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Versions: 00 01 draft-ietf-tcpm-urgent-data

TCP Maintenance and Minor                                        F. Gont
Extensions (tcpm)                                                UTN/FRH
Internet-Draft                                            A. Yourtchenko
Intended status: Standards Track                                   Cisco
Expires: August 6, 2009                                 February 2, 2009


                On the implementation of TCP urgent data
                   draft-gont-tcpm-urgent-data-01.txt

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on August 6, 2009.

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   Copyright (c) 2009 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
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Abstract

   This document analyzes how current TCP implementations process TCP



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   urgent indications, and how the behavior of some widely-deployed
   middle-boxes affect how urgent indications are processed by end
   systems.  This document updates the relevant specifications such that
   they accommodate current practice in processing TCP urgent
   indications, and raises awareness about the reliability of TCP urgent
   indications in the current Internet.


Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  Specification of TCP urgent data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
     2.1.  Semantics of urgent inications . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
     2.2.  Semantics of the Urgent Pointer  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
     2.3.  Allowed length of urgent data  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   3.  Current implementation practice of TCP urgent data . . . . . .  4
     3.1.  Semantics of urgent indications  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
     3.2.  Semantics of the Urgent Pointer  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     3.3.  Allowed length of urgent data  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     3.4.  Interaction of middle-boxes with urgent data . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Updating RFC 1122  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   5.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   6.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   7.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   8.  References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     8.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     8.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
   Appendix A.  Survey of the processing of urgent data by some
                popular implementations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
     A.1.  FreeBSD  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
     A.2.  Linux  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     A.3.  NetBSD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     A.4.  OpenBSD  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     A.5.  Cisco IOS, versions 12.2(18)SXF7, 12.4(15)T7 . . . . . . .  9
     A.6.  Microsoft Windows 2000, Service Pack 4 . . . . . . . . . . 10
     A.7.  Microsoft Windows 2008 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     A.8.  Microsoft Windows 95 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
   Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10













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1.  Introduction

   TCP incorporates a "urgent mechanism" that allows the sending user to
   stimulate the receiving user to accept some urgent data and to permit
   the receiving TCP to indicate to the receiving user when all the
   currently known urgent data has been received by the user.  This
   mechanism permits a point in the data stream to be designated as the
   end of urgent information.  Whenever this point is in advance of the
   receive sequence number (RCV.NXT) at the receiving TCP, that TCP must
   tell the user to go into "urgent mode"; when the receive sequence
   number catches up to the urgent pointer, the TCP must tell user to go
   into "normal mode" [RFC0793].

   The URG control flag indicates that the "Urgent Pointer" field is
   meaningful and must be added to the segment sequence number to yield
   the urgent pointer.  The absence of this flag indicates that there is
   no urgent data outstanding [RFC0793].

   This document analyzes how current TCP implementations process TCP
   urgent indications, and how the behavior of some widely-deployed
   middle-boxes affect the processing of urgent indications by hosts.
   This document updates the relevant specifications such that they
   accommodate current practice in processing TCP urgent indications,
   and also raises awareness about the reliability of TCP urgent
   indications in the current Internet.

   Section 2 describes what the current IETF secifications state with
   respect to TCP urgent indications.  Section 3 describes how current
   TCP implementations actually process TCP urgent indications.
   Section 4 updates RFC 1122 [RFC1122] such that it accommodates
   current practice in processing TCP urgent indications.

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].


2.  Specification of TCP urgent data

2.1.  Semantics of urgent inications

   As discussed in Section 1, the TCP urgent mechanism permits a point
   in the data stream to be designated as the end of urgent information.
   Whenever this point is in advance of the receive sequence number
   (RCV.NXT) at the receiving TCP, that TCP must tell the user to go
   into "urgent mode"; when the receive sequence number catches up to
   the urgent pointer, the TCP must tell user to go into "normal mode".
   This means, for example, that data that were received as "normal



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   data" might become "urgent data" if an urgent indication is received
   in some successive TCP segment before those data are consumed by the
   TCP user.

   The TCP urgent mechanism is NOT a mechanism for sending "out-of-band"
   data: the "urgent data" should be delivered "in-line" to the TCP
   user.

