Internet-Draft Unprotected CWT Claims Sets March 2021
Birkholz, et al. Expires 9 September 2021 [Page]
RATS Working Group
Intended Status:
Standards Track
H. Birkholz
Fraunhofer SIT
J. O'Donoghue
Qualcomm Technologies Inc.
N. Cam-Winget
Cisco Systems
C. Bormann
Universitaet Bremen TZI

A CBOR Tag for Unprotected CWT Claims Sets


CBOR Web Token (CWT, RFC 8392) Claims Sets sometimes do not need the protection afforded by wrapping them into COSE, as is required for a true CWT. This specification defines a CBOR tag for such unprotected CWT Claims Sets (UCCS) and discusses conditions for its proper use.

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 9 September 2021.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

A CBOR Web Token (CWT) as specified by [RFC8392] is always wrapped in a CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE, [RFC8152]) envelope. COSE provides -- amongst other things -- the integrity protection mandated by RFC 8392 and optional encryption for CWTs. Under the right circumstances, though, a signature providing proof for authenticity and integrity can be provided through the transfer protocol and thus omitted from the information in a CWT without compromising the intended goal of authenticity and integrity. If a mutually Secured Channel is established between two remote peers, and if that Secure Channel provides the required properties (as discussed below), it is possible to omit the protection provided by COSE, creating a use case for unprotected CWT Claims Sets. Similarly, if there is one-way authentication, the party that did not authenticate may be in a position to send authentication information through this channel that allows the already authenticated party to authenticate the other party.

This specification allocates a CBOR tag to mark Unprotected CWT Claims Sets (UCCS) as such and discusses conditions for its proper use in the scope of Remote ATtestation procedureS (RATS) and the conveyance of Evidence from an Attester to a Verifier.

This specification does not change [RFC8392]: A true CWT does not make use of the tag allocated here; the UCCS tag is an alternative to using COSE protection and a CWT tag. Consequently, in a well-defined scope, it might be acceptable to use the contents of a CWT without its COSE container and tag it with a UCCS CBOR tag for further processing -- or to use the contents of a UCCS CBOR tag for building a CWT to be signed by some entity that can vouch for those contents.

1.1. Terminology

The term Claim is used as in [RFC8725].

The terms Claim Key, Claim Value, and CWT Claims Set are used as in [RFC8392].

The terms Attester, Attesting Environment and Verifier are used as in [I-D.ietf-rats-architecture].


Unprotected CWT Claims Set(s); CBOR map(s) of Claims as defined by the CWT Claims Registry that are composed of pairs of Claim Keys and Claim Values.

Secure Channel:

A protected communication channel between two peers that can ensure the same qualities associated for UCCS conveyance as CWT conveyance without any additional protection.

All terms referenced or defined in this section are capitalized in the remainder of this document.

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

2. Motivation and Requirements

Use cases involving the conveyance of Claims, in particular, remote attestation procedures (RATS, see [I-D.ietf-rats-architecture]) require a standardized data definition and encoding format that can be transferred and transported using different communication channels. As these are Claims, [RFC8392] is a suitable format. However, the way these Claims are secured depends on the deployment, the security capabilities of the device, as well as their software stack. For example, a Claim may be securely stored and conveyed using a device's Trusted Execution Environment (TEE, see [I-D.ietf-teep-architecture]) or especially in some resource constrained environments, the same process that provides the secure communication transport is also the delegate to compose the Claim to be conveyed. Whether it is a transfer or transport, a Secure Channel is presumed to be used for conveying such UCCS. The following sections further describe the RATS usage scenario and corresponding requirements for UCCS deployment.

3. Characteristics of a Secure Channel

A Secure Channel for the conveyance of UCCS needs to provide the security properties that would otherwise be provided by COSE for a CWT. In this regard, UCCS is similar in security considerations to JWTs [RFC8725] using the algorithm "none". RFC 8725 states: "if a JWT is cryptographically protected end-to-end by a transport layer, such as TLS using cryptographically current algorithms, there may be no need to apply another layer of cryptographic protections to the JWT. In such cases, the use of the "none" algorithm can be perfectly acceptable.". Analogously, the considerations discussed in Sections 2.1, 3.1, and 3.2 of RFC 8725 apply to the use of UCCS as elaborated on in this document.

