Internet-Draft Certificate with External PSK January 2024
Housley Expires 12 July 2024 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Standards Track
R. Housley
Vigil Security

TLS 1.3 Extension for Using Certificates with an External Pre-Shared Key


This document specifies a TLS 1.3 extension that allows TLS clients and servers to authenticate with a combination of a certificate and an external pre-shared key (PSK).

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 12 July 2024.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The TLS 1.3 [RFC8446] handshake protocol provides two mutually exclusive forms of server authentication. First, the server can be authenticated by providing a signature certificate and creating a valid digital signature to demonstrate that it possesses the corresponding private key. Second, the server can be authenticated by demonstrating that it possesses a pre-shared key (PSK) that was established by a previous handshake. A PSK that is established in this fashion is called a resumption PSK. A PSK that is established by any other means is called an external PSK.

A TLS 1.3 server that is authenticating with a certificate may optionally request a certificate from the TLS 1.3 client for authentication as described in Section 4.3.2 of [RFC8446].

This document specifies a TLS 1.3 extension permitting certificate-based authentication to be combined with an external PSK as an input to the TLS 1.3 key schedule.

Please see Appendix A for a list of changes since the publication of RFC 8773.

2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "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.

3. Motivation and Design Rationale

There are two motivations for using a certificate with an external PSK.

One motivation is protection against the future invention of a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC) would pose a serious challenge for the cryptographic algorithms that are widely deployed today, including the digital signature algorithms that are used to authenticate the server in the TLS 1.3 handshake protocol and key agreement algorithm used to establish a pairwise shared secret between the client and server. It is an open question whether or not it is feasible to build such a quantum computer, and if so, when that might happen. However, if such a quantum computer is invented, many of the cryptographic algorithms and the security protocols that use them would become vulnerable. In particular, The TLS 1.3 handshake protocol employs key agreement algorithms that could be broken by the invention of a CRQC [I-D.hoffman-c2pq].

When a certificate is used for authentication and a strong external PSK is used in conjunction with a key agreement algorithm, today's communications can be protected from the future invention of a CRQC. The strong external PSK and the shared secret from the key agreement algorithms are both provided as inputs to the TLS 1.3 key schedule, which preserves the authentication provided by the existing certificate and digital signature mechanisms, and requires the attacker to learn the external PSK as well as the shared secret to break confidentiality.

Likewise, a raw public key can be provided as described in [RFC7250].

Quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms are becoming standards, but it will take many years for TLS 1.3 ciphersuites that use these algorithms to be developed and deployed. In some environments, deployment of a strong external PSK provides protection until these quantum-resistant algorithms are deployed.

Another motivation is the use of a public key with a factory-provisioned secret value for the initial enrollment of a device in an enterprise network [I-D.ietf-emu-bootstrapped-tls].

4. Extension Overview

This section provides a brief overview of the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension.

The client includes the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension in the ClientHello message. The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension MUST be accompanied by the "key_share", "psk_key_exchange_modes", and "pre_shared_key" extensions. The client MAY also find it useful to include the "supported_groups" extension. Since the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is intended to be used only with initial handshakes, it MUST NOT be sent alongside the "early_data" extension. These extensions are all described in Section 4.2 of [RFC8446], which also requires the "pre_shared_key" extension to be the last extension in the ClientHello message.

If the client includes both the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension and the "early_data" extension, then the server MUST terminate the connection with an "illegal_parameter" alert.

If the server is willing to use one of the external PSKs listed in the "pre_shared_key" extension and perform certificate-based authentication, then the server includes the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension in the ServerHello message. The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension MUST be accompanied by the "key_share" and "pre_shared_key" extensions. If none of the external PSKs in the list provided by the client is acceptable to the server, then the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is omitted from the ServerHello message.

When the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is successfully negotiated, the TLS 1.3 key schedule processing includes both the selected external PSK and the (EC)DHE shared secret value. (EC)DHE refers to Diffie-Hellman over either finite fields or elliptic curves. As a result, the Early Secret, Handshake Secret, and Master Secret values all depend upon the value of the selected external PSK. Of course, the Early Secret does not depend upon the (EC)DHE shared secret.

