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RFC 3257 - Stream Control Transmission Protocol Applicability St

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Network Working Group                                           L. Coene
Request for Comments: 3257                                       Siemens
Category: Informational                                       April 2002

      Stream Control Transmission Protocol Applicability Statement

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 (2002).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document describes the applicability of the Stream Control
   Transmission Protocol (SCTP).  It also contrasts SCTP with the two
   dominant transport protocols, User Datagram Protocol (UDP) &
   Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), and gives some guidelines for
   when best to use SCTP and when not best to use SCTP.

Table of contents

   1. Introduction ..................................................  2
   1.1 Terminology ..................................................  2
   2 Transport protocols ............................................  2
   2.1 TCP service model ............................................  2
   2.2 SCTP service model ...........................................  3
   2.3 UDP service model ............................................  4
   3 SCTP Multihoming issues ........................................  4
   4 SCTP Network Address Translators (NAT) issues [RFC2663] ........  5
   5 Security Considerations ........................................  6
   5.1 Security issues with TCP .....................................  6
   5.2 Security issues with SCTP ....................................  7
   5.3 Security issues with both TCP and SCTP .......................  8
   6 References and related work ....................................  9
   7 Acknowledgments ................................................ 10
   Appendix A: Major functions provided by SCTP ..................... 11
   Editor's Address ................................................. 12
   Full Copyright Statement ......................................... 13

1 Introduction

   SCTP is a reliable transport protocol [RFC2960], which along with TCP
   [RFC793], RTP [RFC1889], and UDP [RFC768], provides transport-layer
   services for upper layer protocols and services.  UDP, RTP, TCP, and
   SCTP are currently the IETF standards-track transport-layer
   protocols.  Each protocol has a domain of applicability and services
   it provides, albeit with some overlaps.

   By clarifying the situations where the functionality of these
   protocols are applicable, this document can guide implementers and
   protocol designers in selecting which protocol to use.

   Special attention is given to services SCTP provides which would make
   a decision to use SCTP the right one.

   Major functions provided by SCTP can be found in Appendix A.

1.1 Terminology

   The following terms are commonly identified in this work:

   Association: SCTP connection between two endpoints.

   Transport address: A combination of IP address and SCTP port number.

   Upper layer: The user of the SCTP protocol, which may be an
   adaptation layer, a session layer protocol, or the user application

   Multihoming: Assigning more than one IP network interface to a single

2 Transport protocols

2.1 TCP service model

   TCP is a connection-oriented (a.k.a., session-oriented) transport
   protocol.  This means that it requires both the establishment of a
   connection prior to the exchange of application data and a connection
   tear-down to release system resources after the completion of data

   TCP is currently the most widely used connection-oriented transport
   protocol for the Internet.

   TCP provides the upper layer with the following transport services:

   - data reliability;

   - data sequence preservation; and

   - flow and congestion control.

2.2 SCTP service model

   SCTP is also connection-oriented and provides all the transport
   services that TCP provides.  Many Internet applications therefore
   should find that either TCP or SCTP will meet their transport
   requirements.  Note, for applications conscious about processing
   cost, there might be a difference in processing cost associated with
   running SCTP with only a single ordered stream and one address pair
   in comparison to running TCP.

   However, SCTP has some additional capabilities that TCP lacks and
   This can make SCTP a better choice for some applications and

   - multi-streams support:

   SCTP supports the delivery of multiple independent user message
   streams within a single SCTP association.  This capability, when
   properly used, can alleviate the so-called head-of-line-blocking
   problem caused by the strict sequence delivery constraint imposed to
   the user data by TCP.

   This can be particularly useful for applications that need to
   exchange multiple, logically separate message streams between two

   - multi-homing support:

   SCTP provides transparent support for communications between two
   endpoints of which one or both is multi-homed.

   SCTP provides monitoring of the reachability of the addresses on the
   remote endpoint and in the case of failure can transparently failover
   from the primary address to an alternate address, without upper layer

   This capability can be used to build redundant paths between two SCTP
   endpoints and can be particularly useful for applications that seek
   transport-level fault tolerance.

   Achieving path redundancy between two SCTP endpoints normally
   requires that the two endpoints being equipped with multiple
   interfaces assigned with multiple addresses and that routing is
   configured appropriately (see Section 3).

