacks that could
undermine the confidentiality service (see [Bel96]). Data origin
authentication and connectionless integrity are joint services
(hereafter referred to jointly as "authentication) and are offered as
an option in conjunction with (optional) confidentiality. The anti-
replay service may be selected only if data origin authentication is
selected, and its election is solely at the discretion of the
receiver. (Although the default calls for the sender to increment
the Sequence Number used for anti-replay, the service is effective
only if the receiver checks the Sequence Number.) Traffic flow

confidentiality requires selection of tunnel mode, and is most
effective if implemented at a security gateway, where traffic
aggregation may be able to mask true source-destination patterns.
Note that although both confidentiality and authentication are
optional, at least one of them MUST be selected.

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the terms and concepts
described in the Security Architecture document. In particular, the
reader should be familiar with the definitions of security services
offered by ESP and AH, the concept of Security Associations, the ways
in which ESP can be used in conjunction with the Authentication
Header (AH), and the different key management options available for
ESP and AH. (With regard to the last topic, the current key
management options required for both AH and ESP are manual keying and
automated keying via IKE [HC98].)

The keywords MUST, MUST NOT, REQUIRED, SHALL, SHALL NOT, SHOULD,
SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
document, are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [Bra97].

2. Encapsulating Security Payload Packet Format

The protocol header (IPv4, IPv6, or Extension) immediately preceding
the ESP header will contain the value 50 in its Protocol (IPv4) or
Next Header (IPv6, Extension) field [STD-2].

0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ ----
| Security Parameters Index (SPI) | ^Auth.
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ |Cov-
| Sequence Number | |erage
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | ----
| Payload Data* (variable) | | ^
~ ~ | |
| | |Conf.
+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ |Cov-
| | Padding (0-255 bytes) | |erage*
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | |
| | Pad Length | Next Header | v v
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ ------
| Authentication Data (variable) |
~ ~
| |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

* If included in the Payload field, cryptographic
synchronization data, e.g., an Initialization Vector (IV, see

Section 2.3), usually is not encrypted per se, although it
often is referred to as being part of the ciphertext.

The following subsections define the fields in the header format.
"Optional" means that the field is omitted if the option is not
selected, i.e., it is present in neither the packet as transmitted
nor as formatted for computation of an Integrity Check Value (ICV,
see Section 2.7). Whether or not an option is selected is defined as
part of Security Association (SA) establishment. Thus the format of
ESP packets for a given SA is fixed, for the duration of the SA. In
contrast, "mandatory" fields are always present in the ESP packet
format, for all SAs.

2.1 Security Parameters Index

The SPI is an arbitrary 32-bit value that, in combination with the
destination IP address and security protocol (ESP), uniquely
identifies the Security Association for this datagram. The set of
SPI values in the range 1 through 255 are reserved by the Internet
Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for future use; a reserved SPI
value will not normally be assigned by IANA unless the use of the
assigned SPI value is specified in an RFC. It is ordinarily selected
by the destination system upon establishment of an SA (see the
Security Architecture document for more details). The SPI field is
mandatory.

The SPI value of zero (0) is reserved for local, implementation-
specific use and MUST NOT be sent on the wire. For example, a key
management implementation MAY use the zero SPI value to mean "No
Security Association Exists" during the period when the IPsec
implementation has requested that its key management entity establish
a new SA, but the SA has not yet been established.

2.2 Sequence Number

This unsigned 32-bit field contains a monotonically increasing
counter value (sequence number). It is mandatory and is always
present even if the receiver does not elect to enable the anti-replay
service for a specific SA. Processing of the Sequence Number field
is at the discretion of the receiver, i.e., the sender MUST always
transmit this field, but the receiver need not act upon it (see the
discussion of Sequence Number Verification in the "Inbound Packet
Processing" section below).

The sender's counter and the receiver's counter are initialized to 0
when an SA is established. (The first packet sent using a given SA
will have a Sequence Number of 1; see Section 3.3.3 for more details
on how the Sequence Number is generated.) If anti-replay is enabled

(the default), the transmitted Sequence Number must never be allowed
to cycle. Thus, the sender's counter and the receiver's counter MUST
be reset (by establishing a new SA and thus a new key) prior to the
transmission of the 2^32nd packet on an SA.

2.3 Payload Data

Payload Data is a variable-length field containing data described by
the Next Header field. The Payload Data field is mandatory and is an
integral number of bytes in length. If the algorithm used to encrypt
the payload requires cryptographic synchronization data, e.g., an
Initialization Vector (IV), then this data MAY be carried explicitly
in the Payload field. Any encryption algorithm that requires such
explicit, per-packet synchronization data MUST indicate the length,
any structure for such data, and the location of this data as part of
an RFC specifying how the algorithm is used with ESP. If such
synchronization data is implicit, the algorithm for deriving the data
MUST be part of the RFC.

Note that with regard to ensuring the alignment of the (real)
ciphertext in the presence of an IV:

o For some IV-based modes of operation, the receiver treats
the IV as the start of the ciphertext, feeding it into the
algorithm directly. In these modes, alignment of the start
of the (real) ciphertext is not an issue at the receiver.
o In some cases, the receiver reads the IV in separately from
the ciphertext. In these cases, the algorithm
specification MUST address how alignment of the (real)
ciphertext is to be achieved.

2.4 Padding (for Encryption)

Several factors require or motivate use of the Padding field.

o If an encryption algorithm is employed that requires the
plaintext to be a multiple of some number of bytes, e.g.,
the block size of a block cipher, the Padding field is used
to fill the plaintext (consisting of the Payload Data, Pad
Length and Next Header fields, as well as the Padding) to
the size required by the algorithm.

o Padding also may be required, irrespective of encryption
algorithm requirements, to ensure that the resulting
ciphertext terminates on a 4-byte boundary. Specifically,

the Pad Length and Next Header fields must be right aligned
within a 4-byte word, as illustrated in the ESP packet
format figure above, to ensure that the Authentication Data
field (if present) is aligned on a 4-byte boundary.

o Padding beyond that required for the algorithm or alignment
reasons cited above, may be used to conceal the actual
length of the payload, in support of (partial) traffic flow
confidentiality. However, inclusion of such additional
padding has adverse bandwidth implications and thus its use
should be undertaken with care.

The sender MAY add 0-255 bytes of padding. Inclusion of the Padding
field in an ESP packet is optional, but all implementations MUST
support generation and consumption of padding.

a. For the purpose of ensuring that the bits to be encrypted
are a multiple of the algorithm's blocksize (first bullet
above), the padding computation applies to the Payload
Data exclusive of the IV, the Pad Length, and Next Header
fields.

b. For the purposes of ensuring that the Authentication Data
is aligned on a 4-byte boundary (second bullet above), the
padding computation applies to the Payload Data inclusive
of the IV, the Pad Length, and Next Header fields.

If Padding bytes are needed but the encryption algorithm does not
specify the padding contents, then the following default processing
MUST be used. The Padding bytes are initialized with a series of
(unsigned, 1-byte) integer values. The first padding byte appended
to the plaintext is numbered 1, with subsequent padding bytes making
up a monotonically increasing sequence: 1, 2, 3, ... When this
padding scheme is employed, the receiver SHOULD inspect the Padding
field. (This scheme was selected because of its relative simplicity,
ease of implementation in hardware, and because it offers limited
protection against certain forms of "cut and paste" attacks in the
absence of other integrity measures, if the receiver checks the
padding values upon decryption.)

Any encryption algorithm that requires Padding other than the default
described above, MUST define the Padding contents (e.g., zeros or
random data) and any required receiver processing of these Padding
bytes in an RFC specifying how the algorithm is used with ESP. In
such circumstances, the content of the Padding field will be
determined by the encryption algorithm and mode selected and defined
in the corresponding algorithm RFC. The relevant algorithm RFC MAY
specify that a receiver MUST inspect the Padding field or that a

receiver MUST inform senders of how the receiver will handle the
Padding field.

2.5 Pad Length

The Pad Length field indicates the number of pad bytes immediately
preceding it. The range of valid values is 0-255, where a value of
zero indicates that no Padding bytes are present. The Pad Length
field is mandatory.

2.6 Next Header

The Next Header is an 8-bit field that identifies the type of data
contained in the Payload Data field, e.g., an extension header in
IPv6 or an upper layer protocol identifier. The value of this field
is chosen from the set of IP Protocol Numbers defined in the most
recent "Assigned Numbers" [STD-2] RFC from the Internet Assigned
Numbers Authority (IANA). The Next Header field is mandatory.

2.7 Authentication Data

The Authentication Data is a variable-length field containing an
Integrity Check Value (ICV) computed over the ESP packet minus the
Authentication Data. The length of the field is specified by the
authentication function selected. The Authentication Data field is
optional, and is included only if the authentication service has been
selected for the SA in question. The authentication algorithm
specification MUST specify the length of the ICV and the comparison
rules and processing steps for validation.

