26 Security Considerations: Threat Model and Security Usage Recommendations SIP is not an easy protocol to secure. Its use of intermediaries, its multi-faceted trust relationships, its expected usage between elements with no trust at all, and its user-to-user operation make security far from trivial. Security solutions are needed that are deployable today, without extensive coordination, in a wide variety of environments and usages. In order to meet these diverse needs, several distinct mechanisms applicable to different aspects and usages of SIP will be required.
Note that the security of SIP signaling itself has no bearing on the security of protocols used in concert with SIP such as RTP, or with the security implications of any specific bodies SIP might carry (although MIME security plays a substantial role in securing SIP). Any media associated with a session can be encrypted end-to-end independently of any associated SIP signaling. Media encryption is outside the scope of this document. The considerations that follow first examine a set of classic threat models that broadly identify the security needs of SIP. The set of security services required to address these threats is then detailed, followed by an explanation of several security mechanisms that can be used to provide these services. Next, the requirements for implementers of SIP are enumerated, along with exemplary deployments in which these security mechanisms could be used to improve the security of SIP. Some notes on privacy conclude this section. 26.1 Attacks and Threat Models This section details some threats that should be common to most deployments of SIP. These threats have been chosen specifically to illustrate each of the security services that SIP requires. The following examples by no means provide an exhaustive list of the threats against SIP; rather, these are "classic" threats that demonstrate the need for particular security services that can potentially prevent whole categories of threats. These attacks assume an environment in which attackers can potentially read any packet on the network - it is anticipated that SIP will frequently be used on the public Internet. Attackers on the network may be able to modify packets (perhaps at some compromised intermediary). Attackers may wish to steal services, eavesdrop on communications, or disrupt sessions. 26.1.1 Registration Hijacking The SIP registration mechanism allows a user agent to identify itself to a registrar as a device at which a user (designated by an address of record) is located. A registrar assesses the identity asserted in the From header field of a REGISTER message to determine whether this request can modify the contact addresses associated with the address-of-record in the To header field. While these two fields are frequently the same, there are many valid deployments in which a third-party may register contacts on a user's behalf.
The From header field of a SIP request, however, can be modified arbitrarily by the owner of a UA, and this opens the door to malicious registrations. An attacker that successfully impersonates a party authorized to change contacts associated with an address-of- record could, for example, de-register all existing contacts for a URI and then register their own device as the appropriate contact address, thereby directing all requests for the affected user to the attacker's device. This threat belongs to a family of threats that rely on the absence of cryptographic assurance of a request's originator. Any SIP UAS that represents a valuable service (a gateway that interworks SIP requests with traditional telephone calls, for example) might want to control access to its resources by authenticating requests that it receives. Even end-user UAs, for example SIP phones, have an interest in ascertaining the identities of originators of requests. This threat demonstrates the need for security services that enable SIP entities to authenticate the originators of requests. 26.1.2 Impersonating a Server The domain to which a request is destined is generally specified in the Request-URI. UAs commonly contact a server in this domain directly in order to deliver a request. However, there is always a possibility that an attacker could impersonate the remote server, and that the UA's request could be intercepted by some other party. For example, consider a case in which a redirect server at one domain, chicago.com, impersonates a redirect server at another domain, biloxi.com. A user agent sends a request to biloxi.com, but the redirect server at chicago.com answers with a forged response that has appropriate SIP header fields for a response from biloxi.com. The forged contact addresses in the redirection response could direct the originating UA to inappropriate or insecure resources, or simply prevent requests for biloxi.com from succeeding. This family of threats has a vast membership, many of which are critical. As a converse to the registration hijacking threat, consider the case in which a registration sent to biloxi.com is intercepted by chicago.com, which replies to the intercepted registration with a forged 301 (Moved Permanently) response. This response might seem to come from biloxi.com yet designate chicago.com as the appropriate registrar. All future REGISTER requests from the originating UA would then go to chicago.com. Prevention of this threat requires a means by which UAs can authenticate the servers to whom they send requests.
