Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) D. MacDonald
Request for Comments: 5780 B. Lowekamp
Category: Experimental Skype
ISSN: 2070-1721 May 2010NAT Behavior Discovery Using Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN)
This specification defines an experimental usage of the Session
Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN) Protocol that discovers the
presence and current behavior of NATs and firewalls between the STUN
client and the STUN server.
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for examination, experimental implementation, and
This document defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
community. 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 (c) 2010 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. 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.
This document may contain material from IETF Documents or IETF
Contributions published or made publicly available before November
10, 2008. The person(s) controlling the copyright in some of this
material may not have granted the IETF Trust the right to allow
modifications of such material outside the IETF Standards Process.
Without obtaining an adequate license from the person(s) controlling
the copyright in such materials, this document may not be modified
outside the IETF Standards Process, and derivative works of it may
not be created outside the IETF Standards Process, except to format
it for publication as an RFC or to translate it into languages other
This experimental NAT Behavior Discovery STUN usage provides
information about a NAT device's observable transient behavior; it
determines a NAT's behavior with regard to the STUN server used and
the particular client ports used at the instant the test is run.
This STUN usage does not allow an application behind a NAT to make an
absolute determination of the NAT's characteristics. NAT devices do
not behave consistently enough to predict future behavior with any
guarantee. Applications requiring reliable reach between two
particular endpoints must establish a communication channel through
NAT using another technique. IETF has proposed standards including
[RFC5245] and [RFC5626] for establishing communication channels when
a publicly accessible rendezvous service is available.
The uses envisioned for the STUN attributes included in this document
are diagnostics and real-time tuning of applications. For example,
determining what may work and should be tried first compared to more
expensive methods. The attributes can also be used to observe
behaviors that causes an application's communication to fail, thus
enabling better selection of methods of recovery. The STUN
attributes could also be a basis for a network technician's
diagnostics tool to observe NAT behavior.
This document proposes experimental usage of these attributes for
real-time optimization of parameters for protocols in situations
where a publicly accessible rendezvous service is not available.
Such a use of these techniques is only possible when the results are
applied as an optimization and a reliable fallback is available in
case the NAT's behavior becomes more restrictive than determined by
the Behavior Discovery tests. One possible application is role
selection in peer-to-peer (P2P) networks based on statistical
experience with establishing direct connections and diagnosing NAT
behavior with a variety of peers. The experimental question is
whether such a test is useful. Consider a node that tries to join an
overlay as a full peer when its NAT prevents sufficient connectivity;
joining and withdrawing from the overlay might be expensive and/or
lead to unreliable or poorly performing operations. Even if the
behavior discovery check is only "correct" 75% of the time, its
relative cheapness may make it very useful for optimizing the
behavior of the overlay network. Section 2.2 describes this
experimental application in more detail and discusses how to evaluate
its success or failure.
The applications of this STUN usage differ from the original use of
STUN (originally RFC 3489 [RFC3489], now RFC 5389 [RFC5389]). This
specification acknowledges that the information gathered in this
usage is not, and cannot be, correct 100% of the time, whereas STUN
focused only on getting information that could be known to be correct
This specification can also be compared to ICE. ICE requires a
fallback to TURN be available whereas RFC 3489 based applications
tried to determine in advance whether they would need a relay and
what their peer reflexive address will be, which is not generally
This STUN usage requires an application using it to have a fallback.
However, unlike ICE's focus on the problems inherent in VoIP
sessions, this STUN usage doesn't assume that it will be used to
establish a connection between a single pair of machines, so
alternative fallback mechanisms may be available.
For example, in a P2P application it may be possible to simply switch
out of the role where such connections need to be established or to
select an alternative indirect route if the peer discovers that, in
practice, 10% of its connection attempts fail.
It is submitted to the Internet community as an experimental protocol
that, when applied with appropriate statistical underpinnings and
application behavior that is ultimately based on experienced
connectivity patterns, can lead to more stability and increased
performance than is available without the knowledge it provides.
If a Standards Track document specifies the use of any portion of
this STUN usage, that document MUST describe how incorrect
information derived using these methods will be managed, either
through identifying when a NAT's behavior changed or because the
protocol uses such knowledge as an optimization but remains
functional when the NAT's behavior changes. The referencing document
MUST also define when the fallback mechanism will be invoked.
Applications in different domains may vary greatly in how
aggressively the fallback mechanism is utilized, so there must be a
clear definition of when the fallback mechanism is invoked.
1.1. Requirements Language
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 RFC 2119 [RFC2119].
"Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN)" [RFC5389] provides a
mechanism to discover the reflexive transport address toward the STUN
server, using the Binding Request. This specification defines the
NAT Behavior Discovery STUN usage, which allows a STUN client to
probe the current behavior of the NAT/firewall (NAT/FW) devices
between the client and the STUN server. This usage defines new STUN
attributes for the Binding Request and Binding Response.
Many NAT/FW devices do not behave consistently and will change their
behavior under load and over time. Applications requiring high
reliability must be prepared for the NAT's behavior to become more
restrictive. Specifically, it has been found that under load NATs
may transition to the most restrictive filtering and mapping behavior
and shorten the lifetime of new and existing bindings. In short,
applications can discover how bad things currently are, but not how
bad things will get.
Despite this limitation, instantaneous observations are often quite
useful in troubleshooting network problems, and repeated tests over
time, or in known load situations, may be used to characterize a
NAT's behavior. In particular, in the hands of a person
knowledgeable about the needs of an application and the nodes an
application needs to communicate with, it can be a powerful tool.
