Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Request for Comments: 7723
Category: Standards Track
ISSN: 2070-1721
S. Kiesel
University of Stuttgart
R. Penno
Cisco Systems, Inc.
January 2016

Port Control Protocol (PCP) Anycast Addresses


The Port Control Protocol (PCP) anycast addresses enable PCP clients to transmit signaling messages to their closest PCP-aware on-path NAT, firewall, or other middlebox without having to learn the IP address of that middlebox via some external channel. This document establishes one well-known IPv4 address and one well-known IPv6 address to be used as PCP anycast addresses.

Status of This Memo

This is an Internet Standards Track document.

This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has received public review and has been approved for publication by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 5741.

Information about the current status of this document, any errata, and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  PCP Server Discovery Based on Well-Known IP Address . . . . .   3
     2.1.  PCP Discovery Client Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.2.  PCP Discovery Server Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Deployment Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     4.1.  Registration of an IPv4 Special-Purpose Address . . . . .   5
     4.2.  Registration of an IPv6 Special-Purpose Address . . . . .   5
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.1.  Information Leakage through Anycast . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.2.  Hijacking of PCP Messages Sent to Anycast Addresses . . .   6
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9

1. Introduction

The Port Control Protocol (PCP) [RFC6887] provides a mechanism to control how incoming packets are forwarded by upstream devices such as Network Address and Protocol Translation from IPv6 Clients to IPv4 Servers (NAT64), Network Address Translation from IPv4 to IPv4 (NAT44), and IPv6 and IPv4 firewall devices. Furthermore, it provides a mechanism to reduce application keepalive traffic [PCP-OPTIMIZE]. The PCP base protocol document [RFC6887] specifies the message formats used, but the address to which a client sends its request is either assumed to be the default router (which is appropriate in a typical single-link residential network) or has to be configured otherwise via some external mechanism, such as a configuration file or a DHCP option [RFC7291].

This document follows a different approach: it establishes two well- known anycast addresses for the PCP server, one IPv4 address and one IPv6 address. PCP clients usually send PCP requests to these well- known addresses if no other PCP server addresses are known or after communication attempts to such other addresses have failed. The anycast addresses are allocated from pools of special-purpose IP addresses (see Section 4), in accordance with Section 3.4 of [RFC4085]. Yet, a means to disable or override these well-known addresses (e.g., a configuration file option) should be available in implementations.

Using an anycast address is particularly useful in larger network topologies. For example, if the PCP-enabled NAT/firewall function is not located on the client's default gateway but further upstream in a Carrier-Grade NAT (CGN), sending PCP requests to the default gateway's IP address will not have the desired effect. When using a configuration file or the DHCP option to learn the PCP server's IP address, this file or the DHCP server configuration must reflect the network topology and the router and CGN configuration. This may be cumbersome to achieve and maintain. If there is more than one upstream CGN and traffic is routed using a dynamic routing protocol such as OSPF, this approach may not be feasible at all, as it cannot provide timely information regarding which CGN to interact with. In contrast, when using the PCP anycast address, the PCP request will travel through the network like any other packet (i.e., without any special support from DNS, DHCP, other routers, or anything else) until it reaches the PCP-capable device that receives it, handles it, and sends back a reply. A further advantage of using an anycast address instead of a DHCP option is that the anycast address can be hard-coded into the application. There is no need for an application programming interface that passes the PCP server's address from the operating system's DHCP client to the application. For further discussion of deployment considerations, see Section 3.

2. PCP Server Discovery Based on Well-Known IP Address

2.1. PCP Discovery Client Behavior

PCP clients can add the PCP anycast addresses, which are defined in Sections 4.1 and 4.2, after the default router list (for IPv4 and IPv6) to the list of PCP server(s) (see step 2 in Section 8.1 of [RFC6887]). This list is processed as specified in [RFC7488].

Note: If, in some specific scenario, it was desirable to use only the anycast address (and not the default router), this could be achieved by putting the anycast address into the configuration file or DHCP option.

2.2. PCP Discovery Server Behavior

PCP servers can be configured to listen on the anycast addresses for incoming PCP requests. When a PCP server receives a PCP request destined for an anycast address it supports, it sends the corresponding PCP replies using that same anycast address as the source address (see the "How UDP and TCP Use Anycasting" section of [RFC1546] for further discussion).

3. Deployment Considerations

For general recommendations regarding operation of anycast services, see [RFC4786]. Architectural considerations of IP anycast are discussed in [RFC7094].

