Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) R. Bush
Request for Comments: 9255
Arrcus & IIJ Research
Category: Standards Track R. Housley
ISSN: 2070-1721 Vigil Security
The 'I' in RPKI Does Not Stand for Identity
There is a false notion that Internet Number Resources (INRs) in the
RPKI can be associated with the real-world identity of the 'holder'
of an INR. This document specifies that RPKI does not associate to
the INR holder.
Status of This Memo
This is an Internet Standards Track document.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9255
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Table of Contents 1.
Requirements Language 2.
The RPKI is for Authorization 3.
Security Considerations 5.
IANA Considerations 6.
Normative References 6.2.
The Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), see [RFC6480
"represents the allocation hierarchy of IP address space and
Autonomous System (AS) numbers," which are collectively known as
Internet Number Resources (INRs). Since initial deployment, the RPKI
has grown to include other similar resource and routing data, e.g.,
Router Keying for BGPsec [RFC8635
In security terms, the phrase "Public Key" implies there is also a
corresponding private key [RFC5280
]. The RPKI provides strong
authority to the current holder of INRs; however, some people have a
desire to use RPKI private keys to sign arbitrary documents as the
INR 'holder' of those resources with the inappropriate expectation
that the signature will be considered an attestation to the
authenticity of the document content. But, in reality, the RPKI
certificate is only an authorization to speak for the explicitly
identified INRs; it is explicitly not intended for authentication of
the 'holders' of the INRs. This situation is emphasized in
Section 2.1 of [RFC6480
It has been suggested that one could authenticate real-world business
transactions with the signatures of INR holders. For example, Bill's
Bait and Sushi (BB&S) could use the private key attesting to that
they are the holder of their AS in the RPKI to sign a Letter of
Authorization (LOA) for some other party to rack and stack hardware
owned by BB&S. Unfortunately, while this may be technically
possible, it is neither appropriate nor meaningful.
The 'I' in RPKI actually stands for "Infrastructure," as in Resource
Public Key Infrastructure, not for "Identity". In fact, the RPKI
does not provide any association between INRs and the real-world
holder(s) of those INRs. The RPKI provides authorization to make
assertions only regarding Internet Number Resources, such as IP
prefixes or AS numbers, and data such as Autonomous System Provider
Authorization (ASPA) records [ASPA-PROFILE].
In short, avoid the desire to use RPKI certificates for any purpose
other than the verification of authorizations associated with the
delegation of INRs or attestations related to INRs. Instead,
recognize that these authorizations and attestations take place
irrespective of the identity of an RPKI private key holder.
1.1. Requirements Language
The key words "MUST
", "MUST NOT
", "SHALL NOT
", "SHOULD NOT
", "NOT RECOMMENDED
" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
BCP 14 [RFC2119
] when, and only when, they appear in all
capitals, as shown here.
2. The RPKI is for Authorization
The RPKI was designed and specified to sign certificates for use
within the RPKI itself and to generate Route Origin Authorizations
] for use in routing. Its design intentionally
precluded use for attesting to real-world identity as, among other
issues, it would expose the Certification Authority (CA) to
That the RPKI does not authenticate real-world identity is by design.
If it tried to do so, aside from the liability, it would end in a
world of complexity with no proof of termination.
Registries such as the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) provide
INR to real-world identity mapping through WHOIS [RFC3912
similar services. They claim to be authoritative, at least for the
INRs that they allocate.
That is, RPKI-based credentials of INRs MUST NOT
be used to
authenticate real-world documents or transactions. That might be
done with some formal external authentication of authority allowing
an otherwise anonymous INR holder to authenticate the particular
document or transaction. Given such external, i.e. non-RPKI,
verification of authority, the use of RPKI-based credentials adds no
Section 2.1 of the RPKI base document [RFC6480
] says explicitly "An
important property of this PKI is that certificates do not attest to
the identity of the subject."
Section 3.1 of "Template for a Certification Practice Statement (CPS)
for the Resource PKI (RPKI)" [RFC7382
] states that the Subject name
in each certificate SHOULD NOT
be meaningful and goes on to explain
this at some length.
Normally, the INR holder does not hold the private key attesting to
their resources; the CA does. The INR holder has a real-world
business relationship with the CA for which they have likely signed
As the INR holder does not have the keying material, they rely on the
CA, to which they presumably present credentials, to manipulate their
INRs. These credentials may be user ID and password (with two-factor
authentication one hopes), a hardware token, client browser
Hence schemes such as Resource Tagged Attestations [RPKI-RTA] and
Signed Checklists [RPKI-RSC] must go to great lengths to extract the
supposedly relevant keys from the CA.
