Internet Engineering Task Force S. Fluhrer
Internet-Draft D. McGrew
Intended status: Informational P. Kampanakis
Expires: October 21, 2017 Cisco Systems
April 19, 2017

Postquantum Preshared Keys for IKEv2


The possibility of quantum computers pose a serious challenge to cryptography algorithms widely today. IKEv2 is one example of a cryptosystem that could be broken; someone storing VPN communications today could decrypt them at a later time when a quantum computer is available. It is anticipated that IKEv2 will be extended to support quantum secure key exchange algorithms; however that is not likely to happen in the near term. To address this problem before then, this document describes an extension of IKEv2 to allow it to be resistant to a Quantum Computer, by using preshared keys.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on October 21, 2017.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (c) 2017 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the document authors. All rights reserved.

This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal Provisions Relating to IETF Documents ( in effect on the date of publication of this document. Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect to this document. Code Components extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

It is an open question whether or not it is feasible to build a quantum computer (and if so, when might one be implemented), but if it is, many of the cryptographic algorithms and protocols currently in use would be insecure. A quantum computer would be able to solve DH and ECDH problems, and this would imply that the security of existing IKEv2 systems would be compromised. IKEv1 when used with strong preshared keys is not vulnerable to quantum attacks, because those keys are one of the inputs to the key derivation function. If the preshared key has sufficient entropy and the PRF, encryption and authentication transforms are postquantum secure, then the resulting system is believed to be quantum resistant, that is, believed to be invulnerable to an attacker with a Quantum Computer.

This document describes a way to extend IKEv2 to have a similar property; assuming that the two end systems share a long secret key, then the resulting exchange is quantum resistant. By bringing postquantum security to IKEv2, this note removes the need to use an obsolete version of the Internet Key Exchange in order to achieve that security goal.

The general idea is that we add an additional secret that is shared between the initiator and the responder; this secret is in addition to the authentication method that is already provided within IKEv2. We stir in this secret into the SK_d value, which is used to generate the key material (KEYMAT) keys and the SKEYSEED for the child SAs; this secret provides quantum resistance to the IPsec SAs (and any child IKE SAs). We also stir in the secret into the SK_pi, SK_pr values; this allows both sides to detect a secret mismatch cleanly.

It was considered important to minimize the changes to IKEv2. The existing mechanisms to do authentication and key exchange remain in place (that is, we continue to do (EC)DH, and potentially a PKI authentication if configured). This does not replace the authentication checks that the protocol does; instead, it is done as a parallel check.

1.1. Changes

Changes in this draft from the previous versions


- Modified how we stir the PPK into the IKEv2 secret state

- Modified how the use of PPKs is negotiated


- Simplified the protocol by stirring in the preshared key into the child SAs; this avoids the problem of having the responder decide which preshared key to use (as it knows the initiator identity at that point); it does mean that someone with a Quantum Computer can recover the initial IKE negotation.

- Removed positive endorsements of various algorithms. Retained warnings about algorithms known to be weak against a Quantum Computer


- Added explicit guidance as to what IKE and IPsec algorithms are Quantum Resistant


- We switched from using vendor ID's to transmit the additional data to notifications

- We added a mandatory cookie exchange to allow the server to communicate to the client before the initial exchange

- We added algorithm agility by having the server tell the client what algorithm to use in the cookie exchange

- We have the server specify the PPK Indicator Input, which allows the server to make a trade-off between the efficiency for the search of the clients PPK, and the anonymity of the client.

- We now use the negotiated PRF (rather than a fixed HMAC-SHA256) to transform the nonces during the KDF

1.2. Requirements Language

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 [RFC2119].

2. Assumptions

We assume that each IKE peer has a list of Postquantum Preshared Keys (PPK) along with their identifiers (PPK_id), and any potential IKE initiator has a selection of which PPK to use with with any specific responder. In addition, the implementation has a configurable flag that determines whether this postquantum preshared key is mandatory. This PPK is independent of the preshared key (if any) that the IKEv2 protocol uses to perform authentication.

