On-path attackers (Was: Re: Diversity and offensive terminology in RFCs)

Jari Arkko <jari.arkko@piuha.net> Fri, 21 September 2018 06:11 UTC

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Subject: On-path attackers (Was: Re: Diversity and offensive terminology in RFCs)
From: Jari Arkko <jari.arkko@piuha.net>
In-Reply-To: <20180920194622.GB69847@isc.org>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2018 09:11:43 +0300
Cc: Carsten Bormann <cabo@tzi.org>, IETF <ietf@ietf.org>, John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com>, ynir.ietf@gmail.com
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Evan, Carsten, John, Yoav,

> On Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 09:10:51PM +0200, Carsten Bormann wrote:
>> The up-to-date term of art is “middleperson attack”
> Perhaps "on-path attack".

I agree.

I have actually preferred the use of the "on-path attacker” for a long time, for reasons not associated with this thread. While I have certainly used the term man-in-the-middle (and it is a widely understood term), for some reason I have found it imprecise. With “on-path” I can be accurate about the location of the attacker. It is also IMHO more nicely enhanced with additional qualifiers and variations:

on-path attacker
on-path active attacker
on-path passive attacker (or eavesdropper)
off-path attacker

The principle that should apply is the description of something in clearly understandable language, using the characteristics of that something. And adding gender to those characteristics is just technically wrong, as John points out below.

(There may be some other common attacks that deserve a good term. Or maybe I just don’t know what the term is. E.g., what is the name of an attack where there’s a central server between users, and it is the server that misbehaves?)

> As an
> example, I've always found "man-in-the-middle" terminology
> problematic, but at least as much because it implies human
> intervention rather than something more automated as because of
> gender. 


> I don’t think we are promoting inclusiveness by resorting to obscure mythology