Sunday, September 14, 2008

When RFC's Attack - More Laughs From Cyberspace

Happy Sunday (I hope :),

Today, I found a little RFC for you that isn't just funny (and an "official" April Fool's Day joke), but is actually real and can be found on the official IETF RFC Page. This RFC (RFC 3093) is a request for comments on the, then, newly proposed Firewall Enhancement Protocol, which basically suggests a way to completely bypass firewalls, without compromising them, by allowing the tunnelling of any and every protocol under the sun through simulated HTTP sessions, which (it argues) should be allowed to pass without question :)

Here's to an enjoyable read :)

Cheers,



Network Working Group M. Gaynor

Request
for Comments: 3093
S. Bradner

Category: Informational Harvard University

1 April 2001


Firewall Enhancement Protocol (FEP)


Status of this Memo


This memo provides information for the Internet community.
It does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution
of this memo is unlimited.


© Notice © (C) The Internet Society (2001).
All Rights Reserved.


Abstract


Internet Transparency via the end-to-end architecture of the
Internet has allowed vast innovation of new technologies and
services [1]. However, recent developments in Firewall technology
have altered this model and have been shown to inhibit innovation.
We propose the Firewall Enhancement Protocol (FEP) to allow innovation,
without violating the security model of a Firewall. With no cooperation
from a firewall operator, the FEP allows ANY application to traverse
a Firewall. Our methodology is to layer any application layer
Transmission Control Protocol/User Datagram Protocol (TCP/UDP)
packets over the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) protocol,
since HTTP packets are typically able to transit Firewalls. This
scheme does not violate the actual security usefulness of a Firewall,
since Firewalls are designed to thwart attacks from the outside
and to ignore threats from within. The use of FEP is compatible
with the current Firewall security model because it requires
cooperation from a host inside the Firewall. FEP allows the best
of both worlds: the security of a firewall, and transparent tunneling
thought the firewall.


1.0 Terminology


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.


2.0 Introduction


The Internet has done well, considering that less than 10
years ago the telco's were claiming it could not ever work for
the corporate environment. There are many reasons for this; a
particularly strong one is the end-to-end argument discussed
by Reed, Seltzer, and Clark [2]. Innovation at the ends has proven
to be a very powerful methodology creating more value than ever
conceived of. But, the world is changing as Clark notes in [6].
With the connection of the corporate world to the Internet, security
concerns have become paramount, even at the expense of breaking
the end-to-end paradigm. One example of this is the Firewall
- a device to prevent outsiders from unauthorized access into
a corporation. Our new protocol, the Firewall Enhancement Protocol
(FEP), is designed to restore the end- to-end model while maintaining
the level of security created by Firewalls. To see how powerful
the end-to-end model is consider the following example. If Scott
and Mark have a good idea and some implementation talent, they
can create an artifact, use it, and send it to their friends.
If it turns out to be a good idea these friends can adopt it
and maybe make it better. Now enter the Firewall: if Mark happens
to work at a company that installs a Firewall, he can't experiment
with his friend Scott. Innovation is more difficult, maybe impossible.
What business is it of an IT manager if Scott and Mark want to
do some experiments to enable them to better serve their users?
This is how the web was created: one guy with talent, a few good
ideas, and the ability to innovate. Firewalls are important,
and we do respect the right of anybody to protecting themselves
any way they want (as long as others are not inconvenienced).
Firewalls work, and have a place in the Internet. However, Firewalls
are built to protect from external threats, not internal ones.
Our proposed protocol does not break the security model of the
Firewall; it still protects against all external risks that a
particular Firewall can protect against. For our protocol to
work someone inside the Firewall must run an application level
protocol that can access TCP port 80. Our concept allows a consistent
level of security while bypassing the IT manager in charge of
the Firewall. We offer freedom to innovate without additionally
compromising external security, and the best part, no need to
waste time involving any managers for approval. We got this idea
from the increasing number of applications that use HTTP specifically
because it can bypass Firewall barriers. This piecemeal deployment
of specific applications is not an efficient way to meet the
challenge to innovation created by Firewalls. We decided to develop
a process by which TCP/IP itself is carried over HTTP.


With this innovation anyone can use any new TCP/IP application
immediately without having to go through the laborious process
of dealing with Firewall access for the particular application.
An unintended byproduct of this proposal is that existing TCP/IP
applications can also be supported to better serve the users.
With FEP, the users can decide what applications they can run.
Our protocol is simple and is partly based on the Eastlake [3]
proposal for MIME encoding of IP packets. We use the ubiquitous
HTTP protocol format. The IP datagram is carried in the message
body of the HTTP message and the TCP packet header information
is encoded into HTTP headers of the message. This ASCII encoding
of the header fields has many advantages, including human readability,
increasing the debuggability of new applications, and easy logging
of packet information. If this becomes widely adopted, tools
like tcpdump will become obsolete.


3.0 FEP Protocol


Figure 1 shows a high level view of our protocol. The application
(1) in host A (outside the Firewall) sends a TCP/IP datagram
to host B (within the firewall). Using a tunnel interface the
TCP/IP datagram is routed to our FEP software (2), which encodes
the datagram within a HTTP message. Then this message is sent
via a HTTP/TCP/IP tunnel (3) to host B on the normal HTTP port
(4). When it arrives at host B, this packet is routed via the
tunnel to the FEP software (5), which decodes the packet and
creates a TCP/IP datagram to insert into host's B protocol stack
(6). This packet is routed to the application on host B (7),
as if the Firewall (8) never existed.


host A host B

---------- ----------

| App | (1) | App | (7)

|----------| |----------|

| TCP | | TCP |

|----------| |----------|

| IP | | IP | (6)

|----------| |----------|

| FEP dvr | (2) | FEP dvr | (5)

|----------| |----------|

| TCP | | TCP |

|----------| |----------|

| IP | Firewall (8) | IP |

---------- --- -----------

| (3) | | ^ (4)

+---------------->| |-----------------------+

| |

| |

---


Figure 1


3.1 HTTP Method


FEP allows either side to look like a client or server. Each
TCP/IP packet is sent as either a HTTP GET request or a response
to a GET request. This flexibility work well with firewalls that
try to verify valid HTTP commands crossing the Firewall stopping
the unwanted intercepting of FEP packets. 3.2 TCP Header Encapsulation:
The TCP/IP packet is encoded into the HTTP command in two (or
optionally three) steps. First, the IP packet is encoded as the
message body in MIME format, as specified in [3]. Next, the TCP
[4] packet header is parsed and encoded into new HTTP headers.
Finally, as an option, the IP header can also be encoded into
new optional HTTP headers. Encoding the TCP and optionally the
IP header is strictly for human readability, since the entire
IP datagram is encoded in the body part of the HTTP command.
This proposal defines the following new HTTP headers for representing
TCP header information. TCP_value_opt - This ASCII string represents
the encoding type for the TCP fields where a mandatory encoding
type is not specified. The legitimate values are:


TCP_binary - ASCII representation of the binary representation
of the value of the field.

TCP_hexed - ASCII representation of the hex representation of
the value of the field.

TCP_Sport - The 16-bit TCP Source Port number, encoded as an
ASCII string representing the value of port number.

TCP_Dport - The 16-bit TCP Destination Port number, encoded as
an ASCII string representing the value of the port number.

TCP_SeqNum - The 32-bit Sequence Number, encoded as an ASCII
string representing the hex value of the Sequence number. This
field MUST be sent as lower case because it is not urgent.

TCP_Ackl - The 32-bit Acknowledgement Number, encoded as ASCII
string representing the value of the Acknowledgement number.

TCP_DODO - The 4-bit Data Offset value, encoded as an ASCII string
representing the base 32 value of the actual length of TCP header
in bits. (Normally this is the Data value times 32.)

TCP_6Os - The 6 reserved bits, encoded as a string of 6 ASCII
characters. A "O" ("Oh") represents an "Off"
bit and "O" ("Oh") represents an "On"
bit. (Note these characters MUST all be sent as "off"
and MUST be ignored on receipt.)

TCP_FlgBts - The TCP Flags, encoded as the set of 5 comma-separated
ASCII strings: [{URG|urg}, {ACK|ack}, {PSH|psh}, {RST|rst}, {SYN|syn},
{FIN|fin}]. Capital letters imply the flag is set, lowercase
means the flag is not set.

TCP_Windex - The 16-bit TCP Window Size, encoded as an ASCII
string representing the value of the number of bytes in the window.

TCP_Checkit - The 16-bit TCP Checksum field, encoded as an ASCII
string representing the decimal value of the ones-complement
of the checksum field.

TCP_UP - The 16-bit TCP Urgent Pointer, encoded as the hex representation
of the value of the field. The hex string MUST be capitalized
since it is urgent.

TCP_Opp_Lst - A comma-separated list of any TCP options that
may be present. Each option is encoded as an ASCII string representing
the name of the option followed by option-specific information
enclosed in square brackets. Representative options and their
encoding follow, other IP options follow the same form: End of
Options option: ["End of Options"] Window scale option:
["Window scale", shift_count], where shift_count is
the window scaling factor represented as the ASCII string in
decimal.


3.2 IPv4 Header Encapsulation:


This proposal defines the following new HTTP headers for representing
IPv4 header information: These optional headers are used to encode
the IPv4 [5] header for better readability. These fields are
encoded in a manner similar to the above TCP header fields. Since
the base IP packet is already present in an HTTP header, the
following headers are optional. None, some or all of them may
be used depending on the whim of the programmer.


IP_value_opt - This ASCII string represents the encoding type
for the following fields where a mandatory encoding type is not
specified. The legitimate values are the same as for TCP_value_opt.

IP_Ver - The IP Version number, encoded as an UTF-8 string. The
legitimate values for the string are "four", "five",
and "six." The encapsulation of the fields in the IP
header are defined in this section if the value is "four",
and in section 3.3 if the value is "six". Encapsulations
for headers with IP_Ver value of "five" will be developed
if the right orders are received. Encapsulations for headers
with the IP_Ver value of "eight" are empty. Implementations
MUST be able to support arbitrary native languages for these
strings.

IP4_Hlen - The IP Internet Header Length field, it is encoded
in the same way as TCP_DODO. IP4_Type_of_Service (this name is
case sensitive) - This is an obsolete name for a field in the
IPv4 header, which has been replaced with IP_$$ and IP_CU.

IP_$$ - The 6-bit Differentiated Services field, encapsulated
as an UTF-8 string representing the name of the DS codepoint
in the field.

IP_CU - The 2-bit field that was the two low-order bits of the
TOS field. Since this field is currently being used for experiments
it has to be coded in the most general way possible, thus it
is encoded as two ASCII strings of the form "bit0=X"
and "bit1=X," where "X" is "on"
or "off." Note that bit 0 is the MSB.

IP4_Total - The 16-bit Total Length field, encoded as an ASCII
string representing the value of the field.

IP4_SSN - The IP Identification field, encoded as an ASCII string
representing the value of the field.

IP4_Flags - The IP Flags, encoded as the set of 3 comma separated
ASCII strings: [{"Must Be Zero"}, {"May Fragment"|"Don't
Fragment"}, {"Last Fragment"|"More Fragments"}]

IP4_Frager - The 13-bit Fragment Offset field, encoded as an
ASCII string representing the value of the field.

IP4_TTL - The 8-bit Time-to-Live field, encoded as an UTF-8 string
of the form "X hops to destruction." Where "X"
is the decimal value -1 of the field. Implementations MUST be
able to support arbitrary languages for this string.

IP4_Proto - The 8-bit Protocol field, encoded as an UTF-8 string
representing the common name for the protocol whose header follows
the IP header.

IP4_Checkit - The 16-bit Checksum field, encoded in the same
way as TCP_Checkit.

IP4_Apparent_Source - The 32-bit Source Address field. For user
friendliness this is encoded as an UTF-8 string representing
the domain name of the apparent sender of the packet. An alternate
form, to be used when the domain name itself might be blocked
by a firewall programmed to protect the innocence of the corporate
users, is an ASCII string representing the dotted quad form of
the IPv4 address.

IP4_Dest_Addr - The 32-bit Destination Address field, encoded
in the same way as is IP4_Apparent_Source.

IP4_Opp_Lst - A comma-separated list of all IPv4 options that
are present. Each option is encoded as an ASCII string representing
the name of the option followed by option-specific information
enclosed in square brackets. Representative options and their
encoding follow, other IP options follow the same form: End of
Options option: ["End of Options"] Loose Source Routing
option: ["Loose Source Routing", length, pointer, IP4_addr1,
IP4_addr2, ...], where length and pointer are ASCII strings representing
the value of those fields.


3.3 IPv6 Header Encapsulation:


This proposal defines the following new HTTP headers for representing
IPv6 header information: These optional headers encode the IPv6
[5] header for better readability. These fields are encoded in
a manner similar to the above TCP header fields. Since the base
IP packet is already present in an HTTP header the following
headers are optional. None, some or all of them may be used depending
on the whim of the programmer. At this time only the base IPv6
header is supported. If there is sufficient interest, support
will be developed for IPv6 extension headers.


IP_$$ - the 6-bit Differentiated Services field - see above

IP_CU - the 2-bit unused field - see above

IP6_Go_with_the_Flow - The 20-bit Flow Label field. Since this
field is not currently in use it should be encoded as the UTF-8
string "do not care".

IP6_PayLd - The 16-bit Payload Length field, encoded as an ASCII
string representing the value of the field. The use of FEP with
IPv6 jumbograms is not recommended.

IP6_NxtHdr - The 8-bit Next Header field, encoded in the same
way as IP4_Proto.

IP6_Hopping - The 8-bit Hop Limit field, encoded in the same
way as IP4_TTL.

IP6_Apparent_Source - The 128-bit Source Address field. For user
friendliness, this is encoded as an UTF-8 string representing
the domain name of the apparent sender of the packet. An alternate
form, to be used when the domain name itself might be blocked
by a Firewall programmed to protect the innocence of the corporate
users, is an ASCII string representing any one of the legitimate
forms of representing an IPv6 address.

IP6_Dest_Addr - The 128-bit Destination Address field, encoded
the same way as IP6_Apparent_Source.


3.4 TCP Header Compression


Compressing TCP headers in the face of a protocol such as
this one that explodes the size of packets is silly, so we ignore
it.


4.0 Security Considerations


Since this protocol deals with Firewalls there are no real
security considerations.


5.0 Acknowledgements


We wish to thank the many Firewall vendors who have supported
our work to re-enable the innovation that made the Internet great,
without giving up the cellophane fig leaf of security that a
Firewall provides.


6.0 Authors' Addresses


Mark Gaynor

Harvard University

Cambridge MA 02138

EMail gaynor@eecs.harvard.edu


Scott Bradner

Harvard University

Cambridge MA 02138

Phone +1 617 495 3864

EMail sob@harvard.edu


References

[1] Carpenter, B., "Internet Transparency", RFC 2775,
February 2000.

[2] Saltzer, J., Reed, D., and D. Clark, "End-to-End Arguments
in System Design". 2nd International Conference on Distributed

Systems, Paris, France, April 1981.

[3] Eastlake, D., "IP over MIME", Work in Progress.

[4] Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD
7, RFC 793, September 1981.

[5] Postel, J., "Internet Protocol", STD 5, RFC 791,
September 1981.

[6] Clark, D. and M. Blumenthal, "Rethinking the Design
of the

Internet: The end-to-end argument vs. the brave new world".
2000.


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Acknowledgement


Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided
by the Internet Society.




, Mike




Please note that this blog accepts comments via email only. See our Mission And Policy Statement for further details.


Thanks to Robert for this insiteful and eye-opening comment!


Hi,

Thanks for the articles, especially the jokes! I find myself visiting frequently (usually via links from Linux Today).

But RFC 3093 isn't very funny - it may be better termed sarcasm than humor! The magic transparent path through the firewall, another gift from M$, is what we call SOAP. Here is a very short article on the subject:

http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid26_gci214295,00.html

I draw your attention to this paragraph:

"An advantage of SOAP is that program calls are much more likely to get through firewall servers that screen out requests other than those for known applications (through the designated port mechanism). Since HTTP requests are usually allowed through firewalls, programs using SOAP to communicate can be sure that they can communicate with programs anywhere."

And although the article only mentions 'communication', SOAP is all about remote code execution.

We lose sight of these truths while laughing.

Thanks again,

Robert

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