The authentication of the server and optional authentication of the client depend upon the ability to generate a signature that can be validated with the public key in their certificates. The authentication processing is not changed in any way by the selected external PSK.

Each external PSK is associated with a single hash algorithm, which is required by Section 4.2.11 of [RFC8446]. The hash algorithm MUST be set when the PSK is established, with a default of SHA-256.

5. Certificate with External PSK Extension

This section specifies the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension, which MAY appear in the ClientHello message and ServerHello message. It MUST NOT appear in any other messages. The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension MUST NOT appear in the ServerHello message unless the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension appeared in the preceding ClientHello message. If an implementation recognizes the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension and receives it in any other message, then the implementation MUST abort the handshake with an "illegal_parameter" alert.

The general extension mechanisms enable clients and servers to negotiate the use of specific extensions. Clients request extended functionality from servers with the extensions field in the ClientHello message. If the server responds with a HelloRetryRequest message, then the client sends another ClientHello message as described in Section 4.1.2 of [RFC8446], including the same "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension as the original ClientHello message, or aborts the handshake.

Many server extensions are carried in the EncryptedExtensions message; however, the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is carried in the ServerHello message. Successful negotiation of the "pre_shared_key" extension enables certificate verification to take place in addition to the inclusion of the external PSK in the key schedule. The external PSK is identified bu the "key_share" extension, and the inclusion of the external PSK in the key schedule affects the key used for encryption. The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is only present in the ServerHello message if the server recognizes the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension and the server possesses one of the external PSKs offered by the client in the "pre_shared_key" extension in the ClientHello message.

The Extension structure is defined in [RFC8446]; it is repeated here for convenience.

  struct {
      ExtensionType extension_type;
      opaque extension_data<0..2^16-1>;
  } Extension;

The "extension_type" identifies the particular extension type, and the "extension_data" contains information specific to the particular extension type.

This document specifies the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension, adding one new type to ExtensionType:

  enum {
      tls_cert_with_extern_psk(33), (65535)
  } ExtensionType;

The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is relevant when the client and server possess an external PSK in common that can be used as an input to the TLS 1.3 key schedule. The "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is essentially a flag to use the external PSK in the key schedule, and it has the following syntax:

  struct {
      select (Handshake.msg_type) {
          case client_hello: Empty;
          case server_hello: Empty;
  } CertWithExternPSK;

5.1. Companion Extensions

Section 4 lists the extensions that are required to accompany the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension. Most of those extensions are not impacted in any way by this specification. However, this section discusses the extensions that require additional consideration.

The "psk_key_exchange_modes" extension is defined in of Section 4.2.9 of [RFC8446]. The "psk_key_exchange_modes" extension restricts the use of both the PSKs offered in this ClientHello and those that the server might supply via a subsequent NewSessionTicket. As a result, when the "psk_key_exchange_modes" extension is included in the ClientHello message, clients MUST include psk_dhe_ke mode. In addition, clients MAY also include psk_ke mode to support a subsequent NewSessionTicket. When the "psk_key_exchange_modes" extension is included in the ClientHello message, servers MUST select the psk_dhe_ke mode for the initial handshake. Servers MUST select a key exchange mode that is listed by the client for subsequent handshakes that include the resumption PSK from the initial handshake.

The "pre_shared_key" extension is defined in Section 4.2.11 of [RFC8446]. The syntax is repeated below for convenience. All of the listed PSKs MUST be external PSKs. If a resumption PSK is listed along with the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension, the server MUST abort the handshake with an "illegal_parameter" alert.

  struct {
      opaque identity<1..2^16-1>;
      uint32 obfuscated_ticket_age;
  } PskIdentity;

  opaque PskBinderEntry<32..255>;

  struct {
      PskIdentity identities<7..2^16-1>;
      PskBinderEntry binders<33..2^16-1>;
  } OfferedPsks;

  struct {
      select (Handshake.msg_type) {
          case client_hello: OfferedPsks;
          case server_hello: uint16 selected_identity;
  } PreSharedKeyExtension;

"OfferedPsks" contains the list of PSK identities and associated binders for the external PSKs that the client is willing to use with the server.