3. Encapsulating Security Protocol Processing

3.1 ESP Header Location

Like AH, ESP may be employed in two ways: transport mode or tunnel
mode. The former mode is applicable only to host implementations and
provides protection for upper layer protocols, but not the IP header.
(In this mode, note that for "bump-in-the-stack" or "bump-in-the-
wire" implementations, as defined in the Security Architecture
document, inbound and outbound IP fragments may require an IPsec
implementation to perform extra IP reassembly/fragmentation in order
to both conform to this specification and provide transparent IPsec
support. Special care is required to perform such operations within
these implementations when multiple interfaces are in use.)

In transport mode, ESP is inserted after the IP header and before an
upper layer protocol, e.g., TCP, UDP, ICMP, etc. or before any other
IPsec headers that have already been inserted. In the context of

IPv4, this translates to placing ESP after the IP header (and any
options that it contains), but before the upper layer protocol.
(Note that the term "transport" mode should not be misconstrued as
restricting its use to TCP and UDP. For example, an ICMP message MAY
be sent using either "transport" mode or "tunnel" mode.) The
following diagram illustrates ESP transport mode positioning for a
typical IPv4 packet, on a "before and after" basis. (The "ESP
trailer" encompasses any Padding, plus the Pad Length, and Next
Header fields.)

BEFORE APPLYING ESP
----------------------------
IPv4 |orig IP hdr | | |
|(any options)| TCP | Data |
----------------------------

AFTER APPLYING ESP
-------------------------------------------------
IPv4 |orig IP hdr | ESP | | | ESP | ESP|
|(any options)| Hdr | TCP | Data | Trailer |Auth|
-------------------------------------------------
|<----- encrypted ---->|
|<------ authenticated ----->|

In the IPv6 context, ESP is viewed as an end-to-end payload, and thus
should appear after hop-by-hop, routing, and fragmentation extension
headers. The destination options extension header(s) could appear
either before or after the ESP header depending on the semantics
desired. However, since ESP protects only fields after the ESP
header, it generally may be desirable to place the destination
options header(s) after the ESP header. The following diagram
illustrates ESP transport mode positioning for a typical IPv6 packet.

BEFORE APPLYING ESP
---------------------------------------
IPv6 | | ext hdrs | | |
| orig IP hdr |if present| TCP | Data |
---------------------------------------

AFTER APPLYING ESP
---------------------------------------------------------
IPv6 | orig |hop-by-hop,dest*,| |dest| | | ESP | ESP|
|IP hdr|routing,fragment.|ESP|opt*|TCP|Data|Trailer|Auth|
---------------------------------------------------------
|<---- encrypted ---->|
|<---- authenticated ---->|

* = if present, could be before ESP, after ESP, or both

ESP and AH headers can be combined in a variety of modes. The IPsec
Architecture document describes the combinations of security
associations that must be supported.

Tunnel mode ESP may be employed in either hosts or security gateways.
When ESP is implemented in a security gateway (to protect subscriber
transit traffic), tunnel mode must be used. In tunnel mode, the
"inner" IP header carries the ultimate source and destination
addresses, while an "outer" IP header may contain distinct IP
addresses, e.g., addresses of security gateways. In tunnel mode, ESP
protects the entire inner IP packet, including the entire inner IP
header. The position of ESP in tunnel mode, relative to the outer IP
header, is the same as for ESP in transport mode. The following
diagram illustrates ESP tunnel mode positioning for typical IPv4 and
IPv6 packets.

-----------------------------------------------------------
IPv4 | new IP hdr* | | orig IP hdr* | | | ESP | ESP|
|(any options)| ESP | (any options) |TCP|Data|Trailer|Auth|
-----------------------------------------------------------
|<--------- encrypted ---------->|
|<----------- authenticated ---------->|

------------------------------------------------------------
IPv6 | new* |new ext | | orig*|orig ext | | | ESP | ESP|
|IP hdr| hdrs* |ESP|IP hdr| hdrs * |TCP|Data|Trailer|Auth|
------------------------------------------------------------
|<--------- encrypted ----------->|
|<---------- authenticated ---------->|

* = if present, construction of outer IP hdr/extensions
and modification of inner IP hdr/extensions is
discussed below.

3.2 Algorithms

The mandatory-to-implement algorithms are described in Section 5,
"Conformance Requirements". Other algorithms MAY be supported. Note
that although both confidentiality and authentication are optional,
at least one of these services MUST be selected hence both algorithms
MUST NOT be simultaneously NULL.

3.2.1 Encryption Algorithms

The encryption algorithm employed is specified by the SA. ESP is
designed for use with symmetric encryption algorithms. Because IP
packets may arrive out of order, each packet must carry any data
required to allow the receiver to establish cryptographic
synchronization for decryption. This data may be carried explicitly
in the payload field, e.g., as an IV (as described above), or the
data may be derived from the packet header. Since ESP makes
provision for padding of the plaintext, encryption algorithms
employed with ESP may exhibit either block or stream mode
characteristics. Note that since encryption (confidentiality) is
optional, this algorithm may be "NULL".

3.2.2 Authentication Algorithms

The authentication algorithm employed for the ICV computation is
specified by the SA. For point-to-point communication, suitable
authentication algorithms include keyed Message Authentication Codes
(MACs) based on symmetric encryption algorithms (e.g., DES) or on
one-way hash functions (e.g., MD5 or SHA-1). For multicast
communication, one-way hash algorithms combined with asymmetric
signature algorithms are appropriate, though performance and space
considerations currently preclude use of such algorithms. Note that
since authentication is optional, this algorithm may be "NULL".

3.3 Outbound Packet Processing

In transport mode, the sender encapsulates the upper layer protocol
information in the ESP header/trailer, and retains the specified IP
header (and any IP extension headers in the IPv6 context). In tunnel
mode, the outer and inner IP header/extensions can be inter-related
in a variety of ways. The construction of the outer IP
header/extensions during the encapsulation process is described in
the Security Architecture document. If there is more than one IPsec
header/extension required by security policy, the order of the
application of the security headers MUST be defined by security
policy.

3.3.1 Security Association Lookup

ESP is applied to an outbound packet only after an IPsec
implementation determines that the packet is associated with an SA
that calls for ESP processing. The process of determining what, if
any, IPsec processing is applied to outbound traffic is described in
the Security Architecture document.

3.3.2 Packet Encryption

In this section, we speak in terms of encryption always being applied
because of the formatting implications. This is done with the
understanding that "no confidentiality" is offered by using the NULL
encryption algorithm. Accordingly, the sender:

1. encapsulates (into the ESP Payload field):
- for transport mode -- just the original upper layer
protocol information.
- for tunnel mode -- the entire original IP datagram.
2. adds any necessary padding.
3. encrypts the result (Payload Data, Padding, Pad Length, and
Next Header) using the key, encryption algorithm, algorithm
mode indicated by the SA and cryptographic synchronization
data (if any).
- If explicit cryptographic synchronization data, e.g.,
an IV, is indicated, it is input to the encryption
algorithm per the algorithm specification and placed
in the Payload field.
- If implicit cryptographic synchronication data, e.g.,
an IV, is indicated, it is constructed and input to
the encryption algorithm as per the algorithm
specification.

The exact steps for constructing the outer IP header depend on the
mode (transport or tunnel) and are described in the Security
Architecture document.

If authentication is selected, encryption is performed first, before
the authentication, and the encryption does not encompass the
Authentication Data field. This order of processing facilitates
rapid detection and rejection of replayed or bogus packets by the
receiver, prior to decrypting the packet, hence potentially reducing
the impact of denial of service attacks. It also allows for the
possibility of parallel processing of packets at the receiver, i.e.,
decryption can take place in parallel with authentication. Note that
since the Authentication Data is not protected by encryption, a keyed
authentication algorithm must be employed to compute the ICV.

3.3.3 Sequence Number Generation

The sender's counter is initialized to 0 when an SA is established.
The sender increments the Sequence Number for this SA and inserts the
new value into the Sequence Number field. Thus the first packet sent
using a given SA will have a Sequence Number of 1.

If anti-replay is enabled (the default), the sender checks to ensure
that the counter has not cycled before inserting the new value in the
Sequence Number field. In other words, the sender MUST NOT send a
packet on an SA if doing so would cause the Sequence Number to cycle.
An attempt to transmit a packet that would result in Sequence Number
overflow is an auditable event. (Note that this approach to Sequence
Number management does not require use of modular arithmetic.)

