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RE: HTTP/1.1 Contradiction

From: Paul Leach <paulle@microsoft.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 17:55:03 -0800
Message-Id: <c=US%a=_%p=msft%l=RED-77-MSG-961214015503Z-108912@INET-02-IMC.microsoft.com>
To: 'Daniel DuBois' <dan@spyglass.com>, 'Jeffrey Mogul' <mogul@pa.dec.com>
Cc: "'http-wg%cuckoo.hpl.hp.com@hplb.hpl.hp.com'" <http-wg%cuckoo.hpl.hp.com@hplb.hpl.hp.com>, "'pmontelo@spyglass.com'" <pmontelo@spyglass.com>
X-Mailing-List: <http-wg@cuckoo.hpl.hp.com> archive/latest/2079
Because the transfer-encoding is added and stripped off on a hop-by-hop
basis, that header (and its effects on the entity-body) were
deliberately left out of the digest.

More precisely, only certain fields that we felt were strongly related
to the integrity of the entity body are _included_ in the digest.  Here
is what header-related info the digest-auth spec says is included in the
    entity-info = H(
              digest-uri-value ":"
              media-type ":"         ; Content-type, see section 3.7 of
              *DIGIT ":"             ; Content length, see 10.12 of [2]
              content-coding ":"     ; Content-encoding, see 3.5 of [2]
              last-modified ":"      ; last modified date, see 10.25 of
              expires                ; expiration date; see 10.19 of [2]

    last-modified   = rfc1123-date  ; see section 3.3.1 of [2]
    expires         = rfc1123-date

It goes on to say that if a header is missing, then the null string is
included in the digest. Note that this is mandatory for all the headers
_except_ Content-Length, whose value can be computed even when the
header is missing.

Note also that in order to digest a chunked body, the digest has to go
in the footer, after the end of the chunk-encoded body. However, the
HTTP spec says that only headers that state that they are allowed in
footers are allowed in footers, and the relevant digest-auth header does
not so state.

So, there is no semantic reason that a proxy couldn't convert from a
content-length that is implicit in the chunked encoding to one that is
explicit in the Content-Length header, but we'd have to change a couple
of things that essentially needlessly disallow it:

CHANGES NEED TO THE HTTP/1.1 SPEC to make the above work:
1. Allow proxies to add Content-Length header if not present.


1. Change section 2.1.3 "The AuthenticationInfo Header" to say that it
is allowed in the footer of a chunked encoded HTTP message.
2. Change section 2.1.2 to specifically state that content length is
always to be included. The HTTP/1.1 spec requires that content length is
well defined in all messages, whether or not there is a Content-Length


>From: 	Daniel DuBois[SMTP:dan@spyglass.com]
>Sent: 	Friday, December 13, 1996 4:37 PM
>To: 	Paul Leach
>Cc: 	'http-wg%cuckoo.hpl.hp.com@hplb.hpl.hp.com'; pmontelo@spyglass.com
>Subject: 	RE: HTTP/1.1 Contradiction 
>At 04:18 PM 12/13/96 -0800, Paul Leach wrote:
>>Imagine that you've computed an MD5 (or other) checksum over the content
>>body and various of the headers. If you change any of them, the digest
>>won't check thereafter. When the digest is used for authentication and
>>as a secure integrity check, the failure of the digest to check would
>>lead to some kind of security fault.  The "no-transform" directive was
>>added to tell proxies that changing the body or certain headers would
>>lead to some kind of failure.
>>In the case in question (an HTTP to mail gateway), it may not be
>>important that the recipient of the Mime-body be able to verify its
>First let me say I'm not concerned with mail gateways, so I don't want to
>get too lost thinking about the implications of such. :)
>I understand what you are saying in the first paragraph, and it sounds like
>what you are saying applies to Transfer-Encoding as well.  Or are we
>presuming that whatever the digest-computation algorithms are in the browser
>(and the server as well!) they are both intelligent/aware enough to ignore
>the Transfer-Encoding headers in their computations?
>If we can't make that assumption (it sounds like a tenuous one), then we
>should state somewhere in the HTTP/1.1 spec that proxies are *not* allowed
>to remove Transform-Encodings on responses/messages that have a no-transform
>Cache-Control directive.
>Are there any other implications of this?
>Now I think some more about it.... Why are we specifying headers at all?
>Why aren't they ALL un-modifiable in face of no-transform and the
>possibility of a some-headers-digested situation?
>Daniel DuBois, Traveling Coderman        www.spyglass.com/~ddubois
>   o  The Heroes of Might and Magic II Bible is here!
>      http://www.spyglass.com/~ddubois/HOMM2.html
Received on Friday, 13 December 1996 17:57:10 UTC

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