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Last update: 2007-04-03

End: 2008-01


Strengthening Trust in Jabber/XMPP Technologies

Jabber technologies, as formalized in the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), are a set of decentralized, open technologies for near-real-time messaging, presence, and streaming XML (now being extended to address multimedia signalling and other advanced use cases).

In order to understand how to improve the security and trust characteristics of Jabber technologies, one needs to understand some of their key characteristics:

  1. Jabber/XMPP is not a typical open-source project; because the Jabber community is centered on a wire protocol rather than a particular codebase, it consists of many open-source projects, freeware and shareware developers, and commercial software companies. The role of the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF) is to define protocols through open debate and discussion, then encourage the implementation of those protocols by the many decentralized projects and companies in the Jabber community.
  2. Jabber/XMPP technologies are also deployed in a highly decentralized fashion, typically in a client-server architecture that is quite similar to email (but also sometimes in a local mesh or peer-to-peer architecture through the use of zero-configuration networking). As a result, there is a large network of Jabber servers on the Internet, plus many servers operating behind firewalls on organizational intranets. However, few Jabber/XMPP servers are deployed in a high-security fashion (e.g., with non-self-signed certificiates).
  3. The core Jabber/XMPP protocols underwent rigorous cross-area and security review within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 2002-2004, resulting in a strong security profile through the use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) for channel encryption and Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) for authentication. However, work remains to be done in extending XMPP to include end-to-end encryption, strong identity, server and endpoint reputation, and per-hop reliability.

This project concentrates on ways to strengthen the security and trust characteristics of Jabber technologies, the open network of Jabber servers, and communication among Jabber clients. While future proposals may define ways to extend those achievements, baseline security is a higher priority and therefore is the focus of this proposal.

In particular, two main sub-projects will take place:

  1. Strengthening server trust by stimulating implementation and deployment of existing Jabber/XMPP protocols for encryption and strong authentication of client-to-server and server-to-server connections.
  2. Strengthening endpoint trust by completing development, iteratively improving, and encouraging deployment of strong, easy-to-use end-to-end encryption technologies over the Jabber network.

More details can be found in the Project Proposal (PDF)

Project Jabber/XMMP

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