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README.md Update README.md May 6, 2019
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README.md

Summary

This HIPE describes the protocol to establish connections between agents.

Motivation

Indy agent developers want to create agents that are able to establish connections with each other and exchange secure information over those connections. For this to happen there must be a clear connection protocol.

Tutorial

We will explain how a connection is established, with the roles, states, and messages required.

Roles

Connection uses two roles: inviter and invitee.

The inviter is the party that initiates the protocol with an invitation message. This party must already have an agent and be capable of creating DIDs and endpoints at which they are prepared to interact. It is desirable but not strictly required that inviters have the ability to help the invitee with the process and/or costs associated with acquiring an agent capable of participating in the ecosystem. For example, inviters may often be sponsoring institutions. The inviter sends a connection-response message at the end of the share phase.

The invitee has less preconditions; the only requirement is that this party be capable of receiving invitations over traditional communication channels of some type, and acting on it in a way that leads to successful interaction. The invitee sends a connection-request message at the beginning of the share phase.

In cases where both parties already possess SSI capabilities, deciding who plays the role of inviter and invitee might be a casual matter of whose phone is handier.

States

null

No connection exists or is in progress

invited

The invitation has been shared with the intended invitee(s), and they have not yet sent a connection_request.

requested

A connection_request has been sent by the invitee to the inviter based on the information in the invitation.

responded

A connection_response has been sent by the inviter to the invitee based on the information in the connection_request.

complete

The connection is valid and ready for use.

State Machine Tables

Errors

There are no errors in this protocol during the invitation phase. For the request and response, there are two error messages possible for each phase: one for an active rejection and one for an unknown error. These errors are sent using a problem_report message type specific to the connection message family. The following list details problem-codes that may be sent:

request_not_accepted - The error indicates that the request has been rejected for a reason listed in the error_report. Typical reasons include not accepting the method of the provided DID, unknown endpoint protocols, etc. The request can be resent after the appropriate corrections have been made.

request_processing_error - This error is sent when the inviter was processing the request with the intent to accept the request, but some processing error occurred. This error indicates that the request should be resent as-is.

response_not_accepted - The error indicates that the response has been rejected for a reason listed in the error_report. Typical reasons include not accepting the method of the provided DID, unknown endpoint protocols, invalid signature, etc. The response can be resent after the appropriate corrections have been made.

response_processing_error - This error is sent when the invitee was processing the response with the intent to accept the response, but some processing error occurred. This error indicates that the response should be resent as-is.

No errors are sent in timeout situations. If the inviter or invitee wishes to retract the messages they sent, they record so locally and return a request_not_accepted or response_not_accepted error when the other party sends a request or response .

Error Message Example

{
  "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/problem_report",
  "@id": "5678876542345",
  "~thread": { "thid": "<@id of message related to problem>" },
  "~i10n": { "locale": "en"},
  "problem-code": "request_not_accepted", // matches codes listed above
  "explain": "Unsupported DID method for provided DID."
}

Error Message Attributes

  • The @type attribute is a required string value that denotes that the received message is a problem_report within the connections family.
  • The ~thread attribute provides a context for the problem, referring to the message which contains the problem.
  • Use of ~i10n is encouraged, with at least locale defined for the message.
  • The problem-code attribute contains one of a fixed set of codes defined in the list above.
  • The explain attribute contains a human readable message which indicates the problem.

Flow Overview

The inviter gives provisional connection information to the invitee. The invitee uses provisional information to send a DID and DID Doc to the inviter. The inviter uses sent DID Doc information to send a DID and DID Doc to the invitee. The invitee sends the inviter an ack or any other message that confirms the response was received.

0. Invitation to Connect

An invitation to connect may be transferred using any method that can reliably transmit text. The result must be the essential data necessary to initiate a Connection Request message. A connection invitation is an agent message with agent plaintext format, but is an out-of-band communication and therefore not communicated using wire level encoding or encryption. The necessary data that an invitation to connect must result in is:

  • suggested label

  • publicly resolvable did

    OR

  • suggested label

  • recipientKeys

  • serviceEndpoint

  • routingKeys (optional)

    This information is used to create a provisional connection to the inviter. That connection will be made complete in the connection_response message.

These attributes were chosen to parallel the attributes of a DID Document for increased meaning. It is worth noting that recipientKeys and routingKeys must be inline keys, not DID key references when contained in an invitation. As in the DID Document with Ed25519VerificationKey2018 key types, the key must be base58 encoded.

When considering routing and options for invitations, keep in mind that the more detail is in the connection invitation, the longer the URL will be and (if used) the more dense the QR code will be. Dense QR codes can be harder to scan.

