Re: [TLS] Update on TLS 1.3 Middlebox Issues

Adam Langley <> Sat, 07 October 2017 16:38 UTC

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From: Adam Langley <>
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2017 09:38:24 -0700
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Subject: Re: [TLS] Update on TLS 1.3 Middlebox Issues
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On Sat, Oct 7, 2017 at 12:17 AM, Hanno Böck <> wrote:
> Alternative proposal:
> 1. Identify the responsible vendors.
> 2. Tell all those vendors "You have 1 month to fix this. Fix it. Oh,
> it's your customers who don't update? Seems you don't have any
> reasonable update system. Call your customers, send some support staff
> to them. Fix this. Now."
> 3. Call for a boycott of the vendors who are not able to fix this.

In the past, Chrome has both steam-rollered over intolerance issues
and used "naming and shaming" when it appeared useful.

Naming and shaming can be an effective strategy when there is a small
percentage of aberrant actors, but that doesn't appear to be the case
here. It's not a single vendor, it's several, and we likely don't have
a complete list because it's very difficult to get
vendor/model/version information from the field. These issues vary
across devices, across firmware versions (for which the active range
is large), and across configurations (similarly large).

As for the steam-roller: while /we/ may understand the issues in
sufficient depth to know where the fault lies, the operating heuristic
in IT is that the last thing that changed is to blame. That makes
steam-rollering expensive. Sometimes we do it anyway, but the levels
of breakage measured for the current TLS 1.3 wire-format are too high
to be viable. There would have to be a fallback, and fallbacks are
terrible. We've only recently gotten out of the last lot of them and
should not do that again.

I understand the share the justifiable anger at companies that are
making profits by handicapping the internet that they depend on; we
are paying their externalities right now. But the problem here is too
widespread for either of the above strategies to be effective.

We're still testing, but it appears that a few,
security-inconsequential changes to TLS 1.3 make it significantly more
viable to deploy. That has got to be preferable to behaviours like
fallback, which is very security-consequential. This has taken time
because getting good exposure needs changes to both our frontends and
to Chrome Stable, which makes the iteration time long. We can iterate
much faster with local middleboxes (and we've bought several), but the
diversity of firmware versions and configurations means that we can't
get great testing coverage from that approach.

This looks, overwhelmingly, like the best path for TLS 1.3. For the
future, I think we need to ponder changes in the way that we build and
defend protocols. I think that GREASE
( demonstrates
the sort of change in thinking that is needed, but that we need to go



Adam Langley