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RFC 7912

Informational
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Message Authorizing Email Header Field and Its Use for the Draft and Release Procedure

 


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Independent Submission                                       A. Melnikov
Request for Comments: 7912                                     Isode Ltd
Category: Informational                                        June 2016
ISSN: 2070-1721


       Message Authorizing Email Header Field and Its Use for the
                      Draft and Release Procedure

Abstract

   This document describes a procedure for when a Military Message
   Handling System (MMHS) message is composed by one user and is only
   released to the mail transfer system when one or more Authorizing
   Users authorize release of the message by adding the
   MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field.  The resulting message can be
   optionally signed by the sender and/or reviewer, allowing recipients
   to verify both the original signature (if any) and the review
   signatures.

Status of This Memo

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

   This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other
   RFC stream.  The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at
   its discretion and makes no statement about its value for
   implementation or deployment.  Documents approved for publication by
   the RFC Editor are not a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
   http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7912.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2016 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
   (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) 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.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Conventions Used in This Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Draft and Release Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.1.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.2.  Handling of Initial Message Submission by the MSA . . . .   3
     3.3.  Review by Authorizing User(s) . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       3.3.1.  Processing of Encrypted Messages  . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.3.2.  Authorizing S/MIME Signatures . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.4.  Role of Other Messaging Agents at the Sender's Domain . .   6
       3.4.1.  MDA at the Sender's Domain  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       3.4.2.  Border MTA at the Sender's Domain . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  MMHS-Authorizing-Users Header Field . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   5.  Updated MIXER Mapping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     5.1.  Mapping from RFC 5322/MIME to X.400 . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     5.2.  Mapping from X.400 to RFC 5322/MIME . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     7.1.  Forged Header Fields  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     7.2.  Intentionally Malformed Header Fields . . . . . . . . . .   9
   8.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     8.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     8.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11

1.  Introduction

   In some secure environments, email messages can't be released to the
   Message Transfer System (MTS); thus, they can't be delivered to
   recipients unless they are authorized by one or more Authorizing
   Users (e.g., Releasing Officers or Release Authorities).  This
   document describes how this mechanism can be realized by an
   additional Internet Email [RFC5322] header field and optionally
   protected using S/MIME [RFC5750] [RFC5751] or DomainKeys Identified
   Mail (DKIM) [RFC6376].

   This document describes a procedure for how an email message composed
   by one user can be released to the MTS when one or more Authorizing
   Users authorize and optionally countersign the message.  The MMHS-
   Authorizing-Users header field (see Section 4) communicates which
   user(s) authorized the message.  If S/MIME signed, the resulting
   message allows recipients to verify both the original (if any) and
   counter signatures.  The original S/MIME signature generated by the
   sender (if any) is unaffected by additional S/MIME review signatures.

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2.  Conventions Used in This Document

   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 [RFC2119].

   The formal syntax uses the Augmented Backus-Naur Form (ABNF)
   [RFC5234] notation, including the core rules defined in Appendix B of
   RFC 5234 [RFC5234].  Terms not defined in this document are taken
   from [RFC5322].

3.  Draft and Release Procedure

3.1.  Terminology

   Drafter: Any email user that composes a message (Draft Message)
   needing authorization before it is released to its intended
   recipients.

   Authorizing User (also Releaser or Authorizer): The mailbox of a user
   or a group of users that must inspect and authorize the release of a
   Draft Message before it can be sent.  An organization may require
   more than one Authorizing User to authorize the release of a Draft
   Message.

3.2.  Handling of Initial Message Submission by the MSA

   The original email message to be sent doesn't include the MMHS-
   Authorizing-Users header field.  It may or may not include the
   sender's S/MIME signature.

   The message to be sent is first submitted over SMTP [RFC6409].  The
   specific mechanism for how it arrives to the Authorizing User(s) is
   not specified in this document.  One possibility is for the Message
   Submission Agent (MSA) to redirect all email messages not addressed
   to Authorizing Users and not submitted by Authorizing Users to a
   preconfigured mailbox(es) that can be accessed by Authorizing
   User(s).  Another possibility is for the MSA to redirect all email
   messages without the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field and/or
   corresponding S/MIME review signatures to a preconfigured mailbox(es)
   that can be accessed by Authorizing User(s).

