Re: Content-Integrity header

On Jul 6, 2012, at 11:43 AM, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:

> HTTP 1.0 specifies a header Content-MD5.

Actually, HTTP/1.1 (draft-ietf-http-v11-spec-02.txt, April 1995).

> This is a bad header for all sorts of reasons, not least that the
> header was added despite the fact that I told people that MD5 had just
> been severely compromised.

Compromised in 1995?  I don't think so, and certainly not in a way
that would have effected a MIC for *accidental* modification
(which is all it was intended to be).  It was never intended for
authentication because the field can be altered by an attacker
just as easily as the content.

> In particular there is only one digest
> algorithm specified and no way to use others.

Of course there is another way -- just define another field for
that algorithm.  Defining a new content-sha256 (or whatever) field
is just as effective (and efficient) as trying to put all integrity
checks into a single field with an alg parameter.  Moreover, the
new field definition could be used without worrying about all of
the broken implementations of poorly defined integrity checks
like content-md5.

> A better approach would be:
> Content-Integrity: <base64-value> ;alg=<ID>

That is another approach.  It means that a recipient that only
understands alg A has to parse each content-integrity field-value
to look for a matching A parameter, as opposed to simply checking
for the presence of a content-A field.  It has benefit if we expect
integrity checks to be performed by a multi-algo processor like
openssl, but is a nuisance if we expect only one or two algorithms
to be in common use at the same time.

> For many Web Services, what we would like to do is to specify a MAC
> rather than a digest and to use a preshared key identified by some
> form of kerberos-like ticket. We don't need to specify the internal
> structure of the ticket, just accept that we will have some sort of
> key exchange service interaction at the end of which the client ends
> up with a shared secret, an algorithm and an identifier that can be
> passed to the service where the interaction takes place:
> Content-Integrity: <base64-value> ;ticket=<ticket-data>
> Note that the method of establishing that ticket in the first place is
> out of scope for HTTP. Just think of it as something akin to a cookie.

Why implement a MAC using the same field as a MIC?
Digital signatures are much harder to implement.

Why don't the existing digital signature mechanisms suffice?
I know they haven't been deployed well for HTTP, but I don't know
why other than the expired patents and chicken/egg problems.

Why do you think a generic integrity check processor would want
to implement anything that complex?

I agree that some common Dsig standard is needed, and that a good
way to do that is to simply assume that the shared key is already
known via other means, but I don't see any need to tie that to a
generic integrity check field when two different fields would be
easier to define, argue, and implement.

In any case, the hard part is deciding what content is included
in the hash.  Sometimes folks want to include the whole representation
(as it exists at the source), others want to include only the payload
of the current message, and still others want the payload and some
odd set of header fields.  And then we start talking about canonical
forms, and pretty soon we are just sick of arguing about it and ship
some gunk that doesn't actually solve a real problem.

Trying to do everything at once is a recipe for madness.  Just pick
a very specific problem to solve, solve it the most efficient way
for that problem, and use a field name specific to the solution.
If it turns out to be useful beyond that, that's gravy.


Received on Friday, 6 July 2012 20:03:15 UTC