Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Importance of Understanding MTU value in AnyConnect VPN


Why do we need it?

During encryption, additional overhead will be added to the packets made by new headers and features. This means that the actual size of the unencrypted TCP segment or UDP datagram which holds the application will be reduced because the MTU of the adapter is still same.

For example with Ethernet and MTU of 1500-bytes, the unencrypted TCP segment can't be more than 1460-bytes. With encryption, for Ethernet and MTU of 1500, the unencrypted TCP segment can't be more 1380 (can be different value). The 80-bytes difference are utilized by encryption overhead.

Now the value of unencrypted TCP segment can be more which leads to MTU more than 1500-bytes but this will cause the networking devices to fragment the packet which is bad and should be avoided.

AnyConnect client builds Virtual Adapter (VA) during installation on the clients machine. This VA will receive unencrypted traffic and emulates Ethernet to forward traffic after encryption. The actual traffic then goes over the physical adapter.

Therefore, we need to know what is the MTU value of the VA and what is the max allowed size of unencrypted traffic to avoid fragmentation. Later the applications need to make sure that they don't create segments and datagrams larger else they will be fragmented.

How it works?

AnyConnect VA gets its MTU value from SSL Server (ASA or IOS. We will focus more on ASA). The default value is 1406-bytes. It can be configured as follow:

group-policy custom_group_policy attributes
 webvpn
  anyconnect mtu 1420

Now the actual MTU used by the VA will be selected based on the smaller between physical NIC MTU and VA configured MTU. This is to avoid scenarios where the VA has MTU configured more than physical NIC which will trigger fragmentation.

Next we need to find out the max value of unencrypted payload. Two values will be calculated, one for TLS Tunnel and one for DTLS tunnel. This can be viewed in ASA using the command debug webvpn anyconnect 1

…… ……

Iphdr=20 base-mtu=1300 def-mtu=1500 conf-mtu=1420
tcp-mss = 1260
path-mtu = 1260(mss)
TLS Block size = 16, version = 0x301
mtu = 1260(path-mtu) - 0(opts) - 5(ssl) = 1255
mod-mtu = 1255(mtu) & 0xfff0(complement) = 1248
tls-mtu = 1248(mod-mtu) - 8(cstp) - 20(mac) - 1(pad) = 1219
DTLS Block size = 16
mtu = 1300(base-mtu) - 20(ip) - 8(udp) - 13(dtlshdr) - 16(dtlsiv) = 1243
mod-mtu = 1243(mtu) & 0xfff0(complement) = 1232
dtls-mtu = 1232(mod-mtu) - 1(cdtp) - 20(mac) - 1(pad) = 1210
computed tls-mtu=1219 dtls-mtu=1210 conf-mtu=1420
DTLS enabled for intf=2 (CORP)
tls-mtu=1219 dtls-mtu=1210

…… ……

Let's examine the debugs

Iphdr=20 base-mtu=1300 def-mtu=1500 conf-mtu=1420

!!!... Iphdr is 20 bytes, Physical NIC MTU is 1300, configured MTU value for AnyConnect VA is 1420. Conclusion, Physical NIC MTU is used for VA.

!!!... Now will start TLS Tunnel calculations

tcp-mss = 1260
path-mtu = 1260(mss)

!!!... Since TLS is TCP based, the TLS payload size is MTU - 40. 40-bytes is 20-bytes IP Header + 20-bytes TCP Header

TLS Block size = 16, version = 0x301
mtu = 1260(path-mtu) - 0(opts) - 5(ssl) = 1255
mod-mtu = 1255(mtu) & 0xfff0(complement) = 1248
tls-mtu = 1248(mod-mtu) - 8(cstp) - 20(mac) - 1(pad) = 1219

!!!... Subtracting headers (5-bytes ssl header, 1-byte padding, 8-bytes Cisco SSL Tunneling Protocol (CSTP) header, 20-bytes MAC), we will get the size of unencrypted payload. This will be communicated back from ASA to AnyConnect client so that applications shouldn't cross this value else fragmentation will be triggered

!!!... Note: ANDing MSS value will complement 0xfff0 is to make sure that MSS value is power of 2

!!!... Now will start DTLS MTU calculations

DTLS Block size = 16
mtu = 1300(base-mtu) - 20(ip) - 8(udp) - 13(dtlshdr) - 16(dtlsiv) = 1243
mod-mtu = 1243(mtu) & 0xfff0(complement) = 1232
dtls-mtu = 1232(mod-mtu) - 1(cdtp) - 20(mac) - 1(pad) = 1210

!!!... Subtracting headers (20-bytes IP header, 8-bytes UDP header, 13-bytes DTLS header, 8- or 16- bytes for encryption [depending DES or AES], 1-byte Cisco DTLS Tunneling Protocol [CDTP] header, 20-bytes MAC, 1-byte pad), we will get the size of unencrypted payload. This will be communicated back from ASA to AnyConnect client so that applications shouldn't cross this value else fragmentation will be triggered

computed tls-mtu=1219 dtls-mtu=1210 conf-mtu=1420
DTLS enabled for intf=2 (CORP)
tls-mtu=1219 dtls-mtu=1210

Message Authentication Code (MAC)
A Message Authentication Code is a one-way hash computed from a message and some secret data.  It is difficult to forge without knowing the secret data.  Its purpose is to detect if the message has been altered.

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