26.1.3 Tampering with Message Bodies As a matter of course, SIP UAs route requests through trusted proxy servers. Regardless of how that trust is established (authentication of proxies is discussed elsewhere in this section), a UA may trust a proxy server to route a request, but not to inspect or possibly modify the bodies contained in that request. Consider a UA that is using SIP message bodies to communicate session encryption keys for a media session. Although it trusts the proxy server of the domain it is contacting to deliver signaling properly, it may not want the administrators of that domain to be capable of decrypting any subsequent media session. Worse yet, if the proxy server were actively malicious, it could modify the session key, either acting as a man-in-the-middle, or perhaps changing the security characteristics requested by the originating UA. This family of threats applies not only to session keys, but to most conceivable forms of content carried end-to-end in SIP. These might include MIME bodies that should be rendered to the user, SDP, or encapsulated telephony signals, among others. Attackers might attempt to modify SDP bodies, for example, in order to point RTP media streams to a wiretapping device in order to eavesdrop on subsequent voice communications. Also note that some header fields in SIP are meaningful end-to-end, for example, Subject. UAs might be protective of these header fields as well as bodies (a malicious intermediary changing the Subject header field might make an important request appear to be spam, for example). However, since many header fields are legitimately inspected or altered by proxy servers as a request is routed, not all header fields should be secured end-to-end. For these reasons, the UA might want to secure SIP message bodies, and in some limited cases header fields, end-to-end. The security services required for bodies include confidentiality, integrity, and authentication. These end-to-end services should be independent of the means used to secure interactions with intermediaries such as proxy servers. 26.1.4 Tearing Down Sessions Once a dialog has been established by initial messaging, subsequent requests can be sent that modify the state of the dialog and/or session. It is critical that principals in a session can be certain that such requests are not forged by attackers.
Consider a case in which a third-party attacker captures some initial messages in a dialog shared by two parties in order to learn the parameters of the session (To tag, From tag, and so forth) and then inserts a BYE request into the session. The attacker could opt to forge the request such that it seemed to come from either participant. Once the BYE is received by its target, the session will be torn down prematurely. Similar mid-session threats include the transmission of forged re- INVITEs that alter the session (possibly to reduce session security or redirect media streams as part of a wiretapping attack). The most effective countermeasure to this threat is the authentication of the sender of the BYE. In this instance, the recipient needs only know that the BYE came from the same party with whom the corresponding dialog was established (as opposed to ascertaining the absolute identity of the sender). Also, if the attacker is unable to learn the parameters of the session due to confidentiality, it would not be possible to forge the BYE. However, some intermediaries (like proxy servers) will need to inspect those parameters as the session is established. 26.1.5 Denial of Service and Amplification Denial-of-service attacks focus on rendering a particular network element unavailable, usually by directing an excessive amount of network traffic at its interfaces. A distributed denial-of-service attack allows one network user to cause multiple network hosts to flood a target host with a large amount of network traffic. In many architectures, SIP proxy servers face the public Internet in order to accept requests from worldwide IP endpoints. SIP creates a number of potential opportunities for distributed denial-of-service attacks that must be recognized and addressed by the implementers and operators of SIP systems. Attackers can create bogus requests that contain a falsified source IP address and a corresponding Via header field that identify a targeted host as the originator of the request and then send this request to a large number of SIP network elements, thereby using hapless SIP UAs or proxies to generate denial-of-service traffic aimed at the target. Similarly, attackers might use falsified Route header field values in a request that identify the target host and then send such messages to forking proxies that will amplify messaging sent to the target.
Record-Route could be used to similar effect when the attacker is certain that the SIP dialog initiated by the request will result in numerous transactions originating in the backwards direction. A number of denial-of-service attacks open up if REGISTER requests are not properly authenticated and authorized by registrars. Attackers could de-register some or all users in an administrative domain, thereby preventing these users from being invited to new sessions. An attacker could also register a large number of contacts designating the same host for a given address-of-record in order to use the registrar and any associated proxy servers as amplifiers in a denial-of-service attack. Attackers might also attempt to deplete available memory and disk resources of a registrar by registering huge numbers of bindings. The use of multicast to transmit SIP requests can greatly increase the potential for denial-of-service attacks. These problems demonstrate a general need to define architectures that minimize the risks of denial-of-service, and the need to be mindful in recommendations for security mechanisms of this class of attacks. 