tech-invite   World Map     

IETF     RFCs     Groups     SIP     ABNFs    |    3GPP     Specs     Gloss.     Arch.     IMS     UICC    |    Misc.    |    search     info

RFC 7645

Pages: 12
Top     in Index     Prev     Next
in Group Index     Prev in Group     Next in Group     Group: ~rtg

The Keying and Authentication for Routing Protocol (KARP) IS-IS Security Analysis


Top       ToC       Page 1 
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                       U. Chunduri
Request for Comments: 7645                                       A. Tian
Category: Informational                                            W. Lu
ISSN: 2070-1721                                            Ericsson Inc.
                                                          September 2015

       The Keying and Authentication for Routing Protocol (KARP)
                        IS-IS Security Analysis


   This document analyzes the current state of the Intermediate System
   to Intermediate System (IS-IS) protocol according to the requirements
   set forth in "Keying and Authentication for Routing Protocols (KARP)
   Design Guidelines" (RFC 6518) for both manual and automated key
   management protocols.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   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).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2015 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Top       Page 2 
Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.2.  Acronyms  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Current State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Key Usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       2.1.1.  Subnetwork Independent  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       2.1.2.  Subnetwork dependent  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Key Agility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.3.  Security Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       2.3.1.  Replay Attacks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5  Current Recovery Mechanism for LSPs . . . . . . .   6
       2.3.2.  Spoofing Attacks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       2.3.3.  DoS Attacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   3.  Gap Analysis and Security Requirements  . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.1.  Manual Key Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.2.  Key Management Protocols  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   5.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     5.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12

1.  Introduction

   This document analyzes the current state of the Intermediate System
   to Intermediate System (IS-IS) protocol according to the requirements
   set forth in "Keying and Authentication for Routing Protocols (KARP)
   Design Guidelines" [RFC6518] for both manual and automated key
   management protocols.

   With currently published work, IS-IS meets some of the requirements
   expected from a manually keyed routing protocol.  Integrity
   protection is expanded by allowing more cryptographic algorithms to
   be used [RFC5310].  However, even with this expanded protection, only
   limited algorithm agility (HMAC-SHA family) is possible.  [RFC5310]
   makes possible a basic form of intra-connection rekeying, but with
   some gaps as analyzed in Section 3 of this document.

   This document summarizes the current state of cryptographic key usage
   in the IS-IS protocol and several previous efforts that analyze IS-IS
   security.  This includes the base IS-IS specifications: [RFC1195],
   [RFC5304], [RFC5310], and [RFC6039].

Top      ToC       Page 3 
   This document also analyzes various threats to IS-IS (as described in
   [RFC6862]), lists security gaps, and provides specific
   recommendations to thwart the threats for both manual keying and
   automated key management mechanisms.

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

1.2.  Acronyms

   DoS     -  Denial of Service

   GDOI    -  Group Domain of Interpretation

   IGP     -  Interior Gateway Protocol

   IIH     -  IS-IS HELLO

   IPv4    -  Internet Protocol version 4

   KMP     -  Key Management Protocol (automated key management)

   LSP     -  Link State PDU

   MKM     -  Manual Key Management

   NONCE   -  Number Once

   PDU     -  Protocol Data Unit

   SA      -  Security Association

   SNP     -  Sequence Number PDU

2.  Current State

   IS-IS is specified in International Standards Organization (ISO)
   10589 [ISO10589], with extensions to support Internet Protocol
   version 4 (IPv4) described in [RFC1195].  The specification includes
   an authentication mechanism that allows for any authentication
   algorithm and also specifies the algorithm for clear text passwords.
   Further, [RFC5304] extends the authentication mechanism to work with
   HMAC-MD5 and also modifies the base protocol for more effectiveness.
   [RFC5310] provides algorithm agility, with a new generic
   cryptographic authentication mechanism (CRYPTO_AUTH) for IS-IS.

Top      ToC       Page 4 
   CRYPTO_AUTH also introduces a Key ID mechanism that maps to unique
   IS-IS SAs.

   The following sections describe the current authentication key usage
   for various IS-IS messages, current key change methodologies, and the
   various potential security threats.

