[alto] Benjamin Kaduk's Discuss on draft-ietf-alto-xdom-disc-04: (with DISCUSS and COMMENT)

Benjamin Kaduk <kaduk@mit.edu> Wed, 19 December 2018 18:36 UTC

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Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2018 10:36:18 -0800
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Subject: [alto] Benjamin Kaduk's Discuss on draft-ietf-alto-xdom-disc-04: (with DISCUSS and COMMENT)
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Benjamin Kaduk has entered the following ballot position for
draft-ietf-alto-xdom-disc-04: Discuss

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The document, along with other ballot positions, can be found here:


Section 3.3's procedures for shortening domain names seem potentially
problematic.  While I can understand the desire to reduce the number of
DNS queries, I'm not sure that it's really appropriate to place restrictions
on what prefix lengths/boundaries can be used to divide administrative
domains in a standards-track document.  In particular, the IPv4 procedure
only allows lengths that end on octet boundaries, which seems to ignore the
possibility of using procedures from BCP 20.  IPv6 is a somewhat different
case, but my understanding is that in the general case prefix boundaries
can land on arbitrary nibbles, and if we only look at a specific subset for
NAPTR records we risk not matching up with reality.  The lists in the
fourth column of the table in Section 3.4 would presumably need to be
revised as well, if this changes.

>From Section 5.2.1:

   We assume that if two organizations share parts of their DNS
   infrastructure, i.e., have common in-addr.arpa. and/or ip6.arpa.
   subdomains, they will also be able to operate a common ALTO server,

Perhaps I am confused, but common subdomains in the reverse zones just
implies a common IP address block.  Why does it also imply a common DNS

I also have a few points relating to the security of DNS and DNSSEC.

>From Section 6.1

      However, it should also be noted that, if an attacker was able to
      compromise the DNS infrastructure used for cross-domain ALTO
      server discovery, (s)he could also launch significantly more
      serious other attacks (e.g., redirecting various application

I'm not sure that this statement holds as strongly as one might like.
In particular, this document is using the reverse zone (whereas normal
ALTO usage would seem to only use the forward zone), and my
understanding is that the management and operational practices for the
reverse zone lag behind that of the forward zone.  For example, I have
encountered scenarios where I am issued an IPv4 address via DHCP that
has no corresponding entry in the reverse zone, which broke some
services for me at that site.

   Protection Strategies and Mechanisms
      The cross-domain ALTO server discovery procedure relies on a
      series of DNS lookups.  If an attacker was able to modify or spoof
      any of the DNS records, the resulting URI could be replaced by a
      forged URI.  The application of DNS security (DNSSEC) [RFC4033]
      provides a means to limit attacks that rely on modification of the
      DNS records while in transit. [...]

I think we need to have a discussion about the efficacy and availability
of DNSSEC for the reverse zone (and how those compare to the forward
zone).  It seems that the situation is less bad than I feared when I
deferred the ballot on this document, but perhaps still not in a great
place.  In particular, I see that IANA and the RIRs do sign their
reverse zones, and at least some RIRs have self-service options for
inserting DS records into those zones, but my understanding is that in
practice signing of the reverse zone is not in great shape.  That is,
while the technical pieces are all available (and in particular the
pieces at the top are all present), it's not currently in any
significant usage due to a lack of compelling use case and interest
among (e.g.) ISPs.  This document does not really seem like it's
providing a compelling enough use case to drive adoption, so I think
we're forced to treat DNSSEC as not actually useful in practice for this

Separately, there is the question of what trust anchor to use for DNSSEC
in the reverse zone for private-use addresses (which can be properly
used in multiple locations and have no single point of authority).  RFC
7216 includes some text about this issue, which would probably be
appropriate to adopt to this case as well.


I didn't see a response to the secdir review, and agree that discussion
of authorization policy would be appropriate.

Section 3.1

Does this procedure really make sense for a prefix length of zero (or
should the inequalities in the second paragraph have a strict inequality
for 0 < L)?