   In order to prevent a malicious sender from bypassing or altering the
   Draft and Release procedure, the MSA MUST check that the MMHS-
   Authorizing-Users header field (if present) is syntactically valid,
   contains the email addresses of entities authorized to act as
   Authorizing Users, and, when review signatures are used, that every

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   entity listed has one or more matching review signature (or
   signature) that is valid.

3.3.  Review by Authorizing User(s)

   Each user agent (UA) that is used by an authorized user MUST perform
   the following steps (if there are multiple Authorizing Users, the
   whole sequence of steps below is repeated for each Authorizing User):

   1.  Verify the origination of the message (From/Sender header
       fields).  The exact mechanism to do that is out of scope for this
       document, but one example is by verifying the S/MIME signature,
       making sure that the signature protects all header fields (i.e.,
       wrapped by message/rfc822, as described in Section 3.1 of
       [RFC5751]) and that it matches the sender of the message, as
       described in [RFC5750].  Another example is by verifying a DKIM
       signature [RFC6376] (added by the Drafter's Mail User Agent (MUA)
       or MSA) that covers the From/Sender header fields.

   2.  Check if the message already contains the MMHS-Authorizing-Users
       header field with the email address of the Authorizing User.
       (This can happen, for example, if the email system is
       misconfigured and thus contains a loop, or if a malicious sender
       or attacker is trying to affect the authorization procedure.)  If
       the message doesn't contain the email address of the Authorizing
       User in the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field, then go to the
       next step.  If the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field contains
       the email address of the Authorizing User, verify the validity of
       the header field (for example, by checking for the S/MIME
       signature/review signature or for the DKIM signature) and also
       verify that the email address associated with the signature
       matches the email address of the Authorizing User.  If the
       validity of the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field can be
       verified, go to step 5 below.  Otherwise, return the message to
       the sender (bounce) or redirect the message to a designated abuse
       mailbox.

   3.  Allow the Authorizing User to review the content of the message.
       Some of the checks can be automated (for example, search for
       keywords).  (See Section 3.3.1 for additional considerations.)
       If, based on the check, the Authorizing User is happy to release
       the message to the MTS (or to the next Authorizing User, if
       multiple authorizations are required), the UA SHOULD enable the
       Authorizing User to protect additions to the MMHS-Authorizing-
       Users header field, for example, by allowing the addition of the
       S/MIME review signature (if S/MIME is used for protecting the
       MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field.  See Section 3.3.2 for more
       details).  If the Authorizing User wants to reject the message,

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       it SHOULD be returned to the Drafter with an explanatory note or
       it MAY be discarded.  The Authorizing User can also choose to
       forward the message to another Authorizing User for additional
       approval or become a new Drafter of the message.  If the
       Authorizing User becomes the new Drafter, its UA MUST strip any
       existing email addresses from the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header
       field.

   4.  If there is an existing MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field
       containing the email address of the Authorizing User, skip this
       step.  Otherwise, insert a new MMHS-Authorizing-Users header
       field (if absent) containing the email address of the Authorizing
       User or append the email address of the Authorizing User to the
       end of the existing MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field.

   5.  The (possibly) updated email message is either released to the
       MTS or to the next Authorizing User, as per email system
       configuration.  Note that if the Authorizing User updates the
       message in a manner that invalidates existing S/MIME or DKIM
       signature(s), the Authorizing User becomes the Drafter and needs
       to reapply any protections.

3.3.1.  Processing of Encrypted Messages

   Any encrypted message sent in an environment where the Draft and
   Release procedure is in force also needs to be encrypted to all
   Authorizing Users, so that they can perform review of the message.
   If a User Agent used by an Authorizing User can't decrypt the
   message, it SHOULD notify the sender (which can be the Drafter or a
   previous Authorizing User) about the problem using a non-delivery
   Delivery Status Notification (DSN) or through some other means.  The
   ciphertext that cannot be decrypted by the Authorizing User MAY be
   included in the notification to aid debugging.  A possible reason not
   to notify the sender is to avoid Denial-of-Service attacks, for
   example, if an attacker discovers a way to inject fake messages with
   encryption that doesn't validate in order to overflow the sender's
   INBOX.

3.3.2.  Authorizing S/MIME Signatures

   If S/MIME were not used, the Authorizing User can become the original
   signer of the message.