3. Exchanges

If the initiator is configured to use a postquantum preshared key with the responder (whether or not the use of the PPK is optional), then it will include a notify payload in the initial exchange as follows:

Initiator                       Responder
HDR, SAi1, KEi, Ni, N(PPK_SUPPORT)  --->

N(PPK_SUPPORT) is a status notification payload with the type [TBA]; it has a protocol ID of 0, and no SPI and no notification data associated with it.

If the initiator needs to resend this initial message with a cookie (because the responder response included a cookie notification), then the resend would include the PPK_SUPPORT notification if the original message did.

When the responder receives this initial exchange with the notify, then it MUST check if has a PPK configured. If it does, it MUST reply with the IKE initial exchange including a notification in response.

Initiator                       Responder
                <--- HDR, SAr1, KEr, Nr, [CERTREQ], N(PPK_SUPPORT)

If the responder does not have a PPK configured, then it continues with the IKE protocol as normal, not including the notify.

When the initiator receives this reply, it checks whether the responder included the PPK_SUPPORT notify. If the responder did not, then the initiator MUST either proceed with the standard IKE negotiation (without using a PPK), or abort the exchange (for example, because the initiator has the PPK marked as mandatory). If the responder did include the PPK_SUPPORT notify, then it selects a PPK, along with its identifier PPK_id. Then, it computes this modification of the standard IKE key derivation:

 SKEYSEED = prf(Ni | Nr, g^ir)
 {SK_d' | SK_ai | SK_ar | SK_ei | SK_er | SK_pi' | SK_pr' )
                 = prf+ (SKEYSEED, Ni | Nr | SPIi | SPIr }
 SK_d = prf(PPK, SK_d')
 SK_pi = prf(PPK, SK_pi')
 SK_pr = prf(PPK, SK_pr')

That is, we use the standard IKE key derivation process except that the three subkeys SK_d, SK_pi, SK_pr are run through the prf again, this time using the PPK as the key.

The initiator then sends the initial encrypted message, including the PPK_id value as follows:

Initiator                       Responder
    [IDr,] AUTH, SAi2,
    TSi, TSr, N(PPK_IDENTITY)(PPK_id)}  --->

N(PPK_IDENITY) is a status notification payload with the type [TBA]; it has a protocol ID of 0, and no SPI and has a notification data that consists of the identifier PPK_id.

When the responder receives this encrypted exchange, it first computes the values:

 SKEYSEED = prf(Ni | Nr, g^ir)
 {SK_d' | SK_ai | SK_ar | SK_ei | SK_er | SK_pi' | SK_pr' }
                 = prf+ (SKEYSEED, Ni | Nr | SPIi | SPIr )

It then uses the SK_ei value to decrypt the message; and then finds the PPK_id value attached to the notify. It then scans through the payload for the PPK_id attached to the N(PPK_IDENTITY); if it has no such PPK, it fails the negotiation. If it does have a PPK with that identity, it further computes:

 SK_d = prf(PPK, SK_d')
 SK_pi = prf(PPK, SK_pi')
 SK_pr = prf(PPK, SK_pr')

And computes the enchange (validating the AUTH payload that the initiator included) as standard.

This table summarizes the above logic by the responder

Received PPK_SUPPORT  Have PPK   PPK Mandatory    Action  
     No                  No          *            Standard IKE protocol
     No                 Yes         No            Standard IKE protocol
     No                 Yes        Yes            Abort negotiation
    Yes                  No          *            Standard IKE protocol
    Yes                 Yes          *            Include PPK_SUPPORT

When the initiator receives the response, then (if it is configured to use a PPK with the responder), then it checks for the presense of the notification. If it receives one, it marks the SA as using the configured PPK to generate SK_d, SK_pi, SK_pr (as shown above); if it does not receive one, it MUST either abort the exchange (if the PPK was configured as mandatory), or it MUST continue without using the PPK (if the PPK was configured as optional).

If the initial exchange had PPK_SUPPORT sent by both the initiator and the responder, and the initiator does not include a PPK_NOTIFY notification, then the responder SHOULD fail the exchange.