2.1. Example Diagnostic Use
Applications that work well in the lab, but fail in a deployment, are
notoriously common within distributed systems. There are few systems
developers who have not had the experience of searching to determine
the difference in the environments for insight as to what real-
network behavior was missed in the testing lab. The Behavior
Discovery usage offers a powerful tool that can be used to check NAT
and firewall behavior as the application is running. For example, an
application could be designed to perform Behavior Discovery tests
whenever it experiences significant communications problems when
running. Such analysis might be included as part of the diagnostic
information logged by the application.
As they are being used to detect instantaneous behavior for analysis
by an experienced developer or administrator, there are relatively
few concerns about this application of the NAT Behavior Discovery
STUN usage. However, the user should be aware that
o adding new traffic to new destinations (STUN servers) has the
potential to itself change the behavior of a NAT and
o the user must be careful to select a STUN server that is
appropriately located, ideally collocated (or even integrated)
with the communication partners of the application in question,
for the results to be applicable to the network conditions
experienced by the application.
2.2. Example Use with P2P Overlays
An application could use Behavior Discovery in a P2P protocol to
determine if a particular endpoint is a reasonable candidate to
participate as a peer or supernode (defined here as a peer in the
overlay that offers services, including message routing, to other
members or clients of the overlay network). This P2P network
application is willing to select supernodes that might be located
behind NATs to avoid the cost of dedicated servers. A supernode
candidate requires that its NAT or NATs offer Endpoint-Independent
Filtering. It might periodically re-run tests and would remove
itself as a supernode if its NAT/FW chain lost this characteristic.
These tests could be run with other supernodes acting as STUN servers
as well as with dedicated STUN servers. As many P2P algorithms
tolerate non-transitive connectivity between a portion of their
peers, guaranteed pair-wise reliable reach might be sacrificed in
order to distribute the P2P overlay's load across peers that can be
directly contacted by the majority of users.
Consider an example from a hypothetical P2P protocol in more detail:
when P2P node A starts up, it tests its NAT(s) relative to other
peers already in the overlay. If the results of its testing indicate
A is behind a "good" NAT (with Endpoint-Independent Mapping and
Filtering), A will join the overlay and establish connections with
appropriate peers in the overlay to join the overlay's topology.
Although A is reachable by routing messages across the overlay
topology, A will also include in its communication with other nodes
that they may reach it directly using its reflexive IP address (or
addresses) that A discovered in its initial testing. Suppose that
later, node B wants to send a message to A, and B is not a neighbor
of A in the overlay topology. B may send the message directly to A's
IP address and start a timer. If B doesn't receive a response within
a certain amount of time, then it routes the message to A across the
overlay instead and includes a flag that indicates a direct
connection was attempted but failed. (Alternatively, B could
simultaneously send the message to A's IP address across the overlay,
which guarantees minimum response latency, but can waste bandwidth.)
Over time, A observes the percentage of successful direct messages it
receives out of those attempted. If the percentage of successful
direct connections is below some threshold (perhaps 75%), then A may
stop advertising for direct connections because it has determined in
practice that its NATs are not providing sufficiently reliable
connectivity to justify the cost of attempting the direct message.
But if the percentage is high enough, A continues to advertise
because the successful direct connections are improving the overlay's
performance by reducing the routing load imposed on the overlay. If
at some point, A's NAT or NATs change behavior, A will notice a
change in its percentage of successful direct connections and may re-
evaluate its decision to advertise a public address. In this
hypothetical example, behavior discovery is used for A's initial
operating mode selection, but the actual decision for whether to
continue advertising that public IP/port pair is made based on actual
operating data. The results of the Behavior Discovery usage are also
used as a performance optimization, as A is at all times able to
establish connectivity through the overlay if the attempted direct
Use of behavior discovery for such an application requires:
o Use of a protocol capable of offering reliable end-user
performance while using unreliable links between pairs of nodes.
o A protocol offering a reliable fallback to connections attempted
based on the results of Behavior Discovery probing.
o The application is deployed behind NATs that provide Endpoint-
Independent Filtering and that remain in this mode for an amount
of time sufficient for the application to identify their behavior,
distribute this information to the rest of the overlay, and
provide useful work for the application.
This document is experimental as applications implementing open
protocols have yet to be deployed in such environments to demonstrate
that these three requirements have been met. However, anecdotal
evidence suggests that NATs targeted at households and small
businesses have stable behavior, especially when there are few
clients behind them. Numerous P2P applications have been deployed
that appear to have these properties, although their protocols have
not yet been subjected to rigorous evaluation by standards bodies.
2.3. Experimental Goals
The criteria for an application to successfully demonstrate use of
the NAT Behavior Discovery STUN usage would include:
o An implementation that relies on this usage to determine its run-
time behavior, most likely using it to determine an initial choice
of options that are then adjusted based on experience with its
o The implementation must either demonstrate its applicability in
environments where it is realistic to expect a provider to deploy
dedicated STUN servers with multiple IP addresses, or it must
demonstrate duplicating the behavior of such a dedicated STUN
server with two nodes that share the role of providing the
address-changing operations required by this usage.
o Experimental evidence that the application of this usage results
in improved behavior of the application in real-world conditions.
The exact metrics for this improvement may vary, some
possibilities include: faster convergence to the proper
parameters, less work to set up initial connections, fewer
reconfigurations required after startup, etc.
o A protocol specification that defines how the implementation
applies this usage.
