
RFC 4419
DiffieHellman Group Exchange for the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol. M. Friedl, N. Provos, W. Simpson. March 2006.

Network Working Group M. Friedl
Request for Comments: 4419 N. Provos
Category: Standards Track W. Simpson
March 2006
DiffieHellman Group Exchange for
the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol
Status of This Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright Notice
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).
Abstract
This memo describes a new key exchange method for the Secure Shell
(SSH) protocol. It allows the SSH server to propose new groups on
which to perform the DiffieHellman key exchange to the client. The
proposed groups need not be fixed and can change with time.
1. Overview and Rationale
SSH [RFC4251] is a very common protocol for secure remote login on
the Internet. Currently, SSH performs the initial key exchange using
the "diffiehellmangroup1sha1" method [RFC4253]. This method
prescribes a fixed group on which all operations are performed.
The DiffieHellman key exchange provides a shared secret that cannot
be determined by either party alone. Furthermore, the shared secret
is known only to the participant parties. In SSH, the key exchange
is signed with the host key to provide host authentication.
The security of the DiffieHellman key exchange is based on the
difficulty of solving the Discrete Logarithm Problem (DLP). Since we
expect that the SSH protocol will be in use for many years in the
future, we fear that extensive precomputation and more efficient
algorithms to compute the discrete logarithm over a fixed group might
pose a security threat to the SSH protocol.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 1]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
The ability to propose new groups will reduce the incentive to use
precomputation for more efficient calculation of the discrete
logarithm. The server can constantly compute new groups in the
background.
2. Requirements Notation
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 [RFC2119].
3. DiffieHellman Group and Key Exchange
The server keeps a list of safe primes and corresponding generators
that it can select from. A prime p is safe if p = 2q + 1 and q is
prime. New primes can be generated in the background.
The generator g should be chosen such that the order of the generated
subgroup does not factor into small primes; that is, with p = 2q + 1,
the order has to be either q or p  1. If the order is p  1, then
the exponents generate all possible public values, evenly distributed
throughout the range of the modulus p, without cycling through a
smaller subset. Such a generator is called a "primitive root" (which
is trivial to find when p is "safe").
The client requests a modulus from the server indicating the
preferred size. In the following description (C is the client, S is
the server, the modulus p is a large safe prime, and g is a generator
for a subgroup of GF(p), min is the minimal size of p in bits that is
acceptable to the client, n is the size of the modulus p in bits that
the client would like to receive from the server, max is the maximal
size of p in bits that the client can accept, V_S is S's version
string, V_C is C's version string, K_S is S's public host key, I_C is
C's KEXINIT message, and I_S is S's KEXINIT message that has been
exchanged before this part begins):
1. C sends "min  n  max" to S, indicating the minimal acceptable
group size, the preferred size of the group, and the maximal
group size in bits the client will accept.
2. S finds a group that best matches the client's request, and sends
"p  g" to C.
3. C generates a random number x, where 1 < x < (p1)/2. It
computes e = g^x mod p, and sends "e" to S.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 2]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
4. S generates a random number y, where 0 < y < (p1)/2, and
computes f = g^y mod p. S receives "e". It computes K = e^y mod
p, H = hash(V_C  V_S  I_C  I_S  K_S  min  n  max 
p  g  e  f  K) (these elements are encoded according to
their types; see below), and signature s on H with its private
host key. S sends "K_S  f  s" to C. The signing operation
may involve a second hashing operation.
5. C verifies that K_S really is the host key for S (e.g., using
certificates or a local database to obtain the public key). C is
also allowed to accept the key without verification; however,
doing so will render the protocol insecure against active attacks
(but may be desirable for practical reasons in the short term in
many environments). C then computes K = f^x mod p, H = hash(V_C
 V_S  I_C  I_S  K_S  min  n  max  p  g  e 
f  K), and verifies the signature s on H.
Servers and clients SHOULD support groups with a modulus length of k
bits, where 1024 <= k <= 8192. The recommended values for min and
max are 1024 and 8192, respectively.
Either side MUST NOT send or accept e or f values that are not in the
range [1, p1]. If this condition is violated, the key exchange
fails. To prevent confinement attacks, they MUST accept the shared
secret K only if 1 < K < p  1.
