CoAP is a RESTful transfer protocol for constrained nodes and networks. CoAP is based on datagram transport, which limits the maximum size of resource representations that can be transferred without too much fragmentation. The Block option provides a minimal way to transfer larger representations in a block-wise fashion.
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2. Block-wise transfers
2.1. The Block Option
2.2. Using the Block Option
4. IANA Considerations
5. Security Considerations
5.1. Mitigating Resource Exhaustion Attacks
5.2. Mitigating Amplification Attacks
7.1. Normative References
7.2. Informative References
§ Authors' Addresses
The CoRE WG is tasked with standardizing an Application Protocol for Constrained Networks/Nodes, CoAP. This protocol is intended to provide RESTful [REST] (Fielding, R., “Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures,” 2000.) services not unlike HTTP [RFC2616] (Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H., Masinter, L., Leach, P., and T. Berners-Lee, “Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1,” June 1999.), while reducing the complexity of implementation as well as the size of packets exchanged in order to make these services useful in a highly constrained network of themselves highly constrained nodes.
This objective requires restraint in a number of sometimes conflicting ways:
CoAP is based on datagram transports such as UDP, which limit the maximum size of resource representations that can be transferred without creating unreasonable levels of IP fragmentation. In addition, not all resource representations will fit into a single link layer packet of a constrained network, which may cause adaptation layer fragmentation even if IP layer fragmentation is not required. Using fragmentation (either at the adaptation layer or at the IP layer) to enable the transport of larger representations is possible up to the maximum size of the underlying datagram protocol (such as UDP), but the fragmentation/reassembly process loads the lower layers with conversation state that is better managed in the application layer.
This specification defines a CoAP option to enable block-wise access to resource representations. The Block option provides a minimal way to transfer larger resource representations in a block-wise fashion. The overriding objective is to avoid creating conversation state at the server for block-wise GET requests. (It is impossible to fully avoid creating conversation state for POST/PUT, if the creation/replacement of resources is to be atomic; where that property is not needed, there is no need to create server conversation state in this case, either.)
In summary, this specification adds a Block option to CoAP that can be used for block-wise transfers. Benefits of using this option include:
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, BCP 14 [RFC2119] (Bradner, S., “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels,” March 1997.) and indicate requirement levels for compliant CoAP implementations.
In this document, the term "byte" is used in its now customary sense as a synonym for "octet".
Where bit arithmetic is explained, this document uses the notation familiar from the programming language C, except that the operator "^" stands for exponentiation.
|13||C||Block||uint||1-3 B||0 (see below)|
Implementation of the Block option is intended to be optional. However, when it is present in a CoAP message, it MUST be processed (or the message rejected); therefore it is identified as a critical option.
The size of the blocks should not be fixed by the protocol. On the other hand, implementation should be as simple as possible. The Block option therefore supports a small range of power-of-two block sizes, from 2^4 (16) to 2^11 (2048) bytes. One of these eight values can be encoded in three bits (0 for 2^4 to 7 for 2^11 bytes), which we call the SZX (size exponent); the actual block size is then 1 << (SZX + 4).
When a representation is larger than can be comfortably transferred in a single UDP datagram, the Block option can be used to indicate a block-wise transfer. Block is a 1-, 2- or 3-byte integer, the four least significant bits of which indicate the size and whether the current block-wise transfer is the last block being transferred (M or "more" bit). The option value divided by sixteen is the number of the block currently being transferred, starting from zero, i.e., the current transfer is about the size bytes starting at byte block number << (SZX + 4). The default value of the Block Option is zero, indicating that the current block is the first (block number 0) and only (M bit not set) block of the transfer; however, there is no explicit size implied by this default value.
0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | NUM |M| SZX | +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ 0 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | NUM |M| SZX | +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ 0 1 2 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | NUM |M| SZX | +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| Figure 1: Block option |
(Note that, as an implementation convenience, the option value with the last 4 bits masked out, shifted to the left by the value of SZX, gives the byte position of the block.)
- Block Number. The block number is a variable-size (4, 12, or 20 bit) unsigned integer indicating the block number being requested or provided. Block number 0 indicates the first block of a representation.
- More Flag. This flag indicates if this block is the last in a representation when set. When not set it indicates that there are one or more blocks available. When the block option is used to retrieve a specific block number the M bit MUST be sent as zero and ignored on reception.