The sender assumes anti-replay is enabled as a default, unless
otherwise notified by the receiver (see 3.4.3). Thus, if the counter
has cycled, the sender will set up a new SA and key (unless the SA
was configured with manual key management).

If anti-replay is disabled, the sender does not need to monitor or
reset the counter, e.g., in the case of manual key management (see
Section 5). However, the sender still increments the counter and
when it reaches the maximum value, the counter rolls over back to
zero.

3.3.4 Integrity Check Value Calculation

If authentication is selected for the SA, the sender computes the ICV
over the ESP packet minus the Authentication Data. Thus the SPI,
Sequence Number, Payload Data, Padding (if present), Pad Length, and
Next Header are all encompassed by the ICV computation. Note that
the last 4 fields will be in ciphertext form, since encryption is
performed prior to authentication.

For some authentication algorithms, the byte string over which the
ICV computation is performed must be a multiple of a blocksize
specified by the algorithm. If the length of this byte string does
not match the blocksize requirements for the algorithm, implicit
padding MUST be appended to the end of the ESP packet, (after the
Next Header field) prior to ICV computation. The padding octets MUST
have a value of zero. The blocksize (and hence the length of the
padding) is specified by the algorithm specification. This padding
is not transmitted with the packet. Note that MD5 and SHA-1 are
viewed as having a 1-byte blocksize because of their internal padding
conventions.

3.3.5 Fragmentation

If necessary, fragmentation is performed after ESP processing within
an IPsec implementation. Thus, transport mode ESP is applied only to
whole IP datagrams (not to IP fragments). An IP packet to which ESP
has been applied may itself be fragmented by routers en route, and
such fragments must be reassembled prior to ESP processing at a
receiver. In tunnel mode, ESP is applied to an IP packet, the
payload of which may be a fragmented IP packet. For example, a
security gateway or a "bump-in-the-stack" or "bump-in-the-wire" IPsec
implementation (as defined in the Security Architecture document) may
apply tunnel mode ESP to such fragments.

NOTE: For transport mode -- As mentioned at the beginning of Section
3.1, bump-in-the-stack and bump-in-the-wire implementations may have
to first reassemble a packet fragmented by the local IP layer, then
apply IPsec, and then fragment the resulting packet.

NOTE: For IPv6 -- For bump-in-the-stack and bump-in-the-wire
implementations, it will be necessary to walk through all the
extension headers to determine if there is a fragmentation header and
hence that the packet needs reassembling prior to IPsec processing.

3.4 Inbound Packet Processing

3.4.1 Reassembly

If required, reassembly is performed prior to ESP processing. If a
packet offered to ESP for processing appears to be an IP fragment,
i.e., the OFFSET field is non-zero or the MORE FRAGMENTS flag is set,
the receiver MUST discard the packet; this is an auditable event. The
audit log entry for this event SHOULD include the SPI value,
date/time received, Source Address, Destination Address, Sequence
Number, and (in IPv6) the Flow ID.

NOTE: For packet reassembly, the current IPv4 spec does NOT require
either the zero'ing of the OFFSET field or the clearing of the MORE
FRAGMENTS flag. In order for a reassembled packet to be processed by
IPsec (as opposed to discarded as an apparent fragment), the IP code
must do these two things after it reassembles a packet.

3.4.2 Security Association Lookup

Upon receipt of a (reassembled) packet containing an ESP Header, the
receiver determines the appropriate (unidirectional) SA, based on the
destination IP address, security protocol (ESP), and the SPI. (This
process is described in more detail in the Security Architecture
document.) The SA indicates whether the Sequence Number field will

be checked, whether the Authentication Data field should be present,
and it will specify the algorithms and keys to be employed for
decryption and ICV computations (if applicable).

If no valid Security Association exists for this session (for
example, the receiver has no key), the receiver MUST discard the
packet; this is an auditable event. The audit log entry for this
event SHOULD include the SPI value, date/time received, Source
Address, Destination Address, Sequence Number, and (in IPv6) the
cleartext Flow ID.

3.4.3 Sequence Number Verification

All ESP implementations MUST support the anti-replay service, though
its use may be enabled or disabled by the receiver on a per-SA basis.
This service MUST NOT be enabled unless the authentication service
also is enabled for the SA, since otherwise the Sequence Number field
has not been integrity protected. (Note that there are no provisions
for managing transmitted Sequence Number values among multiple
senders directing traffic to a single SA (irrespective of whether the
destination address is unicast, broadcast, or multicast). Thus the
anti-replay service SHOULD NOT be used in a multi-sender environment
that employs a single SA.)

If the receiver does not enable anti-replay for an SA, no inbound
checks are performed on the Sequence Number. However, from the
perspective of the sender, the default is to assume that anti-replay
is enabled at the receiver. To avoid having the sender do
unnecessary sequence number monitoring and SA setup (see section
3.3.3), if an SA establishment protocol such as IKE is employed, the
receiver SHOULD notify the sender, during SA establishment, if the
receiver will not provide anti-replay protection.

If the receiver has enabled the anti-replay service for this SA, the
receive packet counter for the SA MUST be initialized to zero when
the SA is established. For each received packet, the receiver MUST
verify that the packet contains a Sequence Number that does not
duplicate the Sequence Number of any other packets received during
the life of this SA. This SHOULD be the first ESP check applied to a
packet after it has been matched to an SA, to speed rejection of
duplicate packets.

Duplicates are rejected through the use of a sliding receive window.
(How the window is implemented is a local matter, but the following
text describes the functionality that the implementation must
exhibit.) A MINIMUM window size of 32 MUST be supported; but a
window size of 64 is preferred and SHOULD be employed as the default.

Another window size (larger than the MINIMUM) MAY be chosen by the
receiver. (The receiver does NOT notify the sender of the window
size.)

The "right" edge of the window represents the highest, validated
Sequence Number value received on this SA. Packets that contain
Sequence Numbers lower than the "left" edge of the window are
rejected. Packets falling within the window are checked against a
list of received packets within the window. An efficient means for
performing this check, based on the use of a bit mask, is described
in the Security Architecture document.

If the received packet falls within the window and is new, or if the
packet is to the right of the window, then the receiver proceeds to
ICV verification. If the ICV validation fails, the receiver MUST
discard the received IP datagram as invalid; this is an auditable
event. The audit log entry for this event SHOULD include the SPI
value, date/time received, Source Address, Destination Address, the
Sequence Number, and (in IPv6) the Flow ID. The receive window is
updated only if the ICV verification succeeds.

DISCUSSION:

Note that if the packet is either inside the window and new, or is
outside the window on the "right" side, the receiver MUST
authenticate the packet before updating the Sequence Number window
data.

3.4.4 Integrity Check Value Verification

If authentication has been selected, the receiver computes the ICV
over the ESP packet minus the Authentication Data using the specified
authentication algorithm and verifies that it is the same as the ICV
included in the Authentication Data field of the packet. Details of
the computation are provided below.

If the computed and received ICV's match, then the datagram is valid,
and it is accepted. If the test fails, then the receiver MUST
discard the received IP datagram as invalid; this is an auditable
event. The log data SHOULD include the SPI value, date/time
received, Source Address, Destination Address, the Sequence Number,
and (in IPv6) the cleartext Flow ID.

DISCUSSION:

Begin by removing and saving the ICV value (Authentication Data
field). Next check the overall length of the ESP packet minus the
Authentication Data. If implicit padding is required, based on

the blocksize of the authentication algorithm, append zero-filled
bytes to the end of the ESP packet directly after the Next Header
field. Perform the ICV computation and compare the result with
the saved value, using the comparison rules defined by the
algorithm specification. (For example, if a digital signature and
one-way hash are used for the ICV computation, the matching
process is more complex.)

3.4.5 Packet Decryption

As in section 3.3.2, "Packet Encryption", we speak here in terms of
encryption always being applied because of the formatting
implications. This is done with the understanding that "no
confidentiality" is offered by using the NULL encryption algorithm.
Accordingly, the receiver:

1. decrypts the ESP Payload Data, Padding, Pad Length, and Next
Header using the key, encryption algorithm, algorithm mode,
and cryptographic synchronization data (if any), indicated by
the SA.
- If explicit cryptographic synchronization data, e.g.,
an IV, is indicated, it is taken from the Payload
field and input to the decryption algorithm as per the
algorithm specification.
- If implicit cryptographic synchronization data, e.g.,
an IV, is indicated, a local version of the IV is
constructed and input to the decryption algorithm as
per the algorithm specification.
2. processes any padding as specified in the encryption
algorithm specification. If the default padding scheme (see
Section 2.4) has been employed, the receiver SHOULD inspect
the Padding field before removing the padding prior to
passing the decrypted data to the next layer.
3. reconstructs the original IP datagram from:
- for transport mode -- original IP header plus the
original upper layer protocol information in the ESP
Payload field
- for tunnel mode -- tunnel IP header + the entire IP
datagram in the ESP Payload field.