The P2P scenario described above is a likely experimental test case
for this usage, but others applications are possible as well.
3. Overview of Operations
In a typical configuration, a STUN client is connected to a private
network and through one or more NATs to the public Internet. The
client is configured with the address of a STUN server on the public
Internet. The Behavior Discovery usage makes use of SRV records so
that a server may use a different transport address for this usage
than for other usages. This usage does not provide backward
compatibility with RFC 3489 [RFC3489] for either clients or servers.
Implementors of clients that wish to be compliant with RFC 3489
servers should see that specification. Implementors of servers
SHOULD NOT include support for RFC 3489 clients, as the original uses
of that protocol have been deprecated.
Because STUN forbids a server from creating a new TCP or TCP/TLS
connection to the client, many tests apply only to UDP. The
applicability of the various tests is indicated below.
The STUN NAT Behavior Discovery usage defines new attributes on the
STUN Binding Request and STUN Binding Response that allow these
messages to be used to diagnose the current behavior of the NAT(s)
between the client and server.
This section provides a descriptive overview of the typical use of
these attributes. Normative behavior is described in Sections 5, 6,
3.1. Determining NAT Mapping
A client behind a NAT wishes to determine if that NAT is currently
using Endpoint-Independent, Address-Dependent, or Address and Port-
Dependent Mapping [RFC4787]. The client performs a series of tests
that make use of the OTHER-ADDRESS attribute; these tests are
described in detail in Section 4. These tests send binding requests
to the alternate address and port of the STUN server to determine
mapping behavior. These tests can be used for UDP, TCP, or TCP/TLS
3.2. Determining NAT Filtering
A client behind a NAT wishes to determine if that NAT is currently
using Endpoint-Independent, Address-Dependent, or Address and Port-
Dependent Filtering [RFC4787]. The client performs a series of tests
that make use of the OTHER-ADDRESS and CHANGE-REQUEST attributes;
these tests are described in Section 4. These tests request
responses from the alternate address and port of the STUN server; a
precondition to these tests is that no binding be established to the
alternate address and port. See below for more information. Because
the NAT does not know that the alternate address and port belong to
the same server as the primary address and port, it treats these
responses the same as it would those from any other host on the
Internet. Therefore, the success of the binding responses sent from
the alternate address and port indicate whether the NAT is currently
performing Endpoint-Independent Filtering, Address-Dependent
Filtering, or Address and Port-Dependent Filtering. This test
applies only to UDP datagrams.
3.3. Binding Lifetime Discovery
Many systems, such as VoIP, rely on being able to keep a connection
open between a client and server or between peers of a P2P system.
Because NAT bindings expire over time, keepalive messages must be
sent across the connection to preserve it. Because keepalives impose
some overhead on the network and servers, reducing the frequency of
keepalives can be useful.
A normal request-response protocol cannot be used to test binding
lifetime because the initial request resets the binding timer.
Behavior discovery defines the RESPONSE-PORT attribute to allow the
client and server to set up a "control channel" using one port on the
client that is used to test the binding lifetime of a different port
allocated on the client. More generally, RESPONSE-PORT allows the
client to allocate two ports and request that responses to queries
sent from one port be delivered to the other. The client uses its
second port and the STUN server's alternate address to check if an
existing binding that hasn't had traffic sent on it is still open
after time T. This approach is described in detail in Section 4.6.
This test applies only to UDP datagrams.
3.4. Diagnosing NAT Hairpinning
STUN Binding Requests allow a client to determine whether it is
behind a NAT that supports hairpinning of connections. To perform
this test, the client first sends a Binding Request to its STUN
server to determine its mapped address. The client then sends a STUN
Binding Request to this mapped address from a different port. If the
client receives its own request, the NAT hairpins connections. This
test applies to UDP, TCP, or TCP/TLS connections.
3.5. Determining Fragment Handling
Some NATs exhibit different behavior when forwarding fragments than
when forwarding a single-frame datagram. In particular, some NATs do
not hairpin fragments at all and some platforms discard fragments
under load. To diagnose this behavior, STUN messages may be sent
with the PADDING attribute, which simply inserts additional space
into the message. By forcing the STUN message to be divided into
multiple fragments, the NAT's behavior can be observed.
All of the previous tests can be performed with PADDING if a NAT's
fragment behavior is important for an application, or only those
tests that are most interesting to the application can be retested.
PADDING only applies to UDP datagrams. PADDING can not be used with
3.6. Detecting a Generic Application Level Gateway (ALG)
A number of NAT boxes are now being deployed into the market that try
to provide "generic" ALG functionality. These generic ALGs hunt for
IP addresses, either in text or binary form within a packet, and
rewrite them if they match a binding. This behavior can be detected
because the STUN server returns both the MAPPED-ADDRESS and XOR-
MAPPED-ADDRESS in the same response. If the result in the two does
not match, there is a NAT with a generic ALG in the path. This test
apples to UDP and TCP, but not TLS over TCP connections.
4. Discovery Process
This section provides a descriptive overview of how the NAT Behavior
Discovery usage primitives allow checks to be made to discover the
current behavior of the NAT or NATs an application is behind. These
tests can only give the instantaneous behavior of a NAT; it has been
found that NATs can change behavior under load and over time. The
results of these tests therefore can be regarded as upper bounds --
an application must assume that NAT behavior can become more
restrictive at any time. Results from tests performed using a
particular port on the client may also not indicate the behavior
experienced by a different port, as described in Section 4.1.