Secure Channels are often set up in a handshake protocol that mutually derives a session key, where the handshake protocol establishes the authenticity of one of both ends of the communication. The session key can then be used to provide confidentiality and integrity of the transfer of information inside the Secure Channel. A well-known example of a such a Secure Channel setup protocol is the TLS [RFC8446] handshake; the TLS record protocol can then be used for secure conveyance.

As UCCS were initially created for use in Remote ATtestation procedureS (RATS) Secure Channels, the following subsection provides a discussion of their use in these channels. Where other environments are intended to be used to convey UCCS, similar considerations need to be documented before UCCS can be used.

3.1. UCCS and Remote ATtestation procedureS (RATS)

For the purposes of this section, the Verifier is the receiver of the UCCS and the Attester is the provider of the UCCS.

Secure Channels can be transient in nature. For the purposes of this specification, the mechanisms used to establish a Secure Channel are out of scope.

As a minimum requirement in the scope of RATS Claims, the Verifier MUST authenticate the Attester as part of the establishment of the Secure Channel. Furthermore, the channel MUST provide integrity of the communication from the Attester to the Verifier. If confidentiality is also required, the receiving side needs to be be authenticated as well, i.e., the Verifier and the Attester SHOULD mutually authenticate when establishing the Secure Channel.

The extent to which a Secure Channel can provide assurances that UCCS originate from a trustworthy attesting environment depends on the characteristics of both the cryptographic mechanisms used to establish the channel and the characteristics of the attesting environment itself.

A Secure Channel established or maintained using weak cryptography may not provide the assurance required by a relying party of the authenticity and integrity of the UCCS.

Ultimately, it is up to the Verifier's policy to determine whether to accept a UCCS from the Attester and to the type of Secure Channel it must negotiate. While the security considerations of the cryptographic algorithms used are similar to COSE, the considerations of the secure channel should also adhere to the policy configured at each of the Attester and the Verifier. However, the policy controls and definitions are out of scope for this document.

Where the security assurance required of an attesting environment by a relying party requires it, the attesting environment may be implemented using techniques designed to provide enhanced protection from an attacker wishing to tamper with or forge UCCS. A possible approach might be to implement the attesting environment in a hardened environment such as a TEE [I-D.ietf-teep-architecture] or a TPM [TPM2].

When UCCS emerge from the Secure Channel and into the Verifier, the security properties of the Secure Channel no longer apply and UCCS have the same properties as any other unprotected data in the Verifier environment. If the Verifier subsequently forwards UCCS, they are treated as though they originated within the Verifier.

As with EATs nested in other EATs (Section of [I-D.ietf-rats-eat]), the Secure Channel does not endorse fully formed CWTs transferred through it. Effectively, the COSE envelope of a CWT shields the CWT Claims Set from the endorsement of the Secure Channel. (Note that EAT might add a nested UCCS Claim, and this statement does not apply to UCCS nested into UCCS, only to fully formed CWTs)

3.2. Privacy Preserving Channels

A Secure Channel which preserves the privacy of the Attester may provide security properties equivalent to COSE, but only inside the life-span of the session established. In general, a Verifier cannot correlate UCCS received in different sessions from the same attesting environment based on the cryptographic mechanisms used when a privacy preserving Secure Channel is employed.

In the case of a Remote Attestation, the attester must consider whether any UCCS it returns over a privacy preserving Secure Channel compromises the privacy in unacceptable ways. As an example, the use of the EAT UEID [I-D.ietf-rats-eat] Claim in UCCS over a privacy preserving Secure Channel allows a verifier to correlate UCCS from a single attesting environment across many Secure Channel sessions. This may be acceptable in some use-cases (e.g. if the attesting environment is a physical sensor in a factory) and unacceptable in others (e.g. if the attesting environment is a device belonging to a child).

4. IANA Considerations

In the registry [IANA.cbor-tags], IANA is requested to allocate the tag in Table 1 from the FCFS space, with the present document as the specification reference.

Table 1: Values for Tags
Tag Data Item Semantics
TBD601 map Unprotected CWT Claims Set [RFCthis]

5. Security Considerations

The security considerations of [RFC7049] and [RFC8392] apply.

Section 3 discusses security considerations for Secure Channels, in which UCCS might be used. This documents provides the CBOR tag definition for UCCS and a discussion on security consideration for the use of UCCS in Remote ATtestation procedureS (RATS). Uses of UCCS outside the scope of RATS are not covered by this document. The UCCS specification - and the use of the UCCS CBOR tag, correspondingly - is not intended for use in a scope where a scope-specific security consideration discussion has not been conducted, vetted and approved for that use.