The exact steps for reconstructing the original datagram depend on
the mode (transport or tunnel) and are described in the Security
Architecture document. At a minimum, in an IPv6 context, the
receiver SHOULD ensure that the decrypted data is 8-byte aligned, to
facilitate processing by the protocol identified in the Next Header
field.

If authentication has been selected, verification and decryption MAY
be performed serially or in parallel. If performed serially, then
ICV verification SHOULD be performed first. If performed in
parallel, verification MUST be completed before the decrypted packet
is passed on for further processing. This order of processing
facilitates rapid detection and rejection of replayed or bogus
packets by the receiver, prior to decrypting the packet, hence
potentially reducing the impact of denial of service attacks. Note:

If the receiver performs decryption in parallel with authentication,
care must be taken to avoid possible race conditions with regard to
packet access and reconstruction of the decrypted packet.

Note that there are several ways in which the decryption can "fail":

a. The selected SA may not be correct -- The SA may be
mis-selected due to tampering with the SPI, destination
address, or IPsec protocol type fields. Such errors, if they
map the packet to another extant SA, will be
indistinguishable from a corrupted packet, (case c).
Tampering with the SPI can be detected by use of
authentication. However, an SA mismatch might still occur
due to tampering with the IP Destination Address or the IPsec
protocol type field.

b. The pad length or pad values could be erroneous -- Bad pad
lengths or pad values can be detected irrespective of the use
of authentication.

c. The encrypted ESP packet could be corrupted -- This can be
detected if authentication is selected for the SA.,

In case (a) or (c), the erroneous result of the decryption operation
(an invalid IP datagram or transport-layer frame) will not
necessarily be detected by IPsec, and is the responsibility of later
protocol processing.

4. Auditing

Not all systems that implement ESP will implement auditing. However,
if ESP is incorporated into a system that supports auditing, then the
ESP implementation MUST also support auditing and MUST allow a system
administrator to enable or disable auditing for ESP. For the most
part, the granularity of auditing is a local matter. However,
several auditable events are identified in this specification and for
each of these events a minimum set of information that SHOULD be
included in an audit log is defined. Additional information also MAY
be included in the audit log for each of these events, and additional

events, not explicitly called out in this specification, also MAY
result in audit log entries. There is no requirement for the
receiver to transmit any message to the purported sender in response
to the detection of an auditable event, because of the potential to
induce denial of service via such action.

5. Conformance Requirements

Implementations that claim conformance or compliance with this
specification MUST implement the ESP syntax and processing described
here and MUST comply with all requirements of the Security
Architecture document. If the key used to compute an ICV is manually
distributed, correct provision of the anti-replay service would
require correct maintenance of the counter state at the sender, until
the key is replaced, and there likely would be no automated recovery
provision if counter overflow were imminent. Thus a compliant
implementation SHOULD NOT provide this service in conjunction with
SAs that are manually keyed. A compliant ESP implementation MUST
support the following mandatory-to-implement algorithms:

- DES in CBC mode [MD97]
- HMAC with MD5 [MG97a]
- HMAC with SHA-1 [MG97b]
- NULL Authentication algorithm
- NULL Encryption algorithm

Since ESP encryption and authentication are optional, support for the
2 "NULL" algorithms is required to maintain consistency with the way
these services are negotiated. NOTE that while authentication and
encryption can each be "NULL", they MUST NOT both be "NULL".

6. Security Considerations

Security is central to the design of this protocol, and thus security
considerations permeate the specification. Additional security-
relevant aspects of using the IPsec protocol are discussed in the
Security Architecture document.

7. Differences from RFC 1827

This document differs from RFC 1827 [ATK95] in several significant
ways. The major difference is that, this document attempts to
specify a complete framework and context for ESP, whereas RFC 1827
provided a "shell" that was completed through the definition of
transforms. The combinatorial growth of transforms motivated the
reformulation of the ESP specification as a more complete document,
with options for security services that may be offered in the context
of ESP. Thus, fields previously defined in transform documents are

now part of this base ESP specification. For example, the fields
necessary to support authentication (and anti-replay) are now defined
here, even though the provision of this service is an option. The
fields used to support padding for encryption, and for next protocol
identification, are now defined here as well. Packet processing
consistent with the definition of these fields also is included in
the document.

Acknowledgements

Many of the concepts embodied in this specification were derived from
or influenced by the US Government's SP3 security protocol, ISO/IEC's
NLSP, or from the proposed swIPe security protocol. [SDNS89, ISO92,
IB93].

For over 3 years, this document has evolved through multiple versions
and iterations. During this time, many people have contributed
significant ideas and energy to the process and the documents
themselves. The authors would like to thank Karen Seo for providing
extensive help in the review, editing, background research, and
coordination for this version of the specification. The authors
would also like to thank the members of the IPsec and IPng working
groups, with special mention of the efforts of (in alphabetic order):
Steve Bellovin, Steve Deering, Phil Karn, Perry Metzger, David
Mihelcic, Hilarie Orman, Norman Shulman, William Simpson and Nina
Yuan.

References

[ATK95] Atkinson, R., "IP Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP)",
RFC 1827, August 1995.

[Bel96] Steven M. Bellovin, "Problem Areas for the IP Security
Protocols", Proceedings of the Sixth Usenix Unix Security
Symposium, July, 1996.

[Bra97] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Level", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

[HC98] Harkins, D., and D. Carrel, "The Internet Key Exchange
(IKE)", RFC 2409, November 1998.

[IB93] John Ioannidis & Matt Blaze, "Architecture and
Implementation of Network-layer Security Under Unix",
Proceedings of the USENIX Security Symposium, Santa Clara,
CA, October 1993.

[ISO92] ISO/IEC JTC1/SC6, Network Layer Security Protocol, ISO-IEC
DIS 11577, International Standards Organisation, Geneva,
Switzerland, 29 November 1992.

[KA97a] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "Security Architecture for the
Internet Protocol", RFC 2401, November 1998.

[KA97b] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "IP Authentication Header", RFC
2402, November 1998.

[MD97] Madson, C., and N. Doraswamy, "The ESP DES-CBC Cipher
Algorithm With Explicit IV", RFC 2405, November 1998.

[MG97a] Madson, C., and R. Glenn, "The Use of HMAC-MD5-96 within
ESP and AH", RFC 2403, November 1998.

[MG97b] Madson, C., and R. Glenn, "The Use of HMAC-SHA-1-96 within
ESP and AH", RFC 2404, November 1998.

[STD-2] Reynolds, J., and J. Postel, "Assigned Numbers", STD 2, RFC
1700, October 1994. See also:
http://www.iana.org/numbers.html

[SDNS89] SDNS Secure Data Network System, Security Protocol 3, SP3,
Document SDN.301, Revision 1.5, 15 May 1989, as published
in NIST Publication NIST-IR-90-4250, February 1990.

Disclaimer

The views and specification here are those of the authors and are not
necessarily those of their employers. The authors and their
employers specifically disclaim responsibility for any problems
arising from correct or incorrect implementation or use of this
specification.

Author Information

Stephen Kent
BBN Corporation
70 Fawcett Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
USA

Phone: +1 (617) 873-3988
EMail: kent@bbn.com

Randall Atkinson
@Home Network
425 Broadway,
Redwood City, CA 94063
USA

Phone: +1 (415) 569-5000
EMail: rja@corp.home.net

Full Copyright Statement

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RFC 2402 – IP Authentication Header


Network Working Group S. Kent
Request for Comments: 2402 BBN Corp
Obsoletes: 1826 R. Atkinson
Category: Standards Track @Home Network
November 1998

IP Authentication Header

Status of this Memo

This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction......................................................2
2. Authentication Header Format......................................3
2.1 Next Header...................................................4
2.2 Payload Length................................................4
2.3 Reserved......................................................4
2.4 Security Parameters Index (SPI)...............................4
2.5 Sequence Number...............................................5
2.6 Authentication Data ..........................................5
3. Authentication Header Processing..................................5
3.1 Authentication Header Location...............................5
3.2 Authentication Algorithms....................................7
3.3 Outbound Packet Processing...................................8
3.3.1 Security Association Lookup.............................8
3.3.2 Sequence Number Generation..............................8
3.3.3 Integrity Check Value Calculation.......................9
3.3.3.1 Handling Mutable Fields............................9
3.3.3.1.1 ICV Computation for IPv4.....................10
3.3.3.1.1.1 Base Header Fields.......................10
3.3.3.1.1.2 Options..................................11
3.3.3.1.2 ICV Computation for IPv6.....................11
3.3.3.1.2.1 Base Header Fields.......................11
3.3.3.1.2.2 Extension Headers Containing Options.....11
3.3.3.1.2.3 Extension Headers Not Containing Options.11
3.3.3.2 Padding...........................................12
3.3.3.2.1 Authentication Data Padding..................12