2.1.  Key Usage

   IS-IS can be provisioned with a per-interface, peer-to-peer key for
   IIH PDUs and a group key for LSPs and SNPs.  If provisioned, IIH
   packets can potentially use the same group key used for LSPs and

2.1.1.  Subnetwork Independent

   Link State PDUs, Complete and partial Sequence Number PDUs come under
   Sub network Independent messages.  For protecting Level-1 SNPs and
   Level-1 LSPs, provisioned Area Authentication key is used.  Level-2
   SNPs as well as Level-2 LSPs use the provisioned domain
   authentication key.

   Because authentication is performed on the LSPs transmitted by an IS,
   rather than on the LSP packets transmitted to a specific neighbor, it
   is implied that all the ISes within a single flooding domain must be
   configured with the same key in order for authentication to work
   correctly.  This is also true for SNP packets, though they are
   limited to link-local scope in broadcast networks.

   If multiple instances share the circuits as specified in [RFC6822],
   instance-specific authentication credentials can be used to protect
   the LSPs and SNPs within an area or domain.  It is important to note
   that [RFC6822] also allows usage of topology-specific authentication
   credentials within an instance for the LSPs and SNPs.

2.1.2.  Subnetwork Dependent

   IIH PDUs use the Link Level Authentication key, which may be
   different from that of LSPs and SNPs.  This could be particularly
   true for point-to-point links.  In broadcast networks, it is possible
   to provision the same common key used for LSPs and SNPs to protect
   IIH messages.  This allows neighbor discovery and adjacency formation
   with more than one neighbor on the same physical interface.  If
   multiple instances share the circuits as specified in [RFC6822],
   instance-specific authentication credentials can be used to protect
   Hello messages.

Top      ToC       Page 5 
2.2.  Key Agility

   Key roll over without effecting the routing protocols operation in
   general and IS-IS in particular is necessary for effective key
   management protocol integration.

   Current HMAC-MD5 cryptographic authentication as defined in
   [RFC5304], suggests a transition mode so that ISes use a set of keys
   when verifying the authentication value to allow key changes.  This
   approach will allow changing the authentication key manually without
   bringing down the adjacency and without dropping any control packet.
   But, this can increase the load on the control plane for the key
   transition duration, as each control packet may have to be verified
   by more than one key, and it also allows a potential DoS attack in
   the transition duration.

   The above situation is improved with the introduction of the Key ID
   mechanism as defined in [RFC5310].  With this, the receiver
   determines the active SA by looking at the Key ID field in the
   incoming PDU and need not try with other keys when the integrity
   check or digest verification fails.  But, neither key coordination
   across the group nor an exact key change mechanism is clearly
   defined.  [RFC5310] says:

      Normally, an implementation would allow the network operator to
      configure a set of keys in a key chain, with each key in the chain
      having a fixed lifetime.  The actual operation of these mechanisms
      is outside the scope of this document.

2.3.  Security Issues

   The following section analyzes various possible security threats in
   the current state of the IS-IS protocol.

2.3.1.  Replay Attacks

   Replaying a captured protocol packet to cause damage is a common
   threat for any protocol.  Securing the packet with cryptographic
   authentication information alone cannot mitigate this threat
   completely.  Though this problem is more prevalent in broadcast
   networks, it is important to note that most of the IGP deployments
   use P2P-over-lan circuits [RFC5309], which makes it possible for an
   adversary to replay an IS-IS PDU more easily than the traditional P2P

   In intra-session replay attacks, a secured protocol packet of the
   current session that is replayed can cause damage, if there is no
   other mechanism to confirm this is a replay packet.  In inter-session

Top      ToC       Page 6 
   replay attacks, a captured packet from one of the previous sessions
   can be replayed to cause damage.  IS-IS packets are vulnerable to
   both of these attacks, as there is no sequence number verification
   for IIH and SNP packets.  Also with current manual key management,
   periodic key changes across the group are rarely done.  Thus, the
   intra-connection and inter-connection replay requirements are not

   IS-IS specifies the use of the HMAC-MD5 [RFC5304] and HMAC-SHA-1
   family in [RFC5310] to protect IS-IS packets.  An adversary could
   replay old IIHs or replay old SNPs that would cause churn in the
   network or bring down the adjacencies.

   1. At the time of adjacency bring up an IS sends IIH packet with
      empty neighbor list (TLV 6) and with the authentication
      information as per the provisioned authentication mechanism.  If
      this packet is replayed later on the broadcast network, all ISes
      in the broadcast network can bounce the adjacency to create a huge
      churn in the network.

