Re: [i2rs] Stephen Farrell's Abstain on draft-ietf-i2rs-protocol-security-requirements-09: (with COMMENT)

Susan Hares <> Sun, 21 August 2016 21:16 UTC

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Subject: Re: [i2rs] Stephen Farrell's Abstain on draft-ietf-i2rs-protocol-security-requirements-09: (with COMMENT)
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This email begins the discussion on the DISCUSS criteria.  For ease of process it goes through DISCUSS 1 to 5

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-------- Original message --------From: Stephen Farrell <> Date: 8/21/16  8:37 AM  (GMT-05:00) To: The IESG <> Cc:,,, Subject: [i2rs] Stephen Farrell's Abstain on
  draft-ietf-i2rs-protocol-security-requirements-09: (with COMMENT) 
Stephen Farrell has entered the following ballot position for
draft-ietf-i2rs-protocol-security-requirements-09: Abstain

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


First, apologies for not getting my review done for
this when it was scheduled due to my vacation and
thanks for being willing to defer the document.

Second, having now properly reviewed this, I am
balloting abstain as I think it's unlikely that this
document can be fixed in a way that results in
something useful happening. I think that the likely
outcome is that this document will be used later when
people are arguing and will not much help in resolving
those arguments, or else this will be ignored and
arguments will be held afresh, as needed. That latter
outcome is what I'd guess is most likely and therefore
it seems that spending all of our cycles on DISCUSS
ballot processing for this would not be wise. That
said, I am willing to change to a DISCUSS ballot if the
responsible AD prefers that, but I suspect I'll end up
with an abstain in any case, after some discussion. The
only plan I can think of that'd lead to me ending up
with a yes or no-objection ballot would be if this was
returned to the WG for fixing and possibly major
surgery, which is what I actually think would be the
best plan. (I realise this has had a somewhat tortured
history, so folks may not be willing to take it back to
the WG, but honestly, I think the failings visible in
this document do indicate that this is not ready for
approval and ought be returned to the WG.)

Third, I think the overall set of requirements posed
here might (with some unknown probability) lead to
later specifications that are considered too hard to
deploy, with the result that non-secure variants of
I2RS become the norm. That seems like it would be a
really bad outcome. I would suggest that might be
partly mitigated if a requirement were added to the
effect that deployment issues and specifically ease of
deployment MUST be considered as a first order
requirement when developing I2RS protocol solutions. 

Fourth, the (19!) comments below that are preceded by
"(discuss" would have been DISCUSS ballot points had I
not decided to abstain. I am happy to chat about any of
my comments below, but if the authors/WG do want to
chat, it might be more efficient to concentrate on
those that would otherwise have been DISCUSS points.
(But that's your call, I don't mind.) I think the 19
would-have-been-discuss points is another clue that
this ought really be sent back to the WG.

And with that, and with apologies for this being such
an overall negative review, here're my detailed

- general: The writing here is generally poor, for
example the opener is "This presents..." whereas it
ought be "This document presents..." (or
s/document/whatever you prefer/). Such issues are
repeatedly seen and all that makes this a much harder
read than ought be the case. I'd strongly recommend an
editorial pass from someone who hasn't been down in the
weeds with this text for a while (which could be one of
the authors, if one of them has been less active
recently.) Note that this is not only (but is
primarily) an editorial issue - there are some cases
(hopefully called out below) where the writing does
create real ambiguity that might lead to re-opening old
arguments later.

-> abstract: "mutual authentication, transport
> protocols, data transfer and transactions" don't seem
>to me to be commensurate things, so the abstract, as written is very uninformative for me.

Can you suggest what kernel of information you would deem useful in the abstract? 

> intro 3rd para: I'm really not sure what you're
>telling me about [I-D.ietf-i2rs-ephemeral-state].  >The draft [RFC7922]" is odd, that being no longer a draft. 
> I'd have expected such nits would have been fixed by  row TBH. Same for the last sentence.  That para makes 
<the intro pretty unclear for me.
Thank you for that input.  I will fix that in version 10.  

