XEP-0035: SSL/TLS Integration

NOTE WELL: this specification was retracted on 2003-11-05 since the topic is addressed definitively in XMPP Core. Please refer to XMPP Core for further information.
Robert Norris
© 2002 – 2003 XMPP Standards Foundation. SEE LEGAL NOTICES.


WARNING: This document has been retracted by the author(s). Implementation of the protocol described herein is not recommended. Developers desiring similar functionality are advised to implement the protocol that supersedes this one (XMPP Core).
Superseded By
Standards Track
0.2 (2003-11-05)
Document Lifecycle
  1. Experimental
  2. Retracted
  3. Proposed
  4. Stable
  5. Final

1. Introduction

The TLS protocol [1] (formerly known as SSL) provides a way to secure an application protocol from tampering and eavesdropping. The option of using such security is desirable for Jabber due to common connection eavesdropping and hijacking attacks. [2] [3]

Traditionally, Jabber servers has supported TLS by utilising a "wrapper" around the standard protocol stream. This wrapper usually listens on a port other than those listed in the IANA registry [4] (commonly 5223 for client-to-server communications and 5270 for server-to-server communications). In the case of client-to-server communications, clients must initiate a TLS session immediately after connecting, before beginning the normal XML stream. This method of utilising TLS is typical of many servers that implement stream-based protocols, but has a number of flaws, which are outlined in section 7 of RFC 2595. Accordingly, the use of port 5223 and port 5270 for secure sessions is deprecated.

This document describes an extension to the Jabber XML stream that provides a "STARTTLS" command which clients may invoke on an insecure stream to secure it. This extension is modelled on RFC 2595, which describes the STARTTLS extension for the IMAP [5], POP3 [6] and ACAP [7] protocols. A future document (or an addition to this document) will define TLS support within server-to-server streams.

2. Protocol

2.1 Overview

This protocol operates over the standard Jabber client connection on port 5222.

The namespace identifier for this protocol is http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2595.txt.

The following examples show the dialogue between a client [C] and a server [S].

2.2 Stream initialization

The client begins by requesting the use of STARTTLS as part of the normal Jabber stream negotiation. The server responds by informing the client whether or not it supports STARTTLS. It does this in the normal stream negotiation response:

Example 1. Stream initialization
C: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'
S: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'

In the event that a server does not support the STARTTLS extension, it will respond with the normal stream negotiation response:

Example 2. Stream initialization; server not supporting STARTTLS
C: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'
S: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'

2.3 TLS negotiation

To begin the TLS negotiation, the client issues the STARTTLS command:

Example 3. STARTTLS request
C: <tls:starttls/>

When the server is ready to begin the TLS negotiation, it will close the XML stream, but will keep the underlying connection to the client open:

Example 4. STARTTLS response
S: </stream:stream>

The client now begins a normal TLS negotiation by sending the TLS ClientHello command. Upon completion of the TLS negotiation, the client reissues the XML stream initialization:

Example 5. Stream initialization
C: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'
S: <stream:stream xmlns='jabber:client'

This is necessary, since any information about the stream presented by the server or the client may have been modified by an attacker.

Note that once the secure channel has been established, the server must not advertise or allow the use of the STARTTLS command.

3. Certificate-based authentication

TLS allows clients to be authenticated by verifying the certificate that they present during the TLS negotiation. This can be done in conjunction with the Jabber SASL profile (see SASL Integration (XEP-0034) [8]) and the EXTERNAL mechanism.

If a client authenticates with a certificate using the TLS authentication, and the client requests the use of SASL in the second XML stream negotiation (over the secure channel), servers supporting certificate-based authentication should add the EXTERNAL mechanism to the list of supported authentication mechanisms. If the client then requests this mechanism, the server should automatically inform the user that authentication was successful. See RFC 2222 [9] and XEP-0034 for more information.

Servers implementing STARTTLS functionality are not required to implement certificate-based authentication.