- Block Size. The block size is a three-bit unsigned integer indicating the size of a block to the power of two. Thus block size = 2^(SZX + 4). As there are three bits available for SZX, the minimum block size is 2^(0+4) = 16 and the maximum is 2^(7+4) = 2048.
The Block option is used in one of three roles:
Using the Block option, a single REST operation can be split into multiple CoAP message exchanges. Each of these message exchanges uses their own CoAP Message ID.
When a GET is answered with a response carrying a Block option with the M bit set, the requester may retrieve additional blocks of the resource representation by sending requests with a Block option giving the block number desired. In such a Block option, the M bit MUST be sent as zero and ignored on reception.
To influence the block size used in response to a GET request, the requester uses the Block option, giving the desired size, a block number of zero and an M bit of zero. A server SHOULD use the block size indicated or a smaller size. Any further block-wise requests for blocks beyond the first one MUST indicate the same block size that was used by the server in the response for the first one.
If the Block option is used by the requester, all GET requests in a single transfer MUST ultimately use the same size, except that there may not be enough content to fill the last block (the one returned with the M bit not set). The server SHOULD use the block size indicated in the request option or a smaller size, but the requester MUST take note of the actual block size used in the response it receives to its initial GET and proceed to use it in subsequent GETs; the server behavior MUST ensure that this client behavior results in the same block size for all responses in a sequence (except for the last one with the M bit not set).
Block-wise transfers can be used to GET resources the representations of which are entirely static (not changing over time at all, such as in a schema describing a device), or for dynamically changing resources. In the latter case, the Block option SHOULD be used in conjunction with the Etag option, to ensure that the blocks being reassembled are from the same version of the representation. When reassembling the representation from the blocks being exchanged, the reassembler MUST compare Etag options. If the Etag options do not match in a GET transfer, the requester has the option of attempting to retrieve fresh values for the blocks it retrieved first. To minimize the resulting inefficiency, the server MAY cache the current value of a representation for an ongoing sequence of requests, but there is no requirement for the server to establish any state. The client MAY facilitate identifying the sequence by using the Token option with a non-default value.
In a PUT or POST transfer, the Block option refers to the body in the request, i.e., there is no way to perform a block-wise retrieval of the body of the response. Servers that do need to supply large bodies in response to PUT/POST SHOULD therefore be employing mechanisms such as providing a location for a resource that can be used in a GET to obtain that information.
In a PUT or POST transfer that is intended to be implemented in an atomic fashion at the server, the actual creation/replacement takes place at the time the final block, i.e. a block with the M bit unset, is received. If not all previous blocks are available at the server at this time, the transfer fails and error code 4.08 (Request Entity Incomplete) MUST be returned. The error code 4.13 (Request Entity Too Large) can be returned at any time by a server that does not currently have the resources to store blocks for a block-wise PUT or POST transfer that it would intend to implement in an atomic fashion.
If multiple concurrently proceeding block-wise PUT or POST operations are possible, the requester SHOULD use the Token option to clearly separate the different sequences. In this case, when reassembling the representation from the blocks being exchanged to enable atomic processing, the reassembler MUST compare any Token options present (and, as usual, taking an absent Token option to default to the empty Token). If atomic processing is not desired, there is no need to process the Token option (but it is still returned in the response as usual).
This section gives a number of short examples with message flows for a block-wise GET, and for a PUT or POST. These examples demonstrate the basic operation, the operation in the presence of retransmissions, and examples for the operation of the block size negotiation.
In all these examples, a block option is shown in a decomposed way separating the block number (NUM), more bit (M), and block size exponent (2^(SZX+4)) by slashes. E.g., a block option value of 33 would be shown as 2/0/32, or a block option value of 59 would be shown as 3/1/128.
The first example (Figure 2 (Simple blockwise GET)) shows a GET request that is split into three blocks. The server proposes a block size of 128, and the client agrees. The first two ACKs contain 128 bytes of payload each, and third ACK contains between 1 and 128 bytes.