In some deployment scenarios, using PCP anycasting may have certain limitations that can be overcome by using additional mechanisms or by using other PCP server discovery methods instead, such as DHCP [RFC7291] or a configuration file.

One important example is a network topology in which a network is connected to one or more upstream network(s) via several parallel firewalls, each individually controlled by its own PCP server. Even if all of these PCP servers are configured for anycasting, only one will receive the messages sent by a given client, depending on the state of the routing tables.

As long as routing is always symmetric, i.e., all upstream and downstream packets from/to that client are routed through this very same firewall, communication will be possible as expected. If there is a routing change, a PCP client using PCP anycasting might start interacting with a different PCP server. From the PCP client's point of view, this would be the same as a PCP server reboot and the client could detect it by examining the Epoch field during the next PCP response or ANNOUNCE message. The client would re-establish the firewall rules and packet flows could resume.

If, however, routing is asymmetric, upstream packets from a client traverse a different firewall than the downstream packets to that client. Establishing policy rules in only one of these two firewalls by means of PCP anycasting will not have the desired result of allowing bidirectional connectivity. One solution approach to overcome this problem is an implementation-specific mechanism to synchronize state between all firewalls at the border of a network, i.e., a PEER message sent to any of these PCP servers would establish rules in all firewalls. Another approach would be to use a different discovery mechanism (e.g., DHCP or a configuration file) that allows a PCP client to acquire a list of all PCP servers controlling the parallel firewalls and configure each of them individually.

PCP anycast as such allows a PCP client to communicate only with its closest upstream PCP server. However, it may be used in conjunction with the PCP proxy function [RFC7648], in order to support scenarios with cascaded PCP-enabled NATs or firewalls.

4. IANA Considerations

4.1. Registration of an IPv4 Special-Purpose Address

IANA has assigned a single IPv4 address from the prefix and registered it in the "IANA IPv4 Special-Purpose Address Registry" [RFC6890].

   | Attribute            | Value                                     |
   | Address Block        |                              |
   | Name                 | Port Control Protocol Anycast             |
   | RFC                  | RFC 7723 (this document)                  |
   | Allocation Date      | October 2015                              |
   | Termination Date     | N/A                                       |
   | Source               | True                                      |
   | Destination          | True                                      |
   | Forwardable          | True                                      |
   | Global               | True                                      |
   | Reserved-by-Protocol | False                                     |

4.2. Registration of an IPv6 Special-Purpose Address

IANA has assigned a single IPv6 address from the 2001:0000::/23 prefix and registered it in the "IANA IPv6 Special-Purpose Address Registry" [RFC6890].

   | Attribute            | Value                                     |
   | Address Block        | 2001:1::1/128                             |
   | Name                 | Port Control Protocol Anycast             |
   | RFC                  | RFC 7723 (this document)                  |
   | Allocation Date      | October 2015                              |
   | Termination Date     | N/A                                       |
   | Source               | True                                      |
   | Destination          | True                                      |
   | Forwardable          | True                                      |
   | Global               | True                                      |
   | Reserved-by-Protocol | False                                     |

5. Security Considerations

In addition to the security considerations in [RFC6887], [RFC4786], and [RFC7094], two further security issues are considered here.

5.1. Information Leakage through Anycast

In a network without any border gateway, NAT, or firewall that is aware of the PCP anycast address, outgoing PCP requests could leak out onto the external Internet, possibly revealing information about internal devices.

Using an IANA-assigned, well-known PCP anycast address enables border gateways to block such outgoing packets. In the default-free zone, routers should be configured to drop such packets. Such configuration can occur naturally via BGP messages advertising that no route exists to said address.

Sensitive clients that do not wish to leak information about their presence can set an IP TTL on their PCP requests that limits how far they can travel towards the public Internet. However, methods for choosing an appropriate TTL value, e.g., based on the assumed radius of the trusted network domain, is beyond the scope of this document.

Before sending PCP requests with possibly privacy-sensitive parameters (e.g., IP addresses and port numbers) to the PCP anycast addresses, PCP clients can send an ANNOUNCE request (without parameters; see Section 14.1 of [RFC6887]) in order to probe whether a PCP server consumes and processes PCP requests sent to that anycast address.

