Re: [MLS] Async Add

Joel Alwen <> Tue, 22 September 2020 13:24 UTC

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From: Joel Alwen <>
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Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2020 15:24:35 +0200
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Subject: Re: [MLS] Async Add
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My initial 2 cents: this is not just a corner case. MLS should specify how to
support such functionality but as an optional mode and making explicit the price
in security it entails.

I believe such a feature would be used quite a bit if it where available. E.g.
My phone is the only device on my account. It breaks. I get a new one and log
back in to my account. Now I want my re-join my old groups. In most deployments
I'd expect that to be permitted by group policies. But how can I re-join w/o the
help of someone else in the group actively "pulling" me in? If I'm not mistaken
then this PR provides an answer.

The solution does come with a price though. Some things that come to mind:

 - It seems to require storing public group state on the DS (or some other
server) which isn't great for E2E metadata protection.

 - An external commit provides weaker security guarantees than a normal commit.
It throws out the old init_secret. Ergo, if ever an HPKE sk to which one of the
UpdatePath secrets was encrypted to leaks then the entire application key
schedule of the new epoch is compromised. (Not to mention that further epochs
may also be compromised depending on the particulars of the execution.) For
normal commits that's not the case because the adv. also needs the old epoch's

- Joël

On 21/09/2020 20:15, Raphael Robert wrote:
> Hi all,
> Over the course of the past weeks when assessing how well MLS would fit into existing messengers, it became obvious that adding new members is still problematic. The operation – while technically asynchronous – still requires two parties to be online in many cases.
> Rather than writing a lot of prose here, I attached a presentation that explains the problem and offers a potential solution.
> I also created the following PR:
> I will bring this up at the interim tomorrow for discussion.
> Raphael
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