The identities are a list of external PSK identities that the client is willing to negotiate with the server. Each external PSK has an associated identity that is known to the client and the server; the associated identities may be known to other parties as well. In addition, the binder validation (see below) confirms that the client and server have the same key associated with the identity.

The "obfuscated_ticket_age" is not used for external PSKs. As stated in Section 4.2.11 of [RFC8446], clients SHOULD set this value to 0, and servers MUST ignore the value.

The binders are a series of HMAC [RFC2104] values, one for each external PSK offered by the client, in the same order as the identities list. The HMAC value is computed using the binder_key, which is derived from the external PSK, and a partial transcript of the current handshake. Generation of the binder_key from the external PSK is described in Section 7.1 of [RFC8446]. The partial transcript of the current handshake includes a partial ClientHello up to and including the PreSharedKeyExtension.identities field, as described in Section of [RFC8446].

The "selected_identity" contains the index of the external PSK identity that the server selected from the list offered by the client. As described in Section 4.2.11 of [RFC8446], the server MUST validate the binder value that corresponds to the selected external PSK, and if the binder does not validate, the server MUST abort the handshake with an "illegal_parameter" alert.

5.2. Authentication

When the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is successfully negotiated, authentication of the server depends upon the ability to generate a signature that can be validated with the public key. When the server uses a certificate, this is accomplished by the server sending the Certificate and CertificateVerify messages, as described in Sections 4.4.2 and 4.4.3 of [RFC8446]. Alternatively, the server can use a raw public key as described in [RFC7250].

TLS 1.3 does not permit the server to send a CertificateRequest message when a PSK is being used. This restriction is removed when the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is negotiated, allowing certificate-based authentication for both the client and the server. If certificate-based client authentication is desired, this is accomplished by the client sending the Certificate and CertificateVerify messages as described in Sections 4.4.2 and 4.4.3 of [RFC8446].

5.3. Keying Material

Section 7.1 of [RFC8446] specifies the TLS 1.3 key schedule. The successful negotiation of the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension requires the key schedule processing to include both the external PSK and the (EC)DHE shared secret value.

If the client and the server have different values associated with the selected external PSK identifier, then the client and the server will compute different values for every entry in the key schedule, which will lead to the client aborting the handshake with a "decrypt_error" alert.

6. IANA Considerations

Once this document is approved, IANA is asked to update the "TLS ExtensionType Values" registry [IANA] entry for the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension to reference this document.

7. Security Considerations

The Security Considerations in [RFC8446] remain relevant.

TLS 1.3 [RFC8446] does not permit the server to send a CertificateRequest message when a PSK is being used. This restriction is removed when the "tls_cert_with_extern_psk" extension is offered by the client and accepted by the server. However, TLS 1.3 does not permit an external PSK to be used in the same fashion as a resumption PSK, and this extension does not alter those restrictions.

Implementations must protect the external pre-shared key (PSK). Compromise of the external PSK will make the encrypted session content vulnerable to the future development of a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC). However, the generation, distribution, and management of the external PSKs is out of scope for this specification.

Implementers should not transmit the same content on a connection that is protected with an external PSK and a connection that is not. Doing so may allow an eavesdropper to correlate the connections, making the content vulnerable to the future invention of a CRQC.

Implementations must generate external PSKs with a secure key-management technique, such as pseudorandom generation of the key or derivation of the key from one or more other secure keys. The use of inadequate pseudorandom number generators (PRNGs) to generate external PSKs can result in little or no security. An attacker may find it much easier to reproduce the PRNG environment that produced the external PSKs and search the resulting small set of possibilities, rather than brute-force searching the whole key space. The generation of quality random numbers is difficult. [RFC4086] offers important guidance in this area.