The server should return the smallest group it knows that is larger
than the size the client requested. If the server does not know a
group that is larger than the client request, then it SHOULD return
the largest group it knows. In all cases, the size of the returned
group SHOULD be at least 1024 bits.
This is implemented with the following messages. The hash algorithm
for computing the exchange hash is defined by the method name, and is
called HASH. The public key algorithm for signing is negotiated with
the KEXINIT messages.
First, the client sends:
byte SSH_MSG_KEY_DH_GEX_REQUEST
uint32 min, minimal size in bits of an acceptable group
uint32 n, preferred size in bits of the group the server will send
uint32 max, maximal size in bits of an acceptable group
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 3]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
The server responds with
byte SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_GROUP
mpint p, safe prime
mpint g, generator for subgroup in GF(p)
The client responds with:
byte SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_INIT
mpint e
The server responds with:
byte SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REPLY
string server public host key and certificates (K_S)
mpint f
string signature of H
The hash H is computed as the HASH hash of the concatenation of the
following:
string V_C, the client's version string (CR and NL excluded)
string V_S, the server's version string (CR and NL excluded)
string I_C, the payload of the client's SSH_MSG_KEXINIT
string I_S, the payload of the server's SSH_MSG_KEXINIT
string K_S, the host key
uint32 min, minimal size in bits of an acceptable group
uint32 n, preferred size in bits of the group the server will send
uint32 max, maximal size in bits of an acceptable group
mpint p, safe prime
mpint g, generator for subgroup
mpint e, exchange value sent by the client
mpint f, exchange value sent by the server
mpint K, the shared secret
This value is called the exchange hash, and it is used to
authenticate the key exchange as per [RFC4253].
4. Key Exchange Methods
This document defines two new key exchange methods:
"diffiehellmangroupexchangesha1" and
"diffiehellmangroupexchangesha256".
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 4]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
4.1. diffiehellmangroupexchangesha1
The "diffiehellmangroupexchangesha1" method specifies
DiffieHellman Group and Key Exchange with SHA1 [FIPS1802] as
HASH.
4.2. diffiehellmangroupexchangesha256
The "diffiehellmangroupexchangesha256" method specifies
DiffieHellman Group and Key Exchange with SHA256 [FIPS1802] as
HASH.
Note that the hash used in key exchange (in this case, SHA256) must
also be used in the key derivation pseudorandom function (PRF), as
per the requirement in the "Output from Key Exchange" section in
[RFC4253].
5. Summary of Message Numbers
The following message numbers have been defined in this document.
They are in a name space private to this document and not assigned by
IANA.
#define SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REQUEST_OLD 30
#define SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REQUEST 34
#define SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_GROUP 31
#define SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_INIT 32
#define SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REPLY 33
SSH_MSG_KEX_DH_GEX_REQUEST_OLD is used for backward compatibility.
Instead of sending "min  n  max", the client only sends "n". In
addition, the hash is calculated using only "n" instead of "min  n
 max".
The numbers 3049 are key exchange specific and may be redefined by
other kex methods.
6. Implementation Notes
6.1. Choice of Generator
One useful technique is to select the generator, and then limit the
modulus selection sieve to primes with that generator:
2 when p (mod 24) = 11.
5 when p (mod 10) = 3 or 7.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 5]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
It is recommended to use 2 as generator, because it improves
efficiency in multiplication performance. It is usable even when it
is not a primitive root, as it still covers half of the space of
possible residues.
6.2. Private Exponents
To increase the speed of the key exchange, both client and server may
reduce the size of their private exponents. It should be at least
twice as long as the key material that is generated from the shared
secret. For more details, see the paper by van Oorschot and Wiener
[VANOORSCHOT].
7. Security Considerations
This protocol aims to be simple and uses only wellunderstood
primitives. This encourages acceptance by the community and allows
for ease of implementation, which hopefully leads to a more secure
system.
The use of multiple moduli inhibits a determined attacker from
precalculating moduli exchange values, and discourages dedication of
resources for analysis of any particular modulus.