   - preservation of message boundaries:

   SCTP preserves application messages boundaries.  This is useful when
   the application data is not a continuous byte stream but comes in
   logical chunks that the receiver handles separately.

   In contrast, TCP offers a reliable data stream that has no indication
   of what an application may consider logical chunks of the data.

   - unordered reliable message delivery:

   SCTP supports the transportation of user messages that have no
   application-specified order, yet need guaranteed reliable delivery.

   Applications that need to send un-ordered reliable messages or prefer
   using their own message sequencing and ordering mechanisms may find
   this SCTP capability useful.

2.3 UDP Service model

   UDP is connectionless.  This means that applications that use UDP do
   not need to perform connection establishment or tear-down.

   As transport services to its upper layer, UDP provides only:

   - best-effort data delivery, and

   - preservation of message boundaries.

   Applications that do not require a reliable transfer of more than a
   packet's worth of data will find UDP adequate.  Some transaction-
   based applications fall into this category.

3 SCTP Multihoming Issues

   SCTP provides transport-layer support for multihoming.  Multihoming
   has the potential of providing additional robustness against network
   failures.  In some applications, this may be extremely important, for
   example, in signaling transport of PSTN signaling messages [RFC2719].

   It should be noted that SCTP multihoming support only deals with
   communication between two endpoints of which one or both is assigned
   with multiple IP addresses on possibly multiple network interfaces.
   It does NOT deal with communication ends that contain multiple
   endpoints (i.e., clustered endpoints) that can switch over to an
   alternate endpoint in case of failure of the original endpoint.

   Generally, for truly fault resilient communication between two end-
   points, the multihoming feature needs more than one IP network
   interface for each endpoint.  The number of paths used is the minimum
   of network interfaces used by any of the endpoints.  When an endpoint
   selects its source address, careful consideration must be taken.  If
   the same source address is always used, then it is possible that the
   endpoint will be subject to the same single point of failure.  When
   the endpoint chooses a source address, it should always select the
   source address of the packet to correspond to the IP address of the
   Network interface where the packet will be emitted subject to the
   binding address constraint.  The binding address constraint is, put
   simply, that the endpoint must never choose a source address that is
   not part of the association i.e., the peer endpoint must recognize
   any source address used as being part of the association.

   The availability of the association will benefit greatly from having
   multiple addresses bound to the association endpoint when the
   endpoint is on a multi-homed host.

4 SCTP Network Address Translators (NAT) issues [RFC2663]

   When two endpoints are to setup an SCTP association and one (or both)
   of them is behind a NAT (i.e., it does not have any publicly
   available network addresses), the endpoint(s) behind the NAT should
   consider one of the following options:

   (1) When single homed sessions are to be used, no transport addresses
   should be sent in the INIT or INIT ACK chunk(Refer to section 3.3 of
   RFC2960 for chunk definitions).  This will force the endpoint that
   receives this initiation message to use the source address in the IP
   header as the only destination address for this association.  This
   method can be used for a NAT, but any multi-homing configuration at
   the endpoint that is behind the NAT will not be visible to its peer,
   and thus not be taken advantage of.  See figure 1.

      +-------+  +---------+      *~~~~~~~~~~*           +------+
      |Host A |  |   NAT   |     *   Cloud    *          |Host B|
      | 10.2  +--|10.1|2.1 |----|--------------|---------+ 1.2  |
      |       |  |    |    |     *            *          |      |
      +-------+  +---------+      *~~~~~~~~~~*           +------+

               Fig 1: SCTP through NAT without multihoming

   For multihoming the NAT must have a public IP address for each
   represented internal IP address.  The host can preconfigure an IP
   address that the NAT can substitute, or, the NAT can have internal
   Application Layer Gateway (ALG) which will intelligently translate
   the IP addresses in the INIT and INIT ACK chunks.  See Figure 2.

   If Network Address Port Translation is used with a multihomed SCTP
   endpoint, then any port translation must be applied on a per-
   association basis such that an SCTP endpoint continues to receive the
   same port number for all messages within a given association.

      +-------+   +----------+      *~~~~~~~~~~*           +------+
      |Host A |   |    NAT   |     *   Cloud    *          |Host B|
      | 10.2  +---+ 10.1|5.2 +-----+ 1.1<+->3.1--+---------+ 1.2  |
      | 11.2  +---+ 11.1|6.2 |     |     +->4.2--+---------+ 2.2  |
      |       |   |          |      *           *          |      |
      +-------+   +----------+       *~~~~~~~~~*           +------+

                Fig 2: SCTP through NAT with multihoming

   (2) Another alternative is to use the hostname feature and DNS to
   resolve the addresses.  The hostname is included in the INIT of the
   association or in the INIT ACK.  The hostname must be resolved by DNS
   before the association is completely set up.  There are special
   issues regarding NAT and DNS, refer to RFC2694 for details.

