XEP-0139: Security SIG

This document proposes the formation of a Special Interest Group devoted to the analysis of security threats related to Jabber technologies.
  • Peter Saint-Andre
  • Will Kamishlian
© 1999 – 2019 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WARNING: This document has been retracted by the author(s).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 (if any).
SIG Formation
0.2 (2004-09-15)
Document Lifecycle
  1. Retracted

1. Introduction

Because security is a core value within the Jabber community, it is appropriate for the XMPP Standards Foundation to assess potential security threats related to technologies that implement the Jabber protocols (including XMPP and defined XMPP extensions), as well as ways to address the threats (for general information about the Internet threat model, see RFC 3552 [1]). Furthermore, since security threats are wide-ranging and of broad concern, it would be valuable for interested members of the entire Jabber community to discuss these matters. Unfortunately, security discussions can often be theoretical, contentious, and inconclusive. Thus it is imperative that discussion proceed based on a methodical process of threat identification, risk analysis, and prioritization before moving on to documentation of threat responses (preferably in protocol specifications such as XMPP Extension Protocols (XEP-0001) [2]). This document proposes a forum and process for such security discussions in the form of a Special Interest Group (see Special Interest Groups (XEP-0002) [3]) that shall report to the XMPP Council [4] in accordance with Article VIII of the XSF Bylaws [5].

2. Scope and Role

The role of the Security SIG shall be to identify and describe security threats related to Jabber technologies, analyze their potential risk, assign priorities to each threat, provide references to existing responses, and (where appropriate) provisionally recommend improvements in Jabber protocols and technologies in order to address the identified threats. The Security SIG shall not itself develop or approve protocols, which tasks shall remain under the purview of the Standards SIG [6] and the Jabber Council respectively.

3. Membership

The Security SIG shall be open to the public and shall not be limited to elected members of the XMPP Standards Foundation. Security SIG discussions shall be conducted in open forums, including a dedicated mailing list at <security-jig@jabber.org>. The process for moderating such discussions shall be decided by the members of the Security SIG, but such moderation is strongly encouraged in order to follow the orderly process of threat identification and risk analysis outlined below.

4. Lifetime

The Security SIG shall be a standing SIG, and shall exist as long as the Jabber Council deems it useful.

5. Deliverables

The Security SIG shall produce at least the following deliverables:

  1. A brief document specifying the process by which the SIG shall identify, define, analyze, and prioritize a collection of documented security-related threats. This process document will not identify threats or define ways to address them, but instead specify the process to be followed in Steps 2 and 3 below. In defining the process, the SIG should also describe some of its guiding principles, such as:

    1. Rough consensus and running code are superior to "perfect" solutions
    2. Security measures that cannot or will not be implemented are useless
    3. Iteration works better than trying to define all solutions up front
  2. A template to be used for documenting each identified threat. This template should include:

    1. A name for the threat
    2. An abstract that briefly describes the threat
    3. A clear and thorough definition of the threat, preferably to include an attack tree [7]
    4. The estimated likelihood of the threat (e.g., high/medium/low)
    5. The estimated potential damage the threat could cause (e.g., high/medium/low)
    6. A resulting priority for addressing the threat
    7. Existing approaches for addressing the threat (e.g., as documented in a XEP)
    8. The gap between the identified threat and existing responses
    9. Potential approaches to addressing the threat or closing the gap, including implementation issues associated with each approach (since security measures that cannot or will not be implemented are useless)
    10. Current recommended approach (which may be "do nothing at this time")

    The template will not fully define the foregoing information, but instead specify what information must be defined for each threat when completing the analysis described in Step 3.

  3. An evolving document that completes the template defined in Step 2 for all identified threats by following the process established in Step 1. The result will be a thorough analysis of all potential security threats related to Jabber protocols and technologies. Note: This document shall not define complete solutions to the identified threats, although it may outline potential and recommended approaches. Solutions shall be defined in standalone documents such as XEPs.


Appendix A: Document Information

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

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Appendix B: Author Information

Peter Saint-Andre
Will Kamishlian


This XMPP Extension Protocol is copyright © 1999 – 2018 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).

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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 <http://xmpp.org/about/discuss.shtml> 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 3552: Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3552>.

2. XEP-0001: XMPP Extension Protocols <https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0001.html>.

3. XEP-0002: Special Interest Groups <https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0002.html>.

4. The XMPP Council is a technical steering committee, authorized by the XSF Board of Directors and elected by XSF members, that approves of new XMPP Extensions Protocols and oversees the XSF's standards process. For further information, see <https://xmpp.org/about/xmpp-standards-foundation#council>.

5. The Bylaws of the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF) define the legal basis and operating procedures of the XSF. For further information, see <https://xmpp.org/about/xsf/bylaws>.

6. The Standards SIG is a standing Special Interest Group devoted to development of XMPP Extension Protocols. The discussion list of the Standards SIG is the primary venue for discussion of XMPP protocol extensions, as well as for announcements by the XMPP Extensions Editor and XMPP Registrar. To subscribe to the list or view the list archives, visit <https://mail.jabber.org/mailman/listinfo/standards/>.

7. For information about attack trees, refer to <http://www.schneier.com/paper-attacktrees-ddj-ft.html>.

Appendix H: Revision History

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

  1. Version 0.2 (2004-09-15)
    Changed status to Retracted since it now appears unnecessary to form a SIG in order to complete this work; rather, it should be sufficient to write a XEP and solicit feedback from appropriate security experts before the Last Call. However, such a XEP should use the process described herein.
  2. Version 0.1 (2004-07-26)
    Initial version.
  3. Version 0.1 (2004-07-26)
    Initial version.