BFD Generic Cryptographic Authentication

Bidirectional Forwarding Detection (BFD) specification includes five different types of authentication schemes: Simple Password, Keyed Message Digest 5 (MD5), Meticulous Keyed MD5, Keyed Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-1) and Meticulous SHA-1. In the simple password scheme of authentication, the passwords are exchanged in the clear text on the network and anyone with physical access to the network can learn the password and compromise the security of the BFD domain.

It was discovered that collisions can be found in MD5 algorithm in less than 24 hours, making MD5 insecure. Further research has verified this result and shown other ways to find collisions in MD5 hashes.

It should however be noted that these attacks may not necessarily result in direct vulnerabilities in Keyed-MD5 as used in BFD authentication purposes, because the colliding message may not necessarily be a syntactically correct protocol packet. However, there is a need felt to move away from MD5 towards more complex and difficult to break hash algorithms.

In Keyed SHA-1 and Meticulous SHA-1, the BFD routers share a secret key which is used to generate a keyed SHA-1 digest for each packet and a monotonically increasing sequence number scheme is used to prevent replay attacks.

Like MD5 there have been reports of attacks on SHA-1. Such attacks do not mean that all the protocols using SHA-1 for authentication are at risk. However, it does mean that SHA-1 should be replaced as soon as possible and should not be used for new applications.

However, if SHA-1 is used in the Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC) construction then collision attacks currently known against SHA-1 do not apply. The new attacks on SHA-1 have no impact on the security of HMAC-SHA-1.

I have written an IETF document that proposes two new authentication types – the cryptographic authentication and the meticulous cryptographic authentication . These can be used to specify any authentication algorithm for authenticating and verifying the BFD packets (aka key agility). In addition to this, this memo also explains how HMAC-SHA authentication can be used for BFD.

HMAC can be used, without modifying any hash function, for calculating and verifying the message authentication values. It verifies both the data integrity and the authenticity of a message.

By definition, HMAC requires a cryptographic hash function. We propose to use any one of SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-384 and SHA-512 for this purpose to authenticate the BFD packets.

I recently co-authored an IETF draft that does BFD’s security and authentication mechanism’s gap analysis for the KARP WG – that draft can be found here.


About Manav Bhatia

Manav Bhatia is a SDN/NFV dataplane architect at Ionos Networks and has co-authored several IETF standards on routing protocols, BFD, IPv6, security, etc. He is also a member of IETF Routing Area Directorate where he helps the Area Directors review the IETF standards for their impact on the Routing Area. View all posts by Manav Bhatia

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