Implementations must use a ciphersuite that includes a symmetric encryption algorithm with sufficiently large keys. For protection against the future invention of a CRQC, the symmetric key needs to be at least 128 bits. While Grover’s algorithm (described in Section 7.1 of [I-D.ietf-pquip-pqc-engineers]) allows a quantum computer to perform a brute force key search using quadratically fewer steps than would be required with classical computers, there are a number of mitigating factors suggesting that Grover’s algorithm will not speed up brute force symmetric key search as dramatically as one might suspect. First, quantum computing hardware will likely be more expensive to build and use than classical hardware. Second, to obtain the full quadratic speedup, all the steps of Grover’s algorithm must be performed in series. However, attacks on cryptography use massively parallel processing, the advantage of Grover’s algorithm will be smaller.

Implementations must use sufficiently large external PSKs. For protection against the future invention of a CRQC, the external PSK needs to be at least 128 bits.

If the external PSK is known to any party other than the client and the server, then the external PSK MUST NOT be the sole basis for authentication. The reasoning is explained in Section 4.2 of [K2016]. When this extension is used, authentication is based on certificates, not the external PSK.

In this extension, the external PSK preserves confidentiality if the (EC)DH key agreement is ever broken by cryptanalysis or the future invention of a CRQC. As long as the attacker does not know the PSK and the key derivation algorithm remains unbroken, the attacker cannot derive the session secrets, even if they are able to compute the (EC)DH shared secret. Should the attacker be able compute the (EC)DH shared secret, the forward-secrecy advantages traditionally associated with ephemeral (EC)DH keys will no longer be relevant. Although the ephemeral private keys used during a given TLS session are destroyed at the end of a session, preventing the attacker from later accessing them, these private keys would nevertheless be recoverable due to the break in the algorithm. However, a more general notion of "secrecy after key material is destroyed" would still be achievable using external PSKs, if they are managed in a way that ensures their destruction when they are no longer needed, and with the assumption that the algorithms that use the external PSKs remain quantum-safe.

TLS 1.3 key derivation makes use of the HMAC-based Key Derivation Function (HKDF) algorithm, which depends upon the HMAC [RFC2104] construction and a hash function. This extension provides the desired protection for the session secrets, as long as HMAC with the selected hash function is a pseudorandom function (PRF) [GGM1986].

This specification does not require that the external PSK is known only by the client and server. The external PSK may be known to a group. Since authentication depends on the public key in a certificate, knowledge of the external PSK by other parties does not enable impersonation. Since confidentiality depends on the shared secret from (EC)DH, knowledge of the external PSK by other parties does not enable eavesdropping. However, group members can record the traffic of other members and then decrypt it if they ever gain access to a CRQC. Also, when many parties know the external PSK, there are many opportunities for theft of the external PSK by an attacker. Once an attacker has the external PSK, they can decrypt stored traffic if they ever gain access to a CRQC, in the same manner as a legitimate group member.

TLS 1.3 [RFC8446] takes a conservative approach to PSKs; they are bound to a specific hash function and KDF. By contrast, TLS 1.2 [RFC5246] allows PSKs to be used with any hash function and the TLS 1.2 PRF. Thus, the safest approach is to use a PSK exclusively with TLS 1.2 or exclusively with TLS 1.3. Given one PSK, one can derive a PSK for exclusive use with TLS 1.2 and derive another PSK for exclusive use with TLS 1.3 using the mechanism specified in [RFC9258].

TLS 1.3 [RFC8446] has received careful security analysis, and the following informal reasoning shows that the addition of this extension does not introduce any security defects. This extension requires the use of certificates for authentication, but the processing of certificates is unchanged by this extension. This extension places an external PSK in the key schedule as part of the computation of the Early Secret. In the initial handshake without this extension, the Early Secret is computed as:

   Early Secret = HKDF-Extract(0, 0)

With this extension, the Early Secret is computed as:

   Early Secret = HKDF-Extract(External PSK, 0)

Any entropy contributed by the external PSK can only make the Early Secret better; the External PSK cannot make it worse. For these two reasons, TLS 1.3 continues to meet its security goals when this extension is used.

