Internet-Draft QUADS ACP for GRASP June 2020
Carpenter Expires 31 December 2020 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
B. E. Carpenter
Univ. of Auckland

Quick and Dirty Secure Autonomic Control Plane for GRASP


A secure substrate known as the Autonomic Control Plane (ACP) is required by the Generic Autonomic Signaling Protocol (GRASP) used by Autonomic Service Agents. This document describes QUADS, a QUick And Dirty Secure ACP using symmetric cryptography and preconfigured keys or passwords. It also describes a simplistic QUADS Key Infrastructure based on asymmetric cryptography used over insecure instances of GRASP to create a QUADS ACP.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 31 December 2020.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

As defined in [I-D.ietf-anima-reference-model], the Autonomic Service Agent (ASA) is the atomic entity of an autonomic function, and it is instantiated on autonomic nodes. When ASAs communicate with each other, they should use the Generic Autonomic Signaling Protocol (GRASP) [I-D.ietf-anima-grasp]. It is essential that such communication is strongly secured to avoid malicious interference with the Autonomic Network Infrastructure (ANI).

For this reason, GRASP must run over a secure substrate that is isolated from regular data plane traffic. This substrate is known as the Autonomic Control Plane (ACP). A method for constructing an ACP at the network layer is described in [I-D.ietf-anima-autonomic-control-plane]. Scenarios for link layer ACPs are discussed in [I-D.carpenter-anima-l2acp-scenarios]. The present document describes a simple method of forming an ACP immediately above the transport layer, known as QUADS (QUick And Dirty Security) ACP for GRASP.

It also describes a simplistic key infrastructure known as QUADSKI, using asymmetric cryptography embedded in GRASP objectives used over insecure instances of GRASP.

2. QUick And Dirty Security ACP Method

Every GRASP message, whether unicast or multicast, is encrypted immediately before transmission, and decrypted immediately after reception, using the same symmetric encryption algorithm and domain-wide shared keys. This applies to all unicast and multicast messages sent over either UDP or TCP. Typically encryption will take place immediately after a message is encoded as CBOR [RFC7049], and decryption will take place immediately before a message is decoded from CBOR.

There is no attempt to specify an automatic algorithm choice. Every instance of GRASP in a given Autonomic Network (AN) must be pre-configured with the choice of encryption algorithm and any necessary parameters, and with the same key(s).

An alternative to configuring the keys is that every instance of GRASP is pre-configured with a fixed salt value and the keys are created from a locally chosen keying password, using a pre-defined hash algorithm and that salt value. Note that the salt value cannot be secret as it must be the same in all QUADS for all GRASP implementations. In this model the secrecy depends on the keying password.

The choice of algorithms should follow best current practice, e.g. [RFC8221]. At present the following choices are recommended: AES/CBC, key length 32, initialisation vector length 16, padding PKCS7(128).

3. QUick And Dirty Security Key Infrastructure

This uses a Diffie-Hellman key exchange to secure delivery of QUADS keys from a key server in one autonomic node to another node wishing to join the AN domain, known as a "pledge" to align with BRSKI [I-D.ietf-anima-bootstrapping-keyinfra] terminology.

A QUADSKI key server exists in one instance in a given AN. It supports two GRASP objectives, provisonally named "411:quadskip" and "411:quadski". It runs via an instance of GRASP that is not running QUADS, i.e. its traffic is not encrypted except as defined below.

"411:quadskip" is a synchronization objective that is flooded out to all nodes in the AN. Its value is the PEM encoding of the public RSA key of the QUADSKI server. In fragmentary CDDL [RFC8610], it is defined as follows:

  quadskip-objective = ["411:quadskip", objective-flags, loop-count, value]
  objective-flags = ; as in the GRASP specification
  loop-count = ; as in the GRASP specification
  value = server-PEM
  server-PEM = bytes

The recommended frequency of flooding is once per minute with a valid life time of two minutes. By this means, every autonomic node can learn the public key of the server.