3.3.3.2.2 Implicit Packet Padding......................12
3.3.4 Fragmentation..........................................12
3.4 Inbound Packet Processing...................................13
3.4.1 Reassembly.............................................13
3.4.2 Security Association Lookup............................13
3.4.3 Sequence Number Verification...........................13
3.4.4 Integrity Check Value Verification.....................15
4. Auditing.........................................................15
5. Conformance Requirements.........................................16
6. Security Considerations..........................................16
7. Differences from RFC 1826........................................16
Acknowledgements....................................................17
Appendix A -- Mutability of IP Options/Extension Headers............18
A1. IPv4 Options.................................................18
A2. IPv6 Extension Headers.......................................19
References..........................................................20
Disclaimer..........................................................21
Author Information..................................................22
Full Copyright Statement............................................22

1. Introduction

The IP Authentication Header (AH) is used to provide connectionless
integrity and data origin authentication for IP datagrams (hereafter
referred to as just "authentication"), and to provide protection
against replays. This latter, optional service may be selected, by
the receiver, when a Security Association is established. (Although
the default calls for the sender to increment the Sequence Number
used for anti-replay, the service is effective only if the receiver
checks the Sequence Number.) AH provides authentication for as much
of the IP header as possible, as well as for upper level protocol
data. However, some IP header fields may change in transit and the
value of these fields, when the packet arrives at the receiver, may
not be predictable by the sender. The values of such fields cannot
be protected by AH. Thus the protection provided to the IP header by
AH is somewhat piecemeal.

AH may be applied alone, in combination with the IP Encapsulating
Security Payload (ESP) [KA97b], or in a nested fashion through the
use of tunnel mode (see "Security Architecture for the Internet
Protocol" [KA97a], hereafter referred to as the Security Architecture
document). Security services can be provided between a pair of
communicating hosts, between a pair of communicating security
gateways, or between a security gateway and a host. ESP may be used
to provide the same security services, and it also provides a
confidentiality (encryption) service. The primary difference between
the authentication provided by ESP and AH is the extent of the
coverage. Specifically, ESP does not protect any IP header fields

unless those fields are encapsulated by ESP (tunnel mode). For more
details on how to use AH and ESP in various network environments, see
the Security Architecture document [KA97a].

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the terms and concepts
described in the Security Architecture document. In particular, the
reader should be familiar with the definitions of security services
offered by AH and ESP, the concept of Security Associations, the ways
in which AH can be used in conjunction with ESP, and the different
key management options available for AH and ESP. (With regard to the
last topic, the current key management options required for both AH
and ESP are manual keying and automated keying via IKE [HC98].)

The keywords MUST, MUST NOT, REQUIRED, SHALL, SHALL NOT, SHOULD,
SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
document, are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [Bra97].

2. Authentication Header Format

The protocol header (IPv4, IPv6, or Extension) immediately preceding
the AH header will contain the value 51 in its Protocol (IPv4) or
Next Header (IPv6, Extension) field [STD-2].

0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| Next Header | Payload Len | RESERVED |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| Security Parameters Index (SPI) |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| Sequence Number Field |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| |
+ Authentication Data (variable) |
| |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

The following subsections define the fields that comprise the AH
format. All the fields described here are mandatory, i.e., they are
always present in the AH format and are included in the Integrity
Check Value (ICV) computation (see Sections 2.6 and 3.3.3).

2.1 Next Header

The Next Header is an 8-bit field that identifies the type of the
next payload after the Authentication Header. The value of this
field is chosen from the set of IP Protocol Numbers defined in the
most recent "Assigned Numbers" [STD-2] RFC from the Internet Assigned
Numbers Authority (IANA).

2.2 Payload Length

This 8-bit field specifies the length of AH in 32-bit words (4-byte
units), minus "2". (All IPv6 extension headers, as per RFC 1883,
encode the "Hdr Ext Len" field by first subtracting 1 (64-bit word)
from the header length (measured in 64-bit words). AH is an IPv6
extension header. However, since its length is measured in 32-bit
words, the "Payload Length" is calculated by subtracting 2 (32 bit
words).) In the "standard" case of a 96-bit authentication value
plus the 3 32-bit word fixed portion, this length field will be "4".
A "null" authentication algorithm may be used only for debugging
purposes. Its use would result in a "1" value for this field for
IPv4 or a "2" for IPv6, as there would be no corresponding
Authentication Data field (see Section 3.3.3.2.1 on "Authentication
Data Padding").

2.3 Reserved

This 16-bit field is reserved for future use. It MUST be set to
"zero." (Note that the value is included in the Authentication Data
calculation, but is otherwise ignored by the recipient.)

2.4 Security Parameters Index (SPI)

The SPI is an arbitrary 32-bit value that, in combination with the
destination IP address and security protocol (AH), uniquely
identifies the Security Association for this datagram. The set of
SPI values in the range 1 through 255 are reserved by the Internet
Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for future use; a reserved SPI
value will not normally be assigned by IANA unless the use of the
assigned SPI value is specified in an RFC. It is ordinarily selected
by the destination system upon establishment of an SA (see the
Security Architecture document for more details).

The SPI value of zero (0) is reserved for local, implementation-
specific use and MUST NOT be sent on the wire. For example, a key
management implementation MAY use the zero SPI value to mean "No
Security Association Exists" during the period when the IPsec
implementation has requested that its key management entity establish
a new SA, but the SA has not yet been established.

2.5 Sequence Number

This unsigned 32-bit field contains a monotonically increasing
counter value (sequence number). It is mandatory and is always
present even if the receiver does not elect to enable the anti-replay
service for a specific SA. Processing of the Sequence Number field
is at the discretion of the receiver, i.e., the sender MUST always
transmit this field, but the receiver need not act upon it (see the
discussion of Sequence Number Verification in the "Inbound Packet
Processing" section below).

The sender's counter and the receiver's counter are initialized to 0
when an SA is established. (The first packet sent using a given SA
will have a Sequence Number of 1; see Section 3.3.2 for more details
on how the Sequence Number is generated.) If anti-replay is enabled
(the default), the transmitted Sequence Number must never be allowed
to cycle. Thus, the sender's counter and the receiver's counter MUST
be reset (by establishing a new SA and thus a new key) prior to the
transmission of the 2^32nd packet on an SA.

2.6 Authentication Data

This is a variable-length field that contains the Integrity Check
Value (ICV) for this packet. The field must be an integral multiple
of 32 bits in length. The details of the ICV computation are
described in Section 3.3.2 below. This field may include explicit
padding. This padding is included to ensure that the length of the
AH header is an integral multiple of 32 bits (IPv4) or 64 bits
(IPv6). All implementations MUST support such padding. Details of
how to compute the required padding length are provided below. The
authentication algorithm specification MUST specify the length of the
ICV and the comparison rules and processing steps for validation.

3. Authentication Header Processing

3.1 Authentication Header Location

Like ESP, AH may be employed in two ways: transport mode or tunnel
mode. The former mode is applicable only to host implementations and
provides protection for upper layer protocols, in addition to
selected IP header fields. (In this mode, note that for "bump-in-
the-stack" or "bump-in-the-wire" implementations, as defined in the
Security Architecture document, inbound and outbound IP fragments may
require an IPsec implementation to perform extra IP
reassembly/fragmentation in order to both conform to this
specification and provide transparent IPsec support. Special care is
required to perform such operations within these implementations when
multiple interfaces are in use.)

In transport mode, AH is inserted after the IP header and before an
upper layer protocol, e.g., TCP, UDP, ICMP, etc. or before any other
IPsec headers that have already been inserted. In the context of
IPv4, this calls for placing AH after the IP header (and any options
that it contains), but before the upper layer protocol. (Note that
the term "transport" mode should not be misconstrued as restricting
its use to TCP and UDP. For example, an ICMP message MAY be sent
using either "transport" mode or "tunnel" mode.) The following
diagram illustrates AH transport mode positioning for a typical IPv4
packet, on a "before and after" basis.

BEFORE APPLYING AH
----------------------------
IPv4 |orig IP hdr | | |
|(any options)| TCP | Data |
----------------------------

AFTER APPLYING AH
---------------------------------
IPv4 |orig IP hdr | | | |
|(any options)| AH | TCP | Data |
---------------------------------
|<------- authenticated ------->|
except for mutable fields

In the IPv6 context, AH is viewed as an end-to-end payload, and thus
should appear after hop-by-hop, routing, and fragmentation extension
headers. The destination options extension header(s) could appear
either before or after the AH header depending on the semantics
desired. The following diagram illustrates AH transport mode
positioning for a typical IPv6 packet.