For some particular INR, say, Bill's Bait and Sushi's Autonomous
System (AS) number, someone out on the net probably has the
credentials to the CA account in which BB&S's INRs are registered.
That could be the owner of BB&S, Randy's Taco Stand, an IT vendor, or
the Government of Elbonia. One simply can not know.
In large organizations, INR management is often compartmentalized
with no authority over anything beyond dealing with INR registration.
The INR manager for Bill's Bait and Sushi is unlikely to be
authorized to conduct bank transactions for BB&S, or even to
authorize access to BB&S's servers in some colocation facility.
Then there is the temporal issue. The holder of that AS may be BB&S
today when some document was signed, and could be the Government of
Elbonia tomorrow. Or the resource could have been administratively
moved from one CA to another, likely requiring a change of keys. If
so, how does one determine if the signature on the real-world
document is still valid?
While Ghostbuster Records [RFC6493
] may seem to identify real-world
entities, their semantic content is completely arbitrary and does not
attest to holding of any INRs. They are merely clues for operational
support contact in case of technical RPKI problems.
Usually, before registering INRs, CAs require proof of an INR holding
via external documentation and authorities. It is somewhat droll
that the CPS Template [RFC7382
] does not mention any diligence the CA
must, or even might, conduct to assure the INRs are in fact owned by
That someone can provide 'proof of possession' of the private key
signing over a particular INR should not be taken to imply that they
are a valid legal representative of the organization in possession of
that INR. They could be in an INR administrative role, and not be a
formal representative of the organization.
Autonomous System Numbers do not identify real-world entities. They
are identifiers some network operators 'own' and are only used for
loop detection in routing. They have no inherent semantics other
4. Security Considerations
Attempts to use RPKI data to authenticate real-world documents or
other artifacts requiring identity, while possibly cryptographically
valid within the RPKI, are misleading as to any authenticity.
When a document is signed with the private key associated with an
RPKI certificate, the signer is speaking for the INRs (the IP address
space and AS numbers) in the certificate. This is not an identity;
this is an authorization. In schemes such as Resource Tagged
Attestations [RPKI-RTA] and Signed Checklists [RPKI-RSC], the signed
message further narrows this scope of INRs. The INRs in the message
are a subset of the INRs in the certificate. If the signature is
valid, the message content comes from a party that is authorized to
speak for that subset of INRs.
Control of INRs for an entity could be used to falsely authorize
transactions or documents for which the INR manager has no authority.
5. IANA Considerations
This document has no IANA actions.
6.1. Normative References
] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119
, March 1997,
] Cooper, D., Santesson, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S.,
Housley, R., and W. Polk, "Internet X.509 Public Key
Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List
(CRL) Profile", RFC 5280
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5280
, May 2008,
] Lepinski, M. and S. Kent, "An Infrastructure to Support
Secure Internet Routing", RFC 6480
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6480
February 2012, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6480
] Kent, S., Kong, D., and K. Seo, "Template for a
Certification Practice Statement (CPS) for the Resource
PKI (RPKI)", BCP 173, RFC 7382
, DOI 10.17487/RFC7382
April 2015, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7382
] Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119
Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174
May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174
] Bush, R., Turner, S., and K. Patel, "Router Keying for
BGPsec", RFC 8635
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8635
, August 2019,
6.2. Informative References
Azimov, A., Uskov, E., Bush, R., Patel, K., Snijders, J.,
and R. Housley, "A Profile for Autonomous System Provider
Authorization", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
ietf-sidrops-aspa-profile-07, 31 January 2022,
] Daigle, L., "WHOIS Protocol Specification", RFC 3912
, September 2004,
] Bush, R., "The Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI)
Ghostbusters Record", RFC 6493
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6493
February 2012, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6493
[RPKI-RSC] Snijders, J., Harrison, T., and B. Maddison, "A profile
for Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) Signed
Checklists (RSC)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
draft-ietf-sidrops-rpki-rsc-08, 26 May 2022,
[RPKI-RTA] Michaelson, G., Huston, G., Harrison, T., Bruijnzeels, T.,
and M. Hoffmann, "A profile for Resource Tagged
Attestations (RTAs)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
draft-ietf-sidrops-rpki-rta-00, 21 January 2021,
The authors thank George Michaelson and Job Snijders for lively
discussion, Geoff Huston for some more formal text, Ties de Kock for
useful suggestions, many directorate and IESG reviewers, and last but
not least, Biff for the loan of Bill's Bait and Sushi.
Arrcus & Internet Initiative Japan Research
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