|Title||The Use of HMAC-SHA-1-96 within ESP and AH
|Author||C. Madson, R. Glenn
Network Working Group C. Madson
Request for Comments: 2404 Cisco Systems Inc.
Category: Standards Track R. Glenn
The Use of HMAC-SHA-1-96 within ESP and AH
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.
This memo describes the use of the HMAC algorithm [RFC-2104] in
conjunction with the SHA-1 algorithm [FIPS-180-1] as an
authentication mechanism within the revised IPSEC Encapsulating
Security Payload [ESP] and the revised IPSEC Authentication Header
[AH]. HMAC with SHA-1 provides data origin authentication and
Further information on the other components necessary for ESP and AH
implementations is provided by [Thayer97a].
This memo specifies the use of SHA-1 [FIPS-180-1] combined with HMAC
[RFC-2104] as a keyed authentication mechanism within the context of
the Encapsulating Security Payload and the Authentication Header.
The goal of HMAC-SHA-1-96 is to ensure that the packet is authentic
and cannot be modified in transit.
HMAC is a secret key authentication algorithm. Data integrity and
data origin authentication as provided by HMAC are dependent upon the
scope of the distribution of the secret key. If only the source and
destination know the HMAC key, this provides both data origin
authentication and data integrity for packets sent between the two
parties; if the HMAC is correct, this proves that it must have been
added by the source.
In this memo, HMAC-SHA-1-96 is used within the context of ESP and AH.
For further information on how the various pieces of ESP - including
the confidentiality mechanism -- fit together to provide security
services, refer to [ESP] and [Thayer97a]. For further information on
AH, refer to [AH] and [Thayer97a].
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. Algorithm and Mode
[FIPS-180-1] describes the underlying SHA-1 algorithm, while [RFC-
2104] describes the HMAC algorithm. The HMAC algorithm provides a
framework for inserting various hashing algorithms such as SHA-1.
HMAC-SHA-1-96 operates on 64-byte blocks of data. Padding
requirements are specified in [FIPS-180-1] and are part of the SHA-1
algorithm. If you build SHA-1 according to [FIPS-180-1] you do not
need to add any additional padding as far as HMAC-SHA-1-96 is
concerned. With regard to "implicit packet padding" as defined in
[AH] no implicit packet padding is required.
HMAC-SHA-1-96 produces a 160-bit authenticator value. This 160-bit
value can be truncated as described in RFC2104. For use with either
ESP or AH, a truncated value using the first 96 bits MUST be
supported. Upon sending, the truncated value is stored within the
authenticator field. Upon receipt, the entire 160-bit value is
computed and the first 96 bits are compared to the value stored in
the authenticator field. No other authenticator value lengths are
supported by HMAC-SHA-1-96.
The length of 96 bits was selected because it is the default
authenticator length as specified in [AH] and meets the security
requirements described in [RFC-2104].
[Bellare96a] states that "(HMAC) performance is essentially that of
the underlying hash function". As of this writing no detailed
performance analysis has been done of SHA-1, HMAC or HMAC combined
[RFC-2104] outlines an implementation modification which can improve
per-packet performance without affecting interoperability.
3. Keying Material
HMAC-SHA-1-96 is a secret key algorithm. While no fixed key length is
specified in [RFC-2104], for use with either ESP or AH a fixed key
length of 160-bits MUST be supported. Key lengths other than 160-
bits MUST NOT be supported (i.e. only 160-bit keys are to be used by
HMAC-SHA-1-96). A key length of 160-bits was chosen based on the
recommendations in [RFC-2104] (i.e. key lengths less than the
authenticator length decrease security strength and keys longer than
the authenticator length do not significantly increase security
[RFC-2104] discusses requirements for key material, which includes a
discussion on requirements for strong randomness. A strong pseudo-
random function MUST be used to generate the required 160-bit key.
At the time of this writing there are no specified weak keys for use
with HMAC. This does not mean to imply that weak keys do not exist.