Definitions for NAT filtering and mapping behavior are from
[RFC4787]. The tests described here are for UDP connectivity, NAT
mapping behavior, NAT filtering behavior, and NAT binding lifetime
discovery; additional tests could be designed using this usage's
mechanisms. The tests described below include only tests that can be
performed using a client with a single IP address. A client with
multiple IP addresses (or multiple clients collaborating) behind the
same NAT can combine their probes to test additional aspects of NAT
behavior, such as port overloading. This section provides a
descriptive overview of how the primitives provided by the STUN
attributes in this specification may be used to perform behavior
Normative specifications for the attributes are defined in later
4.1. Source Port Selection
Proper source port selection is important to ensuring the usefulness
and accuracy of the Behavior Discovery tests. There are two
preconditions for tests:
o Because mapping behavior can vary on a port-by-port basis, an
application should perform its tests using the source port
intended for use by the application whenever possible. If it
intends to use multiple source ports, it should repeat these tests
for each source port. Such tests should be performed sequentially
to reduce load on the NAT.
o Because the results of some diagnostic checks depend on previous
state in the NAT created by prior traffic, the tests should be
performed using a source port that has not generated recent
traffic. Therefore, the application should use a random source
port or ensure that no traffic has previously occurred on the
selected port prior to performing tests, generally by allocating a
port and holding it unused for at least 15 minutes prior to the
Ensuring both of these preconditions can be challenging, particularly
for a device or application wishing to perform Behavior Discovery
tests at startup. The following guidelines are suggested for
reducing the likelihood of problems:
o An application intended to operate behind a NAT should not attempt
to allocate a specific or well-known port. Because such software
must be designed to interoperate using whatever port is mapped to
it by the NAT, the specific port is unnecessary. Instead, on
startup, a random port should be selected (see below for
recommended ranges). An application, particularly on an embedded
device, should not rely on the host operating system to select the
next available port because that might result in the application
receiving the same port on each restart. An application using the
same port between restarts may not receive accurate results from
Behavior Discovery tests that are intended to test state-related
behavior of NATs, such as filtering and binding lifetime.
o An application requiring multiple ports, such as separate ports
for control and media, should allocate those ports on startup when
possible. Even if there is no immediate need for media flow, if
Behavior Discovery tests will be run on those ports, allocating
them early will allow them to be left idle, increasing the chance
of obtaining accurate results from Behavior Discovery tests.
o Although the most reliable results are obtained when performing
tests with the specific ports that the application will use, in
many cases an application will need to allocate and use ports
without being able to perform complete Behavior Discovery tests on
those ports. In those cases, an application should randomly
select its ports from a range likely to receive the same treatment
by the NAT. This document recommends ranges of 32768-49151, which
is the upper end of IANA's Registered Ports range, and 49152-
65535, which is IANA's Dynamic and/or Private port range, for
random selection. To attempt to characterize a NAT's general
treatment of ports in these ranges, a small number of ports within
a range can be randomly selected and characterized.
Those tests particularly sensitive to prior state on a NAT will be
4.2. Checking for UDP Connectivity with the STUN Server
The client sends a STUN Binding Request to a server. This causes the
server to send the response back to the address and port that the
request came from. If this test yields no response, the client knows
right away that it does not have UDP connectivity with the STUN
server. This test requires only STUN [RFC5389] functionality.
4.3. Determining NAT Mapping Behavior
This will require at most three tests. In test I, the client
performs the UDP connectivity test. The server will return its
alternate address and port in OTHER-ADDRESS in the binding response.
If OTHER-ADDRESS is not returned, the server does not support this
usage and this test cannot be run. The client examines the XOR-
MAPPED-ADDRESS attribute. If this address and port are the same as
the local IP address and port of the socket used to send the request,
the client knows that it is not NATed and the effective mapping will
In test II, the client sends a Binding Request to the alternate
address, but primary port. If the XOR-MAPPED-ADDRESS in the Binding
Response is the same as test I the NAT currently has Endpoint-
Independent Mapping. If not, test III is performed: the client sends
a Binding Request to the alternate address and port. If the XOR-
MAPPED-ADDRESS matches test II, the NAT currently has Address-
Dependent Mapping; if it doesn't match it currently has Address and
4.4. Determining NAT Filtering Behavior
This will also require at most three tests. These tests are
sensitive to prior state on the NAT.
In test I, the client performs the UDP connectivity test. The server
will return its alternate address and port in OTHER-ADDRESS in the
binding response. If OTHER-ADDRESS is not returned, the server does
not support this usage and this test cannot be run.
In test II, the client sends a binding request to the primary address
of the server with the CHANGE-REQUEST attribute set to change-port
and change-IP. This will cause the server to send its response from
its alternate IP address and alternate port. If the client receives
a response, the current behavior of the NAT is Endpoint-Independent
If no response is received, test III must be performed to distinguish
between Address-Dependent Filtering and Address and Port-Dependent
Filtering. In test III, the client sends a binding request to the
original server address with CHANGE-REQUEST set to change-port. If
the client receives a response, the current behavior is Address-
Dependent Filtering; if no response is received, the current behavior
is Address and Port-Dependent Filtering.