   If a message is signed with multiple signatures (for example, using
   different cryptographic algorithms, as described in [RFC5752]), all
   of the signatures that can be verified by an Authorizing User SHOULD
   be signed with a review signature (authorizing signatures).  A
   recipient of the message can consider any chain of review signatures

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   that matches MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field values as valid,
   only if all signatures in the chain are verified.  All of the
   signatures that cannot be verified MUST be stripped by the
   Authorizing User Agent.

   When triple wrapping [RFC2634] is used, authorizing signatures are
   applied to the outer level, so that it can be verified by Message
   Transfer Agents (MTAs) without the need to decrypt content.

3.4.  Role of Other Messaging Agents at the Sender's Domain

3.4.1.  MDA at the Sender's Domain

   If a message being sent is to be delivered within the sender's
   domain, Message Delivery Agents (MDAs) are responsible for ensuring
   that the message was properly authorized by Authorizing User(s), as
   determined by the sender's domain email system configuration.  They
   verify the presence and validity of the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header
   field in the message, as well as the validity of associated
   signatures on the message.

   Note that the above requirements don't apply to direct delivery to
   any user designated as an Authorizing User.

3.4.2.  Border MTA at the Sender's Domain

   The sender's domain border MTAs are responsible for ensuring that all
   messages that leave the sender's domain were properly authorized by
   the Authorizing User(s), as determined by the sender's domain email
   system configuration.  They verify the presence and validity of the
   MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field in outgoing messages, as well as
   the validity of associated signatures on the message.

4.  MMHS-Authorizing-Users Header Field

   The MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field specifies the list of
   Authorizing Users (or entities(*)) that countersigned this email
   message (for example, using S/MIME) before it was authorized for
   release to the MTS.  Each user/entity is described by the email
   address.

   (*) Note that in some environments, identities of Authorizing Users
   are required to be hidden from recipients of email messages; so, upon
   receipt, MMHS-Authorizing-Users might contain an email address
   associated with a group of possible users.  Such email addresses need
   to have signatures that don't disclose group membership.

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   The MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field specified in this document
   MUST NOT appear more than once in message headers.  An email message
   that contains multiple MMHS-Authorizing-Users is malformed.  An agent
   processing such a malformed message SHOULD either return it to the
   sender (if possible) or fix the message so that it contains only one
   copy of the header field.

       MMHS-Authorizing-Users = "MMHS-Authorizing-Users:"
                          mailbox-list CRLF

       mailbox-list = <Defined in RFC 5322>

5.  Updated MIXER Mapping

   This section provides an updated version of the MIXER mapping
   specified in [RFC2156] for MMHS applications.

5.1.  Mapping from RFC 5322/MIME to X.400

   In the absence of the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field, the From
   and Sender header fields are mapped to their X.400 equivalents as
   specified in [RFC2156].

   If the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field is present:

   1.  If the Sender header field is present, it is mapped to
       IPMS.Heading.originator; otherwise, the first From header field
       address is mapped to IPMS.Heading.originator.

   2.  Map the From header field address(es) and the MMHS-Authorizing-
       Users header field address(es) to IPMS.Heading.authorizing-users,
       skipping the first From header field address if it was mapped to
       IPMS.Heading.originator.

5.2.  Mapping from X.400 to RFC 5322/MIME

   Mapping from X.400 to the Internet is controlled by whether or not a
   particular message is considered a military message.  A message is
   considered a military message (as defined by ACP 123 [ACP123] and
   also specified in STANAG 4406 [STANAG-4406]) if there are any MMHS
   heading extensions present.  Alternatively, this MAY be done by
   configuration (i.e., all messages can be considered military
   messages).

   For non-military messages, mapping from X.400 as specified in
   [RFC2156] is used.