26.2 Security Mechanisms From the threats described above, we gather that the fundamental security services required for the SIP protocol are: preserving the confidentiality and integrity of messaging, preventing replay attacks or message spoofing, providing for the authentication and privacy of the participants in a session, and preventing denial-of-service attacks. Bodies within SIP messages separately require the security services of confidentiality, integrity, and authentication. Rather than defining new security mechanisms specific to SIP, SIP reuses wherever possible existing security models derived from the HTTP and SMTP space. Full encryption of messages provides the best means to preserve the confidentiality of signaling - it can also guarantee that messages are not modified by any malicious intermediaries. However, SIP requests and responses cannot be naively encrypted end-to-end in their entirety because message fields such as the Request-URI, Route, and Via need to be visible to proxies in most network architectures so that SIP requests are routed correctly. Note that proxy servers need to modify some features of messages as well (such as adding Via header field values) in order for SIP to function. Proxy servers must therefore be trusted, to some degree, by SIP UAs. To this purpose, low-layer security mechanisms for SIP are recommended, which
encrypt the entire SIP requests or responses on the wire on a hop- by-hop basis, and that allow endpoints to verify the identity of proxy servers to whom they send requests. SIP entities also have a need to identify one another in a secure fashion. When a SIP endpoint asserts the identity of its user to a peer UA or to a proxy server, that identity should in some way be verifiable. A cryptographic authentication mechanism is provided in SIP to address this requirement. An independent security mechanism for SIP message bodies supplies an alternative means of end-to-end mutual authentication, as well as providing a limit on the degree to which user agents must trust intermediaries. 26.2.1 Transport and Network Layer Security Transport or network layer security encrypts signaling traffic, guaranteeing message confidentiality and integrity. Oftentimes, certificates are used in the establishment of lower-layer security, and these certificates can also be used to provide a means of authentication in many architectures. Two popular alternatives for providing security at the transport and network layer are, respectively, TLS  and IPSec . IPSec is a set of network-layer protocol tools that collectively can be used as a secure replacement for traditional IP (Internet Protocol). IPSec is most commonly used in architectures in which a set of hosts or administrative domains have an existing trust relationship with one another. IPSec is usually implemented at the operating system level in a host, or on a security gateway that provides confidentiality and integrity for all traffic it receives from a particular interface (as in a VPN architecture). IPSec can also be used on a hop-by-hop basis. In many architectures IPSec does not require integration with SIP applications; IPSec is perhaps best suited to deployments in which adding security directly to SIP hosts would be arduous. UAs that have a pre-shared keying relationship with their first-hop proxy server are also good candidates to use IPSec. Any deployment of IPSec for SIP would require an IPSec profile describing the protocol tools that would be required to secure SIP. No such profile is given in this document.
TLS provides transport-layer security over connection-oriented protocols (for the purposes of this document, TCP); "tls" (signifying TLS over TCP) can be specified as the desired transport protocol within a Via header field value or a SIP-URI. TLS is most suited to architectures in which hop-by-hop security is required between hosts with no pre-existing trust association. For example, Alice trusts her local proxy server, which after a certificate exchange decides to trust Bob's local proxy server, which Bob trusts, hence Bob and Alice can communicate securely. TLS must be tightly coupled with a SIP application. Note that transport mechanisms are specified on a hop-by-hop basis in SIP, thus a UA that sends requests over TLS to a proxy server has no assurance that TLS will be used end-to-end. The TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA ciphersuite  MUST be supported at a minimum by implementers when TLS is used in a SIP application. For purposes of backwards compatibility, proxy servers, redirect servers, and registrars SHOULD support TLS_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA. Implementers MAY also support any other ciphersuite. 26.2.2 SIPS URI Scheme The SIPS URI scheme adheres to the syntax of the SIP URI (described in 19), although the scheme string is "sips" rather than "sip". The semantics of SIPS are very different from the SIP URI, however. SIPS allows resources to specify that they should be reached securely. A SIPS URI can be used as an address-of-record for a particular user - the URI by which the user is canonically known (on their business cards, in the From header field of their requests, in the To header field of REGISTER requests). When used as the Request-URI of a request, the SIPS scheme signifies that each hop over which the request is forwarded, until the request reaches the SIP entity responsible for the domain portion of the Request-URI, must be secured with TLS; once it reaches the domain in question it is handled in accordance with local security and routing policy, quite possibly using TLS for any last hop to a UAS. When used by the originator of a request (as would be the case if they employed a SIPS URI as the address-of-record of the target), SIPS dictates that the entire request path to the target domain be so secured. The SIPS scheme is applicable to many of the other ways in which SIP URIs are used in SIP today in addition to the Request-URI, including in addresses-of-record, contact addresses (the contents of Contact headers, including those of REGISTER methods), and Route headers. In each instance, the SIPS URI scheme allows these existing fields to