   2. Today, LSPs have intra-session replay protection as the LSP header
      contains a 32-bit sequence number, which is verified for every
      received packet against the local LSP database.  But, if a node in
      the network is out of service (is undergoing some sort of high
      availability condition or an upgrade) for more than LSP refresh
      time and the rest of the network ages out the LSPs of the node
      under consideration, an adversary can potentially plunge in inter-
      session replay attacks in the network.  If the key is not changed
      in the above circumstances, attack can be launched by replaying an
      old LSP with a higher sequence number and fewer prefixes or fewer
      adjacencies.  This may force the receiver to accept and remove the
      routes from the routing table, which eventually causes traffic
      disruption to those prefixes.  However, as per the IS-IS
      specification, there is a built-in recovery mechanism for LSPs
      from inter-session replay attacks and it is further discussed in

   3. In any IS-IS network (broadcast or otherwise), if an old and an
      empty Complete Sequence Number Packet (CSNP) is replayed, this can
      cause LSP flood in the network.  Similarly, a replayed Partial
      Sequence Number Packet (PSNP) can cause LSP flood in the broadcast
      network.  Current Recovery Mechanism for LSPs

   In the event of inter-session replay attack by an adversary, as an
   LSP with a higher sequence number gets accepted, it also gets
   propagated until it reaches the originating node of the LSP.  The

Top      ToC       Page 7 
   originator recognizes the LSP is "newer" than in the local database,
   which prompts the originator to flood a newer version of the LSP with
   a higher sequence number than that received.  This newer version can
   potentially replace any versions of the replayed LSP that may exist
   in the network.

   However, in the above process, depending on where in the network the
   replay is initiated, how quickly the nodes in the network react to
   the replayed LSP, and how different the content in the accepted LSP
   is determines the damage caused by the replayed LSP.

2.3.2.  Spoofing Attacks

   IS-IS shares the same key between all neighbors in an area or in a
   domain to protect the LSP, SNP packets, and in broadcast networks
   even IIH packets.  False advertisement by a router is not within the
   scope of the KARP work.  However, given the wide sharing of keys as
   described above, there is a significant risk that an attacker can
   compromise a key from one device and use it to falsely participate in
   the routing, possibly even in a very separate part of the network.

   If the same underlying topology is shared across multiple instances
   to transport routing/application information as defined in [RFC6822],
   it is necessary to use different authentication credentials for
   different instances.  In this connection, based on the deployment
   considerations, if certain topologies in a particular IS-IS instance
   require more protection from spoofing attacks and less exposure,
   topology-specific authentication credentials can be used for LSPs and
   SNPs as facilitated in [RFC6822].

   Currently, possession of the key itself is used as an authentication
   check and there is no identity check done separately.  Spoofing
   occurs when an illegitimate device assumes the identity of a
   legitimate one.  An attacker can use spoofing to launch various types
   of attacks, for example:

   1. The attacker can send out unrealistic routing information that
      might cause the disruption of network services, such as block

   2. A rogue system that has access to the common key used to protect
      the LSP can flood an LSP by setting the Remaining Lifetime field
      to zero, thereby initiating a purge.  Subsequently, this can cause
      the sequence number of all the LSPs to increase quickly to max out
      the sequence number space, which can cause an IS to shut down for
      MaxAge + ZeroAgeLifetime period to allow the old LSPs to age out
      in other ISes of the same flooding domain.

Top      ToC       Page 8 
2.3.3.  DoS Attacks

   DoS attacks using the authentication mechanism is possible and an
   attacker can send packets that can overwhelm the security mechanism
   itself.  An example is initiating an overwhelming load of spoofed but
   integrity-protected protocol packets, so that the receiver needs to
   process the integrity check, only to discard the packet.  This can
   cause significant CPU usage.  DoS attacks are not generally
   preventable within the routing protocol.  As the attackers are often
   remote, the DoS attacks are more damaging to area-scoped or domain-
   scoped packet receivers than link-local-scoped packet receivers.

3.  Gap Analysis and Security Requirements

   This section outlines the differences between the current state of
   the IS-IS routing protocol and the desired state as specified in the
   KARP Design Guidelines [RFC6518].  This section focuses on where the
   IS-IS protocol fails to meet general requirements as specified in the
   threats and requirements document [RFC6862].

