[tor-dev] Proposal 184: Miscellaneous changes for a v3 Tor link protocol
nickm at torproject.org
Tue Sep 20 19:33:42 UTC 2011
Title: Miscellaneous changes for a v3 Tor link protocol
Author: Nick Mathewson
When proposals 176 and 179 are implemented, Tor will have a new
link protocol. I propose two simple improvements for the v3 link
protocol: a more partitioned set of which types indicate
variable-length cells, and a better way to handle link padding if
and when we come up with a decent scheme for it.
We're getting a new link protocol in 0.2.3.x, thanks (again) to
TLS fingerprinting concerns. When we do, it'd be nice to take
care of some small issues that require a link protocol version
First, our system for introducing new variable-length cell types
has required a protocol increment for each one. Unlike
fixed-length (512 byte) cells, we can't add new variable-length
cells in the existing link protocols and just let older clients
ignore them, because unless the recipient knows which cells are
variable-length, it will treat them as 512-byte cells and discard
too much of the stream or too little. In the past, it's been
useful to be able to introduce new cell types without having to
increment the link protocol version.
Second, once we have our new TLS handshake in place, we will want
a good way to address the remaining fingerprinting opportunities.
Some of those will likely involve traffic volume. We can't fix
that easily with our existing PADDING cell type, since PADDING
cells are fixed-length, and wouldn't be so easy to use to break up
our TLS record sizes.
Design: Indicating variable-length cells.
Beginning with the v3 link protocol, we specify that all cell
types in the range 128..255 indicate variable-length cells.
Cell types in the range 0..127 are still used for 512-byte
cells, except that the VERSIONS cell type (7) also indicates a
variable-length cell (for backward compatibility).
As before, all Tor instances must ignore cells with types that
they don't recognize.
Design: Variable-length padding.
We add a new variable-length cell type, "VPADDING", to be used for
padding. All Tor instances may send a DROP cell at any point that
a VERSIONS cell is not required; a VPADDING cell's body may be any
length; the body of a VPADDING cell MAY have any content. Upon
receiving a VPADDING cell, the recipient should drop it, as with a
Interaction with proposal 176:
Proposal 176 says that during the v3 handshake, no cells other
than VERSIONS, AUTHENTICATE, AUTH_CHALLENGE, CERT, and NETINFO are
allowed, and those are only allowed in their standard order. If
this proposal is accepted, then VPADDING cells should also be
allowed in the handshake at any point after the VERSIONS cell.
They should be included when computing the "SLOG" and "CLOG"
handshake-digest fields of the AUTHENTICATE cell.
Notes on future-proofing:
It may be in the future we need a new cell format that is neither the
original 512-byte format nor the variable-length format. If we
do, we can just increment the link protocol version number again.
Right now we have 10 cell types; with this proposal and proposal
176, we will have 14. It's unlikely that we'll run out any time
soon, but if we start to approach the number 64 with fixed-length
cell types or 196 with var-length cell types, we should consider
tweaking the link protocol to have a variable-length cell type
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