4.5. Combining and Ordering Tests
Clients may wish to combine and parallelize these tests to reduce the
number of packets sent and speed the discovery process. For example,
test I of the filtering and mapping tests also checks if UDP is
blocked. Furthermore, an application or user may not need as much
detail as these sample tests provide. For example, establishing
connectivity between nodes becomes significantly more difficult if a
NAT has any behavior other than Endpoint-Independent Mapping, which
requires only test I and II of Section 4.3. An application that
determines its NAT does not always provide Endpoint-Independent
Mapping might notify the user if no relay is configured, whereas an
application behind a NAT that provides Endpoint-Independent Mapping
might not notify the user until a subsequent connection actually
fails or might provide a less urgent notification that no relay is
configured. Such a test does not alleviate the need for [RFC5245],
but it does provide some information regarding whether ICE is likely
to be successful establishing non-relayed connections.
Care must be taken when combining and parallelizing tests, due to the
sensitivity of certain tests to prior state on the NAT and because
some NAT devices have an upper limit on how quickly bindings will be
allocated. Section 5 restricts the rate at which clients may begin
new STUN transactions.
4.6. Binding Lifetime Discovery
STUN can also be used to probe the lifetimes of the bindings created
by the NAT. Such tests are sensitive to prior state on the NAT. For
many NAT devices, an absolute refresh interval cannot be determined;
bindings might be closed more quickly under heavy load or might not
behave as the tests suggest. For this reason, applications that
require reliable bindings must send keepalives as frequently as
required by all NAT devices that will be encountered. Suggested
refresh intervals are outside the scope of this document. [RFC5245]
and OUTBOUND [RFC5626] have suggested refresh intervals.
Determining the binding lifetime relies on two separate source ports
being used to send STUN Binding Requests to the STUN server. The
general approach is that the client uses a source port X to send a
single Binding Request. After a period of time during which source
port X is not used, the client uses a second source port Y to send a
Binding Request to the STUN server that indicates the response should
be sent to the binding established to port X. If the binding for
port X has timed out, that response will not be received. By varying
the time between the original Binding Request sent from X and the
subsequent request sent from Y, the client can determine the binding
To determine the binding lifetime, the client first sends a Binding
Request to the server from a particular source port, X. This creates
a binding in the NAT. The response from the server contains a
MAPPED-ADDRESS attribute, providing the public address and port on
the NAT. Call this Pa and Pp, respectively. The client then starts
a timer with a value of T seconds. When this timer fires, the client
sends another Binding Request to the server, using the same
destination address and port, but from a different source port, Y.
This request contains an RESPONSE-PORT attribute, set to Pp, to
request the response be delivered to (Pa, Pp). This will create a
new binding on the NAT, and cause the STUN server to send a Binding
Response that would match the old binding, (Pa, Pp), if it still
exists. If the client receives the Binding Response on port X, it
knows that the binding has not expired. If the client receives the
Binding Response on port Y (which is possible if the old binding
expired, and the NAT allocated the same public address and port to
the new binding), or receives no response at all, it knows that the
binding has expired.
Because some NATs only refresh bindings when outbound traffic is
sent, the client must resend a binding request from the original
source port before beginning a second test with a different value of
T. The client can find the value of the binding lifetime by doing a
binary search through T, arriving eventually at the value where the
response is not received for any timer greater than T, but is
received for any timer less than T. Note also that the binding
refresh behavior (outbound only or all traffic) can be determined by
sending multiple Binding Requests from port Y without refreshes from
the original source port X.
This discovery process takes quite a bit of time and is something
that will typically be run in the background on a device once it
It is possible that the client can get inconsistent results each time
this process is run. For example, if the NAT should reboot, or be
reset for some reason, the process may discover a lifetime that is
shorter than the actual one. Binding lifetime may also be dependent
on the traffic load on the NAT. For this reason, implementations are
encouraged to run the test numerous times and be prepared to get
Like the other diagnostics, this test is inherently unstable. In
particular, an overloaded NAT might reduce binding lifetime to shed
load. A client might find this diagnostic useful at startup, for
example, setting the initial keepalive interval on its connection to
the server to 10 seconds while beginning this check. After
determining the current lifetime, the keepalive interval used by the
connection to the server can be set to this appropriate value.
Subsequent checks of the binding lifetime can then be performed using
the keepalives in the server connection. The STUN Keepalive Usage
[RFC5626] provides a response that confirms the connection is open
and allows the client to check that its mapped address has not
changed. As that provides both the keepalive action and diagnostic
that it is working, it should be preferred over any attempt to
characterize the connection by a secondary technique.
5. Client Behavior
Unless otherwise specified here, all procedures for preparing,
sending, and processing messages as described in the STUN Binding
Usage [RFC5389] are followed.
As support for RESPONSE-PORT is optional, a client MUST be prepared
to receive a 420 (Unknown Attribute) error to requests that include
RESPONSE-PORT. Support for OTHER-ADDRESS and CHANGE-REQUEST is
optional, but MUST be supported by servers advertised via SRV, as
described below. This is to allow the use of PADDING and RESPONSE-
PORT in applications where servers do not have multiple IP addresses.
Clients MUST be prepared to receive a 420 for requests that include
CHANGE-REQUEST when OTHER-ADDRESS was not received in Binding
Response messages from the server.
If an application makes use of the NAT Behavior Discovery STUN usage
by multiplexing it in a flow with application traffic, a FINGERPRINT
attribute SHOULD be included unless it is always possible to
distinguish a STUN message from an application message based on their
When PADDING is used, it SHOULD be equal to the MTU of the outgoing
Clients SHOULD ignore an ALTERNATE-SERVER attribute in a response
unless they are using authentication with a provider of STUN servers
that is aware of the topology requirements of the tests being
A client SHOULD NOT generate more than ten new STUN transactions per
second and SHOULD pace them such that the retransmission timeouts
(RTOs) do not synchronize the retransmissions of each transaction.
