[I initially sent my feedback via private mail, but by good adivce,
was asked to also send it to the ietf-mailsig list.]
* There is definitely some duplication of effort going on with this draft
and with things like Meta-Signatures, <http://www.metasignatures.org/>.
The problem with differing digest/signing specs is implementators
have to deal with all these variants vs implementing a single
algorithm that can be applied to multiple applications.
I hope that NIH syndrome is not the main cause of having different
* Section 1.1
You mention a trusted third party is not required. However, is
should be allowable, and I do not see anything in this draft that
supports a trusted-third-party system. For example, the support
for X509 certificates of signing keys should be allowed.
* Section 3.2:
Is there any reason that tag=value syntax does follow the parameter=value
syntax defined in RFC-2045? I.e. Are implementors required to
implement another "tag" parsing scheme?
I can guess at the reasons for the variation you came up with, but
it may help to explicitly state why the scheme was adopted versus
leveraging existing (standard) schemes.
It may also be worth noting why something like RFC-2184 was not
Note, quoted-printable tends to have a bad (mostly undeserved)
reputation, so it may help to avoid using it, especially when its
use has never been applied to header data (at least to my knowledge).
* Section 3.3:
There is unnecessary information here, and information that can
lead to ambiguous implementations.
When it comes to cryptography, you should reference cryptographic
standard where appropriate since those standards are very explicit
on algorithms and processes. For example, you should explicitly
specify RSASSA-PKCS1-V1_5 signing and verification method must be
used (which is defined in PKCS#1).
Avoid "re-describing" algorithms unless you plan to use a custom
signing method that is not defined in the PKCS specs, or other
The term "native binary form" is ambiguous and riddled with problems.
From a cryptographic perspective, ASN.1 DER rules are used for
encoding all data, allowing for portability (another reason why
crypto specs should be referenced).
* Section 3.4:
- IMHO, the "nowsp" algorithm is questionable, especially from
a cryptographic perspective. You mention to ignore all SWSP
in the body. I think this leaves to too much unnecessay data
variation to still permit a valid signature verification.
I.e. "Hello World" is the same as "HelloWorld". Or do
I misunderstand the algorithm?
Here is the canonicalization algorithm I recommend (based upon
existing work -- OpenPGP and S/MIME -- and common misbehaviors
of mail software):
The canoncicalization process will be different for header
fields vs message bodies. First, let's use the following base
WSP = HTAB / SP
; white space character
HTAB = %x09
; horizontal tab
SP = %x20
LWSP = *(WSP / CRLF WSP)
; linear white space (past newline)
which are extracted from relevant RFCs.
For header fields, the following should suffice for canonicalization:
1. Strip all WSP characters at the end of each line of a header field,
before any unfolding is done.
2. Unfold any fields that are folded.
3. Convert multiple WSP characters into a single SP character.
4. Convert all WSP characters into SP characters.
(See Note below about step 4.)
5. Convert field names to lowercase.
6. Concatenate each field value together, inserting a CRLF sequence
between each field value (according to RFC-2822, the
CRLF is not considered part of the field).
NOTE: Step (4) may be ommitted, but I have encounted software that
refolds and changes some whitespace (e.g. spaces to tabs). Since
whitespace modification is definitely abhorent, you may not want
to entertain trying to deal with it.
For message bodies, I recommend the following canonicalization process:
1. All EOL sequences MUST be converted to CRLF (the canonical EOL
specified in RFC-2822).
2. All trailing WSP characters of each line of text MUST be removed.
3. All trailing LWSP characters at the end of the body MUST be removed.
If the digest will include the combination of header fields and
message body (or message body parts), a CRLF must be included
between each component during digest calculation.
From an implementation perspective, such canonicalization processing
can be done efficiently and be done stream based. I.e. As
the data is read, the canonicalization process can be done before
fed into the cryptographic digest procedures. Cryptographic
libraries (like openssl) support incremental digest computation,
so canonicalization data is very temporary and can be limited
to a well-defined buffer size in memory.
- I would add a comment that "simple" is not recommended since
failure rate can be high. Also, the current algorithm for it
violates semantics of RFC-2822. RFC-2822 states:
Each header field should be treated in its unfolded form for
further syntactic and semantic evaluation.