BEFORE APPLYING AH
---------------------------------------
IPv6 | | ext hdrs | | |
| orig IP hdr |if present| TCP | Data |
---------------------------------------

AFTER APPLYING AH
------------------------------------------------------------
IPv6 | |hop-by-hop, dest*, | | dest | | |
|orig IP hdr |routing, fragment. | AH | opt* | TCP | Data |
------------------------------------------------------------
|<---- authenticated except for mutable fields ----------->|

* = if present, could be before AH, after AH, or both

ESP and AH headers can be combined in a variety of modes. The IPsec
Architecture document describes the combinations of security
associations that must be supported.

Tunnel mode AH may be employed in either hosts or security gateways
(or in so-called "bump-in-the-stack" or "bump-in-the-wire"
implementations, as defined in the Security Architecture document).
When AH is implemented in a security gateway (to protect transit
traffic), tunnel mode must be used. In tunnel mode, the "inner" IP
header carries the ultimate source and destination addresses, while
an "outer" IP header may contain distinct IP addresses, e.g.,
addresses of security gateways. In tunnel mode, AH protects the
entire inner IP packet, including the entire inner IP header. The
position of AH in tunnel mode, relative to the outer IP header, is
the same as for AH in transport mode. The following diagram
illustrates AH tunnel mode positioning for typical IPv4 and IPv6
packets.

------------------------------------------------
IPv4 | new IP hdr* | | orig IP hdr* | | |
|(any options)| AH | (any options) |TCP | Data |
------------------------------------------------
|<- authenticated except for mutable fields -->|
| in the new IP hdr |

--------------------------------------------------------------
IPv6 | | ext hdrs*| | | ext hdrs*| | |
|new IP hdr*|if present| AH |orig IP hdr*|if present|TCP|Data|
--------------------------------------------------------------
|<-- authenticated except for mutable fields in new IP hdr ->|

* = construction of outer IP hdr/extensions and modification
of inner IP hdr/extensions is discussed below.

3.2 Authentication Algorithms

The authentication algorithm employed for the ICV computation is
specified by the SA. For point-to-point communication, suitable
authentication algorithms include keyed Message Authentication Codes
(MACs) based on symmetric encryption algorithms (e.g., DES) or on
one-way hash functions (e.g., MD5 or SHA-1). For multicast
communication, one-way hash algorithms combined with asymmetric
signature algorithms are appropriate, though performance and space
considerations currently preclude use of such algorithms. The
mandatory-to-implement authentication algorithms are described in
Section 5 "Conformance Requirements". Other algorithms MAY be
supported.

3.3 Outbound Packet Processing

In transport mode, the sender inserts the AH header after the IP
header and before an upper layer protocol header, as described above.
In tunnel mode, the outer and inner IP header/extensions can be
inter-related in a variety of ways. The construction of the outer IP
header/extensions during the encapsulation process is described in
the Security Architecture document.

If there is more than one IPsec header/extension required, the order
of the application of the security headers MUST be defined by
security policy. For simplicity of processing, each IPsec header
SHOULD ignore the existence (i.e., not zero the contents or try to
predict the contents) of IPsec headers to be applied later. (While a
native IP or bump-in-the-stack implementation could predict the
contents of later IPsec headers that it applies itself, it won't be
possible for it to predict any IPsec headers added by a bump-in-the-
wire implementation between the host and the network.)

3.3.1 Security Association Lookup

AH is applied to an outbound packet only after an IPsec
implementation determines that the packet is associated with an SA
that calls for AH processing. The process of determining what, if
any, IPsec processing is applied to outbound traffic is described in
the Security Architecture document.

3.3.2 Sequence Number Generation

The sender's counter is initialized to 0 when an SA is established.
The sender increments the Sequence Number for this SA and inserts the
new value into the Sequence Number Field. Thus the first packet sent
using a given SA will have a Sequence Number of 1.

If anti-replay is enabled (the default), the sender checks to ensure
that the counter has not cycled before inserting the new value in the
Sequence Number field. In other words, the sender MUST NOT send a
packet on an SA if doing so would cause the Sequence Number to cycle.
An attempt to transmit a packet that would result in Sequence Number
overflow is an auditable event. (Note that this approach to Sequence
Number management does not require use of modular arithmetic.)

The sender assumes anti-replay is enabled as a default, unless
otherwise notified by the receiver (see 3.4.3). Thus, if the counter
has cycled, the sender will set up a new SA and key (unless the SA
was configured with manual key management).

If anti-replay is disabled, the sender does not need to monitor or
reset the counter, e.g., in the case of manual key management (see
Section 5.) However, the sender still increments the counter and when
it reaches the maximum value, the counter rolls over back to zero.

3.3.3 Integrity Check Value Calculation

The AH ICV is computed over:
o IP header fields that are either immutable in transit or
that are predictable in value upon arrival at the endpoint
for the AH SA
o the AH header (Next Header, Payload Len, Reserved, SPI,
Sequence Number, and the Authentication Data (which is set
to zero for this computation), and explicit padding bytes
(if any))
o the upper level protocol data, which is assumed to be
immutable in transit

3.3.3.1 Handling Mutable Fields

If a field may be modified during transit, the value of the field is
set to zero for purposes of the ICV computation. If a field is
mutable, but its value at the (IPsec) receiver is predictable, then
that value is inserted into the field for purposes of the ICV
calculation. The Authentication Data field is also set to zero in
preparation for this computation. Note that by replacing each
field's value with zero, rather than omitting the field, alignment is
preserved for the ICV calculation. Also, the zero-fill approach
ensures that the length of the fields that are so handled cannot be
changed during transit, even though their contents are not explicitly
covered by the ICV.

As a new extension header or IPv4 option is created, it will be
defined in its own RFC and SHOULD include (in the Security
Considerations section) directions for how it should be handled when
calculating the AH ICV. If the IP (v4 or v6) implementation
encounters an extension header that it does not recognize, it will
discard the packet and send an ICMP message. IPsec will never see
the packet. If the IPsec implementation encounters an IPv4 option
that it does not recognize, it should zero the whole option, using
the second byte of the option as the length. IPv6 options (in
Destination extension headers or Hop by Hop extension header) contain
a flag indicating mutability, which determines appropriate processing
for such options.

3.3.3.1.1 ICV Computation for IPv4

3.3.3.1.1.1 Base Header Fields

The IPv4 base header fields are classified as follows:

Immutable
Version
Internet Header Length
Total Length
Identification
Protocol (This should be the value for AH.)
Source Address
Destination Address (without loose or strict source routing)

Mutable but predictable
Destination Address (with loose or strict source routing)

Mutable (zeroed prior to ICV calculation)
Type of Service (TOS)
Flags
Fragment Offset
Time to Live (TTL)
Header Checksum

TOS -- This field is excluded because some routers are known to
change the value of this field, even though the IP
specification does not consider TOS to be a mutable header
field.

Flags -- This field is excluded since an intermediate router might
set the DF bit, even if the source did not select it.

Fragment Offset -- Since AH is applied only to non-fragmented IP
packets, the Offset Field must always be zero, and thus it
is excluded (even though it is predictable).

TTL -- This is changed en-route as a normal course of processing
by routers, and thus its value at the receiver is not
predictable by the sender.

Header Checksum -- This will change if any of these other fields
changes, and thus its value upon reception cannot be
predicted by the sender.

3.3.3.1.1.2 Options

For IPv4 (unlike IPv6), there is no mechanism for tagging options as
mutable in transit. Hence the IPv4 options are explicitly listed in
Appendix A and classified as immutable, mutable but predictable, or
mutable. For IPv4, the entire option is viewed as a unit; so even
though the type and length fields within most options are immutable
in transit, if an option is classified as mutable, the entire option
is zeroed for ICV computation purposes.

3.3.3.1.2 ICV Computation for IPv6

3.3.3.1.2.1 Base Header Fields

The IPv6 base header fields are classified as follows:

Immutable
Version
Payload Length
Next Header (This should be the value for AH.)
Source Address
Destination Address (without Routing Extension Header)

Mutable but predictable
Destination Address (with Routing Extension Header)

Mutable (zeroed prior to ICV calculation)
Class
Flow Label
Hop Limit

3.3.3.1.2.2 Extension Headers Containing Options

IPv6 options in the Hop-by-Hop and Destination Extension Headers
contain a bit that indicates whether the option might change
(unpredictably) during transit. For any option for which contents
may change en-route, the entire "Option Data" field must be treated
as zero-valued octets when computing or verifying the ICV. The
Option Type and Opt Data Len are included in the ICV calculation.
All options for which the bit indicates immutability are included in
the ICV calculation. See the IPv6 specification [DH95] for more
information.