designate secure resources. The manner in which a SIPS URI is dereferenced in any of these contexts has its own security properties which are detailed in . The use of SIPS in particular entails that mutual TLS authentication SHOULD be employed, as SHOULD the ciphersuite TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA. Certificates received in the authentication process SHOULD be validated with root certificates held by the client; failure to validate a certificate SHOULD result in the failure of the request. Note that in the SIPS URI scheme, transport is independent of TLS, and thus "sips:email@example.com;transport=tcp" and "sips:firstname.lastname@example.org;transport=sctp" are both valid (although note that UDP is not a valid transport for SIPS). The use of "transport=tls" has consequently been deprecated, partly because it was specific to a single hop of the request. This is a change since RFC 2543. Users that distribute a SIPS URI as an address-of-record may elect to operate devices that refuse requests over insecure transports. 26.2.3 HTTP Authentication SIP provides a challenge capability, based on HTTP authentication, that relies on the 401 and 407 response codes as well as header fields for carrying challenges and credentials. Without significant modification, the reuse of the HTTP Digest authentication scheme in SIP allows for replay protection and one-way authentication. The usage of Digest authentication in SIP is detailed in Section 22. 26.2.4 S/MIME As is discussed above, encrypting entire SIP messages end-to-end for the purpose of confidentiality is not appropriate because network intermediaries (like proxy servers) need to view certain header fields in order to route messages correctly, and if these intermediaries are excluded from security associations, then SIP messages will essentially be non-routable. However, S/MIME allows SIP UAs to encrypt MIME bodies within SIP, securing these bodies end-to-end without affecting message headers. S/MIME can provide end-to-end confidentiality and integrity for message bodies, as well as mutual authentication. It is also possible to use S/MIME to provide a form of integrity and confidentiality for SIP header fields through SIP message tunneling.
The usage of S/MIME in SIP is detailed in Section 23. 26.3 Implementing Security Mechanisms 26.3.1 Requirements for Implementers of SIP Proxy servers, redirect servers, and registrars MUST implement TLS, and MUST support both mutual and one-way authentication. It is strongly RECOMMENDED that UAs be capable initiating TLS; UAs MAY also be capable of acting as a TLS server. Proxy servers, redirect servers, and registrars SHOULD possess a site certificate whose subject corresponds to their canonical hostname. UAs MAY have certificates of their own for mutual authentication with TLS, but no provisions are set forth in this document for their use. All SIP elements that support TLS MUST have a mechanism for validating certificates received during TLS negotiation; this entails possession of one or more root certificates issued by certificate authorities (preferably well-known distributors of site certificates comparable to those that issue root certificates for web browsers). All SIP elements that support TLS MUST also support the SIPS URI scheme. Proxy servers, redirect servers, registrars, and UAs MAY also implement IPSec or other lower-layer security protocols. When a UA attempts to contact a proxy server, redirect server, or registrar, the UAC SHOULD initiate a TLS connection over which it will send SIP messages. In some architectures, UASs MAY receive requests over such TLS connections as well. Proxy servers, redirect servers, registrars, and UAs MUST implement Digest Authorization, encompassing all of the aspects required in 22. Proxy servers, redirect servers, and registrars SHOULD be configured with at least one Digest realm, and at least one "realm" string supported by a given server SHOULD correspond to the server's hostname or domainname. UAs MAY support the signing and encrypting of MIME bodies, and transference of credentials with S/MIME as described in Section 23. If a UA holds one or more root certificates of certificate authorities in order to validate certificates for TLS or IPSec, it SHOULD be capable of reusing these to verify S/MIME certificates, as appropriate. A UA MAY hold root certificates specifically for validating S/MIME certificates.
Note that is it anticipated that future security extensions may upgrade the normative strength associated with S/MIME as S/MIME implementations appear and the problem space becomes better understood. 26.3.2 Security Solutions The operation of these security mechanisms in concert can follow the existing web and email security models to some degree. At a high level, UAs authenticate themselves to servers (proxy servers, redirect servers, and registrars) with a Digest username and password; servers authenticate themselves to UAs one hop away, or to another server one hop away (and vice versa), with a site certificate delivered by TLS. On a peer-to-peer level, UAs trust the network to authenticate one another ordinarily; however, S/MIME can also be used to provide direct authentication when the network does not, or if the network itself is not trusted. The following is an illustrative example in which these security mechanisms are used by various UAs and servers to prevent the sorts of threats described in Section 26.1. While implementers and network administrators MAY follow the normative guidelines given in the remainder of this section, these are provided only as example implementations. 18.104.22.168 Registration When a UA comes online and registers with its local administrative domain, it SHOULD establish a TLS connection with its registrar (Section 10 describes how the UA reaches its registrar). The registrar SHOULD offer a certificate to the UA, and the site identified by the certificate MUST correspond with the domain in which the UA intends to register; for example, if the UA intends to register the address-of-record 'email@example.com', the site certificate must identify a host within the atlanta.com domain (such as sip.atlanta.com). When it receives the TLS Certificate message, the UA SHOULD verify the certificate and inspect the site identified by the certificate. If the certificate is invalid, revoked, or if it does not identify the appropriate party, the UA MUST NOT send the REGISTER message and otherwise proceed with the registration. When a valid certificate has been provided by the registrar, the UA knows that the registrar is not an attacker who might redirect the UA, steal passwords, or attempt any similar attacks.