-- RFC-2822, Sec 2.2.3.
At a minimum, the "simple" algorithm should require unfolding
of header fields. If you choose not to require unfolding, you
should add a note about why this is done in violation of
From a performance perspective, I do not think "simple" buys
- I find it odd that the header field that will contain the
signature (DKIM-Signature) must also be included in the
Why isn't the signature data provided in its own separate
header field to avoid having to extract out the sig data
first and dealing with ambiguities of whitespace? For example,
is the whitespace before and after the "b=" tag also removed,
or only the whitespace after (or before)?
I'd recommend two header fields, one for the meta-information
and one just to contain the signature. This way, no unique
processing is required for the meta-information field, it
can be processed like all other header fields:
I am speculating that the rational to put everything in one field
is to make multiple DKIM-Signature fields possible without
the problem of knowing with signature applies to which DKIM-Spec
field. I think this problem is solvable.
- For greatest flexible, the digest should be separated out, and
it, along with meta-information is what is signed. Meta-Signatures
takes this approach.
* Section 3.5:
- The ordering restriction of trace header fields (mainly Received)
is explicitly defined in RFC-2821, not in RFC-2822.
Note, since DKIM fields are to be handled like trace fields, then
splitting the signature from the meta-info can be done, with the
field order in the header defining the which field goes with which
in case of multiple signatures.
- IMHO, the "v=" tag should be required. It always better practice
to be explicit when possible. For example, if the "v=" is missing,
could it be due to an error by the signer? Data corruption
- IMHO, I would not support have header fields listed in "h=" unless
they are present during signing. Otherwise, when a header field
is missing, one does not know if this was intentional or a header
field got dropped in transmission (either accidently or by filters)
before verification. Unless there is a clear reason to support
listing fields that are not present, why allow it?
How are multiple same-named header fields handled? Are they
listed multiple times in "h="? You appear to answer this
in section 5.2.2. It should be mentioned here. For brevity,
you may want to support a "count" indicator to reduce space:
- Why is "i=" need to be quoted-printable? Goes back to earlier
comment about qp. Require "i=" value to be a quoted-string.
- For "l=", the term "octet" should be used instead of "byte."
Octet appears to be the preferred term used in mail-based
Why is the hash part of the length?
Because of security implications (which you note) you should
probably drop this tag. It is not needed.
- For the "t=" tag, why not use ISO date/time format. For example:
Unix second time format is, well, to unixy. For email, such
OS-specific type formats should be avoided. I recommend using
well-defined standard date format for all dates.
Plus, the ISO format is more readable by humans.
- "z=" is a mess, and can eventually lead a DKIM field that is
longer than 988 octets (RFC-2822 limit).
You mention that verifiers should not use copied header fields
for verification. I do not agree with this.
This leads to a discussion about when signing is done. There is
an implication that the sender MTA should do this, right before
transmitting to final destination. Well, this does limit when
signing can be done and who can do it.
It also does not protect from potential address re-write rules.
I.e. Even if the initial signing MTA does signing after
rewrite rules, intermediary ones may still do address re-writing.
One benefit of saved headers is the verifying agent could utilize
them for signature verification, bypassing any re-write rules
that may happen by MTAs.
It would be more flexible to have a signing method that is
not dependent on where the signing occurs (e.g. an MUA could
do it vs an MTA).
We can discuss further if you like. As of now, "z=" should be
eliminated or the concept of saved header fields should be
* Section 5.2.2:
RFC-2822 is mistakenly referenced for trace order restrictions, when
it is RFC-2821, section 4.4.
* Section 9.2:
- The discussion here implies that signing can be done at the MUA
level, which ties into my comments above about saved header fields
and address re-writing cases.
- The need key revocation policies is implied here, which is
touched upon in Section 9.6. Key management is critical for
the system to be secure and trusted by users, therefore, it
definitely should be spelled out, potentially in a separate
Earl Hood, <earl(_at_)earlhood(_dot_)com>
PGP Public Key: <http://www.earlhood.com/gpgpubkey.txt>