3.3.3.1.2.3 Extension Headers Not Containing Options

The IPv6 extension headers that do not contain options are explicitly
listed in Appendix A and classified as immutable, mutable but
predictable, or mutable.

3.3.3.2 Padding

3.3.3.2.1 Authentication Data Padding

As mentioned in section 2.6, the Authentication Data field explicitly
includes padding to ensure that the AH header is a multiple of 32
bits (IPv4) or 64 bits (IPv6). If padding is required, its length is
determined by two factors:

- the length of the ICV
- the IP protocol version (v4 or v6)

For example, if the output of the selected algorithm is 96-bits, no
padding is required for either IPv4 or for IPv6. However, if a
different length ICV is generated, due to use of a different
algorithm, then padding may be required depending on the length and
IP protocol version. The content of the padding field is arbitrarily
selected by the sender. (The padding is arbitrary, but need not be
random to achieve security.) These padding bytes are included in the
Authentication Data calculation, counted as part of the Payload
Length, and transmitted at the end of the Authentication Data field
to enable the receiver to perform the ICV calculation.

3.3.3.2.2 Implicit Packet Padding

For some authentication algorithms, the byte string over which the
ICV computation is performed must be a multiple of a blocksize
specified by the algorithm. If the IP packet length (including AH)
does not match the blocksize requirements for the algorithm, implicit
padding MUST be appended to the end of the packet, prior to ICV
computation. The padding octets MUST have a value of zero. The
blocksize (and hence the length of the padding) is specified by the
algorithm specification. This padding is not transmitted with the
packet. Note that MD5 and SHA-1 are viewed as having a 1-byte
blocksize because of their internal padding conventions.

3.3.4 Fragmentation

If required, IP fragmentation occurs after AH processing within an
IPsec implementation. Thus, transport mode AH is applied only to
whole IP datagrams (not to IP fragments). An IP packet to which AH
has been applied may itself be fragmented by routers en route, and
such fragments must be reassembled prior to AH processing at a
receiver. In tunnel mode, AH is applied to an IP packet, the payload
of which may be a fragmented IP packet. For example, a security
gateway or a "bump-in-the-stack" or "bump-in-the-wire" IPsec
implementation (see the Security Architecture document for details)
may apply tunnel mode AH to such fragments.

3.4 Inbound Packet Processing

If there is more than one IPsec header/extension present, the
processing for each one ignores (does not zero, does not use) any
IPsec headers applied subsequent to the header being processed.

3.4.1 Reassembly

If required, reassembly is performed prior to AH processing. If a
packet offered to AH for processing appears to be an IP fragment,
i.e., the OFFSET field is non-zero or the MORE FRAGMENTS flag is set,
the receiver MUST discard the packet; this is an auditable event. The
audit log entry for this event SHOULD include the SPI value,
date/time, Source Address, Destination Address, and (in IPv6) the
Flow ID.

NOTE: For packet reassembly, the current IPv4 spec does NOT require
either the zero'ing of the OFFSET field or the clearing of the MORE
FRAGMENTS flag. In order for a reassembled packet to be processed by
IPsec (as opposed to discarded as an apparent fragment), the IP code
must do these two things after it reassembles a packet.

3.4.2 Security Association Lookup

Upon receipt of a packet containing an IP Authentication Header, the
receiver determines the appropriate (unidirectional) SA, based on the
destination IP address, security protocol (AH), and the SPI. (This
process is described in more detail in the Security Architecture
document.) The SA indicates whether the Sequence Number field will
be checked, specifies the algorithm(s) employed for ICV computation,
and indicates the key(s) required to validate the ICV.

If no valid Security Association exists for this session (e.g., the
receiver has no key), the receiver MUST discard the packet; this is
an auditable event. The audit log entry for this event SHOULD
include the SPI value, date/time, Source Address, Destination
Address, and (in IPv6) the Flow ID.

3.4.3 Sequence Number Verification

All AH implementations MUST support the anti-replay service, though
its use may be enabled or disabled by the receiver on a per-SA basis.
(Note that there are no provisions for managing transmitted Sequence
Number values among multiple senders directing traffic to a single SA
(irrespective of whether the destination address is unicast,
broadcast, or multicast). Thus the anti-replay service SHOULD NOT be
used in a multi-sender environment that employs a single SA.)

If the receiver does not enable anti-replay for an SA, no inbound
checks are performed on the Sequence Number. However, from the
perspective of the sender, the default is to assume that anti-replay
is enabled at the receiver. To avoid having the sender do
unnecessary sequence number monitoring and SA setup (see section
3.3.2), if an SA establishment protocol such as IKE is employed, the
receiver SHOULD notify the sender, during SA establishment, if the
receiver will not provide anti-replay protection.

If the receiver has enabled the anti-replay service for this SA, the
receiver packet counter for the SA MUST be initialized to zero when
the SA is established. For each received packet, the receiver MUST
verify that the packet contains a Sequence Number that does not
duplicate the Sequence Number of any other packets received during
the life of this SA. This SHOULD be the first AH check applied to a
packet after it has been matched to an SA, to speed rejection of
duplicate packets.

Duplicates are rejected through the use of a sliding receive window.
(How the window is implemented is a local matter, but the following
text describes the functionality that the implementation must
exhibit.) A MINIMUM window size of 32 MUST be supported; but a
window size of 64 is preferred and SHOULD be employed as the default.
Another window size (larger than the MINIMUM) MAY be chosen by the
receiver. (The receiver does NOT notify the sender of the window
size.)

The "right" edge of the window represents the highest, validated
Sequence Number value received on this SA. Packets that contain
Sequence Numbers lower than the "left" edge of the window are
rejected. Packets falling within the window are checked against a
list of received packets within the window. An efficient means for
performing this check, based on the use of a bit mask, is described
in the Security Architecture document.

If the received packet falls within the window and is new, or if the
packet is to the right of the window, then the receiver proceeds to
ICV verification. If the ICV validation fails, the receiver MUST
discard the received IP datagram as invalid; this is an auditable
event. The audit log entry for this event SHOULD include the SPI
value, date/time, Source Address, Destination Address, the Sequence
Number, and (in IPv6) the Flow ID. The receive window is updated
only if the ICV verification succeeds.

DISCUSSION:

Note that if the packet is either inside the window and new, or is
outside the window on the "right" side, the receiver MUST
authenticate the packet before updating the Sequence Number window
data.

3.4.4 Integrity Check Value Verification

The receiver computes the ICV over the appropriate fields of the
packet, using the specified authentication algorithm, and verifies
that it is the same as the ICV included in the Authentication Data
field of the packet. Details of the computation are provided below.

If the computed and received ICV's match, then the datagram is valid,
and it is accepted. If the test fails, then the receiver MUST
discard the received IP datagram as invalid; this is an auditable
event. The audit log entry SHOULD include the SPI value, date/time
received, Source Address, Destination Address, and (in IPv6) the Flow
ID.

DISCUSSION:

Begin by saving the ICV value and replacing it (but not any
Authentication Data padding) with zero. Zero all other fields
that may have been modified during transit. (See section 3.3.3.1
for a discussion of which fields are zeroed before performing the
ICV calculation.) Check the overall length of the packet, and if
it requires implicit padding based on the requirements of the
authentication algorithm, append zero-filled bytes to the end of
the packet as required. Perform the ICV computation and compare
the result with the saved value, using the comparison rules
defined by the algorithm specification. (For example, if a
digital signature and one-way hash are used for the ICV
computation, the matching process is more complex.)

4. Auditing

Not all systems that implement AH will implement auditing. However,
if AH is incorporated into a system that supports auditing, then the
AH implementation MUST also support auditing and MUST allow a system
administrator to enable or disable auditing for AH. For the most
part, the granularity of auditing is a local matter. However,
several auditable events are identified in this specification and for
each of these events a minimum set of information that SHOULD be
included in an audit log is defined. Additional information also MAY
be included in the audit log for each of these events, and additional
events, not explicitly called out in this specification, also MAY

result in audit log entries. There is no requirement for the
receiver to transmit any message to the purported sender in response
to the detection of an auditable event, because of the potential to
induce denial of service via such action.

5. Conformance Requirements

Implementations that claim conformance or compliance with this
specification MUST fully implement the AH syntax and processing
described here and MUST comply with all requirements of the Security
Architecture document. If the key used to compute an ICV is manually
distributed, correct provision of the anti-replay service would
require correct maintenance of the counter state at the sender, until
the key is replaced, and there likely would be no automated recovery
provision if counter overflow were imminent. Thus a compliant
implementation SHOULD NOT provide this service in conjunction with
SAs that are manually keyed. A compliant AH implementation MUST
support the following mandatory-to-implement algorithms:

- HMAC with MD5 [MG97a]
- HMAC with SHA-1 [MG97b]

6. Security Considerations

Security is central to the design of this protocol, and these
security considerations permeate the specification. Additional
security-relevant aspects of using the IPsec protocol are discussed
in the Security Architecture document.