   In the intended usage scenario, the procedure SHOULD always be called
   with the parameter SP set to "ALTO:https".  [...]

This requirement is also stated in Section 2; generally we recommend to
not duplicate normative requirements (with 2119 language) in multiple
places, to avoid the risk of them getting out of sync.

Section 3.2

   First, the procedure checks the prefix length L for unsupported
   values: If AT=IPv4 (i.e., if A is an IPv4 address) and L < 8, the
   procedure aborts and indicates an "invalid prefix length" error to
   the caller.  Similarly, if AT=IPv6 and L < 32, the procedure aborts
   and indicates an "invalid prefix length" error to the caller.

Is this in conflict with the inequalities in the second paragraph of
section 3.1?

   If AT=IPv4, a domain name R32 is constructed according to the rules
   specified in Section 3.5 of [RFC1035] and it is rooted in the special
   domain "IN-ADDR.ARPA.".

RFC1035 doesn't use the term "R32", so some sort of text or
typographical clarification that the term is new to this document would
be helpful.  Similarly for "R128".

Section 3.5

   The procedure performs one or more DNS lookups in a well-defined
   order (corresponding to descending prefix lenghts, see Section 3.4),

nit: "lengths"

Section 4.1

   An ALTO client may invoke the ALTO Cross-Domain Server Discovery
   Procedure (as specified in Section 3) for an IP address or prefix "X"
   and get a list of one or more IRD URI(s), including order and
   preference values: IRD_URIS_X = XDOMDISC(X,"ALTO:https").  These
   IRD(s) will always contain a network and a cost map, as these are
   mandatory information resources (see Section 11.2 of [RFC7285]).

nit: There seems to be a missing transition here, since the IRD URI(s)
are URIs, which must be dereferenced or otherwise accessed in order to
retrieve the actual IRD(s) (and their network/cost maps).  (Similarly for
the subsequent sections as well.)

nit: we probably need a reference (7285?) for "PID", as well as
expansion on first usage.  Please also expand ECS on first usage.

                    Accessing cells outside column "X" and row "X" may
   not yield useful results.

nit: I would suggest something like "accessing cells that relate to
neither column 'X' nor row 'X'", since the current text could be read to
indicate the single cell at their intersection, which is not a terribly
interesting cell.

Section 5.1.2

                                                     Similarly, resource
   consumers on mobile hosts SHOULD query the resource directory again
   after a change of IP address, in order to get a list of candidate
   resource providers that is optimized for the new IP address.

Is it really the case that IP address change is the only situation for a
mobile host what would cause refresh of the directory information to be

Section 6.1

                  Note that if TLS is used to protect ALTO, the server
      certificate will contain the host name (CN).  Consequently, only
      the host part of the HTTPS URI will be authenticated, i.e., the
      result of the ALTO server discovery procedure.  [...]

nit: I think this is talking about what happens after the ALTO server
discovery procedure; the TLS CN check does not help with verifying the
discovery procedure itself.  (That is, something like "it only
authenticates the result of the ALTO server discovery procedure and not
the discovery procedure itself".)

Section C.1

   The ALTO protocol specification [RFC7285] details how an ALTO client
   can query an ALTO server for guiding information and receive the
   corresponding replies.  However, in the considered scenario of a
   tracker-based P2P application, there are two fundamentally different
   possibilities where to place the ALTO client:

nit: I think this is the first time that the P2P scenario is mentioned,
so more lead-in than just "the considered scenario" might help the

   In the second scenario (see Figure 4), the resource directory has an

Is this Figure 4 or Figure 3?

Section C.2

This analysis seems a little one-sided, in that it presents the benefit
of tracker-based selection without mention of the additional costs that
the tracker bears in this solution (needing to do quality-based
selection over the N=10000 total peers instead of random selection).
Depending on how that cost scales, the overal best choice may differ.