The inviter will either use an existing invitation DID, or provision a new one according to the did method spec. They will then create the invitation message in one of the following forms.

Invitation Message with Public Invitation DID:

{
    "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/invitation",
    "@id": "12345678900987654321",
    "label": "Alice",
    "did": "did:sov:QmWbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUTEJs"
}

Invitation Message with Keys and URL endpoint:

{
    "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/invitation",
    "@id": "12345678900987654321",
    "label": "Alice",
    "recipientKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"],
    "serviceEndpoint": "https://example.com/endpoint",
    "routingKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"]
}

Invitation Message with Keys and DID Service Endpoint Reference:

{
    "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/invitation",
    "label": "Alice",
    "recipientKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"],
    "serviceEndpoint": "did:sov:A2wBhNYhMrjHiqZDTUYH7u;routeid",
    "routingKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"]
}
Implicit Invitation

Any Public DID serves as an implicit invitation. If an invitee wishes to connect to any Public DID, They designate their own label and skip to the end of the Invitation Processing step. There is no need to encode the invitation or transmit the invitation.

Routing Keys

If routingKeys is present and non-empty, additional forwarding wrapping will be necessary for the request message. See the explanation in the Request section.

Agency Endpoint

The endpoint for the connection is either present in the invitation or available in the DID Document of a presented DID. If the endpoint is not a URI but a DID itself, that DID refers to an Agency.

In that case, the serviceEndpoint of the DID must be a URI, and the recipientKeys must contain a single key. That key is appended to the end of the list of routingKeys for processing. For more information about message forwarding and routing, see HIPE 22.

Standard Invitation Encoding

Using a standard invitation encoding allows for easier interoperability between multiple projects and software platforms. Using a URL for that standard encoding provides a built in fallback flow for users who are unable to automatically process the invitation. Those new users will load the URL in a browser as a default behavior, and will be presented with instructions on how to install software capable of processing the invitation. Already onboarded users will be able to process the invitation without loading in a browser via mobile app URL capture, or via capability detection after being loaded in a browser.

The standard invitation format is a URL with a Base64URLEncoded json object as a query parameter.

The Invitation URL format is as follows, with some elements described below:

https://<domain>/<path>?c_i=<invitationstring>

<domain> and <path> should be kept as short as possible, and the full URL should return human readable instructions when loaded in a browser. This is intended to aid new users. The c_i query parameter is required and is reserved to contain the invitation string. Additional path elements or query parameters are allowed, and can be leveraged to provide coupons or other promise of payment for new users.

The <invitationstring> is an agent plaintext message (not a wire level message) that has been base64 url encoded. For brevity, the json encoding should minimize unnecessary white space.

invitation_string = b64urlencode(<invitation_message>)

During encoding, whitespace from the json string should be eliminated to keep the resulting invitation string as short as possible.

Example Invitation Encoding

Invitation:

{
    "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/invitation",
    "@id": "12345678900987654321",
    "label": "Alice",
    "recipientKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"],
    "serviceEndpoint": "https://example.com/endpoint",
    "routingKeys": ["8HH5gYEeNc3z7PYXmd54d4x6qAfCNrqQqEB3nS7Zfu7K"]
}

Base 64 URL Encoded, with whitespace removed:

eyJAdHlwZSI6ImRpZDpzb3Y6QnpDYnNOWWhNcmpIaXFaRFRVQVNIZztzcGVjL2Nvbm5lY3Rpb25zLzEuMC9pbnZpdGF0aW9uIiwiQGlkIjoiMTIzNDU2Nzg5MDA5ODc2NTQzMjEiLCJsYWJlbCI6IkFsaWNlIiwicmVjaXBpZW50S2V5cyI6WyI4SEg1Z1lFZU5jM3o3UFlYbWQ1NGQ0eDZxQWZDTnJxUXFFQjNuUzdaZnU3SyJdLCJzZXJ2aWNlRW5kcG9pbnQiOiJodHRwczovL2V4YW1wbGUuY29tL2VuZHBvaW50Iiwicm91dGluZ0tleXMiOlsiOEhINWdZRWVOYzN6N1BZWG1kNTRkNHg2cUFmQ05ycVFxRUIzblM3WmZ1N0siXX0=