2.2.  Semantics of the Urgent Pointer

   There is some ambiguity in RFC 793 [RFC0793] with respect to the
   semantics of the Urgent Pointer.  Section 3.1 (page 17) of RFC 793
   [RFC0793] states that the Urgent Pointer "communicates the current
   value of the urgent pointer as a positive offset from the sequence
   number in this segment.  The urgent pointer points to the sequence
   number of the octet following the urgent data.  This field is only be
   interpreted in segments with the URG control bit set."  However,
   Section 3.9 (page 56) of RFC 793 [RFC0793] states, when describing
   the processing of the SEND call in the ESTABLISHED and CLOSE-WAIT
   states, that "If the urgent flag is set, then SND.UP <- SND.NXT-1 and
   set the urgent pointer in the outgoing segments".

   RFC 961 [RFC0961] clarified this ambiguity in RFC 793 stating that
   "Page 17 is wrong.  The urgent pointer points to the last octet of
   urgent data (not to the first octet of non-urgent data)".  RFC 1122
   [RFC1122] formally updated RFC 793 by stating, in Section 4.2.2.4
   (page 84), that "the urgent pointer points to the sequence number of
   the LAST octet (not LAST+1) in a sequence of urgent data."

2.3.  Allowed length of urgent data

   RFC 793 [RFC0793] allows TCP peers to send urgent data of any length,
   as the TCP urgent mechanism simply provides a pointer to an
   interesting point in the data stream.  In this respect, Section
   4.2.2.4 (page 84) of RFC 1122 explicitly states that "A TCP MUST
   support a sequence of urgent data of any length".


3.  Current implementation practice of TCP urgent data

3.1.  Semantics of urgent indications

   As discussed in Section 1, the TCP urgent mechanism simply permits a
   point in the data stream to be designated as the end of urgent
   information, but does NOT provide a mechanism for sending out of band
   data.

   Unfortunately, virtually all TCP implementations process TCP urgent



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   data differently.  By default, the "last byte of urgent data" is
   delivered "out of band" to the application.  That is, it is not
   delivered as part of the normal data stream.  For example, the "out
   of band" byte is read by an application when a recv(2) system call
   with the MSG_OOB flag set is issued.

   Most implementations provide a socket option (SO_OOBINLINE) that
   allows an application to override the default processing of urgent
   data, so that they are delivered "in band" to the application, thus
   providing the semantics intended by the IETF specifications.

3.2.  Semantics of the Urgent Pointer

   All the popular implementations that the authors of this document
   have been able to test interpret the semantics of the TCP Urgent
   Pointer as specified in Section 3.1 of RFC 793.  This means that even
   when RFC 1122 officially updated RFC 793 to clarify the ambiguity in
   the semantics of the Urgent Pointer, this clarification never
   reflected into actual implementations (i.e., virtually all
   implementations default to the semantics of the urgent pointer
   specified in Section 3.1 of RFC 793).

   Some operating systems provide a system-wide toggle to override this
   behavior, and interpret the semantics of the Urgent Pointer as
   clarified in RFC 1122.  However, this system-wide toggle has been
   found to be inconsistent.  For example, Linux provides a the sysctl
   "tcp_stdurg" (e.g., net.ivp4.tcp_stdurg) that, when set, supposedly
   changes the system behavior to interpret the semantics of the TCP
   Urgent Pointer as described in RFC 1122.  However, this sysctl
   changes the semantics of the Urgent Pointer only for incoming
   segments, but not for outgoing segments.  This means that if this
   sysctl is set, an application might be unable to interoperate with
   itself.

3.3.  Allowed length of urgent data

   While Section 4.2.2.4 (page 84) of RFC 1122 explicitly states that "A
   TCP MUST support a sequence of urgent data of any length", in
   practice all those implementations that interpret TCP urgent
   indications as a mechanism for sending out-of-band data keep a buffer
   of a single byte for storing the "last byte of urgent data".  Thus,
   if successive indications of urgent data are received before the
   application reads the pending "out of band" byte, that pending byte
   will be discarded (i.e., overwritten by the new byte of urgent data).

   In order to avoid urgent data from being discarded, some
   implementations queue each of the received "urgent bytes", so that
   even if another urgent indication is received before the pending



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   urgent data are consumed by the application, those bytes do not need
   to be discarded.  Some of these implementations have been known to
   fail to enforce any limits on the amount of urgent data that they
   queue, thus resulting vulnerable to trivial resource exhaustion
   attacks [CPNI-TCP].