The UA then creates a REGISTER request that SHOULD be addressed to a Request-URI corresponding to the site certificate received from the registrar. When the UA sends the REGISTER request over the existing TLS connection, the registrar SHOULD challenge the request with a 401 (Proxy Authentication Required) response. The "realm" parameter within the Proxy-Authenticate header field of the response SHOULD correspond to the domain previously given by the site certificate. When the UAC receives the challenge, it SHOULD either prompt the user for credentials or take an appropriate credential from a keyring corresponding to the "realm" parameter in the challenge. The username of this credential SHOULD correspond with the "userinfo" portion of the URI in the To header field of the REGISTER request. Once the Digest credentials have been inserted into an appropriate Proxy-Authorization header field, the REGISTER should be resubmitted to the registrar. Since the registrar requires the user agent to authenticate itself, it would be difficult for an attacker to forge REGISTER requests for the user's address-of-record. Also note that since the REGISTER is sent over a confidential TLS connection, attackers will not be able to intercept the REGISTER to record credentials for any possible replay attack. Once the registration has been accepted by the registrar, the UA SHOULD leave this TLS connection open provided that the registrar also acts as the proxy server to which requests are sent for users in this administrative domain. The existing TLS connection will be reused to deliver incoming requests to the UA that has just completed registration. Because the UA has already authenticated the server on the other side of the TLS connection, all requests that come over this connection are known to have passed through the proxy server - attackers cannot create spoofed requests that appear to have been sent through that proxy server. 22.214.171.124 Interdomain Requests Now let's say that Alice's UA would like to initiate a session with a user in a remote administrative domain, namely "firstname.lastname@example.org". We will also say that the local administrative domain (atlanta.com) has a local outbound proxy. The proxy server that handles inbound requests for an administrative domain MAY also act as a local outbound proxy; for simplicity's sake we'll assume this to be the case for atlanta.com (otherwise the user agent would initiate a new TLS connection to a separate server at this point). Assuming that the client has completed the registration
process described in the preceding section, it SHOULD reuse the TLS connection to the local proxy server when it sends an INVITE request to another user. The UA SHOULD reuse cached credentials in the INVITE to avoid prompting the user unnecessarily. When the local outbound proxy server has validated the credentials presented by the UA in the INVITE, it SHOULD inspect the Request-URI to determine how the message should be routed (see ). If the "domainname" portion of the Request-URI had corresponded to the local domain (atlanta.com) rather than biloxi.com, then the proxy server would have consulted its location service to determine how best to reach the requested user. Had "email@example.com" been attempting to contact, say, "firstname.lastname@example.org", the local proxy would have proxied to the request to the TLS connection Alex had established with the registrar when he registered. Since Alex would receive this request over his authenticated channel, he would be assured that Alice's request had been authorized by the proxy server of the local administrative domain. However, in this instance the Request-URI designates a remote domain. The local outbound proxy server at atlanta.com SHOULD therefore establish a TLS connection with the remote proxy server at biloxi.com. Since both of the participants in this TLS connection are servers that possess site certificates, mutual TLS authentication SHOULD occur. Each side of the connection SHOULD verify and inspect the certificate of the other, noting the domain name that appears in the certificate for comparison with the header fields of SIP messages. The atlanta.com proxy server, for example, SHOULD verify at this stage that the certificate received from the remote side corresponds with the biloxi.com domain. Once it has done so, and TLS negotiation has completed, resulting in a secure channel between the two proxies, the atlanta.com proxy can forward the INVITE request to biloxi.com. The proxy server at biloxi.com SHOULD inspect the certificate of the proxy server at atlanta.com in turn and compare the domain asserted by the certificate with the "domainname" portion of the From header field in the INVITE request. The biloxi proxy MAY have a strict security policy that requires it to reject requests that do not match the administrative domain from which they have been proxied. Such security policies could be instituted to prevent the SIP equivalent of SMTP 'open relays' that are frequently exploited to generate spam.
