1. RFC 9054
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                         J. Schaad
Request for Comments: 9054                                August Cellars
Category: Informational                                      August 2022
ISSN: 2070-1721

       CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE): Hash Algorithms


   The CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) syntax (see RFC 9052)
   does not define any direct methods for using hash algorithms.  There
   are, however, circumstances where hash algorithms are used, such as
   indirect signatures, where the hash of one or more contents are
   signed, and identification of an X.509 certificate or other object by
   the use of a fingerprint.  This document defines hash algorithms that
   are identified by COSE algorithm identifiers.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   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).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
   Standard; see 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

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
     1.1.  Requirements Terminology
   2.  Hash Algorithm Usage
     2.1.  Example CBOR Hash Structure
   3.  Hash Algorithm Identifiers
     3.1.  SHA-1 Hash Algorithm
     3.2.  SHA-2 Hash Algorithms
     3.3.  SHAKE Algorithms
   4.  IANA Considerations
     4.1.  COSE Algorithm Registry
   5.  Security Considerations
   6.  References
     6.1.  Normative References
     6.2.  Informative References
   Author's Address

1.  Introduction

   The CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) syntax [RFC9052] does
   not define any direct methods for the use of hash algorithms.  It
   also does not define a structure syntax that is used to encode a
   digested object structure along the lines of the DigestedData ASN.1
   structure in [CMS].  This omission was intentional, as a structure
   consisting of just a digest identifier, the content, and a digest
   value does not, by itself, provide any strong security service.
   Additionally, an application is going to be better off defining this
   type of structure so that it can include any additional data that
   needs to be hashed, as well as methods of obtaining the data.

   While the above is true, there are some cases where having some
   standard hash algorithms defined for COSE with a common identifier
   makes a great deal of sense.  Two of the cases where these are going
   to be used are:

   *  Indirect signing of content, and

   *  Object identification.

   Indirect signing of content is a paradigm where the content is not
   directly signed, but instead a hash of the content is computed, and
   that hash value -- along with an identifier for the hash algorithm --
   is included in the content that will be signed.  Indirect signing
   allows for a signature to be validated without first downloading all
   of the content associated with the signature.  Rather, the signature
   can be validated on all of the hash values and pointers to the
   associated contents; those associated parts can then be downloaded,
   then the hash value of that part can be computed and compared to the
   hash value in the signed content.  This capability can be of even
   greater importance in a constrained environment, as not all of the
   content signed may be needed by the device.  An example of how this
   is used can be found in Section 5.4 of [SUIT-MANIFEST].

   The use of hashes to identify objects is something that has been very
   common.  One of the primary things that has been identified by a hash
   function in a secure message is a certificate.  Two examples of this
   can be found in [ESS] and the COSE equivalents in [COSE-x509].

1.1.  Requirements Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

2.  Hash Algorithm Usage

   As noted in the previous section, hash functions can be used for a
   variety of purposes.  Some of these purposes require that a hash
   function be cryptographically strong.  These include direct and
   indirect signatures -- that is, using the hash as part of the
   signature or using the hash as part of the body to be signed.  Other
   uses of hash functions may not require the same level of strength.

   This document contains some hash functions that are not designed to
   be used for cryptographic operations.  An application that is using a
   hash function needs to carefully evaluate exactly what hash
   properties are needed and which hash functions are going to provide
   them.  Applications should also make sure that the ability to change
   hash functions is part of the base design, as cryptographic advances
   are sure to reduce the strength of any given hash function [BCP201].

   A hash function is a map from one, normally large, bit string to a
   second, usually smaller, bit string.  As the number of possible input
   values is far greater than the number of possible output values, it
   is inevitable that there are going to be collisions.  The trick is to
   make sure that it is difficult to find two values that are going to
   map to the same output value.  A "Collision Attack" is one where an
   attacker can find two different messages that have the same hash
   value.  A hash function that is susceptible to practical collision
   attacks SHOULD NOT be used for a cryptographic purpose.  The
   discovery of theoretical collision attacks against a given hash
   function SHOULD trigger protocol maintainers and users to review the
   continued suitability of the algorithm if alternatives are available
   and migration is viable.  The only reason such a hash function is
   used is when there is absolutely no other choice (e.g., a Hardware
   Security Module (HSM) that cannot be replaced), and only after
   looking at the possible security issues.  Cryptographic purposes
   would include the creation of signatures or the use of hashes for
   indirect signatures.  These functions may still be usable for
   noncryptographic purposes.