Unless the user or application is aware of the transport address of a
STUN server supporting the NAT Behavior Discovery usage through other
means, a client is configured with the domain name of the provider of
the STUN servers. The domain is resolved to a transport address
using SRV procedures [RFC2782]. The mechanism for configuring the
client with the domain name of the STUN servers or of acquiring a
specific transport address is out of scope for this document.
For the Behavior Discovery usage, the service name is "stun-behavior"
for UDP and TCP. The service name is "stun-behaviors" for TLS over
TCP. Only "tcp" is defined as a protocol for "stun-behaviors".
Other aspects of handling failures and default ports are followed as
described in STUN [RFC5389].
Servers MAY require authentication before allowing a client to make
use of its services. The method for obtaining these credentials,
should the server require them, is outside the scope of this usage.
Presumably, the administrator or application relying on this usage
should have its own method for obtaining credentials. If the client
receives a 401 (Unauthorized) Response to a Request, then it must
either acquire the appropriate credential from the application before
retrying or report a permanent failure. Procedures for encoding the
MESSAGE-INTEGRITY attribute for a request are described in STUN
6. Server Behavior
Unless otherwise specified here, all procedures for preparing,
sending, and processing messages as described for the STUN Binding
Usage of STUN [RFC5389] are followed.
A server implementing the NAT Behavior Discovery usage SHOULD be
configured with two separate IP addresses on the public Internet. On
startup, the server SHOULD allocate a pair of ports for each of the
UDP, TCP, and TCP/TLS transport protocols, such that it can send and
receive datagrams using the same ports on each IP address (normally a
wildcard binding accomplishes this). TCP and TCP/TLS MUST use
different ports. If a server cannot allocate the same ports on two
different IP address, then it MUST NOT include an OTHER-ADDRESS
attribute in any Response and MUST respond with a 420 (Unknown
Attribute) to any Request with a CHANGE-REQUEST attribute. A server
with only one IP address MUST NOT be advertised using the SRV service
name "stun-behavior" or "stun-behaviors".
6.1. Preparing the Response
After performing all authentication and verification steps, the
server begins processing specific to this Usage if the Binding
Request contains any request attributes defined in this document:
RESPONSE-PORT, CHANGE-REQUEST, or PADDING. If the Binding Request
does not contain any attributes from this document, OTHER-ADDRESS and
RESPONSE-ORIGIN are still included in the Binding Response.
The server MUST include both MAPPED-ADDRESS and XOR-MAPPED-ADDRESS in
If the Request contains the CHANGE-REQUEST attribute and the server
does not have an alternate address and port as described above, the
server MUST generate an error response of type 420.
The source address and port of the Binding Response depend on the
value of the CHANGE-REQUEST attribute and on the address and port on
which the Binding Request was received; this is summarized in
Let A1 and A2 be the two IP addresses used by the server, and P1 and
P2 be the ports used by the server. Let Da represent the destination
IP address of the Binding Request (which will be either A1 or A2),
and Dp represent the destination port of the Binding Request (which
will be either P1 or P2). Let Ca represent the other address, so
that if Da is A1, Ca is A2. If Da is A2, Ca is A1. Similarly, let
Cp represent the other port, so that if Dp is P1, Cp is P2. If Dp is
P2, Cp is P1. If the "change port" flag was set in the CHANGE-
REQUEST attribute of the Binding Request, and the "change IP" flag
was not set, the source IP address of the Binding Response MUST be Da
and the source port of the Binding Response MUST be Cp. If the
"change IP" flag was set in the Binding Request, and the "change
port" flag was not set, the source IP address of the Binding Response
MUST be Ca and the source port of the Binding Response MUST be Dp.
When both flags are set, the source IP address of the Binding
Response MUST be Ca and the source port of the Binding Response MUST
be Cp. If neither flag is set, or if the CHANGE-REQUEST attribute is
absent entirely, the source IP address of the Binding Response MUST
be Da and the source port of the Binding Response MUST be Dp.
| Flags | Source Address | Source Port | OTHER-ADDRESS |
| none | Da | Dp | Ca:Cp |
| Change IP | Ca | Dp | Ca:Cp |
| Change port | Da | Cp | Ca:Cp |
| Change IP and | Ca | Cp | Ca:Cp |
| Change port | | | |
Table 1: Impact of Flags on Packet Source and OTHER-ADDRESS
The server MUST add a RESPONSE-ORIGIN attribute to the Binding
Response, containing the source address and port used to send the
If the server supports an alternate address and port, the server MUST
add an OTHER-ADDRESS attribute to the Binding Response. This
contains the source IP address and port that would be used if the
client had set the "change IP" and "change port" flags in the Binding
Request. As summarized in Table 1, these are Ca and Cp,
respectively, regardless of the value of the CHANGE-REQUEST flags.
If the Request contained a PADDING attribute, PADDING MUST be
included in the Binding Response. The server SHOULD use a length of
PADDING equal to the MTU on the outgoing interface, rounded up to an
even multiple of four bytes. If the Request also contains the
RESPONSE-PORT attribute the server MUST return an error response of
Following that, the server completes the remainder of the processing
from STUN [RFC5389]. If authentication is being required, the server
MUST include a MESSAGE-INTEGRITY and associated attributes as
appropriate. A FINGERPRINT attribute is only required if the STUN
messages are being multiplexed with application traffic that requires
use of a FINGERPRINT to distinguish STUN messages.