   This section also describes security requirements that should be met
   by IS-IS implementations that are secured by manual as well as
   automated key management protocols.

3.1.  Manual Key Management

   1. With CRYPTO_AUTH specification [RFC5310], IS-IS packets can be
      protected with the HMAC-SHA family of cryptographic algorithms.
      The specification provides limited algorithm agility (SHA family).
      By using Key IDs, it also conceals the algorithm information from
      the protected control messages.

   2. Even though both intra- and inter-session replay attacks are best
      prevented by deploying key management protocols with frequent key
      change capability, basic constructs for the sequence number should
      be in the protocol messages.  So, some basic or extended sequence
      number mechanism should be in place to protect IIH packets and SNP
      packets.  The sequence number should be increased for each
      protocol packet.  This allows mitigation of some of the replay
      threats as mentioned in Section 2.3.1.

   3. Any common key mechanism with keys shared across a group of
      routers is susceptible to spoofing attacks caused by a malicious
      router.  A separate authentication check (apart from the integrity
      check to verify the digest) with digital signatures as described
      in [RFC2154] can effectively nullify this attack.  But this
      approach was never deployed, which we assume is due to operational
      considerations at that time.  The alternative approach to thwart

Top      ToC       Page 9 
      this threat would be to use the keys from the group key management
      protocol.  As the group key(s) are generated by authenticating the
      member ISes in the group first and are then periodically rekeyed,
      per-packet identity or authentication checks may not be needed.

   4. In general, DoS attacks may not be preventable with the mechanism
      from the routing protocol itself.  But some form of admin-
      controlled lists at the forwarding plane can reduce the damage.
      There are some other forms of DoS attacks common to any protocol
      that are not in scope per Section 3.3 of [RFC6862].

   As discussed in Section 2.2, though the Key ID mechanism described in
   [RFC5310] helps, a better key coordination mechanism for key roll
   over is desirable even with manual key management.  But, [RFC5310]
   does not specify the exact mechanism other than requiring use of key
   chains.  The specific requirements are as follows:

   a. Keys SHOULD be able to change without effecting the established
      adjacency, ideally without any control packet loss.

   b. Keys SHOULD be able to change without effecting the protocol
      operations; for example, LSP flooding should not be held for a
      specific Key ID availability.

   c. Any proposed mechanism SHOULD also be incrementally deployable
      with key management protocols.

3.2.  Key Management Protocols

   In broadcast deployments, the keys used for protecting IS-IS
   protocols messages can, in particular, be group keys.  A mechanism is
   needed to distribute group keys to a group of ISes in a Level-1 area
   or Level-2 domain, using the Group Domain of Interpretation (GDOI)
   protocol as specified in [RFC6407].  An example policy and payload
   format is described in [GDOI].

   If a group key is used, the authentication granularity becomes group
   membership of devices, not peer authentication between devices.  The
   deployed group key management protocol SHOULD support rekeying.

   In some deployments, where IS-IS point-to-point (P2P) mode is used
   for adjacency bring-up, subnetwork-dependent messages (e.g., IIHs)
   can use a different key shared between the two P2P peers, while all
   other messages use a group key.  When a group keying mechanism is
   deployed, even the P2P IIHs can be protected with the common group
   keys.  This approach facilitates one key management mechanism instead
   of both pair-wise keying and group keying protocols being deployed
   together.  If the same circuits are shared across multiple instances,

Top      ToC       Page 10 
   the granularity of the group can become per instance for IIHs and per
   instance/topology for LSPs and SNPs as specified in [RFC6822].

   Effective key change capability within the routing protocol that
   allows key roll over without impacting the routing protocol operation
   is one of the requirements for deploying any group key mechanism.
   Once such mechanism is in place with the deployment of group key
   management protocol; IS-IS can be protected from various threats and
   is not limited to intra- and inter-session replay attacks and
   spoofing attacks.

   Specific use of cryptographic tables [RFC7210] should be defined for
   the IS-IS protocol.