If, at some point, a set of weak keys for HMAC are identified, the
use of these weak keys must be rejected followed by a request for
replacement keys or a newly negotiated Security Association.
[ARCH] describes the general mechanism for obtaining keying material
when multiple keys are required for a single SA (e.g. when an ESP SA
requires a key for confidentiality and a key for authentication).
In order to provide data origin authentication, the key distribution
mechanism must ensure that unique keys are allocated and that they
are distributed only to the parties participating in the
[RFC-2104] makes the following recommendation with regard to
rekeying. Current attacks do not indicate a specific recommended
frequency for key changes as these attacks are practically
infeasible. However, periodic key refreshment is a fundamental
security practice that helps against potential weaknesses of the
function and keys, reduces the information avaliable to a
cryptanalyst, and limits the damage of an exposed key.
4. Interaction with the ESP Cipher Mechanism
As of this writing, there are no known issues which preclude the use
of the HMAC-SHA-1-96 algorithm with any specific cipher algorithm.
5. Security Considerations
The security provided by HMAC-SHA-1-96 is based upon the strength of
HMAC, and to a lesser degree, the strength of SHA-1. At the time of
this writing there are no practical cryptographic attacks against
[RFC-2104] states that for "minimally reasonable hash functions" the
"birthday attack" is impractical. For a 64-byte block hash such as
HMAC-SHA-1-96, an attack involving the successful processing of 2**80
blocks would be infeasible unless it were discovered that the
underlying hash had collisions after processing 2**30 blocks. A hash
with such weak collision-resistance characteristics would generally
be considered to be unusable.
It is also important to consider that while SHA-1 was never developed
to be used as a keyed hash algorithm, HMAC had that criteria from the
[RFC-2104] also discusses the potential additional security which is
provided by the truncation of the resulting hash. Specifications
which include HMAC are strongly encouraged to perform this hash
As [RFC-2104] provides a framework for incorporating various hash
algorithms with HMAC, it is possible to replace SHA-1 with other
algorithms such as MD5. [RFC-2104] contains a detailed discussion on
the strengths and weaknesses of HMAC algorithms.
As is true with any cryptographic algorithm, part of its strength
lies in the correctness of the algorithm implementation, the security
of the key management mechanism and its implementation, the strength
of the associated secret key, and upon the correctness of the
implementation in all of the participating systems. [RFC-2202]
contains test vectors and example code to assist in verifying the
correctness of HMAC-SHA-1-96 code.
This document is derived in part from previous works by Jim Hughes,
those people that worked with Jim on the combined DES/CBC+HMAC-MD5
ESP transforms, the ANX bakeoff participants, and the members of the
IPsec working group.
We would also like to thank Hugo Krawczyk for his comments and
recommendations regarding some of the cryptographic specific text in
[FIPS-180-1] NIST, FIPS PUB 180-1: Secure Hash Standard,
[RFC-2104] Krawczyk, H., Bellare, M. and R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed-
Hashing for Message Authentication", RFC 2104, February
[Bellare96a] Bellare, M., Canetti, R., and H. Krawczyk, "Keying Hash
Functions for Message Authentication", Advances in
Cryptography, Crypto96 Proceeding, June 1996.
[ARCH] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "Security Architecture for
the Internet Protocol", RFC 2401, November 1998.
[ESP] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "IP Encapsulating Security
Payload", RFC 2406, November 1998.
[AH] Kent, S., and R. Atkinson, "IP Authentication Header",
RFC 2402, November 1998.
[Thayer97a] Thayer, R., Doraswamy, N., and R. Glenn, "IP Security
Document Roadmap", RFC 2411, November 1998.
[RFC-2202] Cheng, P., and R. Glenn, "Test Cases for HMAC-MD5 and
HMAC-SHA-1", RFC 2202, March 1997.
[RFC-2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
8. Editors' Address
Cisco Systems, Inc.
The IPsec working group can be contacted through the chairs:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
9. Full Copyright Statement
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.
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