An ALTERNATE-SERVER attribute MUST NOT be included with any other
attribute defined in this specification.
When the server sends the Response, it is sent from the source
address as determined above and to the source address of the Request.
If RESPONSE-PORT is present, the server sends the response to that
port instead of the originating port.
7. New Attributes
This document defines several STUN attributes that are required for
NAT Behavior Discovery. These attributes are all used only with
Binding Requests and Binding Responses. CHANGE-REQUEST was
originally defined in RFC 3489 [RFC3489] but is redefined here as
that document is obsoleted by [RFC5389].
Comprehension-required range (0x0000-0x7FFF):
Comprehension-optional range (0x8000-0xFFFF):
7.1. Representing Transport Addresses
Whenever an attribute contains a transport IP address and port, it
has the same format as MAPPED-ADDRESS. Similarly, the XOR-
attributes have the same format as XOR-MAPPED-ADDRESS [RFC5389].
The CHANGE-REQUEST attribute contains two flags to control the IP
address and port that the server uses to send the response. These
flags are called the "change IP" and "change port" flags. The
CHANGE-REQUEST attribute is allowed only in the Binding Request. The
"change IP" and "change port" flags are useful for determining the
current filtering behavior of a NAT. They instruct the server to
send the Binding Responses from the alternate source IP address
and/or alternate port. The CHANGE-REQUEST attribute is optional in
the Binding Request.
The attribute is 32 bits long, although only two bits (A and B) are
0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
|0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 A B 0|
The meanings of the flags are:
A: This is the "change IP" flag. If true, it requests the server to
send the Binding Response with a different IP address than the one
the Binding Request was received on.
B: This is the "change port" flag. If true, it requests the server
to send the Binding Response with a different port than the one
the Binding Request was received on.
The RESPONSE-ORIGIN attribute is inserted by the server and indicates
the source IP address and port the response was sent from. It is
useful for detecting double NAT configurations. It is only present
in Binding Responses.
The OTHER-ADDRESS attribute is used in Binding Responses. It informs
the client of the source IP address and port that would be used if
the client requested the "change IP" and "change port" behavior.
OTHER-ADDRESS MUST NOT be inserted into a Binding Response unless the
server has a second IP address.
OTHER-ADDRESS uses the same attribute number as CHANGED-ADDRESS from
RFC 3489 [RFC3489] because it is simply a new name with the same
semantics as CHANGED-ADDRESS. It has been renamed to more clearly
indicate its function.
The RESPONSE-PORT attribute contains a port. The RESPONSE-PORT
attribute can be present in the Binding Request and indicates which
port the Binding Response will be sent to. For servers which support
the RESPONSE-PORT attribute, the Binding Response MUST be transmitted
to the source IP address of the Binding Request and the port
contained in RESPONSE-PORT. It is used in tests such as Section 4.6.
When not present, the server sends the Binding Response to the source
IP address and port of the Binding Request. The server MUST NOT
process a request containing a RESPONSE-PORT and a PADDING attribute.
The RESPONSE-PORT attribute is optional in the Binding Request.
Server support for RESPONSE-PORT is optional.
RESPONSE-PORT is a 16-bit unsigned integer in network byte order
followed by 2 bytes of padding. Allowable values of RESPONSE-PORT
The PADDING attribute allows for the entire message to be padded to
force the STUN message to be divided into IP fragments. PADDING
consists entirely of a free-form string, the value of which does not
matter. PADDING can be used in either Binding Requests or Binding
PADDING MUST NOT be longer than the length that brings the total IP
datagram size to 64K. It SHOULD be equal in length to the MTU of the
outgoing interface, rounded up to an even multiple of four bytes.
Because STUN messages with PADDING are intended to test the behavior
of UDP fragments, they are an exception to the usual rule that STUN
messages be less than the MTU of the path.
8. IAB Considerations
The IAB has studied the problem of "Unilateral Self-Address Fixing"
(UNSAF), which is the general process by which a client attempts to
determine its address in another realm on the other side of a NAT
through a collaborative protocol reflection mechanism [RFC3424]. The
STUN NAT Behavior Discovery usage is an example of a protocol that
performs this type of function. The IAB has mandated that any
protocols developed for this purpose document a specific set of
considerations. This section meets those requirements.
8.1. Problem Definition
From RFC 3424 [RFC3424], any UNSAF proposal must provide:
Precise definition of a specific, limited-scope problem that is to
be solved with the UNSAF proposal. A short term fix should not be
generalized to solve other problems. Such generalizations lead to
the prolonged dependence on and usage of the supposed short term
fix -- meaning that it is no longer accurate to call it "short
The specific problem being solved by the STUN NAT Behavior Discovery
usage is for a client, which may be located behind a NAT of any type,
to determine the instantaneous characteristics of that NAT. This
determination allows either the diagnosis of the cause of problems
experienced by that or other applications or the modification of an
application's behavior based on the current behavior of the NAT and
an appropriate statistical model of the behavior required for the
application to succeed.
8.2. Exit Strategy
From [RFC3424], any UNSAF proposal must provide:
Description of an exit strategy/transition plan. The better short
term fixes are the ones that will naturally see less and less use
as the appropriate technology is deployed.
The STUN NAT Behavior Discovery usage does not itself provide an exit
strategy for v4 NATs. At the time of this writing, it appears some
sort of NAT will be necessary between v6 clients and v4 servers, but
this specification will not be necessary with those v6-to-v4 NATs
because the IETF is planning to adequately describe their operation.
