Internet-Draft IoT Ciphers October 2020
Cam-Winget & Visoky Expires 24 April 2021 [Page]
Intended Status:
N. Cam-Winget
Cisco Systems
J. Visoky

TLS 1.3 Authentication and Integrity only Cipher Suites


There are use cases, specifically in Internet of Things (IoT) and constrained environments that do not require confidentiality, though message integrity for all communications and mutual authentication during tunnel establishment are both still mandated. Examples of such use cases are given, although a threat model is necessary to determine whether or not a given situation falls into this catergory of use cases. In order to serve these use cases, this document defines the use of HMAC only cipher suites for TLS 1.3, which provides mutual authentication and data authenticity, but not data confidentiality. The approach described in this document is not endorsed by the IETF and does not have IETF consensus, but is presented here to enable interoperable implementation of a reduced security mechanism that provides authentication and message integrity without supporting confidentiality.

Status of This Memo

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This Internet-Draft will expire on 24 April 2021.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

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

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

Besides having a strong need for authenticity and no need for confidentiality, many of these systems also have a strong requirement for low latency. Furthermore, several classes of IoT device (industrial or otherwise) have limited processing capability. However, these IoT systems still gain great benefit from leveraging TLS 1.3 for secure communications. Given the reduced need for confidentiality TLS 1.3 [RFC8446] cipher suites that maintain data integrity without confidentiality are described in this document. The approach described in this document is not endorsed by the IETF and does not have IETF consensus, but is presented here to enable interoperable implementation of a reduced security mechanism that provides authentication and message integrity with supporting confidentiality.

2. Terminology

Although this document is not an IETF Standards Track publication it adopts the conventions for normatve language to provide clarity of instructions to the implementer. 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 BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. Applicability Statement

The two HMAC SHA [RFC6234] based cipher suites referenced in this document are intended for a small limited set of applications where confidentiality requirements are relaxed and the need to minimize the cryptographic algorithms are prioritized. This section describes some of those applicable use cases.

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

Another use case which is closely related is that of fine grained time updates. Motion systems often rely on time synchronization to ensure proper execution. Time updates are essentially public, there is no threat from an attacker knowing the time update information. This should make intuitive sense to those not familiar with these applications; rarely if ever does time information present a serious attack surface dealing with privacy. However the authenticity is still quite important. Modification of the data can at best lead to a denial-of-service attack, although a more intelligent threat actor might be able to cause actual physical damage. As these time synchronization updates are very fine-grained, it is again important for latency to be very low.

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

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

The above use cases describe the relaxed requirements to provide confidentiality, and as these devices come with a small runtime memory footprint and reduced processing power, the need to minimize the number of cryptographic algorithms used is prioritized.

4. Cryptographic Negotiation Using Integrity only Cipher Suites

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

{0xC0, 0xB4}
{0xC0, 0xB5}

These cipher suites allow the use of SHA-256 or SHA-384 as the HMACs for data integrity protection as well as its use for HKDF. The authentication mechanisms remain unchanged with the intent to only update the cipher suites to relax the need for confidentiality.

Given that these cipher suites do not support confidentiality, they MUST only be used with certificate-based authentication and Diffie-Hellman key exchange.

5. Record Payload Protection for Integrity only Cipher Suites

The record payload protection as defined in [RFC8446] can be retained when integrity only cipher suites are used. This section describes the mapping of record payload structures when integrity only cipher suites are employed.

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

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

TLSCiphertext.length = TLSPlaintext.length + 1 (type field) + length_of_padding + 32 (HMAC) = TLSInnerPlaintext_length + 32 (HMAC)
TLSCiphertext.length = TLSPlaintext.length + 1 (type field) + length_of_padding + 48 (HMAC) = TLSInnerPlaintext_length + 48 (HMAC)

Note that TLSInnerPlaintext_length is not defined as an explicit field in [RFC8446], this refers to the length of the TLSInnterPlaintext structure

The resulting protected_record is the concatenation of the TLSInnerPlaintext with the resulting HMAC. With this mapping, the record validation order as defined in Section 5.2 of [RFC8446] remains the same. That is, encrypted_record field of TLSCiphertext is set to:

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

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

For DTLS 1.3, the DTLSCiphertext is set to:

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

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

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

Due to the lack of encryption of the plaintext, record padding is not needed, although it can be optionally included.

6. Key Schedule when using Integrity only Cipher Suites

The key derivation process for Integrity only Cipher Suites remains the same as defined in [RFC8446]. The only difference is that the keys used to protect the tunnel apply to the negotiated HMAC SHA-256 or HMAC SHA-384 ciphers. Note that the traffic key material (client_write_key, client_write_iv, server_write_key and server_write_iv) MUST be calculated as per RFC 8446, section 7.3. The key lengths and IVs for these cipher suites are according to the hash lenghts. In other words, the following key lenghts and IV lengths SHALL be:

Table 1
Cipher Suite Key Length IV Length
TLS_SHA256_SHA256 32 Bytes 32 Bytes
TLS_SHA384_SHA384 48 Bytes 48 Bytes

7. Error Alerts

The error alerts as defined by [RFC8446] remains the same, in particular:

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

decrypt_error: This alert as described in [RFC8446] Section 6.2 occurs when the signature or message authentication code can not be validated.

8. IANA Considerations

IANA has granted registration the following specifically for this document within the TLS Cipher Suites Registry:

TLS_SHA256_SHA256 {0xC0, 0xB4} cipher suite and TLS_SHA384_SHA384 {0xC0, 0xB5} cipher suite.

Note that both of these cipher suites are registered with the DTLS-OK column set to Y and the Recommended column set to N

No further IANA action is requested by this document.

9. Security and Privacy Considerations

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

With the lack of data encryption specified in this draft, no confidentiality or privacy is provided for the data transported via the TLS session. To highlight the loss of privacy, the information carried in the TLS handshake, which includes both the Server and Client certificates, while integrity protected, will be sent unencrypted. Similarly, other TLS extensions that may be carried in the Server's EncryptedExtensions message will only be integrity protected without provisions for confidentiality. Furthermore, with this lack of confidentiality, PSK data MUST NOT be sent in the handshake while using these cipher suites.

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

10. Acknowledgements

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

11. References

11.1. Normative References

IETF Internet Drafts editor, "".
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Eastlake 3rd, D. and T. Hansen, "US Secure Hash Algorithms (SHA and SHA-based HMAC and HKDF)", RFC 6234, DOI 10.17487/RFC6234, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.3", RFC 8446, DOI 10.17487/RFC8446, , <>.

11.2. Informative Reference

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

Authors' Addresses

Nancy Cam-Winget
Cisco Systems
3550 Cisco Way
San Jose, CA 95134
United States of America
Jack Visoky
1 Allen Bradley Dr
Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
United States of America