"411:quadski" is a negotiation objective that is used by an autonomic node that wishes to enrol securely in the AN, i.e. a pledge. In fragmentary CDDL, it is defined as follows:

  quadski-objective = ["411:quadski", objective-flags, loop-count, value]
  objective-flags = ; as in the GRASP specification
  loop-count = ; as in the GRASP specification
  value = pledge-value / server-value
  pledge-value = [encrypted-password, pledge-PEM]
  server-value = encrypted-keys
  encrypted-password = bytes
  pledge-PEM = bytes
  encrypted-keys = bytes

The encrypted-password is a previously agreed pledge password for the AN domain, RSA-encrypted using the public key of the server. This password should not be the same as the keying password used in Section 2.

The pledge-PEM is the PEM encoding of the public RSA key of the pledge node.

The encrypted-keys value is the result of the following process:

  1. Assume the symmetric cryptography in use is AES/CBC, key length 32, initialisation vector length 16, padding PKCS7(128).
  2. Let the key bytes be 'key' and the initialisation vector bytes be 'iv'.
  3. Construct the array object [key, iv].
  4. Encode this object in CBOR.
  5. Encrypt the resulting CBOR bytes with RSA using the public key of the pledge ("pledge-PEM").
  6. The result is the value of "encrypted-keys".

The QUADSKI server must have possession of the AN domain keys (Section 2) and the domain's pledge password when it starts up, by a method not specified here. It then proceeds as follows:

  1. Create an RSA key pair, store the private key, and prepare the PEM encoding of the public key ("server-PEM").
  2. Start flooding out the "411:quadskip" objective with the "server-PEM" value, using the GRASP M_FLOOD message.
  3. Start listening for negotiation requests (GRASP M_NEG_REQ) for the "411:quadski" objective.
  4. Whenever it receives such a request, RSA-decrypt the "encrypted-password" using its private key.
  5. If the password matches, recover the pledge's public key from the "pledge-PEM".
  6. Generate the "encrypted-keys" value as described above, and reply (GRASP M_NEGOTIATE) with that value.
  7. Normally, the pledge will reply with GRASP M_END and an O_ACCEPT option.

Error conditions such as a password mismatch will be handled like any GRASP error condition, with GRASP M_END and an O_DECLINE option.

The pledge proceeds as follows:

  1. Create an RSA key pair, store the private key, and prepare the PEM encoding of the public key ("pledge-PEM").
  2. Wait until it detects the flooded "411:quadskip" option, at which point it can recover the QUADSKI server's public key from the "server-PEM" value.
  3. Request the pledge password from the user.
  4. RSA-encrypt the password using the server's public key.
  5. Use GRASP discovery (M_DISCOVER "411:quadski") to locate the QUADSKI server.
  6. Construct a "411:quadski" objective whose value is [encrypted-password, pledge-PEM] as described above.
  7. Start the negotiation process (M_NEG_REQ).
  8. When it receives a successful reply (M_NEGOTIATE), RSA-decrypt the value using its own private key, decode the result from CBOR, and thus recover the QUADS keys [key, iv].
  9. Close the GRASP session with M_END + O_ACCEPT.

In the pledge and the QUADSKI server, RSA encryption and decryption should follow best current practice, e.g. [RFC8017]. At present the following choices are recommended: public exponent 65537, key size 2048, padding OAEP with MGF1, hash SHA256.

As noted, this process uses unencrypted GRASP, since there are no QUADS keys available until it ends. Unlike BRSKI [I-D.ietf-anima-bootstrapping-keyinfra], it does not rely on any limitation to link-local traffic, since it is protected by asymmetric cryptography. However, for this to work on an evolving network where nodes may enrol at any time, GRASP must run encrypted for nodes that have acquired QUADS keys and simultaneously unencrypted for the QUADSKI process. The simplest way to achieve this is to run two GRASP instances as necessary. In particular, a node that acts as a GRASP relay needs to be able to relay encrypted traffic (for enrolled nodes) and unencrypted traffic (for nodes needing to run the QUADSKI process). Note that such instances will receive GRASP broadcasts that they cannot interpret (encrypted packets reaching an unencrypted GRASP instance, and vice versa). These packets can be harmlessly discarded.

