Opened 15 years ago

Closed 14 years ago

#30 closed design (fixed)

Header LWS

Reported by: mnot@… Owned by:
Priority: Milestone: 06
Component: p1-messaging Severity:
Keywords: Cc:


  1. Is LWS permitted between the field-name and colon?

    The grammar of RFC 2616 suggests that it is, because ":" is a separator character, and thus the rule for implied LWS between a token and a separator applies.

    The wording suggests otherwise, although it is not explicit:

    Each header field consists of a name followed by a colon (":") and the field value. Field names are case-insensitive. The field value MAY be preceded by any amount of LWS, though a single SP is preferred.

    The wording explicit states LWS is permitted after the colon, suggesting that the intention is that it's not permitted before the colon.

    Many authors have taken that interpretion, resulting in most of the servers I looked at not accepting LWS before the colon. (They should probably reject the request, but all of them treat it as an unknown header name including a space in the name token).

    Apache now, and Mozilla, accept LWS at that position.

  2. What about LWS before the field-name?

    At first sight, this doesn't make sense: LWS at the start of the line indicates folding. However, all implementations I looked at accept a line beginning with LWS immediately after the Request-Line or Status-Line. Some of them treat the initial LWS as part of the field-name (they don't enforce the limited character range of tokens), or they skip the LWS.

    Apache doesn't look for and ignore LWS prior to the first field-name. Neither do Squid, thttpd or lighttpd. Mozilla and phttpd do.

    Technically, the grammar disallows LWS before the field-name: Implied LWS is only implied _between_ words and separators.

Both of these inconsistencies between programs, and also that lone CR is treated as LWS by some and not others, lead to potential security holes due to non-compliant messages that claim to be HTTP/1.1. Although it isn't the standard's role to state how a program should respond to every kind of invalid message, it would be good to clarify these points because they do have security implications (which was Apache's stated reason for their change):

  1. Whether LWS is actually permitted between the field-name and colon. (Grammar says it is; wording suggests it isn't. Implementations vary).
  2. Whether LWS is actually permitted before the field-name. (Grammar says it isn't. Implementations vary).
  3. That lone CR in a line is explicitly not allowed and SHOULD (or MUST?) be rejected, for the specific reason that implementations vary as to whether it is treated as LWS, which has security implications for programs which must match on the field-name.
  4. That invalid field-names (such as containing control characters or LWS) SHOULD (or MUST?) be rejected.

Change History (7)

comment:1 Changed 15 years ago by mnot@…

  • Component set to messaging
  • Milestone set to unassigned
  • version set to d00

comment:2 Changed 15 years ago by fielding@…

My suggestion at the Vancouver meeting was to use

BWS = LWS ; bad whitespace that MUST NOT be sent

; but MUST be detected and removed by recipients

because failure to handle this consistently is a security hole.

comment:3 Changed 14 years ago by mnot@…

  • Milestone changed from unassigned to 06

comment:4 Changed 14 years ago by fielding@…

From [395]:

Deprecate line folding, addresses #77. Require that invalid whitespace around field-names be rejected, addresses #30. Make non-ASCII content obsolete and opaque in header fields and reason phrase, addresses #63, #74, #94, #111.

comment:5 Changed 14 years ago by julian.reschke@…

  • Resolution set to fixed
  • Status changed from new to closed

Fixed in [397]:

Resolve #30: Header LWS issue was resolved with revision [395] (closes #30)

comment:6 Changed 14 years ago by julian.reschke@…

  • Resolution fixed deleted
  • Status changed from closed to reopened

re-open until reviewed

comment:7 Changed 14 years ago by mnot@…

  • Resolution set to fixed
  • Status changed from reopened to closed
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