This policy, however, only guarantees that the request came from the domain it ascribes to itself; it does not allow biloxi.com to ascertain how atlanta.com authenticated Alice. Only if biloxi.com has some other way of knowing atlanta.com's authentication policies could it possibly ascertain how Alice proved her identity. biloxi.com might then institute an even stricter policy that forbids requests that come from domains that are not known administratively to share a common authentication policy with biloxi.com. Once the INVITE has been approved by the biloxi proxy, the proxy server SHOULD identify the existing TLS channel, if any, associated with the user targeted by this request (in this case "email@example.com"). The INVITE should be proxied through this channel to Bob. Since the request is received over a TLS connection that had previously been authenticated as the biloxi proxy, Bob knows that the From header field was not tampered with and that atlanta.com has validated Alice, although not necessarily whether or not to trust Alice's identity. Before they forward the request, both proxy servers SHOULD add a Record-Route header field to the request so that all future requests in this dialog will pass through the proxy servers. The proxy servers can thereby continue to provide security services for the lifetime of this dialog. If the proxy servers do not add themselves to the Record-Route, future messages will pass directly end-to-end between Alice and Bob without any security services (unless the two parties agree on some independent end-to-end security such as S/MIME). In this respect the SIP trapezoid model can provide a nice structure where conventions of agreement between the site proxies can provide a reasonably secure channel between Alice and Bob. An attacker preying on this architecture would, for example, be unable to forge a BYE request and insert it into the signaling stream between Bob and Alice because the attacker has no way of ascertaining the parameters of the session and also because the integrity mechanism transitively protects the traffic between Alice and Bob. 126.96.36.199 Peer-to-Peer Requests Alternatively, consider a UA asserting the identity "firstname.lastname@example.org" that has no local outbound proxy. When Carol wishes to send an INVITE to "email@example.com", her UA SHOULD initiate a TLS connection with the biloxi proxy directly (using the mechanism described in  to determine how to best to reach the given Request-URI). When her UA receives a certificate from the biloxi proxy, it SHOULD be verified normally before she passes her INVITE across the TLS connection. However, Carol has no means of proving
her identity to the biloxi proxy, but she does have a CMS-detached signature over a "message/sip" body in the INVITE. It is unlikely in this instance that Carol would have any credentials in the biloxi.com realm, since she has no formal association with biloxi.com. The biloxi proxy MAY also have a strict policy that precludes it from even bothering to challenge requests that do not have biloxi.com in the "domainname" portion of the From header field - it treats these users as unauthenticated. The biloxi proxy has a policy for Bob that all non-authenticated requests should be redirected to the appropriate contact address registered against 'firstname.lastname@example.org', namely <sip:email@example.com>. Carol receives the redirection response over the TLS connection she established with the biloxi proxy, so she trusts the veracity of the contact address. Carol SHOULD then establish a TCP connection with the designated address and send a new INVITE with a Request-URI containing the received contact address (recomputing the signature in the body as the request is readied). Bob receives this INVITE on an insecure interface, but his UA inspects and, in this instance, recognizes the From header field of the request and subsequently matches a locally cached certificate with the one presented in the signature of the body of the INVITE. He replies in similar fashion, authenticating himself to Carol, and a secure dialog begins. Sometimes firewalls or NATs in an administrative domain could preclude the establishment of a direct TCP connection to a UA. In these cases, proxy servers could also potentially relay requests to UAs in a way that has no trust implications (for example, forgoing an existing TLS connection and forwarding the request over cleartext TCP) as local policy dictates. 188.8.131.52 DoS Protection In order to minimize the risk of a denial-of-service attack against architectures using these security solutions, implementers should take note of the following guidelines. When the host on which a SIP proxy server is operating is routable from the public Internet, it SHOULD be deployed in an administrative domain with defensive operational policies (blocking source-routed traffic, preferably filtering ping traffic). Both TLS and IPSec can also make use of bastion hosts at the edges of administrative domains that participate in the security associations to aggregate secure tunnels and sockets. These bastion hosts can also take the brunt of denial-of-service attacks, ensuring that SIP hosts within the administrative domain are not encumbered with superfluous messaging.