   An example of a noncryptographic use of a hash is filtering from a
   collection of values to find a set of possible candidates; the
   candidates can then be checked to see if they can successfully be
   used.  A simple example of this is the classic fingerprint of a
   certificate.  If the fingerprint is used to verify that it is the
   correct certificate, then that usage is a cryptographic one and is
   subject to the warning above about collision attack.  If, however,
   the fingerprint is used to sort through a collection of certificates
   to find those that might be used for the purpose of verifying a
   signature, a simple filter capability is sufficient.  In this case,
   one still needs to confirm that the public key validates the
   signature (and that the certificate is trusted), and all certificates
   that don't contain a key that validates the signature can be
   discarded as false positives.

   To distinguish between these two cases, a new value in the
   Recommended column of the "COSE Algorithms" registry has been added.
   "Filter Only" indicates that the only purpose of a hash function
   should be to filter results; it is not intended for applications that
   require a cryptographically strong algorithm.

2.1.  Example CBOR Hash Structure

   [COSE] did not provide a default structure for holding a hash value
   both because no separate hash algorithms were defined and because the
   way the structure is set up is frequently application specific.
   There are four fields that are often included as part of a hash

   *  The hash algorithm identifier.

   *  The hash value.

   *  A pointer to the value that was hashed.  This could be a pointer
      to a file, an object that can be obtained from the network, a
      pointer to someplace in the message, or something very application

   *  Additional data.  This can be something as simple as a random
      value (i.e., salt) to make finding hash collisions slightly harder
      (because the payload handed to the application could have been
      selected to have a collision), or as complicated as a set of
      processing instructions that is used with the object that is
      pointed to.  The additional data can be dealt with in a number of
      ways, prepending or appending to the content, but it is strongly
      suggested that either it be a fixed known size, or the lengths of
      the pieces being hashed be included so that the resulting byte
      string has a unique interpretation as the additional data.
      (Encoding as a CBOR array accomplishes this requirement.)

   An example of a structure that permits all of the above fields to
   exist would look like the following:

   COSE_Hash_V = (
       1 : int / tstr, # Algorithm identifier
       2 : bstr, # Hash value
       ? 3 : tstr, # Location of object that was hashed
       ? 4 : any   # object containing other details and things

   Below is an alternative structure that could be used in situations
   where one is searching a group of objects for a matching hash value.
   In this case, the location would not be needed, and adding extra data
   to the hash would be counterproductive.  This results in a structure
   that looks like this:

   COSE_Hash_Find = [
       hashAlg : int / tstr,
       hashValue : bstr

3.  Hash Algorithm Identifiers

3.1.  SHA-1 Hash Algorithm

   The SHA-1 hash algorithm [RFC3174] was designed by the United States
   National Security Agency and published in 1995.  Since that time, a
   large amount of cryptographic analysis has been applied to this
   algorithm, and a successful collision attack has been created
   [SHA-1-collision].  The IETF formally started discouraging the use of
   SHA-1 in [RFC6194].

   Despite these facts, there are still times where SHA-1 needs to be
   used; therefore, it makes sense to assign a code point for the use of
   this hash algorithm.  Some of these situations involve historic HSMs
   where only SHA-1 is implemented; in other situations, the SHA-1 value
   is used for the purpose of filtering; thus, the collision-resistance
   property is not needed.

   Because of the known issues for SHA-1 and the fact that it should no
   longer be used, the algorithm will be registered with the
   recommendation of "Filter Only".  This provides guidance about when
   the algorithm is safe for use, while discouraging usage where it is
   not safe.