Example URL:

http://example.com/ssi?c_i=eyJAdHlwZSI6ImRpZDpzb3Y6QnpDYnNOWWhNcmpIaXFaRFRVQVNIZztzcGVjL2Nvbm5lY3Rpb25zLzEuMC9pbnZpdGF0aW9uIiwiQGlkIjoiMTIzNDU2Nzg5MDA5ODc2NTQzMjEiLCJsYWJlbCI6IkFsaWNlIiwicmVjaXBpZW50S2V5cyI6WyI4SEg1Z1lFZU5jM3o3UFlYbWQ1NGQ0eDZxQWZDTnJxUXFFQjNuUzdaZnU3SyJdLCJzZXJ2aWNlRW5kcG9pbnQiOiJodHRwczovL2V4YW1wbGUuY29tL2VuZHBvaW50Iiwicm91dGluZ0tleXMiOlsiOEhINWdZRWVOYzN6N1BZWG1kNTRkNHg2cUFmQ05ycVFxRUIzblM3WmZ1N0siXX0=

Invitation URLs can be transferred via any method that can send text, including an email, SMS, posting on a website, or via a QR Code.

Example URL encoded as a QR Code:

exampleqr

Invitation Publishing

The inviter will then publish or transmit the invitation URL in a manner available to the intended invitee. After publishing, we have entered the invited state.

Invitation Processing

When they invitee receives the invitation URL, there are two possible user flows that depend on the SSI preparedness of the individual. If the individual is new to the SSI universe, they will likely load the URL in a browser. The resulting page will contain instructions on how to get started by installing software or a mobile app. That install flow will transfer the invitation message to the newly installed software. A user that already has those steps accomplished will have the URL received by software directly. That sofware can read the invitation message directly out of the c_i query parameter, without loading the URL.

If they invitee wants to accept the connection invitation, they will use the information present in the invitation message to prepare the request

1. Connection Request

The connection request message is used to communicate the DID document of the invitee to the inviter using the provisional connection information present in the connection_invitation message.

The invitee will provision a new DID according to the DID method spec. For a Peer DID, this involves creating a matching peer DID and key. The newly provisioned DID and DID Doc is presented in the connection_request message as follows:

Example

{
  "@id": "5678876542345",
  "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/request",
  "label": "Bob",
  "connection": {
    "did": "B.did@B:A",
  	"did_doc": {
        "@context": "https://w3id.org/did/v1"
      	// DID Doc contents here.
    }
  }
}

Attributes

  • The @type attribute is a required string value that denotes that the received message is a connection request.
  • The label attribute provides a suggested label for the connection. This allows the user to tell multiple connection offers apart. This is not a trusted attribute.
  • The connection attribute contains the did and did_doc attributes. This format maintains consistency with the Response message where this attribute is signed.
  • The did indicates the DID of the user requesting the connection.
  • The did_doc contains the DID doc for the requesting user. If the DID method for the presented DID is not a peer method and the DID Doc is resolvable on a ledger, the did_doc attribute is optional.

Request Transmission

The Request message is encoded according to the standards of the Agent Wire Level Protocol, using the recipientKeys present in the invitation.

If the routingKeys attribute was present and non-empty in the invitation, each key must be used to wrap the message in a forward request, then encoded according to the Agent Wire Level Protocol. This processing is in order of the keys in the list, with the last key in the list being the one for which the serviceEndpoint possesses the private key.

The message is then transmitted to the serviceEndpoint.

We are now in the requested state.

Request processing

After receiving the connection request, the inviter evaluates the provided DID and DID Doc according to the DID Method Spec.

The inviter should check the information presented with the keys used in the wire-level message transmission to ensure they match.

If the inviter wishes to accept the connection, they will persist the received information in their wallet. They will then either update the provisional connection information to rotate the key, or provision a new DID entirely. The choice here will depend on the nature of the DID used in the invitation.

The inviter will then craft a connection response using the newly updated or provisioned information.

Request Errors

See Error Section above for message format details.

request_rejected

Possible reasons:

  • unsupported DID method for provided DID
  • Expired Invitation
  • DID Doc Invalid
  • Unsupported key type
  • Unsupported endpoint protocol

request_processing_error

  • unknown processing error

2. Connection Response

The connection response message is used to complete the connection. This message is required in the flow, as it updates the provisional information presented in the invitation.

Example

{
  "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/response",
  "@id": "12345678900987654321",
  "~thread": {
    "thid": "<@id of request message>"
  },
  "connection": {
    "did": "A.did@B:A",
  	"did_doc": {
      "@context": "https://w3id.org/did/v1"
      // DID Doc contents here.
    }
  }
}

The above message is required to be signed as described in HIPE ???. The connection attribute above will be base64URL encoded and included as part of the sig_data attribute of the signed field. The result looks like this:

{
  "@type": "did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/connections/1.0/response",
  "@id": "12345678900987654321",
  "~thread": {
    "thid": "<@id of request message>"
  },
  "connection~sig": {
    "@type":"did:sov:BzCbsNYhMrjHiqZDTUASHg;spec/signature/1.0/ed25519Sha512_single",
    "signature": "<digital signature function output>",
    "sig_data": "<base64URL(64bit_integer_from_unix_epoch||connection_attribute)>",
    "signers": "<signing_verkey>"
  }
}

The connection attribute has been removed and it's contents combined with the timestamp and encoded into the sig_data field of the new connection~sig attribute.