4.  Security Considerations

   This document is mostly about security considerations of the IS-IS
   protocol, and it lists potential threats and security requirements
   for mitigating these threats.  This document does not introduce any
   new security threats for the IS-IS protocol.  In view of openly
   published attack vectors, as noted in Section 1 of [RFC5310] on HMAC-
   MD5 cryptographic authentication mechanism, IS-IS deployments SHOULD
   use the HMAC-SHA family [RFC5310] instead of HMAC-MD5 [RFC5304] to
   protect IS-IS PDUs.  For more detailed security considerations,
   please refer the Security Considerations section of the IS-IS Generic
   Cryptographic Authentication [RFC5310], the KARP Design Guide
   [RFC6518] document, as well as the KARP threat document [RFC6862].

5.  References

5.1.  Normative References

   [RFC1195]  Callon, R., "Use of OSI IS-IS for routing in TCP/IP and
              dual environments", RFC 1195, DOI 10.17487/RFC1195,
              December 1990, <>.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC5304]  Li, T. and R. Atkinson, "IS-IS Cryptographic
              Authentication", RFC 5304, DOI 10.17487/RFC5304, October
              2008, <>.

Top      ToC       Page 11 
   [RFC5310]  Bhatia, M., Manral, V., Li, T., Atkinson, R., White, R.,
              and M. Fanto, "IS-IS Generic Cryptographic
              Authentication", RFC 5310, DOI 10.17487/RFC5310, February
              2009, <>.

5.2.  Informative References

   [GDOI]     Weis, B. and S. Rowles, "GDOI Generic Message
              Authentication Code Policy", Work in Progress,
              draft-weis-gdoi-mac-tek-03, September 2011.

   [ISO10589] International Organization for Standardization,
              "Intermediate System to Intermediate System intra-domain
              routeing information exchange protocol for use in
              conjunction with the protocol for providing the
              connectionless-mode network service (ISO 8473)", ISO/IEC
              10589:2002, Second Edition, November 2002.

   [RFC2154]  Murphy, S., Badger, M., and B. Wellington, "OSPF with
              Digital Signatures", RFC 2154, DOI 10.17487/RFC2154, June
              1997, <>.

   [RFC5309]  Shen, N., Ed., and A. Zinin, Ed., "Point-to-Point
              Operation over LAN in Link State Routing Protocols",
              RFC 5309, DOI 10.17487/RFC5309, October 2008,

   [RFC6039]  Manral, V., Bhatia, M., Jaeggli, J., and R. White, "Issues
              with Existing Cryptographic Protection Methods for Routing
              Protocols", RFC 6039, DOI 10.17487/RFC6039, October 2010,

   [RFC6407]  Weis, B., Rowles, S., and T. Hardjono, "The Group Domain
              of Interpretation", RFC 6407, DOI 10.17487/RFC6407,
              October 2011, <>.

   [RFC6518]  Lebovitz, G. and M. Bhatia, "Keying and Authentication for
              Routing Protocols (KARP) Design Guidelines", RFC 6518,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6518, February 2012,

   [RFC6822]  Previdi, S., Ed., Ginsberg, L., Shand, M., Roy, A., and
              D. Ward, "IS-IS Multi-Instance", RFC 6822,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6822, December 2012,

Top      ToC       Page 12 
   [RFC6862]  Lebovitz, G., Bhatia, M., and B. Weis, "Keying and
              Authentication for Routing Protocols (KARP) Overview,
              Threats, and Requirements", RFC 6862,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6862, March 2013,

   [RFC7210]  Housley, R., Polk, T., Hartman, S., and D. Zhang,
              "Database of Long-Lived Symmetric Cryptographic Keys",
              RFC 7210, DOI 10.17487/RFC7210, April 2014,


   Authors would like to thank Joel Halpern for initial discussions on
   this document and for giving valuable review comments.  The authors
   would like to acknowledge Naiming Shen for reviewing and providing
   feedback on this document.  Thanks to Russ White, Brian Carpenter,
   and Amanda Barber for reviewing the document during the IESG review

Authors' Addresses

   Uma Chunduri
   Ericsson Inc.
   300 Holger Way,
   San Jose, California  95134
   United States
   Phone: 408 750-5678

   Albert Tian
   Ericsson Inc.
   300 Holger Way,
   San Jose, California  95134
   United States
   Phone: 408 750-5210

   Wenhu Lu
   Ericsson Inc.
   300 Holger Way,
   San Jose, California  95134
   United States