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   For military messages, the following mapping is used:

   1.  IPMS.Heading.originator is mapped to the From header field.

   2.  The IPMS.Heading.authorizing-users is mapped to the MMHS-
       Authorizing-Users header field.

6.  IANA Considerations

   IANA has added the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field specified in
   Section 4 to the "Provisional Message Header Field Names" registry,
   defined by "Registration Procedures for Message Header Fields"
   [RFC3864].  The registration template is as follows:

   Header field name: MMHS-Authorizing-Users

   Applicable protocol: mail ([RFC5322])

   Status: provisional

   Author/Change controller: Alexey Melnikov <alexey.melnikov@isode.com>

   Specification document(s): RFC 7912

   Related information:

7.  Security Considerations

   In some military environments, the identities of Authorizing Users
   are required to be hidden from recipients of email messages.  This
   can be accomplished by using a group address for the MMHS-
   Authorizing-Users.  In this way, the recipient will know that it was
   released by an Authorizing User in that group, but the recipient will
   not know which one of them took the action.

   For those organizations that do not wish to disclose the Authorizing
   Users' group membership, care must also be taken to ensure that the
   information included in the certificate used for signing email
   messages does not disclose individuals in the group.

   Further security considerations are described in subsections of this
   section.

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7.1.  Forged Header Fields

   A malicious sender may add/change an MMHS-Authorizing-Users header
   field to bypass or alter the message authorization procedure invoked
   for messages with no MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field.  For this
   reason, it is important for agents and clients that rely on the
   validity of the MMHS-Authorizing-Users header field to also verify
   the review signature (or a similar protection mechanism) that
   confirms that a particular person or entity authorized release of a
   message.

7.2.  Intentionally Malformed Header Fields

   It is possible for an attacker to add an MMHS-Authorizing-Users
   header field that is extraordinarily large or otherwise malformed in
   an attempt to discover or exploit weaknesses in the header field
   parsing code.  Implementations MUST thoroughly verify all such header
   fields received from MTAs and be robust against intentionally as well
   as unintentionally malformed header fields.

8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [ACP123]   CCEB, "Common Messaging strategy and procedures", ACP 123
              (B), May 2009.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2119>.

   [RFC2156]  Kille, S., "MIXER (Mime Internet X.400 Enhanced Relay):
              Mapping between X.400 and RFC 822/MIME", RFC 2156,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2156, January 1998,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2156>.

   [RFC2634]  Hoffman, P., Ed., "Enhanced Security Services for S/MIME",
              RFC 2634, DOI 10.17487/RFC2634, June 1999,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2634>.

   [RFC5234]  Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, January 2008,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5234>.

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   [RFC5322]  Resnick, P., Ed., "Internet Message Format", RFC 5322,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5322, October 2008,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5322>.

   [RFC5750]  Ramsdell, B. and S. Turner, "Secure/Multipurpose Internet
              Mail Extensions (S/MIME) Version 3.2 Certificate
              Handling", RFC 5750, DOI 10.17487/RFC5750, January 2010,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5750>.

   [RFC5751]  Ramsdell, B. and S. Turner, "Secure/Multipurpose Internet
              Mail Extensions (S/MIME) Version 3.2 Message
              Specification", RFC 5751, DOI 10.17487/RFC5751, January
              2010, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5751>.

   [RFC6376]  Crocker, D., Ed., Hansen, T., Ed., and M. Kucherawy, Ed.,
              "DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Signatures", STD 76,
              RFC 6376, DOI 10.17487/RFC6376, September 2011,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6376>.

   [RFC6409]  Gellens, R. and J. Klensin, "Message Submission for Mail",
              STD 72, RFC 6409, DOI 10.17487/RFC6409, November 2011,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6409>.

8.2.  Informative References

   [RFC3864]  Klyne, G., Nottingham, M., and J. Mogul, "Registration
              Procedures for Message Header Fields", BCP 90, RFC 3864,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3864, September 2004,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc3864>.

   [RFC5752]  Turner, S. and J. Schaad, "Multiple Signatures in
              Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS)", RFC 5752,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5752, January 2010,
              <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5752>.

   [STANAG-4406]
              NATO, "STANAG 4406 Edition 2: Military Message Handling
              System", STANAG 4406 Ed. 2, March 2005.

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Acknowledgements

   Many thanks for reviews and text provided by Steve Kille, Jim Schaad,
   Russ Housley, David Wilson, Chris Bonatti, and Sean Turner.

   Some text in this document was copied from RFC 7001.

Author's Address

   Alexey Melnikov
   Isode Ltd
   14 Castle Mews
   Hampton, Middlesex  TW12 2NP
   United Kingdom

   Email: Alexey.Melnikov@isode.com