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], GET, /status ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.00 OK, 0/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 1/0/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.00 OK, 1/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1236], GET, /status, 2/0/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1236], 2.00 OK, 2/0/128 |
| Figure 2: Simple blockwise GET |
In the second example (Figure 3 (Blockwise GET with early negotiation)), the client anticipates the blockwise transfer (e.g., because of a size indication in the link-format description) and sends a size proposal. All ACK messages except for the last carry 64 bytes of payload; the last one carries between 1 and 64 bytes.
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], GET, /status, 0/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.00 OK, 0/1/64 | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 1/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.00 OK, 1/1/64 | : : : ... : : : | CON [MID=1238], GET, /status, 4/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1238], 2.00 OK, 4/1/64 | | | | CON [MID=1239], GET, /status, 5/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1239], 2.00 OK, 5/0/64 |
| Figure 3: Blockwise GET with early negotiation |
In the third example (Figure 4 (Blockwise GET with late negotiation)), the client is surprised by the need for a blockwise transfer, and unhappy with the size chosen unilaterally by the server. As it did not send a size proposal initially, the negotiation only influences the size from the second message exchange. Since the client already obtained both the first and second 64-byte block in the first 128-byte exchange, it goes on requesting the third 64-byte block. None of this is understood by the server, which simply responds to the requests as it best can.
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], GET, /status ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.00 OK, 0/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 2/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.00 OK, 2/1/64 | | | | CON [MID=1236], GET, /status, 3/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1236], 2.00 OK, 3/1/64 | | | | CON [MID=1237], GET, /status, 4/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1237], 2.00 OK, 4/1/64 | | | | CON [MID=1238], GET, /status, 5/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1238], 2.00 OK, 5/0/64 |
| Figure 4: Blockwise GET with late negotiation |
In all these (and the following) cases, retransmissions are handled by the CoAP message exchange layer, so they don't influence the block operations (Figure 5 (Blockwise GET with late negotiation and lost CON), Figure 6 (Blockwise GET with late negotiation and lost ACK)).
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], GET, /status ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.00 OK, 0/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], GE///////////////////////// | | | | (timeout) | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 2/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.00 OK, 2/1/64 | : : : ... : : : | CON [MID=1238], GET, /status, 5/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1238], 2.00 OK, 5/0/64 |
| Figure 5: Blockwise GET with late negotiation and lost CON |
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], GET, /status ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.00 OK, 0/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 2/0/64 ------> | | | | /////////////////////////////////OK, 2/1/64 | | | | (timeout) | | | | CON [MID=1235], GET, /status, 2/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.00 OK, 2/1/64 | : : : ... : : : | CON [MID=1238], GET, /status, 5/0/64 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1238], 2.00 OK, 5/0/64 |
| Figure 6: Blockwise GET with late negotiation and lost ACK |
The following examples demonstrate a PUT exchange; a POST exchange looks the same, with different requirements on atomicity/idempotence. To ensure that the blocks relate to the same version of the resource representation carried in the request, the client in Figure 7 (Simple atomic blockwise PUT) sets the Token to "v17" in all requests. Note that, as with the GET, the responses to the requests that have a more bit in the request block option are provisional; only the final response tells the client that the PUT succeeded.
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], PUT, /options, v17, 0/1/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.04 Changed, 0/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], PUT, /options, v17, 1/1/12 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.04 Changed, 1/1/128 | | | | CON [MID=1236], PUT, /options, v17, 2/0/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1236], 2.04 Changed, 2/0/128 |
| Figure 7: Simple atomic blockwise PUT |
A stateless server that simply builds/updates the resource in place (statelessly) may indicate this by not setting the more bit in the response (Figure 8 (Simple stateless blockwise PUT)); in this case, the response codes are valid separately for each block being updated. This is of course only an acceptable behavior of the server if the potential inconsistency present during the run of the message exchange sequence does not lead to problems, e.g. because the resource being created or changed is not yet or not currently in use.