With this protocol, the computed SK_d is a function of the PPK, and assuming that the PPK has sufficient entropy (for example, at least 2**256 possible values), then even if an attacker were able to recover the rest of the inputs to the prf function, it would be infeasible to use Grover's algorithm with a Quantum Computer to recover the SK_d value. Similarly, every child SA key is a function of SK_d, hence all the keys for all the child SAs are also quantum resistant (assuming that the PPK was high entropy and secret, and that all the subkeys are sufficiently long). However, this quantum resistance does not extend to the initial SK_ei, SK_er keys; an implementation MAY rekey the initial IKE SA immediately after negotiating it; this would reduce the amount of data available to an attacker with a Quantum Computer.

4. PPK ID format

This standard requires that both the initiator and the responder have a secret PPK value, with the responder selecting the PPK based on the PPK_ID that the initiator sends. In this initial standard, both the initator and the responder are configured with fixed PPK and PPK_ID values, and do the look up based on that. It is anticipated that later standards will extend this technique to allow dynamically changing PPK values. To facilitate such an extension, we specify that the PPK_ID that the initiator sends will have its first octet be the PPK ID Type value, which is encoded as follows:

    PPK ID Type               Value

    PPK_ID_OPAQUE             0
    PPK_ID_FIXED              1
    RESERVED TO IANA          2-127
    Reserved for private use  128-255

For PPK_ID_OPAQUE, the format of the PPK ID (and the PPK itself) is not specified by this document; it is assumed to be mutually intelligible by both by initiator and the responder. This PPK ID type is intended for those implementations that choose not to disclose the type of PPK to active attackers.

For PPK_ID_FIXED, the format of the PPK ID and the PPK are fixed octet strings; the remaining bytes of the PPK_ID are a configured value. We assume that there is a fixed mapping between PPK_ID and PPK, which is configured locally to both the initiator and the responder. The responder can use to do a look up the passed PPK_id value to determine the corresponding PPK value. Not all implementations are able to configure arbitrary octet strings; to improve the potential interoperability, it is recommended that, in the PPK_ID_FIXED case, both the PPK and the PPK_ID strings be limited to the base64 character set, namely the 64 characters 0-9, A-Z, a-z, + and /.

The PPK ID type values 2-127 are reserved for IANA; values 128-255 are for private use among mutually consenting parties.

5. PPK Distribution

PPK_id's of the type PPK_ID_FIXED (and the corresponding PPKs) are assumed to be configured within the IKE device in an out-of-band fashion. While the method of distribution is a local matter, one suggestion would be to reuse the format within [RFC6030], with the Key Id field being the PPK_ID (without the 0x01 prefix for a PPK_ID_FIXED), and with the PPK being the secret, and the algorithm as PIN ("Algorithm=urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:keyprov:pskc:pin").

6. Upgrade procedure

This algorithm was designed so that someone can introduce PPKs into an existing IKE network without causing network disruption.

In the initial phase of the network upgrade, the network administrator would visit each IKE node, and configure:

- The set of PPKs (and corresponding PPK_id's) that this node would need to know

- For each peer that this node would initiate to, which PPK that we would use

- That the use of PPK is currently optional

With this configuration, the node will continue to operate with nodes that have not yet been upgraded. This is due to the PPK_SUPPORT notify; if the initiator has not been upgraded, it will not send the PPK_SUPPORT notify (and so the responder will know that we will not use a PPK); if the responder has not been upgraded, it will not send the PPK_SUPPORT notify (and so the initiator will know not to use a PPK). And, if both peers have been upgraded, they will both realize it, and in that case, the link will be quantum secure

As an optional second step, after all nodes have been upgraded, then the administrator may then go back through the nodes, and mark the use of PPK as mandatory. This will not affect the strength against a passive attacker; it would mean that an attacker with a Quantum Computer (which is sufficiently fast to be able to break the (EC)DH in real time would not be able to perform a downgrade attack).

7. Security Considerations

Quantum computers are able to perform Grover's algorithm; that effectively halves the size of a symmetric key. Because of this, the user SHOULD ensure that the postquantum preshared key used has at least 256 bits of entropy, in order to provide a 128 bit security level.