> 2.2: The definition of higher level protocol seems
like an odd place to introduce the fact that i2rs ==
>netconf + restconf.  That'd be more usefully said in
the abstract/intro if that's solidly agreed by the WG.

The reason this is introduced here is to link to statements in the architecture document. The initial protocols may be netconf and restconf, but other protocols will follow.  I will provide an improved text in version 10.

> 2.2: This is wrong: "While it is possible to have an
I2RS operation which is contained in multiple I2RS
(E.g.  write in multiple messages), this is not
supported in order to simplify the first version of
I2RS." The reason this is wrong, is that it is here
that you are defining that it is not possible to have
an operation in multiple messages. s/it is/it could
have been/ would work maybe.

Stephen: We are working on a re-use protocol for NETCONF, RESTCONF, IPFIX, Forces and other protocols.  It is technically possible to define an operation which spans multiple messages.   And we are limiting the first version of this protocol to one message.  Please clarify what you wish added.

>- 2.2: " *  The I2RS client issues a read request to a
I2RS agent, and the I2RS Agent responding to the read request" Shouldn't that use respond and not responding?  Given that you seem to be trying to define the scope of  what is and is not a transaction, I think being precise with the language is something well worth doing.  The 2nd bullet could also do with a re-write.
Sue's responds: The language was chosen carefully.  An overloaded I2RS agent has the option not to reapond.  Therfore, the phrase "the I2RS Agent responding to the read request" is a more appropriate phrase.
>(discuss1) 2.2: you sort-of define messages,
operations, transactions and actions. None of the
definitions are that precise, e.g. are those the only
operations or examples? And transaction and action
aren't really defined at all. I'm not sure if that's
likely to be a problem or not. I suspect it will later,
e.g. when you get to figuring out the scope within
which replay needs to be detectable.
Sue's reaponse:  We need to go to a meta level first to answer this question.  I2RS is a re-use protocol.  For each protocol these messages which encode specific transactions that are a sequence of read, write, rpc, or event actions.  We are defining the higher level protocol that will be translated into each language via extensions.   So.. what precisely fits the discuss criteria here?  Are you looking for transactions and actions to be defined?  How does this impact the review of the I2RS protocol security 
- 2.2: s/transation/transaction/

>(discuss2) - 2.2: "defines a secondary identity as the
entity of some non-I2RS entity " That could be abused
for tracking of various kinds I would guess, e.g. if an
IMEI were used. I think you need to note that and
should impose some requirements that such secondary
identifiers are not used thusly for tracking.  Also,
should the first occurrence of entity there be
Sue response:  In order to be precise in my answer, I will need you to define IMEI.  These non-I2RS entities are attached to a valid i2rs client with a mutually authenticated identity signales by the identifier (client or agent).  The connection of the application to the i2rs client is outside the scope of the I2RS protocol.  The secondary identifiers are use for tracking of the application in the traceability mechanism.   So.. again I am unclear regarding what you are concerned about and what makes this a DISCUSS based on the DISCUSS criteria.
-> 3, 1st para: s/The security for the/The/ - there
isn't a thing called the security for the i2rs
Sue:  Why not?  Please explain.  We are defining a re-use protocol with extensions to other protocols.  Why does the composite protocol not have a level of security or security considerations?  Please explain what you desire here.
>(discuss3) - section 3 says "the I2RS protocol requires
mutually authenticated I2RS clients and I2RS agents
communicating over a secure transport." To me that
implies that something like TLS or SSH is MTU which
seems to contradict recent emails.