Upon receipt, the signed attribute will be automatically unpacked and the signature verified. Signature information will be stored as message context, and the connection attribute will be replaced in it's original format before processing continues.

The signature data must be used to verify against the invitation's recipientKeys for continuity.

Attributes

  • The @type attribute is a required string value that denotes that the received message is a connection request.
  • The ~thread block contains a thid reference to the @id of the request message.
  • The connection attribute contains the did and did_doc attributes to enable simpler signing.
  • The did attribute is a required string value and denotes DID in use by the inviter. Note that this may not be the same DID used in the invitation.
  • The did_doc attribute contains the associated DID Doc. If the DID method for the presented DID is not a peer method and the DID Doc is resolvable on a ledger, the did_doc attribute is optional.

In addition to a new DID, the associated DID Doc might contain a new endpoint. This new DID and endpoint are to be used going forward in the connection.

Response Transmission

The message should be packaged in the wire level format, using the keys from the request, and the new keys presented in the internal did doc.

When the message is transmitted, we are now in the responded state.

Response Processing

When the invitee receives the response message, they will verify the change_sig provided. After validation, they will update their wallet with the new connection information. If the endpoint was changed, they may wish to execute a Trust Ping to verify that new endpoint.

Response Errors

See Error Section above for message format details.

response_rejected

Possible reasons:

  • unsupported DID method for provided DID
  • Expired Request
  • DID Doc Invalid
  • Unsupported key type
  • Unsupported endpoint protocol
  • Invalid Signature

response_processing_error

  • unknown processing error

3. Connection Acknowledgement

After the Response is received, the connection is technically complete. This remains unconfirmed to the inviter however. The invitee SHOULD send a message to the inviter. As any message will confirm the connection, any message will do.

Frequently, the parties of the connection will want to trade credentials to establish trust. In such a flow, those message will serve the function of acknowledging the connection without an extra confirmation message.

If no message is needed immediately, a trust ping can be used to allow both parties confirm the connection.

After a message is sent, the invitee in the complete state. Receipt of a message puts the inviter into the complete state.

4. Trust Building

The connection between the inviter and the invitee is now established. This connection has no trust associated with it. The next step should be the exchange of proofs to build trust sufficient for the purpose of the relationship. The following are examples of this.

Man-in-the-middle

Risk: The combination of DID methods and channel(s) used in the set-up results in a too high residual risk of a man-in-the-middle. That is, the pair of DID Document may be different between the two sides. Mitigation: The two sides together verify the consistency of the pair of DID Document pair between the two sides via an independent channel. For instance, the invitee calculates the sum of the hashes of the two DID Documents, and conveys this via an independent channel to the inviter, who verifies it. Subsequently, the inviter calculates the product of the two hashes, and conveys this via an independent channel to the invitee, who verifies it. If the independent channel is a human-to-human or human-to-bot channel, then likely the first few characters of the two hashes suffice. Note that this step is unnecessary if the DID Document is stored on an unambiguous source of truth, e.g. a well governed public blockchain.

Integrity of the DID Document

Risk: Either side may have included keys in its DID Document this it does not control, whereas the purpose of the relationship requires this. Ditto for service endpoints. Mitigation: Either side provides control proofs for the keys that the purpose requires. Ditto for service endpoints.

Integrity of the hardware

Risk: Either side may have requirements about the other side’s hardware, e.g. that a secure hardware module is used and that specific keys cannot leave the hardware module or have been added to it. Mitigation: Either side provides the required verifiable credentials about its secure hardware and the keys that it contains.

Connection Maintenance

Upon establishing a connection, it is likely that both Alice and Bob will want to perform some relationship maintenance such as key rotations. Future HIPE updates will add these maintenance features.

Reference

Drawbacks

  • Public invitations (say, a slide at the end of a presentation) all use the same DID. This is not a problem for public institutions, and only provides a minor increase in correlation over sharing an endpoint, key, and routing information in a way that is observable by multiple parties.

Prior art

  • This process is similar to other key exchange protocols.

Unresolved questions

  • Should we eliminate the public DID option, and they just present an invitation with the connection key from their public DID Doc?
  • Should invitations have @ids?
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