5.2. Hijacking of PCP Messages Sent to Anycast Addresses

The anycast addresses are treated by normal host operating systems as normal unicast addresses, i.e., packets destined for an anycast address are sent to the default router for processing and forwarding. Hijacking such packets in the first network segment would effectively require the attacker to impersonate the default router, e.g., by means of ARP spoofing in an Ethernet network. Once an anycast message is forwarded closer to the core network, routing will likely become subject to dynamic routing protocols such as OSPF or BGP. Anycast messages could be hijacked by announcing counterfeited messages in these routing protocols. When analyzing the risk and possible consequences of such attacks in a given network scenario, the probable impacts on PCP signaling need to be put into proportion with probable impacts on other protocols such as the actual application protocols.

In addition to following best current practices in first-hop security and routing-protocol security, PCP authentication [RFC7652] may be useful in some scenarios. However, the effort needed for a proper setup of this authentication mechanism (e.g., installing the right shared secrets or cryptographic keys on all involved systems) may thwart the goal of fully automatic configuration by using PCP anycast. Therefore, this approach may be less suitable for scenarios with high trust between the operator of the PCP-controlled middlebox and all users (e.g., a residential gateway used only by family members) or in scenarios in which there is rather limited trust that the middlebox will behave correctly (e.g., the Wi-Fi in an airport lounge). In contrast, this scheme may be highly useful in scenarios with many users and a trusted network operator, such as a large corporate network or a university campus network, which uses several parallel NATs or firewalls to connect to the Internet. Therefore, a thorough analysis of the benefits and costs of using PCP authentication in a given network scenario is recommended.

6. References

6.1. Normative References

   [RFC6887]  Wing, D., Ed., Cheshire, S., Boucadair, M., Penno, R., and
              P. Selkirk, "Port Control Protocol (PCP)", RFC 6887,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6887, April 2013,
   [RFC6890]  Cotton, M., Vegoda, L., Bonica, R., Ed., and B. Haberman,
              "Special-Purpose IP Address Registries", BCP 153,
              RFC 6890, DOI 10.17487/RFC6890, April 2013,
   [RFC7488]  Boucadair, M., Penno, R., Wing, D., Patil, P., and T.
              Reddy, "Port Control Protocol (PCP) Server Selection",
              RFC 7488, DOI 10.17487/RFC7488, March 2015,

6.2. Informative References


              Reddy, T., Patil, P., Isomaki, M., and D. Wing,
              "Optimizing NAT and Firewall Keepalives Using Port Control
              Protocol (PCP)", Work in Progress,
              draft-ietf-pcp-optimize-keepalives-06, May 2015.
   [RFC1546]  Partridge, C., Mendez, T., and W. Milliken, "Host
              Anycasting Service", RFC 1546, DOI 10.17487/RFC1546,
              November 1993, <>.
   [RFC4085]  Plonka, D., "Embedding Globally-Routable Internet
              Addresses Considered Harmful", BCP 105, RFC 4085,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4085, June 2005,
   [RFC4786]  Abley, J. and K. Lindqvist, "Operation of Anycast
              Services", BCP 126, RFC 4786, DOI 10.17487/RFC4786,
              December 2006, <>.
   [RFC7094]  McPherson, D., Oran, D., Thaler, D., and E. Osterweil,
              "Architectural Considerations of IP Anycast", RFC 7094,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7094, January 2014,
   [RFC7291]  Boucadair, M., Penno, R., and D. Wing, "DHCP Options for
              the Port Control Protocol (PCP)", RFC 7291,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7291, July 2014,
   [RFC7648]  Perreault, S., Boucadair, M., Penno, R., Wing, D., and S.
              Cheshire, "Port Control Protocol (PCP) Proxy Function",
              RFC 7648, DOI 10.17487/RFC7648, September 2015,
   [RFC7652]  Cullen, M., Hartman, S., Zhang, D., and T. Reddy, "Port
              Control Protocol (PCP) Authentication Mechanism",
              RFC 7652, DOI 10.17487/RFC7652, September 2015,


The authors would like to thank the members of the PCP working group for contributions and feedback, in particular, Mohamed Boucadair, Charles Eckel, Simon Perreault, Tirumaleswar Reddy, Markus Stenberg, Dave Thaler, and Dan Wing.

Authors' Addresses

   Sebastian Kiesel
   University of Stuttgart Information Center
   Networks and Communication Systems Department
   Allmandring 30
   Stuttgart  70550
   Reinaldo Penno
   Cisco Systems, Inc.
   170 West Tasman Drive
   San Jose, California  95134
   United States