7. Differences from RFC 1826

This specification of AH differs from RFC 1826 [ATK95] in several
important respects, but the fundamental features of AH remain intact.
One goal of the revision of RFC 1826 was to provide a complete
framework for AH, with ancillary RFCs required only for algorithm
specification. For example, the anti-replay service is now an
integral, mandatory part of AH, not a feature of a transform defined
in another RFC. Carriage of a sequence number to support this
service is now required at all times. The default algorithms
required for interoperability have been changed to HMAC with MD5 or
SHA-1 (vs. keyed MD5), for security reasons. The list of IPv4 header
fields excluded from the ICV computation has been expanded to include
the OFFSET and FLAGS fields.

Another motivation for revision was to provide additional detail and
clarification of subtle points. This specification provides
rationale for exclusion of selected IPv4 header fields from AH
coverage and provides examples on positioning of AH in both the IPv4

and v6 contexts. Auditing requirements have been clarified in this
version of the specification. Tunnel mode AH was mentioned only in
passing in RFC 1826, but now is a mandatory feature of AH.
Discussion of interactions with key management and with security
labels have been moved to the Security Architecture document.

Acknowledgements

For over 3 years, this document has evolved through multiple versions
and iterations. During this time, many people have contributed
significant ideas and energy to the process and the documents
themselves. The authors would like to thank Karen Seo for providing
extensive help in the review, editing, background research, and
coordination for this version of the specification. The authors
would also like to thank the members of the IPsec and IPng working
groups, with special mention of the efforts of (in alphabetic order):
Steve Bellovin, Steve Deering, Francis Dupont, Phil Karn, Frank
Kastenholz, Perry Metzger, David Mihelcic, Hilarie Orman, Norman
Shulman, William Simpson, and Nina Yuan.

Appendix A -- Mutability of IP Options/Extension Headers

A1. IPv4 Options

This table shows how the IPv4 options are classified with regard to
"mutability". Where two references are provided, the second one
supercedes the first. This table is based in part on information
provided in RFC1700, "ASSIGNED NUMBERS", (October 1994).

Opt.
Copy Class # Name Reference
---- ----- --- ------------------------ ---------
IMMUTABLE -- included in ICV calculation
0 0 0 End of Options List [RFC791]
0 0 1 No Operation [RFC791]
1 0 2 Security [RFC1108(historic but in use)]
1 0 5 Extended Security [RFC1108(historic but in use)]
1 0 6 Commercial Security [expired I-D, now US MIL STD]
1 0 20 Router Alert [RFC2113]
1 0 21 Sender Directed Multi- [RFC1770]
Destination Delivery
MUTABLE -- zeroed
1 0 3 Loose Source Route [RFC791]
0 2 4 Time Stamp [RFC791]
0 0 7 Record Route [RFC791]
1 0 9 Strict Source Route [RFC791]
0 2 18 Traceroute [RFC1393]

EXPERIMENTAL, SUPERCEDED -- zeroed
1 0 8 Stream ID [RFC791, RFC1122 (Host Req)]
0 0 11 MTU Probe [RFC1063, RFC1191 (PMTU)]
0 0 12 MTU Reply [RFC1063, RFC1191 (PMTU)]
1 0 17 Extended Internet Proto [RFC1385, RFC1883 (IPv6)]
0 0 10 Experimental Measurement [ZSu]
1 2 13 Experimental Flow Control [Finn]
1 0 14 Experimental Access Ctl [Estrin]
0 0 15 ??? [VerSteeg]
1 0 16 IMI Traffic Descriptor [Lee]
1 0 19 Address Extension [Ullmann IPv7]

NOTE: Use of the Router Alert option is potentially incompatible with
use of IPsec. Although the option is immutable, its use implies that
each router along a packet's path will "process" the packet and
consequently might change the packet. This would happen on a hop by
hop basis as the packet goes from router to router. Prior to being
processed by the application to which the option contents are
directed, e.g., RSVP/IGMP, the packet should encounter AH processing.

However, AH processing would require that each router along the path
is a member of a multicast-SA defined by the SPI. This might pose
problems for packets that are not strictly source routed, and it
requires multicast support techniques not currently available.

NOTE: Addition or removal of any security labels (BSO, ESO, CIPSO) by
systems along a packet's path conflicts with the classification of
these IP Options as immutable and is incompatible with the use of
IPsec.

NOTE: End of Options List options SHOULD be repeated as necessary to
ensure that the IP header ends on a 4 byte boundary in order to
ensure that there are no unspecified bytes which could be used for a
covert channel.

A2. IPv6 Extension Headers

This table shows how the IPv6 Extension Headers are classified with
regard to "mutability".

Option/Extension Name Reference
----------------------------------- ---------
MUTABLE BUT PREDICTABLE -- included in ICV calculation
Routing (Type 0) [RFC1883]

BIT INDICATES IF OPTION IS MUTABLE (CHANGES UNPREDICTABLY DURING TRANSIT)
Hop by Hop options [RFC1883]
Destination options [RFC1883]

NOT APPLICABLE
Fragmentation [RFC1883]

Options -- IPv6 options in the Hop-by-Hop and Destination
Extension Headers contain a bit that indicates whether the
option might change (unpredictably) during transit. For
any option for which contents may change en-route, the
entire "Option Data" field must be treated as zero-valued
octets when computing or verifying the ICV. The Option
Type and Opt Data Len are included in the ICV calculation.
All options for which the bit indicates immutability are
included in the ICV calculation. See the IPv6
specification [DH95] for more information.

Routing (Type 0) -- The IPv6 Routing Header "Type 0" will
rearrange the address fields within the packet during
transit from source to destination. However, the contents
of the packet as it will appear at the receiver are known
to the sender and to all intermediate hops. Hence, the

IPv6 Routing Header "Type 0" is included in the
Authentication Data calculation as mutable but predictable.
The sender must order the field so that it appears as it
will at the receiver, prior to performing the ICV
computation.

Fragmentation -- Fragmentation occurs after outbound IPsec
processing (section 3.3) and reassembly occurs before
inbound IPsec processing (section 3.4). So the
Fragmentation Extension Header, if it exists, is not seen
by IPsec.

Note that on the receive side, the IP implementation could
leave a Fragmentation Extension Header in place when it
does re-assembly. If this happens, then when AH receives
the packet, before doing ICV processing, AH MUST "remove"
(or skip over) this header and change the previous header's
"Next Header" field to be the "Next Header" field in the
Fragmentation Extension Header.

Note that on the send side, the IP implementation could
give the IPsec code a packet with a Fragmentation Extension
Header with Offset of 0 (first fragment) and a More
Fragments Flag of 0 (last fragment). If this happens, then
before doing ICV processing, AH MUST first "remove" (or
skip over) this header and change the previous header's
"Next Header" field to be the "Next Header" field in the
Fragmentation Extension Header.

References

[ATK95] Atkinson, R., "The IP Authentication Header", RFC 1826,
August 1995.

[Bra97] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Level", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

[DH95] Deering, S., and B. Hinden, "Internet Protocol version 6
(IPv6) Specification", RFC 1883, December 1995.

[HC98] Harkins, D., and D. Carrel, "The Internet Key Exchange
(IKE)", RFC 2409, November 1998.

[KA97a] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "Security Architecture for the
Internet Protocol", RFC 2401, November 1998.

[KA97b] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "IP Encapsulating Security
Payload (ESP)", RFC 2406, November 1998.

[MG97a] Madson, C., and R. Glenn, "The Use of HMAC-MD5-96 within
ESP and AH", RFC 2403, November 1998.

[MG97b] Madson, C., and R. Glenn, "The Use of HMAC-SHA-1-96 within
ESP and AH", RFC 2404, November 1998.

[STD-2] Reynolds, J., and J. Postel, "Assigned Numbers", STD 2, RFC
1700, October 1994. See also:
http://www.iana.org/numbers.html

Disclaimer

The views and specification here are those of the authors and are not
necessarily those of their employers. The authors and their
employers specifically disclaim responsibility for any problems
arising from correct or incorrect implementation or use of this
specification.

Author Information

Stephen Kent
BBN Corporation
70 Fawcett Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
USA

Phone: +1 (617) 873-3988
EMail: kent@bbn.com

Randall Atkinson
@Home Network
425 Broadway,
Redwood City, CA 94063
USA

Phone: +1 (415) 569-5000
EMail: rja@corp.home.net

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