   The COSE capabilities for this algorithm is an empty array.

   |Name |Value | Description | Capabilities | Reference | Recommended |
   |SHA-1|-14   | SHA-1 Hash  | []           | RFC 9054  | Filter Only |

                       Table 1: SHA-1 Hash Algorithm

3.2.  SHA-2 Hash Algorithms

   The family of SHA-2 hash algorithms [FIPS-180-4] was designed by the
   United States National Security Agency and published in 2001.  Since
   that time, some additional algorithms have been added to the original
   set to deal with length-extension attacks and some performance
   issues.  While the SHA-3 hash algorithms have been published since
   that time, the SHA-2 algorithms are still broadly used.

   There are a number of different parameters for the SHA-2 hash
   functions.  The set of hash functions that has been chosen for
   inclusion in this document is based on those different parameters and
   some of the trade-offs involved.

   *  *SHA-256/64* provides a truncated hash.  The length of the
      truncation is designed to allow for smaller transmission size.
      The trade-off is that the odds that a collision will occur
      increase proportionally.  Use of this hash function requires
      analysis of the potential problems that could result from a
      collision, or it must be limited to where the purpose of the hash
      is noncryptographic.

      The latter is the case for some of the scenarios identified in
      [COSE-x509], specifically, for the cases when the hash value is
      used to select among possible certificates: if there are multiple
      choices remaining, then each choice can be tested by using the
      public key.

   *  *SHA-256* is probably the most common hash function used
      currently.  SHA-256 is an efficient hash algorithm for 32-bit

   *  *SHA-384* and *SHA-512* hash functions are efficient for 64-bit

   *  *SHA-512/256* provides a hash function that runs more efficiently
      on 64-bit hardware but offers the same security level as SHA-256.

      |  NOTE: SHA-256/64 is a simple truncation of SHA-256 to 64 bits
      |  defined in this specification.  SHA-512/256 is a modified
      |  variant of SHA-512 truncated to 256 bits, as defined in
      |  [FIPS-180-4].

   The COSE capabilities array for these algorithms is empty.

   |Name       |Value|Description| Capabilities |Reference|Recommended |
   |SHA-256/64 |-15  |SHA-2      | []           |RFC 9054 |Filter Only |
   |           |     |256-bit    |              |         |            |
   |           |     |Hash       |              |         |            |
   |           |     |truncated  |              |         |            |
   |           |     |to 64-bits |              |         |            |
   |SHA-256    |-16  |SHA-2      | []           |RFC 9054 |Yes         |
   |           |     |256-bit    |              |         |            |
   |           |     |Hash       |              |         |            |
   |SHA-384    |-43  |SHA-2      | []           |RFC 9054 |Yes         |
   |           |     |384-bit    |              |         |            |
   |           |     |Hash       |              |         |            |
   |SHA-512    |-44  |SHA-2      | []           |RFC 9054 |Yes         |
   |           |     |512-bit    |              |         |            |
   |           |     |Hash       |              |         |            |
   |SHA-512/256|-17  |SHA-2      | []           |RFC 9054 |Yes         |
   |           |     |512-bit    |              |         |            |
   |           |     |Hash       |              |         |            |
   |           |     |truncated  |              |         |            |
   |           |     |to 256-bits|              |         |            |

                       Table 2: SHA-2 Hash Algorithms

3.3.  SHAKE Algorithms

   The family of SHA-3 hash algorithms [FIPS-202] was the result of a
   competition run by NIST.  The pair of algorithms known as SHAKE-128
   and SHAKE-256 are the instances of SHA-3 that are currently being
   standardized in the IETF.  This is the reason for including these
   algorithms in this document.

   The SHA-3 hash algorithms have a significantly different structure
   than the SHA-2 hash algorithms.

   Unlike the SHA-2 hash functions, no algorithm identifier is created
   for shorter lengths.  The length of the hash value stored is 256 bits
   for SHAKE-128 and 512 bits for SHAKE-256.

   The COSE capabilities array for these algorithms is empty.

   |Name    |Value|Description  | Capabilities |Reference| Recommended |
   |SHAKE128|-18  |SHAKE-128    | []           |RFC 9054 | Yes         |
   |        |     |256-bit Hash |              |         |             |
   |        |     |Value        |              |         |             |
   |SHAKE256|-45  |SHAKE-256    | []           |RFC 9054 | Yes         |
   |        |     |512-bit Hash |              |         |             |
   |        |     |Value        |              |         |             |

                       Table 3: SHAKE Hash Functions

4.  IANA Considerations

4.1.  COSE Algorithm Registry

   IANA has registered the following algorithms in the "COSE Algorithms"
   registry (https://www.iana.org/assignments/cose/).