5.1. General Considerations

Implementations of Secure Channels are often separate from the application logic that has security requirements on them. Similar security considerations to those described in [I-D.ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-struct] for obtaining the required levels of assurance include:

  • Implementations need to provide sufficient protection for private or secret key material used to establish or protect the Secure Channel.
  • Using a key for more than one algorithm can leak information about the key and is not recommended.
  • An algorithm used to establish or protect the Secure Channel may have limits on the number of times that a key can be used without leaking information about the key.

The Verifier needs to ensure that the management of key material used establish or protect the Secure Channel is acceptable. This may include factors such as:

  • Ensuring that any permissions associated with key ownership are respected in the establishment of the Secure Channel.
  • Cryptographic algorithms are used appropriately.
  • Key material is used in accordance with any usage restrictions such as freshness or algorithm restrictions.
  • Ensuring that appropriate protections are in place to address potential traffic analysis attacks.


  • A given key should only be used for messages of fixed or known length.
  • Different keys should be used for authentication and encryption operations.
  • A mechanism to ensure that IV cannot be modified is required.

[I-D.ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-algs], Section 3.2.1 contains a detailed explanation of these considerations.

5.3. AES-GCM

  • The key and nonce pair are unique for every encrypted message.
  • The maximum number of messages to be encrypted for a given key is not exceeded.

[I-D.ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-algs], Section 4.1.1 contains a detailed explanation of these considerations.

5.4. AES-CCM

  • The key and nonce pair are unique for every encrypted message.
  • The maximum number of messages to be encrypted for a given block cipher is not exceeded.
  • The number of messages both successfully and unsuccessfully decrypted is used to determine when rekeying is required.

[I-D.ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-algs], Section 4.2.1 constains a detailed explanation of these considerations.

5.5. ChaCha20 and Poly1305

  • The nonce is unique for every encrypted message.
  • The number of messages both successfully and unsuccessfully decrypted is used to determine when rekeying is required.

[I-D.ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-algs], Section 4.3.1 contains a detailed explanation of these considerations.

6. References

6.1. Normative References

IANA, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR) Tags", <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Bormann, C. and P. Hoffman, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)", RFC 7049, DOI 10.17487/RFC7049, , <>.
Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE)", RFC 8152, DOI 10.17487/RFC8152, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Jones, M., Wahlstroem, E., Erdtman, S., and H. Tschofenig, "CBOR Web Token (CWT)", RFC 8392, DOI 10.17487/RFC8392, , <>.
Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.3", RFC 8446, DOI 10.17487/RFC8446, , <>.
Sheffer, Y., Hardt, D., and M. Jones, "JSON Web Token Best Current Practices", BCP 225, RFC 8725, DOI 10.17487/RFC8725, , <>.
"Trusted Platform Module Library Specification, Family "2.0", Level 00, Revision 01.59 ed., Trusted Computing Group", .

6.2. Informative References

Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE): Initial Algorithms", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-algs-12, , <>.
Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE): Structures and Process", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-cose-rfc8152bis-struct-15, , <>.
Birkholz, H., Thaler, D., Richardson, M., Smith, N., and W. Pan, "Remote Attestation Procedures Architecture", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-rats-architecture-10, , <>.
Mandyam, G., Lundblade, L., Ballesteros, M., and J. O'Donoghue, "The Entity Attestation Token (EAT)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-rats-eat-09, , <>.
Pei, M., Tschofenig, H., Thaler, D., and D. Wheeler, "Trusted Execution Environment Provisioning (TEEP) Architecture", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-teep-architecture-14, , <>.

Appendix A. Example

The example CWT Claims Set from Appendix A.1 of [RFC8392] can be turned into an UCCS by enclosing it with a tag number TBD601:

     / iss / 1: "coap://",
     / sub / 2: "erikw",
     / aud / 3: "coap://",
     / exp / 4: 1444064944,
     / nbf / 5: 1443944944,
     / iat / 6: 1443944944,
     / cti / 7: h'0b71'

Authors' Addresses

Henk Birkholz
Fraunhofer SIT
Rheinstrasse 75
64295 Darmstadt
Jeremy O'Donoghue
Qualcomm Technologies Inc.
279 Farnborough Road
GU14 7LS
United Kingdom
Nancy Cam-Winget
Cisco Systems
3550 Cisco Way
San Jose, CA 95134
United States of America
Carsten Bormann
Universitaet Bremen TZI
Bibliothekstrasse 1
28369 Bremen