Sue: Just to be clear, you are not objecting to the text you indicate -but your understanding from the email.
An I2RS agent has MTU secure transport of TLS or SSH.  Any I2RS client accessing any data model which has mixture of secure and non-secure data has an MTU of a secure transport  (TLS or ssh).  Any i2rs client accessing an i2rs agent in an environment that where the network info might be linked to a person' identity has a MTU of secure transport.  
The only time the I2RS client is allowed to have a non-secure transport is if the only thing it is accessing is non-secure data.  We currently have no i2rs data models which have non-secure data.
> section 3 says: "The I2RS protocol MUST be able to
provide atomicity of an I2RS transaction, but it is not
required to have multi-message atomicity and roll-back mechanism transactions.  Multiple messages transactions may be impacted by the interdependency of data."  
> I don't believe that that's easily enough understood to be useful. Also, wouldn't s/Multiple messages
transactions/Multiple-message transactions/ be much clearer if that's what's meant? And finally, I think the MUST embedded in the above is not that great a idea - it's clearer IMO to separate the 2119 language from introductory text in documents like this.
Stephen:  The language was specified by a few implementers doing I2RS work.
I believe you do not understand I2RS transactions versus messages.  Transactions can be setting a value, rpc to add a set of values, and starting an event stream.  Each transaction must either work or not work as an independent unit.   This is not the same as sending this messages with a set of commands and being able to rollback to the beginning of those 5 commands.  Some protocol I2RS  may support this level of checkpoints- but it is not a requirement.
- 3: "There are dependencies in some of the
requirements below" would be better as "There are
inter-dependencies between some of the requirements
below" unless you mean dependencies on some external
things, which is not clear from the text as-is.
Sue: Thank you for the input.

>  (discuss4) " For confidentiality (section 3.3) and
integrity (section 3.4) to be achieved, the
client-agent must have mutual authentication (section
3.1) and secure transport (section 3.2).  " This is
incorrect. One can have confidentiality without
authentication (see RFC7435) so the text is not
Sue:  The conditional sentence above has a compound noun.- "confidentiality and integrity" - can you have both without authentication?  Please confirm.
-> capitalisation needs fixing in various places, e.g.
around the end of p5, we get "secure Transport" and
then "I2RS client" and "I2RS Agent" in the title of 3.1
Is any of that capitalisation supposed to be
significant? Either way, fixing it now would be good as 
you'll need to get the RFC editor to do it later if you
don't (which takes longer).
Sue: Thank you for this editorial correction.  Version 10 will address this

>(discuss5) SEC-REQ-01: what is the scope of uniqueness
required here? I see no reason why two different data
centres cannot re-use a client or agent identifier, if
they so wish. I'd be fine if you say that's for later
decision, but being silent on the matter could lead to
trouble later if different folks decide differently.
Sue:  Things wander out of a data center into the Internet.  Management protocols have wandered out in the past.  The safest mechanism is to be utterly unique.  if deployments choose less that that, the security network designer must do risk/reward choice.  Or people may decide to connect 2 data centers due to an emergency and forget the Management system identifiers overlap.  And then the network systems start interacting.  OopsAnything less than complete uniqueness can go bad.

======= response ends here========
(discuss6) SEC-REQ-02: the "MUST utilize" there means
MTU, which wasn't what you wanted I think

(discuss7) - SEC-REQ-03: how is "upon receiving... MUST
confirm" a good choice? As stated that'd be hugely
onerous, implying e.g.  OCSP checks for each packet
received. Same point applies to SEC-REQ-04.

(discuss8) - SEC-REQ-05: this either means nothing at
all (being a tautology) or else something I don't get.
I think it's the former, but am not sure.

- 3.1: s/One mechanism such mechanism/One such
mechanism/ I guess. And it's not at all clear to me
"AAA protocols" is the right idea there, and nor is it
clear what's meant, with the text as-is.

- SEC-REQ-06: where is a "priority" defined?

- SEC-REQ-07: here you say read/write is a transaction,
but earlier you said it was an operation, which is it?