Finally, the reader familiar with BRSKI may note that the QUADSKI server replaces the role of the BRSKI Registrar, and the unencrypted GRASP daemon replaces the role of the BRSKI Join Proxy.

4. Implementation Status [RFC Editor: please remove]

QUADS for GRASP has been implemented as a small extension to the Python GRASP prototype, using the Python 'cryptography' module. The algorithm choices were:

QUADSKI for GRASP has been implemented as two Python ASAs, known as '' for the server and '' for the pledge node. These also use the Python 'cryptography' module.

RSA parameters:

Public Exponent 65537

Key Size 2048

Padding OAEP with MGF1

Hash SHA256

The code has been posted to

5. Security Considerations

QUADS provides effective secrecy for all GRASP messages, against any party not in possession of the relevant shared keys. However, before a GRASP message is encrypted or after it is decrypted, it is not protected within the host. Therefore, secrecy is only effective against nodes that do not contain a GRASP instance in possession of the keys. Those nodes cannot send valid GRASP messages, and they cannot interpret intercepted GRASP messages, including multicasts. However, they might attempt traffic analysis.

QUADS provides authentication of GRASP instances to the extent that they must be in possession of the relevant shared keys.

QUADS depends on pre-configuration of keys, or on password entry and a public salt value, for each autonomic node, unless QUADSKI is in use.

QUADS offers no defence against denial of service attacks.

QUADSKI securely avoids the need for pre-configuration of keys except in a central server. Nevertheless it requires each joining node to be in possession of the AN domain's pledge password, and there is presently no rekeying procedure without rebooting the whole autonomic network.

The result is that QUADS provides an autonomic control plane with the above security characteristics.

6. IANA Considerations

This document makes no request of the IANA.

7. Acknowledgements

Excellent suggestions were made by TBD

8. References

8.1. Normative References

Moriarty, K., Ed., Kaliski, B., Jonsson, J., and A. Rusch, "PKCS #1: RSA Cryptography Specifications Version 2.2", RFC 8017, DOI 10.17487/RFC8017, , <>.
Wouters, P., Migault, D., Mattsson, J., Nir, Y., and T. Kivinen, "Cryptographic Algorithm Implementation Requirements and Usage Guidance for Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) and Authentication Header (AH)", RFC 8221, DOI 10.17487/RFC8221, , <>.
Birkholz, H., Vigano, C., and C. Bormann, "Concise Data Definition Language (CDDL): A Notational Convention to Express Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR) and JSON Data Structures", RFC 8610, DOI 10.17487/RFC8610, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

Carpenter, B. and B. Liu, "Scenarios and Requirements for Layer 2 Autonomic Control Planes", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-carpenter-anima-l2acp-scenarios-02, , <>.
Eckert, T., Behringer, M., and S. Bjarnason, "An Autonomic Control Plane (ACP)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-anima-autonomic-control-plane-25, , <>.
Pritikin, M., Richardson, M., Eckert, T., Behringer, M., and K. Watsen, "Bootstrapping Remote Secure Key Infrastructures (BRSKI)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-anima-bootstrapping-keyinfra-41, , <>.
Bormann, C., Carpenter, B., and B. Liu, "A Generic Autonomic Signaling Protocol (GRASP)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-anima-grasp-15, , <>.
Behringer, M., Carpenter, B., Eckert, T., Ciavaglia, L., and J. Nobre, "A Reference Model for Autonomic Networking", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-anima-reference-model-10, , <>.
Bormann, C. and P. Hoffman, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)", RFC 7049, DOI 10.17487/RFC7049, , <>.

Appendix A. Change log [RFC Editor: Please remove]

Author's Address

Brian Carpenter
The University of Auckland
School of Computer Science
University of Auckland
PB 92019
Auckland 1142
New Zealand