3.4.  Interaction of middle-boxes with urgent data

   As a result of the publication of Network Intrusion Detection (NIDs)
   evasion techniques based on urgent data [phrack] , some middle-boxes
   modify the TCP data stream such that urgent data is put "in band",
   that is, they are accessible by the read(2) or recv(2) calls without
   the MSG_OOB flag.  Examples of such middle-boxes are Cisco PIX
   firewall [Cisco-PIX].  This should discourage applications to depend
   on urgent data for their corect operation, as urgent data may not be
   not reliable in the current Internet.


4.  Updating RFC 1122

   Firstly, considering that as long as both the TCP sender and the TCP
   receiver implement the same semantics for the Urgent Pointer there is
   no functional difference in having the Urgent Pointer point to "the
   sequence number of the octet following the urgent data" vs. "the last
   octet of urgent data", and since all known implementations interpret
   the semantics of the Urgent Pointer as pointing to "the sequence
   number of the octet following the urgent data", we propose that RFC
   1122 [RFC1122] be updated such that "the urgent pointer points to the
   sequence number of the octet following the urgent data" (in segments
   with the URG control bit set), thus accommodating virtually all
   existing TCP implementations.

   Secondly, we strongly encourage applications that employ Sockets API
   to set the SO_OOBINLINE socket option, such that urgent data is
   delivered inline, as intended by the IETF specifications.
   Furthermore, we discourage the use of the MSG_OOB flag in recv(2)
   calls to retrieve the "urgent data".

   Finally, considering the discussion in Section 3.4, we discourage
   applications to depend on the TCP urgent mechanism for correct
   operation, as urgent data may not be reliable in the current
   Internet.


5.  Security Considerations

   Given that there are two different interpretations of the semantics
   of the Urgent Pointer in current implementations, and that either



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   middle-boxes (such as packet scrubbers) or the end-systems themselves
   could cause the urgent data to be processed "in band", there exists
   ambiguity in how TCP urgent data sent by a TCP will be processed by
   the intended recipient.  This might make it difficult for a Network
   Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) to track the application-layer data
   transferred to the destination system, and thus lead to false
   negatives or false positives in the NIDS [CPNI-TCP].

   Probably the best way to avoid the security implications of TCP
   urgent data is to avoid having application protocols depend on the
   use of TCP urgent data altogether.  Packet scrubbers could probably
   be configured to clear the URG bit, and set the Urgent Pointer to
   zero.  This would basically cause the urgent data to be put "in
   band".  However, this might cause interoperability problems or
   undesired behavior in the applications running on top of TCP.


6.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.


7.  Acknowledgements

   The authors of this document would like to thank (in alphabetical
   order) David Borman, Alfred Hoenes, Carlos Pignataro, Anantha
   Ramaiah, Joe Touch, and Dan Wing for providing valuable feedback on
   earlier versions of this document.

   Additionally, Fernando would like to thank David Borman and Joe Touch
   for a fruitful discussion about TCP urgent mode at IETF 73
   (Minneapolis).


8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [RFC0793]  Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7,
              RFC 793, September 1981.

   [RFC1122]  Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -
              Communication Layers", STD 3, RFC 1122, October 1989.

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





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8.2.  Informative References

   [CPNI-TCP]
              CPNI, "Security Assessment of the Transmission Control
              Protocol (TCP)", (to be published) .

   [Cisco-PIX]
              Cisco PIX, "http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/security/asa/
              asa70/command/reference/tz.html#wp1288756".

   [FreeBSD]  The FreeBSD project, "http://www.freebsd.org".

   [Linux]    The Linux Project, "http://www.kernel.org".

   [NetBSD]   The NetBSD project, "http://www.netbsd.org".

   [OpenBSD]  The OpenBSD project, "http://www.openbsd.org".

   [RFC0961]  Reynolds, J. and J. Postel, "Official ARPA-Internet
              protocols", RFC 961, December 1985.

   [UNPv1]    Stevens, W., "UNIX Network Programming, Volume 1.
              Networking APIs: Sockets and XTI", Prentice Hall PTR ,
              1997.

   [Windows2000]
              Microsoft Windows 2000, "http://technet.microsoft.com/
              en-us/library/bb726981(printer).aspx".

   [Windows95]
              Microsoft Windows 95,
              "ftp://ftp.demon.co.uk/pub/mirrors/win95netfaq/
              faq-c.html".