5 Security Considerations

   In this section, some relevant security issues found in the
   deployment of the connection-oriented transport protocols will be

5.1 Security issues with TCP

   Some TCP implementations have been known to be vulnerable to blind
   denial of service attacks, i.e., attacks that had been executed by an
   attacker that could not see most of the traffic to or from the target

   The attacker would send a large number of connection establishment
   requests (TCP-SYN packets) to the attacked target, possibly from
   faked IP source addresses.  The attacked host would reply by sending
   SYN-ACK packets and entering SYN-received state, thereby allocating
   space for a TCB.  At some point the SYN-queue would fill up, (i.e.,
   the number of connections waiting to be established would rise to a
   limit) and the host under attack would have to start turning down new
   connection establishment requests.

   TCP implementations with SYN-cookies algorithm [SYN-COOK] reduce the
   risk of such blind denial of service attacks.  TCP implementations
   can switch to using this algorithm in times when their SYN-queues are
   filled up while still fully conforming to the TCP specification
   [RFC793].  However, use of options such as a window scale [RFC1323],
   is not possible, then.  With the SYN-cookie mechanism, a TCB is only
   created when the client sends back a valid ACK packet to the server,
   and the 3-way handshake has thus been successfully completed.

   Blind connection forgery is another potential threat to TCP.  By
   guessing valid sequence numbers, an attacker would be able to forge a
   connection.  However, with a secure hashsum algorithm, for some of
   the current SYN-cookie implementations the likelihood of achieving
   this attack is on the order of magnitude of 1 in 2^24, i.e., the
   attacker would have to send 2^24 packets before obtaining one forged
   connection when SYN-cookies are used.

5.2 Security issues with SCTP

   SCTP has been designed with the experiences made with TCP in mind.
   To make it hard for blind attackers (i.e., attackers that are not
   man-in-the-middle) to inject forged SCTP datagrams into existing
   associations, each side of an SCTP association uses a 32 bit value
   called "Verification Tag" to ensure that a datagram really belongs to
   the existing association.  So in addition to a combination of source
   and destination transport addresses that belong to an established
   association, a valid SCTP datagram must also have the correct tag to
   be accepted by the recipient.

   Unlike in TCP, usage of cookie in association establishment is made
   mandatory in SCTP.  For the server, a new association is fully
   established after three messages (containing INIT, INIT-ACK, COOKIE-
   ECHO chunks) have been exchanged.  The cookie is a variable length
   parameter that contains all relevant data to initialize the TCB on
   the server side, plus a HMAC used to secure it.  This HMAC (MD5 as
   per [RFC1321] or SHA-1 [SHA1]) is computed over the cookie and a
   secret, server-owned key.

   As specifically prescribed for SCTP implementations [RFC2960],
   additional resources for new associations may only be reserved in
   case a valid COOKIE-ECHO chunk is received by a client, and the
   computed HMAC for this new cookie matches that contained in the

   With SCTP the chances of an attacker being able to blindly forge a
   connection are even lower than in the case of TCP using SYN-cookies,
   since the attacker would have to guess a correct value for the HMAC
   contained in the cookie, i.e., lower than 1 in 2^128 which for all
   practical purposes is negligible.

   It should be noted that SCTP only tries to increase the availability
   of a network.  SCTP does not contain any protocol mechanisms that are
   directly related to user message authentication, integrity and
   confidentiality functions.  For such features, it depends on the
   IPsec protocols and architecture and/or on security features of the
   application protocols.

   Transport Layer security(TLS)[RFC2246] using SCTP must always use
   in-order streams.

   Currently the IPSEC working group is investigating the support of
   multi-homing by IPSEC protocols.  At the present time to use IPSEC,
   one must use 2 * N * M security associations if one endpoint uses N
   addresses and the other M addresses.

5.3 Security Issues with both TCP and SCTP

   It is important to note that neither TCP nor SCTP protect itself from
   man-in-the-middle attacks where an established session might be
   hijacked (assuming the attacker can see the traffic from and inject
   its own packets to either endpoints).