(discuss9) 3.2: As with others, I don't think the idea
of annotating parts of yang modules with "can be
insecure" is a good one. There's a separate thread
discussing that though, so maybe better to not fork

(discuss10) - SEC-REQ-O9: I hate to do this to ya, but
BCP107 is IMO a fairly clear failure when it comes to
routing. And yet again the exceptions clauses here are
so broad as to be meaningless (e.g. considered low
value by whom?). What is the real goal here? (other
than an attempt to keep the sec ADs from being annoying
and trying to insist on BCP107? ;-) 

(discuss11) - SEC-REQ-09: Separately, to my other
would-be-discuss point on this requirement, "can
guarantee" is well beyond the state of the art in key
management. I'd just drop that sentence maybe, but
can't make a concrete suggestion until I understand
where you want to be wrt BCP107.

- SEC-REQ-10: the last sentence here is also involved
in the "may do stuff insecurely" thing, and so will
likely need fixing when that is fully resolved.

- How is SEC-REQ-11 useful? What protocol artefacts do
you have in mind here? Perhaps a requirement that DDoS
attacks be specifically considered in I2RS would be
more useful.

- SEC-REQ-12: This seems to me to have too many words,
e.g. the current text could be read to imply that
outside of critical infrastructure there is less or no
need for confidentiality, so those added words
(presumably there to motivate) might be

(discuss12) SEC-REQ-12: I don't get the meaning of the
SHOULD here - combined with "certain data" that SHOULD
seems to end up meaning MAY, as in, it seems to mean
the same as "Read/write operations MAY have to be
protected using a confidentiality service."

- 3.4, bullet (2) here means that we're not talking
about data integrity but data origin authentication
as well.

(discuss13) 3.4, (3): Within what scope must replay be
detected? The text implies for ever, which can be very
onerous. SEC-REQ-14 doesn't quite go so far, but is
ambiguous on this aspect. I'd say best is to note that
the scope within which replay needs to be detectable is
for future study. 

(discuss14) SEC-REQ-15: Sorry, I don't understand
what's required here (having read this >1 time). Can
you explain?  I'm not sure if any substantive change is
needed, but there are certainly editorial changes
needed for sure as there are multiple wording problems
with the text as-is.

- 3.5, 1st para: the text here is not as good as 
the actual definition of "role" in RFC7921, and in
fact I found the text here confusing. Better to
just delete that and say that 7921 defines roles. 

(discuss15) SEC-REQ-16: I don't see any content in this
text as it seems to just say "some role based access
control and some level of transport protection need to
be provided" which is always true, as you are allowing
"no transport security" and (I assume) "fully public
access" so any protocol/system will always meet this

- SEC-REQ-16: "privacy requirements" here is wrong,
you mean confidentiality I think.

(discuss16) SEC-REQ-17: "MUST work" is far too vague.
That could for example hide a major debate about push
v. pull of role information. If the WG haven't
considered that, I think you could ack that again by
saying that more work is needed to define how RBAC is
consistent across multiple transport layer connections.

(discuss17) SEC-REQ-18: again this seems to have no
content, other than perhaps imposing an odd requirement
on implementations - I don't see a protocol requirement
here at all. It is reasonable to note that libraries
for clients ought not assume a single client identity
but even that's very specific to library
implementations and since it's just a MAY that's
entirely obvious, I'd leave it out.

(discuss18) SEC-REQ-19: I fully agree with the
motivation here but I think the stated requirement is
broken.  For example, I don't know how a piece of s/w
will determine whether or not it is correlated with a
person. I also don't think a SHOULD works here, as
again something would need to be stated about the
situations when the feature is not needed, and I can't
figure out a sensible statement for that. The last
sentence also seems likely not useful. All in all, I
think this is likely to be ignored or even worse
treated like a piece of fig-leaf specification text to
pretend that we're caring about privacy.

(discuss19) - 3.6: I have no idea whether this other
draft is supposed to be considered as setting
requirements or not. I assume that the answer is "not"
as you've made it an informative reference, but in that
case you really should say that.  The alternative would
be that 3.6 is essentially specifying an applicability
statement for the environments in which it is, and is
not, ok to run i2rs. If the latter were intended, then
you'd need to say it and make the draft a normative

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