It is important to employ only safe primes as moduli, as they allow
us to find a generator g so that the order of the generated subgroup
does not factor into small primes, that is, with p = 2q + 1, the
order has to be either q or p  1. If the order is p  1, then the
exponents generate all possible public values, evenly distributed
throughout the range of the modulus p, without cycling through a
smaller subset. Van Oorshot and Wiener note that using short private
exponents with a random prime modulus p makes the computation of the
discrete logarithm easy [VANOORSCHOT]. However, they also state
that this problem does not apply to safe primes.
The least significant bit of the private exponent can be recovered
when the modulus is a safe prime [MENEZES]. However, this is not a
problem if the size of the private exponent is big enough. Related
to this, Waldvogel and Massey note: When private exponents are chosen
independently and uniformly at random from {0,...,p2}, the key
entropy is less than 2 bits away from the maximum, lg(p1)
[WALDVOGEL].
The security considerations in [RFC4251] also apply to this key
exchange method.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 6]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
8. Acknowledgements
The document is derived in part from "SSH Transport Layer Protocol"
[RFC4253] by T. Ylonen, T. Kivinen, M. Saarinen, T. Rinne, and S.
Lehtinen.
MarkkuJuhani Saarinen pointed out that the least significant bit of
the private exponent can be recovered efficiently when using safe
primes and a subgroup with an order divisible by two.
Bodo Moeller suggested that the server send only one group, reducing
the complexity of the implementation and the amount of data that
needs to be exchanged between client and server.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 7]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
Appendix A: Generation of Safe Primes
The "Handbook of Applied Cryptography" [MENEZES] lists the following
algorithm to generate a kbit safe prime p. It has been modified so
that 2 is a generator for the multiplicative group mod p.
1. Do the following:
1. Select a random (k1)bit prime q, so that q mod 12 = 5.
2. Compute p := 2q + 1, and test whether p is prime (using,
e.g., trial division and the RabinMiller test).
2. Repeat until p is prime.
If an implementation uses the OpenSSL libraries, a group consisting
of a 1024bit safe prime and 2 as generator can be created as
follows:
DH *d = NULL;
d = DH_generate_parameters(1024, DH_GENERATOR_2, NULL, NULL);
BN_print_fp(stdout, d>p);
The order of the subgroup generated by 2 is q = p  1.
References
Normative References
[FIPS1802] National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
"Secure Hash Standard (SHS)", FIPS PUB 1802,
August 2002.
[RFC4251] Ylonen, T. and C. Lonvick, "The Secure Shell (SSH)
Protocol Architecture", RFC 4251, January 2006.
[RFC4253] Lonvick, C., "The Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer
Protocol", RFC 4253, January 2006.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
Informative References
[MENEZES] Menezes, A., van Oorschot, P., and S. Vanstone,
"Handbook of Applied Cryptography", CRC Press, p. 537,
1996.
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 8]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
[VANOORSCHOT] van Oorschot, P. and M. Wiener, "On DiffieHellman key
agreement with short exponents", Advances in
Cryptology EUROCRYPT'96, LNCS 1070,
SpringerVerlag, pp. 332343, 1996.
[WALDVOGEL] Waldvogel, C. and J. Massey, "The probability
distribution of the DiffieHellman key", Proceedings
of AUSCRYPT 92, LNCS 718, SpringerVerlag, pp.
492504, 1993.
Authors' Addresses
Markus Friedl
EMail: markus@openbsd.org
Niels Provos
EMail: provos@citi.umich.edu
William A. Simpson
EMail: wsimpson@greendragon.com
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 9]
RFC 4419 SSH DH Group Exchange March 2006
Full Copyright Statement
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).
This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
retain all their rights.
This document and the information contained herein are provided on an
"AS IS" basis and THE CONTRIBUTOR, THE ORGANIZATION HE/SHE REPRESENTS
OR IS SPONSORED BY (IF ANY), THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET
ENGINEERING TASK FORCE DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED,
INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE
INFORMATION HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
Intellectual Property
The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
made any independent effort to identify any such rights. Information
on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be
found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.
Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
specification can be obtained from the IETF online IPR repository at
http://www.ietf.org/ipr.
The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
this standard. Please address the information to the IETF at
ietfipr@ietf.org.
Acknowledgement
Funding for the RFC Editor function is provided by the IETF
Administrative Support Activity (IASA).
Friedl, et al. Standards Track [Page 10]