This specification will be of no interest for v6-to-v6 connectivity.
8.3. Brittleness Introduced by STUN NAT Behavior Discovery
From [RFC3424], any UNSAF proposal must provide:
Discussion of specific issues that may render systems more
"brittle". For example, approaches that involve using data at
multiple network layers create more dependencies, increase
debugging challenges, and make it harder to transition.
The STUN NAT Behavior Discovery usage allows a client to determine
the current behavior of a NAT. This information can be quite useful
to a developer or network administrator outside of an application,
and as such can be used to diagnose the brittleness induced in
another application. When used within an application itself, STUN
NAT Behavior Discovery allows the application to adjust its behavior
according to the current behavior of the NAT. This document is
experimental because the extent to which brittleness is introduced to
an application relying on the Behavior Discovery usage is unclear and
must be carefully evaluated by the designers of the protocol making
use of it. The experimental test for this protocol is essentially
determining whether an application can be made less brittle through
the use of behavior-discovery information than it would be if
attempted to make use of the network without any awareness of the
NATs its traffic must pass through.
8.4. Requirements for a Long-Term Solution
From [RFC3424], any UNSAF proposal must provide:
Identify requirements for longer-term, sound technical solutions
-- contribute to the process of finding the right longer-term
As long as v4 NATs are present, means of adapting to their presence
will be required. As described above, well-behaved v6 to v4 NATs and
direct v6 to v6 connections will not require behavior
8.5. Issues with Existing NAPT Boxes
From [RFC3424], any UNSAF proposal must provide:
Discussion of the impact of the noted practical issues with
existing deployed NATs and experience reports.
This usage provides a set of generic attributes that can be assembled
to test many types of NAT behavior. While tests for the most
commonly known NAT box behaviors are described, the BEHAVE mailing
list regularly has descriptions of new behaviors, some of which may
not be readily detected using the tests described herein. However,
the techniques described in this usage can be assembled in different
combinations to test NAT behaviors not now known or envisioned.
9. IANA Considerations
9.1. STUN Attribute Registry
This specification defines several new STUN attributes. IANA has
added these new protocol elements to the "STUN Attributes" registry.
9.2. Port Numbers and SRV Registry
By default, the STUN NAT Behavior Discovery usage runs on the same
ports as STUN: 3478 over UDP and TCP, and 5349 for TCP over TLS.
However, the Behavior Discovery usage has its own set of Service
Record (SRV) names: "stun-behavior" for UDP and TCP, and "stun-
behaviors" for TLS. Either the SRV procedures or the ALTERNATE-
SERVER procedures, subject to the recommendations of Section 5, can
be used to run Behavior Discovery on a different port.
This specification defines the "stun-behavior" and "stun-behaviors"
SRV service names. "stun-behavior" may be used with SRV protocol
specifiers "udp" and "tcp". "stun-behaviors" may only be specified
with "tcp". Thus, the allowable SRV queries are:
_stun-behaviors._tcp TLS over TCP
10. Security Considerations
This usage inherits the security considerations of STUN [RFC5389].
This usage adds several new attributes; security considerations for
those are detailed here.
OTHER-ADDRESS does not permit any new attacks; it provides another
place where an attacker can impersonate a STUN server but it is not
an interesting attack. An attacker positioned where it can
compromise the Binding Response can completely hide the STUN server
from the client.
o Requests containing both RESPONSE-PORT and PADDING are rejected by
the server. This prevents an amplification attack that is
targeted at the originating address.
The only attack possible with the PADDING attribute is to have a
large padding length that could cause a server to allocate a large
amount of memory. As servers will ignore any padding length greater
than 64K so the scope of this attack is limited. In general, servers
should not allocate more memory than the size of the received
datagram. This attack would only affect non-compliant
RESPONSE-ORIGIN and RESPONSE-PORT do not provide any additional
The authors would like to thank the authors of the original STUN
specification [RFC3489] from which many of the ideas, attributes, and
description in this document originated. Thanks to Dan Wing, Cullen
Jennings, and Magnus Westerlund for detailed comments.
12.1. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC2782] Gulbrandsen, A., Vixie, P., and L. Esibov, "A DNS RR for
specifying the location of services (DNS SRV)", RFC 2782,
[RFC4787] Audet, F. and C. Jennings, "Network Address Translation
(NAT) Behavioral Requirements for Unicast UDP", BCP 127,
RFC 4787, January 2007.
[RFC5389] Rosenberg, J., Mahy, R., Matthews, P., and D. Wing,
"Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN)", RFC 5389,
12.2. Informative References
[RFC3424] Daigle, L. and IAB, "IAB Considerations for UNilateral
Self-Address Fixing (UNSAF) Across Network Address
Translation", RFC 3424, November 2002.
[RFC3489] Rosenberg, J., Weinberger, J., Huitema, C., and R. Mahy,
"STUN - Simple Traversal of User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
Through Network Address Translators (NATs)", RFC 3489,
[RFC5245] Rosenberg, J., "Interactive Connectivity Establishment
(ICE): A Protocol for Network Address Translator (NAT)
Traversal for Offer/Answer Protocols", RFC 5245,
[RFC5626] Jennings, C., Mahy, R., and F. Audet, "Managing Client-
Initiated Connections in the Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP)", RFC 5626, October 2009.
Derek C. MacDonald
Palo Alto, CA
Bruce B. Lowekamp
Palo Alto, CA