No matter what security solutions are deployed, floods of messages directed at proxy servers can lock up proxy server resources and prevent desirable traffic from reaching its destination. There is a computational expense associated with processing a SIP transaction at a proxy server, and that expense is greater for stateful proxy servers than it is for stateless proxy servers. Therefore, stateful proxies are more susceptible to flooding than stateless proxy servers. UAs and proxy servers SHOULD challenge questionable requests with only a single 401 (Unauthorized) or 407 (Proxy Authentication Required), forgoing the normal response retransmission algorithm, and thus behaving statelessly towards unauthenticated requests. Retransmitting the 401 (Unauthorized) or 407 (Proxy Authentication Required) status response amplifies the problem of an attacker using a falsified header field value (such as Via) to direct traffic to a third party. In summary, the mutual authentication of proxy servers through mechanisms such as TLS significantly reduces the potential for rogue intermediaries to introduce falsified requests or responses that can deny service. This commensurately makes it harder for attackers to make innocent SIP nodes into agents of amplification. 26.4 Limitations Although these security mechanisms, when applied in a judicious manner, can thwart many threats, there are limitations in the scope of the mechanisms that must be understood by implementers and network operators. 26.4.1 HTTP Digest One of the primary limitations of using HTTP Digest in SIP is that the integrity mechanisms in Digest do not work very well for SIP. Specifically, they offer protection of the Request-URI and the method of a message, but not for any of the header fields that UAs would most likely wish to secure. The existing replay protection mechanisms described in RFC 2617 also have some limitations for SIP. The next-nonce mechanism, for example, does not support pipelined requests. The nonce-count mechanism should be used for replay protection. Another limitation of HTTP Digest is the scope of realms. Digest is valuable when a user wants to authenticate themselves to a resource with which they have a pre-existing association, like a service
provider of which the user is a customer (which is quite a common scenario and thus Digest provides an extremely useful function). By way of contrast, the scope of TLS is interdomain or multirealm, since certificates are often globally verifiable, so that the UA can authenticate the server with no pre-existing association. 26.4.2 S/MIME The largest outstanding defect with the S/MIME mechanism is the lack of a prevalent public key infrastructure for end users. If self- signed certificates (or certificates that cannot be verified by one of the participants in a dialog) are used, the SIP-based key exchange mechanism described in Section 23.2 is susceptible to a man-in-the- middle attack with which an attacker can potentially inspect and modify S/MIME bodies. The attacker needs to intercept the first exchange of keys between the two parties in a dialog, remove the existing CMS-detached signatures from the request and response, and insert a different CMS-detached signature containing a certificate supplied by the attacker (but which seems to be a certificate for the proper address-of-record). Each party will think they have exchanged keys with the other, when in fact each has the public key of the attacker. It is important to note that the attacker can only leverage this vulnerability on the first exchange of keys between two parties - on subsequent occasions, the alteration of the key would be noticeable to the UAs. It would also be difficult for the attacker to remain in the path of all future dialogs between the two parties over time (as potentially days, weeks, or years pass). SSH is susceptible to the same man-in-the-middle attack on the first exchange of keys; however, it is widely acknowledged that while SSH is not perfect, it does improve the security of connections. The use of key fingerprints could provide some assistance to SIP, just as it does for SSH. For example, if two parties use SIP to establish a voice communications session, each could read off the fingerprint of the key they received from the other, which could be compared against the original. It would certainly be more difficult for the man-in- the-middle to emulate the voices of the participants than their signaling (a practice that was used with the Clipper chip-based secure telephone). The S/MIME mechanism allows UAs to send encrypted requests without preamble if they possess a certificate for the destination address- of-record on their keyring. However, it is possible that any particular device registered for an address-of-record will not hold the certificate that has been previously employed by the device's current user, and that it will therefore be unable to process an
encrypted request properly, which could lead to some avoidable error signaling. This is especially likely when an encrypted request is forked. The keys associated with S/MIME are most useful when associated with a particular user (an address-of-record) rather than a device (a UA). When users move between devices, it may be difficult to transport private keys securely between UAs; how such keys might be acquired by a device is outside the scope of this document. Another, more prosaic difficulty with the S/MIME mechanism is that it can result in very large messages, especially when the SIP tunneling mechanism described in Section 23.4 is used. For that reason, it is RECOMMENDED that TCP should be used as a transport protocol when S/MIME tunneling is employed. 26.4.3 TLS The most commonly voiced concern about TLS is that it cannot run over UDP; TLS requires a connection-oriented underlying transport protocol, which for the purposes of this document means TCP. It may also be arduous for a local outbound proxy server and/or registrar to maintain many simultaneous long-lived TLS connections with numerous UAs. This introduces some valid scalability concerns, especially for intensive ciphersuites. Maintaining redundancy of long-lived TLS connections, especially when a UA is solely responsible for their establishment, could also be cumbersome. TLS only allows SIP entities to authenticate servers to which they are adjacent; TLS offers strictly hop-by-hop security. Neither TLS, nor any other mechanism specified in this document, allows clients to authenticate proxy servers to whom they cannot form a direct TCP connection. 26.4.4 SIPS URIs Actually using TLS on every segment of a request path entails that the terminating UAS must be reachable over TLS (perhaps registering with a SIPS URI as a contact address). This is the preferred use of SIPS. Many valid architectures, however, use TLS to secure part of the request path, but rely on some other mechanism for the final hop to a UAS, for example. Thus SIPS cannot guarantee that TLS usage will be truly end-to-end. Note that since many UAs will not accept incoming TLS connections, even those UAs that do support TLS may be required to maintain persistent TLS connections as described in the TLS limitations section above in order to receive requests over TLS as a UAS.
