Internet-Draft MLS AppSync July 2024
Barnes & Mahy Expires 8 January 2025 [Page]
Messaging Layer Security
Intended Status:
R. Barnes
R. Mahy
Rohan Mahy Consulting Services

Using Messaging Layer Security to Synchronize Application State


One feature that the Messaging Layer Security (MLS) protocol provides is that it allows the members of a group to confirm that they agree on certain data. In this document, we define a mechanism for applications using MLS to exploit this feature of MLS to ensure that the group members are in agreement on the state of the application in addition to MLS-related state. We define a GroupContext extension that captures the state of the application and an AppSync proposal that can be used to update the application state.

About This Document

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Messaging Layer Security (MLS) allows a group of clients to authenticate each other and establish shared secret state [RFC9420]. One of the primary security benefits of MLS is that the MLS key schedule confirms that the group agrees on certain metadata, such as the membership of the group. Members that disagree on the relevant metadata will arrive at different keys and be unable to communicate. Applications based on MLS can integrate their state into this metadata in order to confirm that the members of an MLS group agree on application state as well as MLS metadata.

Here, we define two extensions to MLS to facilitate this application design:

  1. A GroupContext extension application_states that confirms agreement on application state from potentially multiple sources.

  2. A new proposal type AppSync that allows MLS group members to propose changes to the agreed application state.

2. Conventions and Definitions

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. Application State Synchronization

This document defines a new AppSync proposal. AppSync is a Safe Extension as defined in Section 2 of [I-D.ietf-mls-extensions], of type extension_external_proposal.

The application_states extension allows the application to inject state objects into the MLS key schedule. Changes to this state can be made out of band, or using the AppSync proposal. Using the AppSync proposal ensures that members of the MLS group have received the relevant state changes before they are reflected in the group's application_states.

The state for Each applicationId in the application_states needs to conform to one of four basic types: an ordered array, an unordered array, a map, or an irreducible blob. This allows the AppSync proposal to efficiently modify a large application state object.

The content of the application_states extension and the AppSync proposal are structured as follows:

enum {
} StateType;

struct {
  opaque element<V>;
} OpaqueElement;

struct {
  opaque elementName<V>;
  opaque elementValue<V>;
} OpaqueMapElement;

struct {
  uint32 applicationId;
  StateType stateType;
  select (stateType) {
    case irreducible:
      OpaqueElement state;
    case map:
      OpaqueMapElement mapEntries<V>;
    case unorderedList:
      OpaqueElement unorderedEntries<V>;
    case orderedArray:
      OpaqueElement orderedEntries<V>;
} ApplicationState;

struct {
  ApplicationState applicationStates<V>;
} ApplicationStatesExtension;
Figure 1: The `application_state` extension
struct {
  uint32 index;
  opaque element<V>;
} ElementWithIndex;

struct {
  uint32 applicationId;
  StateType stateType;
  select (stateType) {
    case irreducible:
      OpaqueElement newState;
    case map:
      OpaqueElement removedKeys<V>;
      OpaqueMapElement newOrUpdatedElements<V>;
    case unorderedList:
      uint32 removedIndices<V>;
      OpaqueElement addedEntries<V>;
    case orderedArray:
      ElementWithIndex replacedElements<V>;
      uint32 removedIndices<V>;
      ElementWithIndex insertedElements<V>;
      OpaqueElement appenededEntries<V>;
} AppSync;
Figure 2: The AppSync proposal type

The applicationId determines the structure and interpretation of the contents. of an ApplicationState object. AppSync proposals contain changes to this state, which the client uses to update the representation of the state in application_states.

A client receiving an AppSync proposal applies it in the following way:

An AppSync for an irreducible state replaces its state element with a new (possibly empty) newState. An AppSync for a map-based ApplicationState first removes all the keys in removedKeys and than replaces or adds the elements in newOrUpdatedElements. An AppSync for an unorderedList ApplicationState first removes all the indexes in removedIndices, then adds the elements in addedEntries. Finally an AppSync for an orderedArray, replaces all the elements (index-by-index) in replacedElements, the removes the elements in removedIndices according to the then order of the array, then inserts all the elements in insertedElements according to the then order of the array, then finally appends the appendedEntries (in order). All indices are zero-based.

Note that the application_states extension is updated directly by AppSync proposals; a GroupContextExtensions proposal is not necessary. A proposal list that contains both an AppSync proposal and a GroupContextExtensions proposal is invalid.

Likewise a proposal list in a Commit MAY contain more than one AppSync proposal, but no more than one AppSync proposal per applicationId. The proposals are applied in the order that they are sent in the Commit.

AppSync proposals do not need to contain an UpdatePath. An AppSync proposal can be sent by an authorized external sender.

4. Security Considerations

The mechanism defined in this document provides strong authenticity, integrity, and change control properties to the application state information it manages. Nobody outside the group can make changes to the application state, and the identity of the group member making each change is authenticated.

The application data synchronized via this mechanism may or may not be confidential to the group, depending on whether the AppSync proposal is sent as an MLS PublicMessage or PrivateMessage. As with application data, applications should generally prefer the use of Private Message. There may be cases, however, where it is useful for intermediaries to inspect application state updates, e.g., to enforce policy.

5. IANA Considerations

6. Normative References

Robert, R., "The Messaging Layer Security (MLS) Extensions", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-mls-extensions-04, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Barnes, R., Beurdouche, B., Robert, R., Millican, J., Omara, E., and K. Cohn-Gordon, "The Messaging Layer Security (MLS) Protocol", RFC 9420, DOI 10.17487/RFC9420, , <>.


Authors' Addresses

Richard Barnes
Rohan Mahy
Rohan Mahy Consulting Services