8. Privacy Considerations

Appendix E.6 of [RFC8446] discusses identity-exposure attacks on PSKs. Also, Appendix C.4 of [I-D.ietf-tls-rfc8446bis] discusses tracking prevention. The guidance in these sections remain relevant.

If an external PSK identity is used for multiple connections, then an observer will generally be able track clients and/or servers across connections. The rotation of the external PSK identity or the use of the Encrypted Client Hello extension [I-D.ietf-tls-esni] can mitigate this risk.

This extension makes use of external PSKs to improve resilience against attackers that gain access to a CRQC in the future and provides authentication for initial enrollment of devices in an enterprise network. This extension is always accompanied by the "pre_shared_key" extension to provide the PSK identities in plaintext in the ClientHello message. Passive observation of the these PSK identities will aid an attacker in tracking users or devices that make use of this extension.

9. References

9.1. Normative References

Friel, O. and D. Harkins, "Bootstrapped TLS Authentication with Proof of Knowledge (TLS-POK)", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-emu-bootstrapped-tls-03, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Wouters, P., Ed., Tschofenig, H., Ed., Gilmore, J., Weiler, S., and T. Kivinen, "Using Raw Public Keys in Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS)", RFC 7250, DOI 10.17487/RFC7250, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.3", RFC 8446, DOI 10.17487/RFC8446, , <>.

9.2. Informative References

RFC Editor, "RFC Errata 7598", <>.
Goldreich, O., Goldwasser, S., and S. Micali, "How to construct random functions", Journal of the ACM, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 792-807, DOI 10.1145/6490.6503, , <>.
Hoffman, P., "The Transition from Classical to Post-Quantum Cryptography", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-hoffman-c2pq-07, , <>.
Banerjee, A., Reddy.K, T., Schoinianakis, D., and T. Hollebeek, "Post-Quantum Cryptography for Engineers", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-pquip-pqc-engineers-02, , <>.
Rescorla, E., Oku, K., Sullivan, N., and C. A. Wood, "TLS Encrypted Client Hello", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-tls-esni-17, , <>.
Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.3", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-tls-rfc8446bis-09, , <>.
IANA, "TLS ExtensionType Values", <>.
Krawczyk, H., "A Unilateral-to-Mutual Authentication Compiler for Key Exchange (with Applications to Client Authentication in TLS1.3)", cryptoeprint 2016/711, , <>.
Krawczyk, H., Bellare, M., and R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed-Hashing for Message Authentication", RFC 2104, DOI 10.17487/RFC2104, , <>.
Eastlake 3rd, D., Schiller, J., and S. Crocker, "Randomness Requirements for Security", BCP 106, RFC 4086, DOI 10.17487/RFC4086, , <>.
Dierks, T. and E. Rescorla, "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.2", RFC 5246, DOI 10.17487/RFC5246, , <>.
Benjamin, D. and C. A. Wood, "Importing External Pre-Shared Keys (PSKs) for TLS 1.3", RFC 9258, DOI 10.17487/RFC9258, , <>.

Appendix A. Changes Since RFC 8773

The status elevation from Experimental RFC to Standards Track RFC is the most significant change in this document.

In addition to minor editorial updates, which include a change to the title, the following changes were made:


Many thanks to Liliya Akhmetzyanova, Roman Danyliw, Christian Huitema, Ben Kaduk, Geoffrey Keating, Hugo Krawczyk, Mirja Kühlewind, Nikos Mavrogiannopoulos, Nick Sullivan, Martin Thomson, and Peter Yee for their review and comments on the Internet-Drafts that eventually became RFC 8773; their efforts have improved the document.

Many thanks to Dan Harkins, Owen Friel, John Preuß Mattsson, Christian Huitema, and Joe Salowey for their review and comments on the updates to RFC 8773 that became this document; it is improved the by their efforts.

Author's Address

Russ Housley
Vigil Security, LLC
516 Dranesville Road
Herndon, VA 20170
United States of America