Location services are not required to provide a SIPS binding for a SIPS Request-URI. Although location services are commonly populated by user registrations (as described in Section 10.2.1), various other protocols and interfaces could conceivably supply contact addresses for an AOR, and these tools are free to map SIPS URIs to SIP URIs as appropriate. When queried for bindings, a location service returns its contact addresses without regard for whether it received a request with a SIPS Request-URI. If a redirect server is accessing the location service, it is up to the entity that processes the Contact header field of a redirection to determine the propriety of the contact addresses. Ensuring that TLS will be used for all of the request segments up to the target domain is somewhat complex. It is possible that cryptographically authenticated proxy servers along the way that are non-compliant or compromised may choose to disregard the forwarding rules associated with SIPS (and the general forwarding rules in Section 16.6). Such malicious intermediaries could, for example, retarget a request from a SIPS URI to a SIP URI in an attempt to downgrade security. Alternatively, an intermediary might legitimately retarget a request from a SIP to a SIPS URI. Recipients of a request whose Request-URI uses the SIPS URI scheme thus cannot assume on the basis of the Request-URI alone that SIPS was used for the entire request path (from the client onwards). To address these concerns, it is RECOMMENDED that recipients of a request whose Request-URI contains a SIP or SIPS URI inspect the To header field value to see if it contains a SIPS URI (though note that it does not constitute a breach of security if this URI has the same scheme but is not equivalent to the URI in the To header field). Although clients may choose to populate the Request-URI and To header field of a request differently, when SIPS is used this disparity could be interpreted as a possible security violation, and the request could consequently be rejected by its recipient. Recipients MAY also inspect the Via header chain in order to double-check whether or not TLS was used for the entire request path until the local administrative domain was reached. S/MIME may also be used by the originating UAC to help ensure that the original form of the To header field is carried end-to-end. If the UAS has reason to believe that the scheme of the Request-URI has been improperly modified in transit, the UA SHOULD notify its user of a potential security breach.
As a further measure to prevent downgrade attacks, entities that accept only SIPS requests MAY also refuse connections on insecure ports. End users will undoubtedly discern the difference between SIPS and SIP URIs, and they may manually edit them in response to stimuli. This can either benefit or degrade security. For example, if an attacker corrupts a DNS cache, inserting a fake record set that effectively removes all SIPS records for a proxy server, then any SIPS requests that traverse this proxy server may fail. When a user, however, sees that repeated calls to a SIPS AOR are failing, they could on some devices manually convert the scheme from SIPS to SIP and retry. Of course, there are some safeguards against this (if the destination UA is truly paranoid it could refuse all non-SIPS requests), but it is a limitation worth noting. On the bright side, users might also divine that 'SIPS' would be valid even when they are presented only with a SIP URI. 26.5 Privacy SIP messages frequently contain sensitive information about their senders - not just what they have to say, but with whom they communicate, when they communicate and for how long, and from where they participate in sessions. Many applications and their users require that this sort of private information be hidden from any parties that do not need to know it. Note that there are also less direct ways in which private information can be divulged. If a user or service chooses to be reachable at an address that is guessable from the person's name and organizational affiliation (which describes most addresses-of- record), the traditional method of ensuring privacy by having an unlisted "phone number" is compromised. A user location service can infringe on the privacy of the recipient of a session invitation by divulging their specific whereabouts to the caller; an implementation consequently SHOULD be able to restrict, on a per-user basis, what kind of location and availability information is given out to certain classes of callers. This is a whole class of problem that is expected to be studied further in ongoing SIP work. In some cases, users may want to conceal personal information in header fields that convey identity. This can apply not only to the From and related headers representing the originator of the request, but also the To - it may not be appropriate to convey to the final destination a speed-dialing nickname, or an unexpanded identifier for a group of targets, either of which would be removed from the Request-URI as the request is routed, but not changed in the To
header field if the two were initially identical. Thus it MAY be desirable for privacy reasons to create a To header field that differs from the Request-URI.