   [phrack]   Ko, Y., Ko, S., and M. Ko, "NIDS Evasion Method named
              "SeolMa"", Phrack Magazine, Volume 0x0b, Issue 0x39, Phile
              #0x03 of 0x12 http://www.phrack.org/
              issues.html?issue=57&id=3#article, 2001.


Appendix A.  Survey of the processing of urgent data by some popular
             implementations

A.1.  FreeBSD

   FreeBSD [FreeBSD] interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer as
   specified in RFC 793.  It does not provide any sysctl to override
   this behavior.  However, it provides the SO_OOBINLINE that when set



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   causes TCP urgent data to be put "in band".  That is, it will be
   accessible by the read(2) or recv(2) calls without the MSG_OOB flag.

   FreeBSD supports only one byte of urgent data.  That is, only the
   byte preceding the Urgent Pointer is considered as "urgent data".

A.2.  Linux

   Linux [Linux] interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer as
   specified in RFC 793.  It provides the net.ipv4.tcp_stdurg sysctl to
   override this behavior to interpret the Urgent Pointer as specified
   by RFC 1122.  However, this sysctl only affects the processing of
   incoming segments (the Urgent Pointer in outgoing segments will still
   be set as specified in RFC 793).

   Linux supports only one byte of urgent data.  That is, only the byte
   preceding the Urgent Pointer is considered as "urgent data".

A.3.  NetBSD

   NetBSD [NetBSD] interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer as
   specified in RFC 793.  It does not provide any sysctl to override
   this behavior.  However, it provides the SO_OOBINLINE that when set
   causes TCP urgent data to be put "in band".  That is, it will be
   accessible by the read(2) or recv(2) calls without the MSG_OOB flag.

   NetBSD supports only one byte of urgent data.  That is, only the byte
   preceding the Urgent Pointer is considered as "urgent data".

A.4.  OpenBSD

   OpenBSD [OpenBSD] interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer as
   specified in RFC 793.  It does not provide any sysctl to override
   this behavior.  However, it provides the SO_OOBINLINE that when set
   causes TCP urgent data to be put "in band".  That is, it will be
   accessible by the read(2) or recv(2) calls without the MSG_OOB flag.

   OpenBSD supports only one byte of urgent data.  That is, only the
   byte preceding the Urgent Pointer is considered as "urgent data".

A.5.  Cisco IOS, versions 12.2(18)SXF7, 12.4(15)T7

   Cisco IOS, versions 12.2(18)SXF7, 12.4(15)T7 interpret the semantics
   of the urgent pointer as specified in RFC 793.  However, tests
   performed with an HTTP server running on Cisco IOS version
   12.2(18)SXF7 and 12.4(15)T7 suggest that urgent data is processed "in
   band".  That is, they are accessible together with "normal" data.
   The TCP debugs on the Cisco IOS device do explicitly mention the



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   presence of urgent data, and thus we infer that the behavior is
   different depending on the application.

A.6.  Microsoft Windows 2000, Service Pack 4

   Microsoft Windows 2000 [Windows2000] interprets the semantics of the
   urgent pointer as specified in RFC 793.  It provides the
   TcpUseRFC1122UrgentPointer system-wide variable to override this
   behavior to interpret the Urgent Pointer as specified by RFC 1122.
   However, the tests performed with the sample server application
   compiled using the cygwin environment, has shown that the default
   behavior is to return the urgent data "in band".

A.7.  Microsoft Windows 2008

   Microsoft Windows 2008 interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer
   as specified in RFC 793.

A.8.  Microsoft Windows 95

   Microsoft Windows 95 interprets the semantics of the urgent pointer
   as specified in RFC 793.  It provides the BSDUrgent system-wide
   variable to override this behavior to interpret the Urgent Pointer as
   specified by RFC 1122.  Windows 95 supports only one byte of urgent
   data.  That is, only the byte preceding the Urgent Pointer is
   considered as "urgent data".  [Windows95]


Authors' Addresses

   Fernando Gont
   Universidad Tecnologica Nacional / Facultad Regional Haedo
   Evaristo Carriego 2644
   Haedo, Provincia de Buenos Aires  1706
   Argentina

   Phone: +54 11 4650 8472
   Email: fernando@gont.com.ar
   URI:   http://www.gont.com.ar












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   Andrew Yourtchenko
   Cisco
   De Kleetlaan, 7
   Diegem  B-1831
   Belgium

   Phone: +32 2 704 5494
   Email: ayourtch@cisco.com











































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