Appendix A: Document Information

XMPP Standards Foundation
Standards Track
Last Updated
Approving Body
XMPP Council
Superseded By
Short Name
Source Control

This document in other formats: XML  PDF

Appendix B: Author Information

Robert Norris


This XMPP Extension Protocol is copyright © 1999 – 2024 by the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF).


Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this specification (the "Specification"), to make use of the Specification without restriction, including without limitation the rights to implement the Specification in a software program, deploy the Specification in a network service, and copy, modify, merge, publish, translate, distribute, sublicense, or sell copies of the Specification, and to permit persons to whom the Specification is furnished to do so, subject to the condition that the foregoing copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Specification. Unless separate permission is granted, modified works that are redistributed shall not contain misleading information regarding the authors, title, number, or publisher of the Specification, and shall not claim endorsement of the modified works by the authors, any organization or project to which the authors belong, or the XMPP Standards Foundation.

Disclaimer of Warranty

## NOTE WELL: This Specification is provided on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, express or implied, including, without limitation, any warranties or conditions of TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY, or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ##

Limitation of Liability

In no event and under no legal theory, whether in tort (including negligence), contract, or otherwise, unless required by applicable law (such as deliberate and grossly negligent acts) or agreed to in writing, shall the XMPP Standards Foundation or any author of this Specification be liable for damages, including any direct, indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages of any character arising from, out of, or in connection with the Specification or the implementation, deployment, or other use of the Specification (including but not limited to damages for loss of goodwill, work stoppage, computer failure or malfunction, or any and all other commercial damages or losses), even if the XMPP Standards Foundation or such author has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

IPR Conformance

This XMPP Extension Protocol has been contributed in full conformance with the XSF's Intellectual Property Rights Policy (a copy of which can be found at <https://xmpp.org/about/xsf/ipr-policy> or obtained by writing to XMPP Standards Foundation, P.O. Box 787, Parker, CO 80134 USA).

Visual Presentation

The HTML representation (you are looking at) is maintained by the XSF. It is based on the YAML CSS Framework, which is licensed under the terms of the CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.

Appendix D: Relation to XMPP

The Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is defined in the XMPP Core (RFC 6120) and XMPP IM (RFC 6121) specifications contributed by the XMPP Standards Foundation to the Internet Standards Process, which is managed by the Internet Engineering Task Force in accordance with RFC 2026. Any protocol defined in this document has been developed outside the Internet Standards Process and is to be understood as an extension to XMPP rather than as an evolution, development, or modification of XMPP itself.

Appendix E: Discussion Venue

The primary venue for discussion of XMPP Extension Protocols is the <standards@xmpp.org> discussion list.

Discussion on other xmpp.org discussion lists might also be appropriate; see <https://xmpp.org/community/> for a complete list.

Errata can be sent to <editor@xmpp.org>.

Appendix F: Requirements Conformance

The following requirements keywords as used in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119: "MUST", "SHALL", "REQUIRED"; "MUST NOT", "SHALL NOT"; "SHOULD", "RECOMMENDED"; "SHOULD NOT", "NOT RECOMMENDED"; "MAY", "OPTIONAL".

Appendix G: Notes

1. RFC 2246

2. See RFC 1704, "On Internet Authentication."

3. This paragraph adapted from RFC 2595, section 1.

4. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority defines jabber-client (port 5222) and jabber-server (port 5269) as the standard Jabber ports; see http://www.iana.org/assignments/port-numbers.

5. RFC 2060

6. RFC 1939

7. RFC 2244

8. XEP-0034: SASL Integration <https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0034.html>.

9. RFC 2222: Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2222>.

Appendix H: Revision History

Note: Older versions of this specification might be available at https://xmpp.org/extensions/attic/

  1. Version 0.2 (2003-11-05)
    The status of this specification has been changed to Retracted since it has been superseded by XMPP Core.
  2. Version 0.1 (2002-06-14)
    Initial version.

Appendix I: Bib(La)TeX Entry

  title = {SSL/TLS Integration},
  author = {Norris, Robert},
  type = {XEP},
  number = {0035},
  version = {0.2},
  institution = {XMPP Standards Foundation},
  url = {https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0035.html},
  date = {2002-06-14/2003-11-05},