Internet-Draft Probes Attribution September 2022
Vyncke, et al. Expires 6 March 2023 [Page]
Operational Security Capabilities for IP Network Infrastructure
Intended Status:
E. Vyncke
B. Donnet
Université de Liège
J. Iurman
Université de Liège

Attribution of Internet Probes


Active measurements at Internet-scale can target either collaborating parties or non-collaborating ones. This is similar scan and could be perceived as aggressive. This document proposes a couple of simple techniques allowing any party or organization to understand what this unsolicited packet is, what is its purpose, and more importantly who to contact.

About This Document

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Active measurements at Internet-scale can target either collaborating parties or non-collaborating ones. Such measurements include [LARGE_SCALE] and [RFC7872].

Sending unsolicited probes should obviously be done at a rate low enough to avoid wasting other parties resources. But even at a low rate, those probes could trigger an alarm that will request some investigation by either the party receiving the probe (i.e., when the probe destination address is one address assigned to the receiving party) or by a third party having some devices where those probes are transiting (e.g., an Internet transit router).

This document suggests a couple of simple techniques allowing any party or organization to understand:

Note: it is expected that only good-willing researchers will use these techniques.

2. Probe / Measurement Description

2.1. Probe Description URI

This document defines a "probe description URI" (see Section 2.2) as a URI pointing to:

  • a "Probe Description", see Section 2.2, e.g., "";
  • an email address, e.g., "";
  • a phone number to call, e.g., "tel:+1-201-555-0123".

2.2. Probe Description Text

Similarly, as in [RFC9116], when a node probes other nodes over the Internet, it should create a text file following the syntax described in section 3 of [RFC9116] and should have the following fields:

  • contact;
  • expires;
  • preferred-languages.

Plus, another one "description" which is a URI pointing a document describing the measurement.

3. Out-of-band Probe Attribution

When it is not possible to include the "probe description URI" in the probe packet itself, then a specific URI must be constructed based on the source address of the probe packet following [RFC8615], e.g., for a probe source address of 2001:db8::dead, the following URI are constructed:

The constructed URI must be a reference to the "Probe description Text" (see Section 2.2).

4. In-band Probe Attribution

When the desired measurement allows for it, one "probe description URI" should be included in the payload of all probes sent. This could be:

The URI should start at the first octet of the payload and should be terminated by an octet of 0x00, i.e., it must be null terminated. If the URI cannot be placed at the beginning of the payload, then it should be preceded also by an octet of 0x00.

Note: using the above technique produces a valid and legit packet for all the nodes forwarding the probe. The node receiving the probe may or may not process the received packet, but this should cause no harm if the probing rate is very low as compared to the network bandwidth and to the processing capacity of all the nodes. As the insertion of the URI in the packet may not respect the syntax of the protocol, responses may not be received (such a TCP SYN+ACK) and perhaps an ICMP should be expected or more probably an absence of reply.

5. Ethical Considerations

Executing some measurement experiences over the global Internet obviously require some ethical considerations when transit/destination non-solicited parties are involved.

This document proposes a common way to identity the source and the purpose of active probing in order to reduce the potential burden on the non-solicited parties.

But there are other considerations to be taken into account: from the payload content (e.g., is the encoding valid ?) to the transmission rate (see also [IPV6_TOPOLOGY] and [IPV4_TOPOLOGY] for some probing speed impacts). Those considerations are out of scope of this document.

6. Security Considerations

While it is expected that only good-willing researchers will use these techniques, they will simplify and shorten the time to identify a probing across the Internet.

This information is provided to identify the source and intent of specific probes, but there is no authentication possible for the inline information. As a result, a malevolent actor could provide false information while conducting the probes, so that the action was attributed to a third party. The recipient of this information cannot, as a result, rely on this information without confirmation. If a recipient cannot confirm the information or does not wish to do so, they should treat the flows as if there were no attribution.

7. IANA Considerations

The "Well-Known URIs" registry should be updated with the following:

8. References

8.1. Normative References

Conta, A., Deering, S., and M. Gupta, Ed., "Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMPv6) for the Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) Specification", STD 89, RFC 4443, DOI 10.17487/RFC4443, , <>.
Postel, J., "User Datagram Protocol", STD 6, RFC 768, DOI 10.17487/RFC0768, , <>.
Postel, J., "Internet Control Message Protocol", STD 5, RFC 792, DOI 10.17487/RFC0792, , <>.
Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", RFC 793, DOI 10.17487/RFC0793, , <>.
Deering, S. and R. Hinden, "Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Specification", STD 86, RFC 8200, DOI 10.17487/RFC8200, , <>.
Nottingham, M., "Well-Known Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs)", RFC 8615, DOI 10.17487/RFC8615, , <>.
Foudil, E. and Y. Shafranovich, "A File Format to Aid in Security Vulnerability Disclosure", RFC 9116, DOI 10.17487/RFC9116, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

Beverly, R., "Yarrp’ing the Internet Randomized High-Speed Active Topology Discovery", DOI 10.1145/2987443.2987479, , <>.
Beverly, R., Durairajan, R., Plonka, D., and J.P. Rohrer, "In the IP of the Beholder Strategies for Active IPv6 Topology Discovery", DOI 10.1145/3278532.3278559, , <>.
Donnet, B., Raoult, P., Friedman, T., and M. Crovella, "Efficient Algorithms for Large-Scale Topology Discovery", DOI 10.1145/1071690.1064256, , <>.
Davies, E., Krishnan, S., and P. Savola, "IPv6 Transition/Co-existence Security Considerations", RFC 4942, DOI 10.17487/RFC4942, , <>.
Gont, F., Linkova, J., Chown, T., and W. Liu, "Observations on the Dropping of Packets with IPv6 Extension Headers in the Real World", RFC 7872, DOI 10.17487/RFC7872, , <>.


The authors would like to thank Alain Fiocco, Fernando Gont, Ted Hardie, Mehdi Kouhen, and Mark Townsley for helpful discussions as well as Raphael Leas for an early implementation.

Authors' Addresses

Éric Vyncke
De Kleetlaan 64
1831 Diegem
Benoît Donnet
Université de Liège
Justin Iurman
Université de Liège