   Also, to prevent blind connection/session setup forgery, both TCP
   implementations supporting SYN-cookies and SCTP implementations rely
   on a server-known, secret key to protect the HMAC data.  It must be
   ensured that this key is created subject to the recommendations
   mentioned in [RFC1750].

   Although SCTP has been designed carefully as to avoid some of the
   problems that have appeared with TCP, it has as of yet not been
   widely deployed.  It is therefore possible that new security issues
   will be identified that will have to be addressed in further
   revisions of [RFC2960].

6 References and related work

   [RFC2960]   Stewart, R., Xie, Q., Morneault, K., Sharp, C.,
               Schwarzbauer, H., Taylor, T., Rytina, I., Kalla, M.,
               Zhang, L. and V. Paxson, "Stream Control Transmission
               Protocol", RFC 2960, October 2000.

   [RFC2401]   Kent, S. and R. Atkinson, "Security Architecture for the
               Internet Protocol", RFC 2401, November 1998.

   [RFC2663]   Srisuresh, P. and M. Holdrege, "IP Network Address
               Translator (NAT) Terminology and Considerations", RFC
               2663, August 1999.

   [RFC2694]   Srisuresh, P., Tsirtsis, G., Akkiraju, P. and A.
               Heffernan, "DNS extensions to Network Address Translators
               (DNS_ALG)", RFC 2694, September 1999.

   [RFC768]    Postel, J., "User Datagram Protocol", STD 6, RFC 768,
               August 1980.

   [RFC793]    Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7, RFC
               793, September 1981.

   [RFC2719]   Ong, L., Rytina, I., Garcia, M., Schwarzbauer, H., Coene,
               L., Lin, H., Juhasz, I., Holdrege, M. and C. Sharp,
               "Architectural Framework for Signaling Transport", RFC
               2719, October 1999.

   [RFC1321]   Rivest, R., "The MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm", RFC 1321,
               April 1992.

   [RFC1323]   Jacobson, V., Braden, R. and D. Borman, "TCP Extensions
               for High Performance", RFC 1323, May 1992.

   [RFC1750]   Eastlake, D., Crocker, S. and J. Schiller, "Randomness
               Recommendations for Security", RFC 1750, December 1994.

   [SHA1]      NIST FIPS PUB 180-1, "Secure Hash Standard," National
               Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of
               Commerce, April 1995.

   [SYNCOOK]   Dan J. Bernstein, SYN cookies, 1997, see also

   [RFC2246]   Dierks, T. and C. Allen, "The TLS Protocol Version 1.0",
               RFC 2246, January 1999.

   [RFC1889]   Schulzrinne, H., Casner, S., Frederick, R. and V.
               Jacobson, "RTP: A Transport Protocol for Real-Time
               Applications", RFC 1889, January 1996.

7 Acknowledgments

   This document was initially developed by a design team consisting of
   Lode Coene, John Loughney, Michel Tuexen, Randall R. Stewart,
   Qiaobing Xie, Matt Holdrege, Maria-Carmen Belinchon, Andreas
   Jungmaier, Gery Verwimp and Lyndon Ong.

   The authors wish to thank Renee Revis, I. Rytina, H.J. Schwarzbauer,
   J.P. Martin-Flatin, T. Taylor, G. Sidebottom, K. Morneault, T.
   George, M. Stillman, N. Makinae, S. Bradner, A. Mankin, G. Camarillo,
   H. Schulzrinne, R. Kantola, J. Rosenberg, R.J. Atkinson, and many
   others for their invaluable comments.

Appendix A: Major functions provided by SCTP

   - Reliable Data Transfer

   - Multiple streams to help avoid head-of-line blocking

   - Ordered and unordered data delivery on a per-stream basis

   - Bundling and fragmentation of user data

   - TCP friendly Congestion and flow control

   - Support continuous monitoring of reachability

   - Graceful termination of association

   - Support of multi-homing for added reliability

   - Some protection against blind denial-of-service attacks

   - Some protection against blind masquerade attacks

8  Editor's Address

   Lode Coene
   Siemens Atea
   Atealaan 34
   B-2200 Herentals

   Phone: +32-14-252081
   EMail: lode.coene@siemens.atea.be

9.  Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2002).  All Rights Reserved.

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   The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
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   This document and the information contained herein is provided on an


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


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