Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) H. Kaplan
Request for Comments: 7332 Oracle
Category: Standards Track V. Pascual
ISSN: 2070-1721 Quobis
August 2014 Loop Detection Mechanisms for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)
Back-to-Back User Agents (B2BUAs)
SIP Back-to-Back User Agents (B2BUAs) can cause unending SIP request
routing loops because, as User Agent Clients, they can generate SIP
requests with new Max-Forwards values. This document discusses the
difficulties associated with loop detection for B2BUAs and the
requirements for them to prevent infinite loops.
Status of This Memo
This is an Internet Standards Track document.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 5741.
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22. Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23. Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34. B2BUA Loop-Detection Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35. B2BUA Max-Forwards Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46. B2BUA Max-Breadth Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48. Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51. Introduction
SIP provides a means of preventing infinite request forwarding loops
in [RFC3261], and a means of mitigating parallel forking
amplification floods in [RFC5393]. Neither document normatively
defines specific behavior for B2BUAs, however.
Unbounded SIP request loops have actually occurred in SIP deployments
numerous times. The cause of loops is usually misconfiguration, but
the reason they have been unbounded/unending is they crossed B2BUAs
that reset the Max-Forwards value in the SIP requests they generated
on their User Agent Client (UAC) side. Although such behavior is
technically legal per [RFC3261] because a B2BUA is a UAC, the
resulting unbounded loops have caused service outages and make
Furthermore, [RFC5393] also provides a mechanism to mitigate the
impact of parallel forking amplification issues, through the use of a
"Max-Breadth" header field. If a B2BUA does not pass this header
field on, parallel forking amplification is not mitigated with the
This document defines normative requirements for Max-Forwards and
Max-Breadth header field behaviors of B2BUAs, in order to mitigate
the effect of loops and parallel forking amplification.
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14, RFC 2119
B2BUA terminology and taxonomy used in this document is based on
Within the context of B2BUAs, the scope of the SIP protocol ends at
the User Agent Server (UAS) side of the B2BUA, and a new one begins
on the UAC side. A B2BUA is thus capable of choosing what it wishes
to do on its UAC side independently of its UAS side, and still
remains compliant with [RFC3261] and its extensions. For example,
any B2BUA type defined in [RFC7092] other than Proxy-B2BUA may create
the SIP request on its UAC side without copying any of the Via header
field values received on its UAS side. Indeed there are valid
reasons for it to do so; however, this prevents the Via-based loop-
detection mechanism defined in [RFC3261] and updated by [RFC5393]
from detecting SIP request loops any earlier than by reaching a Max-
Some attempts have been made by B2BUA vendors to detect request loops
in other ways: by keeping track of the number of outstanding dialog-
forming requests for a given caller/called URI pair; or by detecting
when they receive and send their own media addressing information too
many times in certain cases when they are a signaling/media-plane
B2BUA; or by encoding a request instance identifier in some field
they believe will pass through other nodes, and detecting when they
see the same value too many times.
All of these methods are brittle and prone to error, however. They
are brittle because it is very hard to accurately define when a value
has been seen "too many times". Requests can and do fork before and
after B2BUAs process them, and requests legitimately spiral in some
cases, leading to incorrect determination of loops. The mechanisms
are prone to error because there can be other B2BUAs in the loop's
path that interfere with the particular mechanism being used.
Ultimately, the last defense against loops becoming unbounded is to
limit how many SIP hops any request can traverse, which is the
purpose of the SIP Max-Forwards field value. If B2BUAs were to at
least copy and decrement the Max-Forwards header field value from
their UAS to the UAC side, loops would not continue indefinitely.
4. B2BUA Loop-Detection Behavior
It is RECOMMENDED that B2BUAs implement the loop-detection mechanism
for the Via header field, as defined for a proxy in [RFC5393].
5. B2BUA Max-Forwards Behavior
This section applies for dialog-forming and out-of-dialog SIP
requests. B2BUAs MAY perform the same actions for in-dialog
requests, but doing so may cause issues with devices that set Max-
Forwards values based upon the number of received Via or Record-Route
All B2BUA types MUST copy the received Max-Forwards header field from
the received SIP request on their UAS side, to any request(s) they
generate on their UAC side, and decrement the value, as if they were
a proxy following the requirements described in [RFC3261].
Being a UAS, B2BUAs MUST also check the received Max-Forwards header
field and reject or respond to the request if the value is zero, as
defined in [RFC3261].
If the received request did not contain a Max-Forwards header field,
one MUST be created in any request generated in the UAC side, as
described for proxies in Section 16.6, Step 3 of [RFC3261]. As in
that specification, the value of the new Max-Forwards header SHOULD
6. B2BUA Max-Breadth Behavior
All B2BUA types MUST copy the received Max-Breadth header field from
the received SIP request on their UAS side, to any request(s) they
generate on their UAC side, as if they were a proxy following the
requirements described in [RFC5393].
B2BUAs of all types MUST follow the requirements imposed on Proxies
as described in Section 5.3.3 of [RFC5393], including generating the
header field if none is received, limiting its maximum value, etc.
B2BUAs that generate parallel requests on their UAC side for a single
incoming request on the UAS side MUST also follow the rules for Max-
Breadth handling in [RFC5393] as if they were a parallel forking
7. Security Considerations
The security implications for parallel forking amplification are
documented in Section 7 of [RFC5393]. This document does not
introduce any additional issues beyond those discussed in [RFC5393].
Some B2BUAs reset the Max-Forwards and Max-Breadth header field
values in order to obfuscate the number of hops a request has already
traversed, as a privacy or security concern. Such goals are at odds
with the mechanisms in this document, and administrators can decide
which they consider more important: obfuscation vs. loop detection.
In order to comply with this RFC, manufacturers MUST comply with the
normative rules defined herein by default, but MAY provide user-
configurable overrides as they see fit.
Thanks to Brett Tate (Broadsoft), Andrew Hutton (Unify), and Anton
Roman (Quobis) for their review of the document.
9.1. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC3261] Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, G., Johnston,
A., Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M., and E.
Schooler, "SIP: Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261,
[RFC5393] Sparks, R., Lawrence, S., Hawrylyshen, A., and B. Campen,
"Addressing an Amplification Vulnerability in Session
Initiation Protocol (SIP) Forking Proxies", RFC 5393,
9.2. Informative References
[RFC7092] Kaplan, H. and V. Pascual, "A Taxonomy of Session
Initiation Protocol (SIP) Back-to-Back User Agents", RFC
7092, December 2013.