   *  The SHA-1 hash function found in Table 1.

   *  The set of SHA-2 hash functions found in Table 2.

   *  The set of SHAKE hash functions found in Table 3.

   Many of the hash values produced are relatively long; as such, use of
   a two-byte algorithm identifier seems reasonable.  SHA-1 is tagged as
   "Filter Only", so a longer algorithm identifier is appropriate even
   though it is a shorter hash value.

   IANA has added the value of "Filter Only" to the set of legal values
   for the Recommended column.  This value is only to be used for hash
   functions and indicates that it is not to be used for purposes that
   require collision resistance.  As a result of this addition, IANA has
   added this document as a reference for the "COSE Algorithms"

5.  Security Considerations

   Protocols need to perform a careful analysis of the properties of a
   hash function that are needed and how they map onto the possible
   attacks.  In particular, one needs to distinguish between those uses
   that need the cryptographic properties, such as collision resistance,
   and uses that only need properties that correspond to possible object
   identification.  The different attacks correspond to who or what is
   being protected: is it the originator that is the attacker or a third
   party?  This is the difference between collision resistance and
   second pre-image resistance.  As a general rule, longer hash values
   are "better" than short ones, but trade-offs of transmission size,
   timeliness, and security all need to be included as part of this
   analysis.  In many cases, the value being hashed is a public value
   and, as such, (first) pre-image resistance is not part of this

   Algorithm agility needs to be considered a requirement for any use of
   hash functions [BCP201].  As with any cryptographic function, hash
   functions are under constant attack, and the cryptographic strength
   of hash algorithms will be reduced over time.

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

              NIST, "Secure Hash Standard", FIPS PUB 180-4,
              DOI 10.6028/NIST.FIPS.180-4, August 2015,

   [FIPS-202] Dworkin, M.J., "SHA-3 Standard: Permutation-Based Hash and
              Extendable-Output Functions", FIPS PUB 202,
              DOI 10.6028/NIST.FIPS.202, August 2015,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC3174]  Eastlake 3rd, D. and P. Jones, "US Secure Hash Algorithm 1
              (SHA1)", RFC 3174, DOI 10.17487/RFC3174, September 2001,

   [RFC8174]  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>.

   [RFC9052]  Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE):
              Structures and Process", STD 96, RFC 9052,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9052, August 2022,

6.2.  Informative References

   [BCP201]   Housley, R., "Guidelines for Cryptographic Algorithm
              Agility and Selecting Mandatory-to-Implement Algorithms",
              BCP 201, RFC 7696, November 2015,

   [CMS]      Housley, R., "Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS)", STD 70,
              RFC 5652, DOI 10.17487/RFC5652, September 2009,

   [COSE]     Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE)",
              RFC 8152, DOI 10.17487/RFC8152, July 2017,

              Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE):
              Header parameters for carrying and referencing X.509
              certificates", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-cose-x509-08, 14 December 2020,

   [ESS]      Hoffman, P., Ed., "Enhanced Security Services for S/MIME",
              RFC 2634, DOI 10.17487/RFC2634, June 1999,

   [RFC6194]  Polk, T., Chen, L., Turner, S., and P. Hoffman, "Security
              Considerations for the SHA-0 and SHA-1 Message-Digest
              Algorithms", RFC 6194, DOI 10.17487/RFC6194, March 2011,

              Stevens, M., Bursztein, E., Karpman, P., Albertini, A.,
              and Y. Markov, "The first collision for full SHA-1",
              February 2017,

              Moran, B., Tschofenig, H., Birkholz, H., and K. Zandberg,
              "A Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)-based
              Serialization Format for the Software Updates for Internet
              of Things (SUIT) Manifest", Work in Progress, Internet-
              Draft, draft-ietf-suit-manifest-19, 9 August 2022,

Author's Address

   Jim Schaad
   August Cellars
  1. RFC 9054