CLIENT SERVER | | | CON [MID=1234], PUT, /options, v17, 0/1/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1234], 2.04 Changed, 0/0/128 | | | | CON [MID=1235], PUT, /options, v17, 1/1/12 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1235], 2.04 Changed, 1/0/128 | | | | CON [MID=1236], PUT, /options, v17, 2/0/128 ------> | | | | <------ ACK [MID=1236], 2.04 Changed, 2/0/128 |
| Figure 8: Simple stateless blockwise PUT |
This draft adds the following option number to the CoAP Option Numbers registry of [I‑D.ietf‑core‑coap] (Shelby, Z., Frank, B., and D. Sturek, “Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP),” October 2010.):
|13||Block||Section 2.1 (The Block Option)|
| Table 1: CoAP Option Numbers |
This draft adds the following response code to the CoAP Response Codes registry of [I‑D.ietf‑core‑coap] (Shelby, Z., Frank, B., and D. Sturek, “Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP),” October 2010.):
|136||4.08 Request Entity Incomplete||Section 2.1 (The Block Option)|
| Table 2: CoAP Response Codes |
Providing access to blocks within a resource may lead to surprising vulnerabilities. Where requests are not implemented atomically, an attacker may be able to exploit a race condition or confuse a server by inducing it to use a partially updated resource representation. Partial transfers may also make certain problematic data invisible to intrusion detection systems; it is RECOMMENDED that an intrusion detection system (IDS) that analyzes resource representations transferred by CoAP implement the Block option to gain access to entire resource representations. Still, approaches such as transferring even-numbered blocks on one path and odd-numbered blocks on another path, or even transferring blocks multiple times with different content and obtaining a different interpretation of temporal order at the IDS than at the server, may prevent an IDS from seeing the whole picture. These kinds of attacks are well understood from IP fragmentation and TCP segmentation; CoAP does not add fundamentally new considerations.
Where access to a resource is only granted to clients making use of a specific security association, all blocks of that resource MUST be subject to the same security checks; it MUST NOT be possible for unprotected exchanges to influence blocks of an otherwise protected resource. As a related consideration, where object security is employed, PUT/POST should be implemented in the atomic fashion, unless the object security operation is performed on each access and the creation of unusable resources can be tolerated.
Certain blockwise requests may induce the server to create state, e.g. to create a snapshot for the blockwise GET of a fast-changing resource to enable consistent access to the same version of a resource for all blocks, or to create temporary resource representations that are collected until pressed into service by a final PUT or POST with the more bit unset. All mechanisms that induce a server to create state that cannot simply be cleaned up create opportunities for denial-of-service attacks. Servers SHOULD avoid being subject to resource exhaustion based on state created by untrusted sources. But even if this is done, the mitigation may cause a denial-of-service to a legitimate request when it is drowned out by other state-creating requests. Wherever possible, servers should therefore minimize the opportunities to create state for untrusted sources, e.g. by using stateless approaches.
Performing segmentation at the application layer is almost always better in this respect than at the transport layer or lower (IP fragmentation, adaptation layer fragmentation), e.g. because there is application layer semantics that can be used for mitigation or because lower layers provide security associations that can prevent attacks. However, it is less common to apply timeouts and keepalive mechanisms at the application layer than at lower layers. Servers MAY want to clean up accreted state by timing it out (cf. response code 4.08), and clients SHOULD be prepared to run blockwise transfers in an expedient way to minimize the likelihood of running into such a timeout.
[I‑D.ietf‑core‑coap] (Shelby, Z., Frank, B., and D. Sturek, “Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP),” October 2010.) discusses the susceptibility of CoAP end-points for use in amplification attacks.
A CoAP server can reduce the amount of amplification it provides to an attacker by offering large resource representations only in relatively small blocks. With this, e.g., for a 1000 byte resource, a 10-byte request might result in an 80-byte response (with a 64-byte block) instead of a 1016-byte response, considerably reducing the amplification provided.
Much of the content of this draft is the result of discussions with the [I‑D.ietf‑core‑coap] (Shelby, Z., Frank, B., and D. Sturek, “Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP),” October 2010.) authors, and via many CoRE WG discussions. Tokens were suggested by Gilman Tolle and refined by Klaus Hartke.
|[I-D.ietf-core-coap]||Shelby, Z., Frank, B., and D. Sturek, “Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP),” draft-ietf-core-coap-03 (work in progress), October 2010 (TXT).|
|[RFC2119]||Bradner, S., “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels,” BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997 (TXT, HTML, XML).|
|[RFC2616]||Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H., Masinter, L., Leach, P., and T. Berners-Lee, “Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1,” RFC 2616, June 1999 (TXT, PS, PDF, HTML, XML).|
|[REST]||Fielding, R., “Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures,” 2000.|
|Zach Shelby (editor)|
|Universitaet Bremen TZI|