Internet Engineering Task Force P. M. Hallam-Baker
Internet-Draft Comodo Group Inc.
Intended status: Standards Track R. N. Stradling
Expires: October 01, 2012 Comodo CA Ltd.
S. Farrell
Trinity College Dublin
D. Kutscher
B. Ohlman
April 2012

The Named Information (ni) URI Scheme: Optional Features


This document specifies optional things that one can do with "ni" URIs and related names. Those include an additional hash algorithm for handling dynamic content, some specific query-strong parameters for ni URIs and a mechanism for embedding ni URIs into QR codes.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The ni URI scheme [nischeme] supports extensibility in terms of the algorithm used to derive a value (normally, but not always a strong digest algorithm) and via support for a query-string thay can contain a list of key=value pairs. This document defines some uses for both of these extensibility points and creates IANA registries that can be used to register additional algorithms and key strings for use in the query part of an ni name. We [[will]] also define a way to embed ni names in QR codes.

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].

[[Comments are included in double-square brackets, like this.]]

[[Note that the features here are less mature than the specification in the [nischeme] document. The intent is to develop these as required for the various use-cases as we go. If something from here appears to be as widely useful as the core ni scheme, then the authors are willing to move features from this document to the core document. We are also happy to incoroporate features to handle additional use-cases here if those arise.]]

2. Additional Algorithm

This section specifies an additional algorithm that MAY be used to handle hashes calculated over dynamically changing objects.

2.1. Hashed Dynamic Content

The ni scheme involves calculating digest values over content objects. That works fine with static objects but is problematic for objects whose value is dynamically generated. In this section we define an algorithm that supports the same core "name-data integrity" service for dynamic objects. The basic idea is simply to include a hash of a public key in the ni name, and then for the dynamic object to be digitally signed with the corresponding private key. With a little work to handle the various useful formats, this allows a client that is presented with the ni name and the signed object to verify the binding between the name and the object data.

Note that the signature scheme used might or might not provide additional information, e.g. a name for the signer. Applications might benefit from that, but it is not required in order to provide the core "name-data integrity" service for dynamically generated objects.

Since there are a number of digital signing schemes that might be used, our approach is to define a new algorithm for the ni scheme that takes as input a specific public key encoded in a specific way, and runs that through a digest function. That is, the ni algorithm fields will specify both a public key algorithm and a digest algorithm, just as is done with digital signature algorithm identifiers.

Since it is possible that an ni algorithm might also be defined where the value contains an actual digital signature we need to be careful to ensure there is no ambiguity. However, since the lengths of signatures and hash outputs are (with current algorithms) always different, we could use that fact to disambigute between rsa-with-sha256 meaning the value is a sha256 hash of an rsa public key and the alternative meaning the the value is an rsa-with-sha256 signature. However, we prefer to use a new algorithm (see Section 6 to disambiguate these.

We define one such algorithm, "pk-rsa-with-sha256" that takes an RSA public key as input, with the input bits formatted as a SubjectPublicKeyInfo as defined by [nischeme] Note that this does not mean that one cannot use e.g. PGP to sign the actual object. It means that if you do use PGP then in order to verify the name-data integrity, the client needs to extract the signer's PGP public key, then reformat that as a SubjectPublicKeyInfo and then run that through the sha-256 algorithm and make the relevant comparison.

3. Query String Paramaeters

This section defines query string parameters that MAY be used to indicate the type of content hashed or to specify additional locations from which the named content can be retrieved. We also define a way to specify how an encryption key MAY be included in an ni URI that allows for decryption of object content.

3.1. Digest with Content Type

The semantics of a digest being used to establish a secure reference from an authenticated source to an external source may be a function of associated meta data such as the content type. This data MAY be specified by means of a parameter:


The Content Type "ct" parameter specifies the MIME Content Type of the associated data as defined in [RFC4288]

3.2. Additional Locators

In addition to the algorithm for mapping an ni URI to an HTTP(S) URL specified in the ni scheme definition [nischeme], an ni name MAY provide information about additional locations from which the referenced content might be available. This is done via the inclusion of an "alt" or "alts" key in the query string that can supply more values for the authority field when constructing the HTTP or HTTPS URL. For example:


The corresponding content might then also be retrieved from the URL:

A ni name MAY specify multiple locations from which the content MAY be obtained:


The above example asserts that the content might be retrieved from either of the following URIs:

The "alt" parameter means "use HTTP" and the "alts" parameter means use "HTTPS".

The alt and alts parameters are used to specify a possible means of resolving the referenced content. Multiple locator parameters MAY be used to specify alternative sources for accessing the content.

The alt and alts parameters take a single argument, the authority to be used for resolution. To permit the use of ni URIs in ASCII-only environments, the ASCII encoding (aka punycode) of the domain name MUST be used. [[Not sure if this is needed/correct.]]

3.3. Digest with Decryption Key

An ni name MAY provide a key for decrypting the referenced data. The use-case here is where the referenced data has be distributed (somehow) in ciphertext form, probably with little or no access control required (since the data is strongly encrypted) and where a client wishing to decrypt that data subsequently acquires an ni name for that data that provides the required decryption key.

Clearly, to be of any benefit, access to the ni name that includes the decryption key MUST be controlled so that only the appropriate clients get access to the ni name and of course this ni name MUST be strongly protected via some (probably mutual) authentication and confidentiality service such as can be provided by TLS. [RFC5246]


The "enc" specifier is used when the encrypted object consists of the ciphertext alone. The "menc" spcifier is used when the encrypted object consists of a MIME header containing metadata followed by the binary object encoding. [[Note: there may be more needed here.]]

The encryption specifiers both take an agrument of the form:

algorithm ":" base64url (key) [":" base64url (iv)]


Is the algorithm used to encrypt the associated content
Is the value of the cryptographic key
iv (optional)
Is the value of the cryptographic Initialization Vector.
If the IV is not spcified for a block cipher mode that requires one, the IV MUST be prepended to the encrypted content.
[[Note: Actually the IV does not provide any additional security for this application but explaining the reason might be more effort than it is worth and what we really care about is saving bytes in the identifier, not the resulting data package.]

3.4. Wrapped URL

The "ni" URI form can usefully "wrap" an HTTP URL in order to provide a way for an HTTP client that has securely received an "ni" URI (e.g. embedded within some HTML received via a TLS session) to validate the referred-to content, at the same level of security as the embedding page. A good use for this might be to provide data integrity for javascript or other files referred to by an HTML page.

To achieve the above, we define the "url" parameter which allows for the inclusion of any URL within the query string. The intent is that the content accessed via that URL match the hash in the ni name.

[[TBD: say how to encode the URL]]

4. QR Codes

[[The idea of embedding ni names into QR codes has been floated. That seems like a fine thing to do, so we're likely to include text on that here in a future version.]]

5. Security Considerations

[[TBD for sure.]]

6. IANA Considerations

6.1. Additional algorithm in RFCXXXX registry

We request IANA to add a new entry to the hash algorithm registry created in [nischeme], Section 9.3, as follows:

ID: 7
Hash string name: pk-rsa-with-sha256  
Value length: 256 
Reference: [RFC-THIS]


6.2. Creation of ni parameter registry

This specification creates a new IANA registry entitled "Named Information URI Parameter Definitions".

The policy for future assignments to the registry is "RFC Required".

The initial contents of the registry are:

Parameter    Meaning                                       Reference
-----------  --------------------------------------------  ---------
ct           Content Type                                  [RFC-THIS]
alt          Additional HTTP Locator                       [RFC-THIS]
alts         Additional HTTPS Locator                      [RFC-THIS]
enc          Encryption Key                                [RFC-THIS]
menc         Encryption Key                                [RFC-THIS]
url          Wrapped URL                                   [RFC-THIS]

7. References

[nischeme] Farrell, S, Kutscher, D, Ohlman, B, Keranen, A and P Hallam-Baker, "Naming things with hashes", Internet-Draft draft-farrell-decade-ni-04, April 2012.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC4288] Freed, N. and J. Klensin, "Media Type Specifications and Registration Procedures", BCP 13, RFC 4288, December 2005.
[RFC5246] Dierks, T. and E. Rescorla, "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.2", RFC 5246, August 2008.

Authors' Addresses

Phillip Hallam-Baker Comodo Group Inc. EMail:
Rob Stradling Comodo CA Ltd. EMail:
Stephen Farrell Trinity College Dublin Dublin, 2 Ireland Phone: +353-1-896-2354 EMail:
Dirk Kutscher NEC Kurfuersten-Anlage 36 Heidelberg, Germany EMail:
Boerje Ohlman Ericsson Stockholm, S-16480 Sweden EMail: