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Security Mechanisms for the Internet (RFC3631)

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000021010D
Original Publication Date: 2003-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Dec-17
Document File: 21 page(s) / 47K

Publishing Venue

Internet Society Requests For Comment (RFCs)

Related People

S. Bellovin: AUTHOR [+6]

Abstract

Security must be built into Internet Protocols for those protocols to offer their services securely. Many security problems can be traced to improper implementations. However, even a proper implementation will have security problems if the fundamental protocol is itself exploitable. Exactly how security should be implemented in a protocol will vary, because of the structure of the protocol itself. However, there are many protocols for which standard Internet security mechanisms, already developed, may be applicable. The precise one that is appropriate in any given situation can vary. We review a number of different choices, explaining the properties of each.

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Network Working Group S. Bellovin, Ed.

Request for Comments: 3631 J. Schiller, Ed.

Category: Informational C. Kaufman, Ed.

Internet Architecture Board

December 2003

Security Mechanisms for the Internet

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.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2003). All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

Security must be built into Internet Protocols for those protocols to

offer their services securely. Many security problems can be traced

to improper implementations. However, even a proper implementation

will have security problems if the fundamental protocol is itself

exploitable. Exactly how security should be implemented in a

protocol will vary, because of the structure of the protocol itself.

However, there are many protocols for which standard Internet

security mechanisms, already developed, may be applicable. The

precise one that is appropriate in any given situation can vary. We

review a number of different choices, explaining the properties of

each.

1. Introduction

Internet Security compromises can be divided into several classes,

ranging from Denial of Service to Host Compromise. Denial of Service

attacks based on sheer volume of traffic are beyond the scope of this

document, though they are the subject of much ongoing discussion and

research. It is important to note that many such attacks are made

more difficult by good security practices. Host Compromise (most

commonly caused by undetected Buffer Overflows) represent flaws in

individual implementations rather than flaws in protocols.

Nevertheless, carefully designed protocols can make such flaws less

likely to occur and harder to exploit.

Bellovin, et al. Informational [Page 1]

RFC 3631 Security Mechanisms for the Internet December 2003

However, there are security compromises that are facilitated by the

very protocols that are in use on the Internet. If a security

problem is inherent in a protocol, no manner of implementation will

be able to prevent the problem.

It is therefore vitally important that protocols developed for the

Internet provide this fundamental security.

Exactly how a protocol should be secured depends on the protocol

itself as well as the security needs of the protocol. However, we

have developed a number of standard security mechanisms in the IETF.

In many cases appropriate application of these mechanisms can provide

the necessary security for a protocol.

A number of possible mechanisms can be used to provide security on

the Internet. Which one should be selected depends on many different

factors. We attempt here to provide guidance, spelling out the

factors and the currently-standardized (or about-to-be-standardized)

solutions, as discussed at the IAB Security Architecture Workshop

[RFC2316].

Security, however, is an art, not a science. Attempting to follow a

recipe blindly can lead to disaster. As always...