Although this protocol preserves all the security properties of IKE against adversaries with conventional computers, this protocol allows an adversary with a Quantum Computer to decrypt all traffic encrypted with the initial IKE SA. In particular, it allows the adversary to recover the identities of both sides. If there is IKE traffic other than the identities that need to be protected against such an adversary, one suggestion would be to form an initial IKE SA (which is used to exchange identities), perhaps by using the protocol documented in RFC6023. Then, you would immediately create a child IKE SA (which is used to exchange everything else). Because the child IKE SA keys are a function of SK_d, which is a function of the PPK (among other things), traffic protected by that SA is secure against Quantum capable adversaries.

In addition, the policy SHOULD be set to negotiate only quantum-resistant symmetric algorithms; while this RFC doesn't claim to give advise as to what algorithms are secure (as that may change based on future cryptographical results), here is a list of defined IKEv2 and IPsec algorithms that should NOT be used, as they are known not to be Quantum Resistant

Any IKE Encryption algorithm, PRF or Integrity algorithm with key size <256 bits

Any ESP Transform with key size <256 bits

PRF_AES128_XCBC and PRF_AES128_CBC; even though they are defined to be able to use an arbitrary key size, they convert it into a 128 bit key internally

8. References

8.1. Normative References

[RFC2104] Krawczyk, H., Bellare, M. and R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed-Hashing for Message Authentication", RFC 2104, DOI 10.17487/RFC2104, February 1997.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997.
[RFC7296] Kaufman, C., Hoffman, P., Nir, Y., Eronen, P. and T. Kivinen, "Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2 (IKEv2)", STD 79, RFC 7296, DOI 10.17487/RFC7296, October 2014.

8.2. Informational References

[RFC6023] Nir, Y., Tschofenig, H., Deng, H. and R. Singh, "A Childless Initiation of the Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2) Security Association (SA)", RFC 6023, DOI 10.17487/RFC6023, October 2010.
[RFC6030] Hoyer, P., Pei, M. and S. Machani, "Portable Symmetric Key Container (PSKC)", RFC 6030, DOI 10.17487/RFC6030, October 2010.
[SPDP] McGrew, D., "A Secure Peer Discovery Protocol (SPDP)", 2001.

Appendix A. Discussion and Rationale

The idea behind this is that while a Quantum Computer can easily reconstruct the shared secret of an (EC)DH exchange, they cannot as easily recover a secret from a symmetric exchange this makes the SK_d, and hence the IPsec KEYMAT and any child SA's SKEYSEED, depend on both the symmetric PPK, and also the Diffie-Hellman exchange. If we assume that the attacker knows everything except the PPK during the key exchange, and there are 2**n plausible PPK's, then a Quantum Computer (using Grover's algorithm) would take O(2**(n/2)) time to recover the PPK. So, even if the (EC)DH can be trivially solved, the attacker still can't recover any key material (except for the SK_ei, SK_er, SK_ai, SK_ar values for the initial IKE exchange) unless they can find the PPK, and that's too difficult if the PPK has enough entropy (for example, 256 bits). Note that we do allow an attacker with a Quantum Computer to rederive the keying material for the initial IKE SA; this was a compromise to allow the responder to select the correct PPK quickly.

Another goal of this protocol is to minimize the number of changes within the IKEv2 protocol, and in particular, within the cryptography of IKEv2. By limiting our changes to notifications, and translating the nonces, it is hoped that this would be implementable, even on systems that perform much of the IKEv2 processing is in hardware.

A third goal was to be friendly to incremental deployment in operational networks, for which we might not want to have a global shared key, and also if we're rolling this out incrementally. This is why we specifically try to allow the PPK to be dependent on the peer, and why we allow the PPK to be configured as optional.

A fourth goal was to avoid violating any of the security goals of IKEv2.

Appendix B. Acknowledgement

We would like to thank Tero Kivine, Valery Smyslov, Paul Wouters and the rest of the ipsecme working group for their feedback and suggestions for the scheme

Authors' Addresses

Scott Fluhrer Cisco Systems EMail:
David McGrew Cisco Systems EMail:
Panos Kampanakis Cisco Systems EMail: