This is a purely informative rendering of an RFC that includes verified errata. This rendering may not be used as a reference.
The following 'Verified' errata have been incorporated in this document:
Network Working Group J. Rosenberg
Request for Comments: 3856 dynamicsoft
Category: Standards Track August 2004
A Presence Event Package for the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).
This document describes the usage of the Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP) for subscriptions and notifications of presence. Presence is
defined as the willingness and ability of a user to communicate with
other users on the network. Historically, presence has been limited
to "on-line" and "off-line" indicators; the notion of presence here
is broader. Subscriptions and notifications of presence are
supported by defining an event package within the general SIP event
notification framework. This protocol is also compliant with the
Common Presence Profile (CPP) framework.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction ................................................ 2
2. Terminology ................................................. 3
3. Definitions ................................................. 3
4. Overview of Operation ....................................... 4
5. Usage of Presence URIs ...................................... 6
6. Presence Event Package ...................................... 7
6.1. Package Name .......................................... 8
6.2. Event Package Parameters .............................. 8
6.3. SUBSCRIBE Bodies ...................................... 8
6.4. Subscription Duration ................................. 9
6.5. NOTIFY Bodies ......................................... 9
6.6. Notifier Processing of SUBSCRIBE Requests ............. 9
6.6.1. Authentication ................................. 10
6.6.2. Authorization .................................. 10
6.7. Notifier Generation of NOTIFY Requests ................ 11
6.8. Subscriber Processing of NOTIFY Requests .............. 13
6.9. Handling of Forked Requests ........................... 13
6.10. Rate of Notifications ................................. 14
6.11. State Agents .......................................... 14
6.11.1. Aggregation, Authentication, and Authorization. 14
6.11.2. Migration ..................................... 15
7. Learning Presence State ..................................... 16
7.1. Co-location ........................................... 16
7.2. REGISTER .............................................. 16
7.3. Uploading Presence Documents .......................... 17
8. Example Message Flow ........................................ 17
9. Security Considerations ..................................... 20
9.1. Confidentiality ....................................... 20
9.2. Message Integrity and Authenticity .................... 21
9.3. Outbound Authentication ............................... 22
9.4. Replay Prevention ..................................... 22
9.5. Denial of Service Attacks Against Third Parties ....... 22
9.6. Denial Of Service Attacks Against Servers ............. 23
10. IANA Considerations ......................................... 23
11. Contributors ................................................ 24
12. Acknowledgements ............................................ 25
13. Normative References ........................................ 25
14. Informative References ...................................... 26
15. Author's Address ............................................ 26
16. Full Copyright Statement .................................... 27
Presence, also known as presence information, conveys the ability and
willingness of a user to communicate across a set of devices. RFC
2778  defines a model and terminology for describing systems that
provide presence information. In that model, a presence service is a
system that accepts, stores, and distributes presence information to
interested parties, called watchers. A presence protocol is a
protocol for providing a presence service over the Internet or any IP
This document proposes the usage of the Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP)  as a presence protocol. This is accomplished through a
concrete instantiation of the general event notification framework
defined for SIP , and as such, makes use of the SUBSCRIBE and
NOTIFY methods defined there. Specifically, this document defines an
event package, as described in RFC 3265 . SIP is particularly
well suited as a presence protocol. SIP location services already
contain presence information, in the form of registrations.
Furthermore, SIP networks are capable of routing requests from any
user on the network to the server that holds the registration state
for a user. As this state is a key component of user presence, those
SIP networks can allow SUBSCRIBE requests to be routed to the same
server. This means that SIP networks can be reused to establish
global connectivity for presence subscriptions and notifications.
This event package is based on the concept of a presence agent, which
is a new logical entity that is capable of accepting subscriptions,
storing subscription state, and generating notifications when there
are changes in presence. The entity is defined as a logical one,
since it is generally co-resident with another entity.
This event package is also compliant with the Common Presence Profile
(CPP) framework that has been defined in . This allows SIP for
presence to easily interwork with other presence systems compliant to
In this document, the key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED",
"SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY",
and "OPTIONAL" are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119  and
indicate requirement levels for compliant implementations.
This document uses the terms as defined in RFC 2778 .
Additionally, the following terms are defined and/or additionally
Presence User Agent (PUA): A Presence User Agent manipulates
presence information for a presentity. This manipulation can
be the side effect of some other action (such as sending a SIP
REGISTER request to add a new Contact) or can be done
explicitly through the publication of presence documents. We
explicitly allow multiple PUAs per presentity. This means that
a user can have many devices (such as a cell phone and Personal
Digital Assistant (PDA)), each of which is independently
generating a component of the overall presence information for
a presentity. PUAs push data into the presence system, but are
outside of it, in that they do not receive SUBSCRIBE messages
or send NOTIFY messages.
Presence Agent (PA): A presence agent is a SIP user agent which is
capable of receiving SUBSCRIBE requests, responding to them,
and generating notifications of changes in presence state. A
presence agent must have knowledge of the presence state of a
presentity. This means that it must have access to presence
data manipulated by PUAs for the presentity. One way to do
this is by co-locating the PA with the proxy/registrar.
Another way is to co-locate it with the presence user agent of
the presentity. However, these are not the only ways, and this
specification makes no recommendations about where the PA
function should be located. A PA is always addressable with a
SIP URI that uniquely identifies the presentity (i.e.,
sip:firstname.lastname@example.org). There can be multiple PAs for a
particular presentity, each of which handles some subset of the
total subscriptions currently active for the presentity. A PA
is also a notifier (defined in RFC 3265 ) that supports the
presence event package.
Presence Server: A presence server is a physical entity that can
act as either a presence agent or as a proxy server for
SUBSCRIBE requests. When acting as a PA, it is aware of the
presence information of the presentity through some protocol
means. When acting as a proxy, the SUBSCRIBE requests are
proxied to another entity that may act as a PA.
Edge Presence Server: An edge presence server is a presence agent
that is co-located with a PUA. It is aware of the presence
information of the presentity because it is co-located with the
entity that manipulates this presence information.
4. Overview of Operation
In this section, we present an overview of the operation of this
event package. The overview describes behavior that is documented in
part here, in part within the SIP event framework , and in part in
the SIP specification , in order to provide clarity on this
package for readers only casually familiar with those specifications.
However, the detailed semantics of this package require the reader to
be familiar with SIP events and the SIP specification itself.
When an entity, the subscriber, wishes to learn about presence
information from some user, it creates a SUBSCRIBE request. This
request identifies the desired presentity in the Request-URI, using a
SIP URI, SIPS URI  or a presence (pres) URI . The SUBSCRIBE
request is carried along SIP proxies as any other SIP request would
be. In most cases, it eventually arrives at a presence server, which
can either generate a response to the request (in which case it acts
as the presence agent for the presentity), or proxy it on to an edge
presence server. If the edge presence server handles the
subscription, it is acting as the presence agent for the presentity.
The decision at a presence server about whether to proxy or terminate
the SUBSCRIBE is a local matter; however, we describe one way to
effect such a configuration, using REGISTER.
The presence agent (whether in the presence server or edge presence
server) first authenticates the subscription, then authorizes it.
The means for authorization are outside the scope of this protocol,
and we expect that many mechanisms will be used. If authorized, a
200 OK response is returned. If authorization could not be obtained
at this time, the subscription is considered "pending", and a 202
response is returned. In both cases, the PA sends an immediate
NOTIFY message containing the state of the presentity and of the
subscription. The presentity state may be bogus in the case of a
pending subscription, indicating offline no matter what the actual
state of the presentity, for example. This is to protect the privacy
of the presentity, who may not want to reveal that they have not
provided authorization for the subscriber. As the state of the
presentity changes, the PA generates NOTIFYs containing those state
changes to all subscribers with authorized subscriptions. Changes in
the state of the subscription itself can also trigger NOTIFY
requests; that state is carried in the Subscription-State header
field of the NOTIFY, and would typically indicate whether the
subscription is active or pending.
The SUBSCRIBE message establishes a "dialog" with the presence agent.
A dialog is defined in RFC 3261 , and it represents the SIP state
between a pair of entities to facilitate peer-to-peer message
exchanges. This state includes the sequence numbers for messages in
both directions (SUBSCRIBE from the subscriber, NOTIFY from the
presence agent), in addition to a route set and remote target URI.
The route set is a list of SIP (or SIPS) URIs which identify SIP
proxy servers that are to be visited along the path of SUBSCRIBE
refreshes or NOTIFY requests. The remote target URI is the SIP or
SIPS URI that identifies the target of the message - the subscriber,
in the case of NOTIFY, or the presence agent, in the case of a
SIP provides a procedure called record-routing that allows for proxy
servers to request to be on the path of NOTIFY messages and SUBSCRIBE
refreshes. This is accomplished by inserting a URI into the
Record-Route header field in the initial SUBSCRIBE request.
The subscription persists for a duration that is negotiated as part
of the initial SUBSCRIBE. The subscriber will need to refresh the
subscription before its expiration, if they wish to retain the
subscription. This is accomplished by sending a SUBSCRIBE refresh
within the same dialog established by the initial SUBSCRIBE. This
SUBSCRIBE is nearly identical to the initial one, but contains a tag
in the To header field, a higher CSeq header field value, and
possibly a set of Route header field values that identify the path of
proxies the request is to take.
The subscriber can terminate the subscription by sending a SUBSCRIBE,
within the dialog, with an Expires header field (which indicates
duration of the subscription) value of zero. This causes an
immediate termination of the subscription. A NOTIFY request is then
generated by the presence agent with the most recent state. In fact,
behavior of the presence agent for handling a SUBSCRIBE request with
Expires of zero is no different than for any other expiration value;
pending or authorized SUBSCRIBE requests result in a triggered NOTIFY
with the current presentity and subscription state.
The presence agent can terminate the subscription at any time. To do
so, it sends a NOTIFY request with a Subscription-State header field
indicating that the subscription has been terminated. A reason
parameter can be supplied which provides the reason.
It is also possible to fetch the current presence state, resulting in
a one-time notification containing the current state. This is
accomplished by sending a SUBSCRIBE request with an immediate
5. Usage of Presence URIs
A presentity is identified in the most general way through a presence
URI , which is of the form pres:user@domain. These URIs are
resolved to protocol specific URIs, such as the SIP or SIPS URI,
through domain-specific mapping policies maintained on a server.
It is very possible that a user will have both a SIP (and/or SIPS)
URI and a pres URI to identify both themself and other users. This
leads to questions about how these URI relate and which are to be
In some instances, a user starts with one URI format, such as the
pres URI, and learns a URI in a different format through some
protocol means. As an example, a SUBSCRIBE request sent to a pres
URI will result in learning a SIP or SIPS URI for the presentity from
the Contact header field of the 200 OK to the SUBSCRIBE request. As
another example, a DNS mechanism might be defined that would allow
lookup of a pres URI to obtain a SIP or SIPS URI. In cases where one
URI is learned from another through protocol means, those means will
often provide some kind of scoping that limit the lifetime of the
learned URI. DNS, for example, provides a TTL which would limit the
scope of the URI. These scopes are very useful to avoid stale or
conflicting URIs for identifying the same resource. To ensure that a
user can always determine whether a learned URI is still valid, it is
RECOMMENDED that systems which provide lookup services for presence
URIs have some kind of scoping mechanism.
If a subscriber is only aware of the protocol-independent pres URI
for a presentity, it follows the procedures defined in . These
procedures will result in the placement of the pres URI in the
Request-URI of the SIP request, followed by the usage of the DNS
procedures defined in  to determine the host to send the SIP
request to. Of course, a local outbound proxy may alternatively be
used, as specified in RFC 3261 . If the subscriber is aware of
both the protocol-independent pres URI and the SIP or SIPS URI for
the same presentity, and both are valid (as discussed above) it
SHOULD use the pres URI format. Of course, if the subscriber only
knows the SIP URI for the presentity, that URI is used, and standard
RFC 3261 processing will occur. When the pres URI is used, any
proxies along the path of the SUBSCRIBE request which do not
understand the URI scheme will reject the request. As such, it is
expected that many systems will be initially deployed that only
provide users with a SIP URI.
SUBSCRIBE messages also contain logical identifiers that define the
originator and recipient of the subscription (the To and From header
fields). These headers can take either a pres or SIP URI. When the
subscriber is aware of both a pres and SIP URI for its own identity,
it SHOULD use the pres URI in the From header field. Similarly, when
the subscriber is aware of both a pres and a SIP URI for the desired
presentity, it SHOULD use the pres URI in the To header field.
The usage of the pres URI instead of the SIP URI within the SIP
message supports interoperability through gateways to other
CPP-compliant systems. It provides a protocol-independent form of
identification which can be passed between systems. Without such an
identity, gateways would be forced to map SIP URIs into the
addressing format of other protocols. Generally, this is done by
converting the SIP URI to the form <foreign-protocol-scheme>:<encoded
SIP URI>@<gateway>. This is commonly done in email systems, and has
many known problems. The usage of the pres URI is a SHOULD, and not
a MUST, to allow for cases where it is known that there are no
gateways present, or where the usage of the pres URI will cause
interoperability problems with SIP components that do not support the
The Contact, Record-Route and Route fields do not identify logical
entities, but rather concrete ones used for SIP messaging. SIP 
specifies rules for their construction.
6. Presence Event Package
The SIP event framework  defines a SIP extension for subscribing
to, and receiving notifications of, events. It leaves the definition
of many aspects of these events to concrete extensions, known as
event packages. This document qualifies as an event package. This
section fills in the information required for all event packages by
RFC 3265 .
6.1. Package Name
The name of this package is "presence". As specified in RFC 3265
, this value appears in the Event header field present in
SUBSCRIBE and NOTIFY requests.
6.2. Event Package Parameters
The SIP event framework allows event packages to define additional
parameters carried in the Event header field. This package,
presence, does not define any additional parameters.
6.3. SUBSCRIBE Bodies
A SUBSCRIBE request MAY contain a body. The purpose of the body
depends on its type. Subscriptions will normally not contain bodies.
The Request-URI, which identifies the presentity, combined with the
event package name, is sufficient for presence.
One type of body that can be included in a SUBSCRIBE request is a
filter document. These filters request that only certain presence
events generate notifications, or would ask for a restriction on the
set of data returned in NOTIFY requests. For example, a presence
filter might specify that the notifications should only be generated
when the status of the user's instant inbox  changes. It might
also say that the content of these notifications should only contain
the status of the instant inbox. Filter documents are not specified
in this document, and at the time of writing, are expected to be the
subject of future standardization activity.
Honoring of these filters is at the policy discretion of the PA.
If the SUBSCRIBE request does not contain a filter, this tells the PA
that no filter is to be applied. The PA SHOULD send NOTIFY requests
at the discretion of its own policy.
6.4. Subscription Duration
User presence changes as a result of many events. Some examples are:
o Turning on and off of a cell phone
o Modifying the registration from a softphone
o Changing the status on an instant messaging tool
These events are usually triggered by human intervention, and occur
with a frequency on the order of seconds to hours. As such,
subscriptions should have an expiration in the middle of this range,
which is roughly one hour. Therefore, the default expiration time
for subscriptions within this package is 3600 seconds. As per RFC
3265 , the subscriber MAY specify an alternate expiration in the
Expires header field.
6.5. NOTIFY Bodies
As described in RFC 3265 , the NOTIFY message will contain bodies
that describe the state of the subscribed resource. This body is in
a format listed in the Accept header field of the SUBSCRIBE, or a
package-specific default if the Accept header field was omitted from
In this event package, the body of the notification contains a
presence document. This document describes the presence of the
presentity that was subscribed to. All subscribers and notifiers
MUST support the "application/pidf+xml" presence data format
described in . The subscribe request MAY contain an Accept header
field. If no such header field is present, it has a default value of
"application/pidf+xml". If the header field is present, it MUST
include "application/pidf+xml", and MAY include any other types
capable of representing user presence.
6.6. Notifier Processing of SUBSCRIBE Requests
Based on the proxy routing procedures defined in the SIP
specification, the SUBSCRIBE request will arrive at a presence agent
(PA). This subsection defines package-specific processing at the PA
of a SUBSCRIBE request. General processing rules for requests are
covered in Section 8.2 of RFC 3261 , in addition to general
SUBSCRIBE processing in RFC 3265 .
User presence is highly sensitive information. Because the
implications of divulging presence information can be severe, strong
requirements are imposed on the PA regarding subscription processing,
especially related to authentication and authorization.
A presence agent MUST authenticate all subscription requests. This
authentication can be done using any of the mechanisms defined in RFC
3261 . Note that digest is mandatory to implement, as specified
in RFC 3261.
In single-domain systems, where the subscribers all have shared
secrets with the PA, the combination of digest authentication over
Transport Layer Security (TLS)  provides a secure and workable
solution for authentication. This use case is described in Section
126.96.36.199 of RFC 3261 .
In inter-domain scenarios, establishing an authenticated identity of
the subscriber is harder. It is anticipated that authentication will
often be established through transitive trust. SIP mechanisms for
network asserted identity can be applied to establish the identity of
the subscriber .
A presentity MAY choose to represent itself with a SIPS URI. By
"represent itself", it means that the user represented by the
presentity hands out, on business cards, web pages, and so on, a SIPS
URI for their presentity. The semantics associated with this URI, as
described in RFC 3261 , require TLS usage on each hop between the
subscriber and the server in the domain of the URI. This provides
additional assurances (but no absolute guarantees) that identity has
been verified at each hop.
Another mechanism for authentication is S/MIME. Its usage with SIP
is described fully in RFC 3261 . It provides an end-to-end
authentication mechanism that can be used for a PA to establish the
identity of the subscriber.
Once authenticated, the PA makes an authorization decision. A PA
MUST NOT accept a subscription unless authorization has been provided
by the presentity. The means by which authorization are provided are
outside the scope of this document. Authorization may have been
provided ahead of time through access lists, perhaps specified in a
web page. Authorization may have been provided by means of uploading
of some kind of standardized access control list document. Back end
authorization servers, such as a DIAMETER  server, can also be
used. It is also useful to be able to query the user for
authorization following the receipt of a subscription request for
which no authorization information has been provided. The
"watcherinfo" event template package for SIP  defines a means by
which a presentity can become aware that a user has attempted to
subscribe to it, so that it can then provide an authorization
Authorization decisions can be very complex. Ultimately, all
authorization decisions can be mapped into one of three states:
rejected, successful, and pending. Any subscription for which the
client is authorized to receive information about some subset of
presence state at some points in time is a successful subscription.
Any subscription for which the client will never receive any
information about any subset of the presence state is a rejected
subscription. Any subscription for which it is not yet known whether
it is successful or rejected is pending. Generally, a pending
subscription occurs when the server cannot obtain authorization at
the time of the subscription, but may be able to do so at a later
time, perhaps when the presentity becomes available.
The appropriate response codes for conveying a successful, rejected,
or pending subscription (200, 403 or 603, and 202, respectively) are
described in RFC 3265 .
If the resource is not in a meaningful state, RFC 3265  allows the
body of the initial NOTIFY to be empty. In the case of presence,
that NOTIFY MAY contain a presence document. This document would
indicate whatever presence state the subscriber has been authorized
to see; it is interpreted by the subscriber as the current presence
state of the presentity. For pending subscriptions, the state of the
presentity SHOULD include some kind of textual note that indicates a
Polite blocking, as described in , is possible by generating a
200 OK to the subscription even though it has been rejected (or
marked pending). Of course, an immediate NOTIFY will still be sent.
The contents of the presence document in such a NOTIFY are at the
discretion of the implementor, but SHOULD be constructed in such a
way as to not reveal to the subscriber that their request has
actually been blocked. Typically, this is done by indicating
"offline" or equivalent status for a single contact address.
6.7. Notifier Generation of NOTIFY Requests
RFC 3265 details the formatting and structure of NOTIFY messages.
However, packages are mandated to provide detailed information on
when to send a NOTIFY, how to compute the state of the resource, how
to generate neutral or fake state information, and whether state
information is complete or partial. This section describes those
details for the presence event package.
A PA MAY send a NOTIFY at any time. Typically, it will send one when
the state of the presentity changes. The NOTIFY request MAY contain
a body indicating the state of the presentity. The times at which
the NOTIFY is sent for a particular subscriber, and the contents of
the body within that notification, are subject to any rules specified
by the authorization policy that governs the subscription. This
protocol in no way limits the scope of such policies. As a baseline,
a reasonable policy is to generate notifications when the state of
any of the presence tuples changes. These notifications would
contain the complete and current presence state of the presentity as
known to the presence agent. Future extensions can be defined that
allow a subscriber to request that the notifications contain changes
in presence information only, rather than complete state.
In the case of a pending subscription, when final authorization is
determined, a NOTIFY can be sent. If the result of the authorization
decision was success, a NOTIFY SHOULD be sent and SHOULD contain a
presence document with the current state of the presentity. If the
subscription is rejected, a NOTIFY MAY be sent. As described in RFC
3265 , the Subscription-State header field indicates the state of
The body of the NOTIFY MUST be sent using one of the types listed in
the Accept header field in the most recent SUBSCRIBE request, or
using the type "application/pidf+xml" if no Accept header field was
The means by which the PA learns the state of the presentity are also
outside the scope of this recommendation. Registrations can provide
a component of the presentity state. However, the means by which a
PA uses registrations to construct a presence document are an
implementation choice. If a PUA wishes to explicitly inform the
presence agent of its presence state, it should explicitly publish
the presence document (or its piece of it) rather than attempting to
manipulate their registrations to achieve the desired result.
For reasons of privacy, it will frequently be necessary to encrypt
the contents of the notifications. This can be accomplished using
S/MIME. The encryption can be performed using the key of the
subscriber as identified in the From field of the SUBSCRIBE request.
Similarly, integrity of the notifications is important to
subscribers. As such, the contents of the notifications MAY provide
authentication and message integrity using S/MIME. Since the NOTIFY
is generated by the presence server, which may not have access to the
key of the user represented by the presentity, it will frequently be
the case that the NOTIFY is signed by a third party. It is
RECOMMENDED that the signature be by an authority over the domain of
the presentity. In other words, for a user pres:email@example.com,
the signator of the NOTIFY SHOULD be the authority for example.com.
6.8. Subscriber Processing of NOTIFY Requests
RFC 3265  leaves it to event packages to describe the process
followed by the subscriber upon receipt of a NOTIFY request,
including any logic required to form a coherent resource state.
In this specification, each NOTIFY contains either no presence
document, or a document representing the complete and coherent state
of the presentity. Within a dialog, the presence document in the
NOTIFY request with the highest CSeq header field value is the
current one. When no document is present in that NOTIFY, the
presence document present in the NOTIFY with the next highest CSeq
value is used. Extensions which specify the use of partial state for
presentities will need to dictate how coherent state is achieved.
6.9. Handling of Forked Requests
RFC 3265  requires each package to describe handling of forked
This specification only allows a single dialog to be constructed as a
result of emitting an initial SUBSCRIBE request. This guarantees
that only a single PA is generating notifications for a particular
subscription to a particular presentity. The result of this is that
a presentity can have multiple PAs active, but these should be
homogeneous, so that each can generate the same set of notifications
for the presentity. Supporting heterogeneous PAs, each of which
generates notifications for a subset of the presence data, is complex
and difficult to manage. Doing so would require the subscriber to
act as the aggregator for presence data. This aggregation function
can only reasonably be performed by agents representing the
presentity. Therefore, if aggregation is needed, it MUST be done in
a PA representing the presentity.
Section 4.4.9 of RFC 3265  describes the processing that is
required to guarantee the creation of a single dialog in response to
a SUBSCRIBE request.
6.10. Rate of Notifications
RFC 3265  requires each package to specify the maximum rate at
which notifications can be sent.
A PA SHOULD NOT generate notifications for a single presentity at a
rate of more than once every five seconds.
6.11. State Agents
RFC 3265  requires each package to consider the role of state
agents in the package, and if they are used, to specify how
authentication and authorization are done.
State agents are core to this package. Whenever the PA is not
co-located with the PUA for the presentity, the PA is acting as a
state agent. It collects presence state from the PUA, and aggregates
it into a presence document. Because there can be multiple PUA, a
centralized state agent is needed to perform this aggregation. That
is why state agents are fundamental to presence. Indeed, they have a
specific term that describes them - a presence server.
6.11.1. Aggregation, Authentication, and Authorization
The means by which aggregation is done in the state agent is purely a
matter of policy. The policy will typically combine the desires of
the presentity along with the desires of the provider. This document
in no way restricts the set of policies which may be applied.
However, there is clearly a need for the state agent to have access
to the state of the presentity. This state is manipulated by the
PUA. One way in which the state agent can obtain this state is to
subscribe to it. As a result, if there were 5 PUA manipulating
presence state for a single presentity, the state agent would
generate 5 subscriptions, one to each PUA. For this mechanism to be
effective, all PUA SHOULD be capable of acting as a PA for the state
that they manipulate, and that they authorize subscriptions that can
be authenticated as coming from the domain of the presentity.
The usage of state agents does not significantly alter the way in
which authentication is done by the PA. Any of the SIP
authentication mechanisms can be used by a state agent. However,
digest authentication will require the state agent to be aware of the
shared secret between the presentity and the subscriber. This will
require some means to securely transfer the shared secrets from the
presentity to the state agent.
The usage of state agents does, however, have a significant impact on
authorization. As stated in Section 6.6, a PA is required to
authorize all subscriptions. If no explicit authorization policy has
been defined, the PA will need to query the user for authorization.
In a presence edge server (where the PA is co-located with the PUA),
EID 3676 (Verified) is as follows:Section: 6.11.1
In a presence edge server (where the PUA is co-located with the PUA),
In a presence edge server (where the PA is co-located with the PUA),
According to section 3 definitions, an edge presence server is a presence agent that is co-located with a PUA.
this is trivially accomplished. However, when state agents are used
(i.e., a presence server), a means is needed to alert the user that
an authorization decision is required. This is the reason for the
watcherinfo event template-package . All state agents SHOULD
support the watcherinfo template-package.
On occasion, it makes sense for the PA function to migrate from one
server to another. For example, for reasons of scale, the PA
function may reside in the presence server when the PUA is not
running, but when the PUA connects to the network, the PA migrates
subscriptions to it in order to reduce state in the network. The
mechanism for accomplishing the migration is described in Section
3.3.5 of RFC 3265 . However, packages need to define under what
conditions such a migration would take place.
A PA MAY choose to migrate subscriptions at any time, through
configuration, or through dynamic means. The REGISTER request
provides one dynamic means for a presence server to discover that the
function can migrate to a PUA. Specifically, if a PUA wishes to
indicate support for the PA function, it SHOULD use the callee
capabilities specification  to indicate that it supports the
SUBSCRIBE request method and the presence event package. The
combination of these two define a PA. Of course, a presence server
can always attempt a migration without these explicit hints. If it
fails with either a 405 or 489 response code, the server knows that
the PUA does not support the PA function. In this case, the server
itself will need to act as a PA for that subscription request. Once
such a failure has occurred, the server SHOULD NOT attempt further
migrations to that PUA for the duration of its registration.
However, to avoid the extra traffic generated by these failed
requests, a presence server SHOULD support the callee capabilities
Furthermore, indication of support for the SUBSCRIBE request and the
presence event package is not sufficient for migration of
subscriptions. A PA SHOULD NOT migrate the subscription if it is
composing aggregated presence documents received from multiple PUA.
7. Learning Presence State
Presence information can be obtained by the PA in many ways. No
specific mechanism is mandated by this specification. This section
overviews some of the options, for informational purposes only.
When the PA function is co-located with the PUA, presence is known
directly by the PA.
A UA uses the SIP REGISTER method to inform the SIP network of its
current communications addresses (i.e., Contact addresses). Multiple
UA can independently register Contact addresses for the same
address-of-record. This registration state represents an important
piece of the overall presence information for a presentity. It is an
indication of basic reachability for communications.
Usage of REGISTER information to construct presence is only possible
if the PA has access to the registration database, and can be
informed of changes to that database. One way to accomplish that is
to co-locate the PA with the registrar.
The means by which registration state is converted into presence
state is a matter of local policy, and beyond the scope of this
specification. However, some general guidelines can be provided.
The address-of-record in the registration (the To header field)
identifies the presentity. Each registered Contact header field
identifies a point of communications for that presentity, which can
be modeled using a tuple. Note that the contact address in the tuple
need not be the same as the registered contact address. Using an
address-of-record instead allows subsequent communications from a
watcher to pass through proxies. This is useful for policy
processing on behalf of the presentity and the provider.
A PUA that uses registrations to manipulate presence state SHOULD
make use of the SIP callee capabilities extension . This allows
the PUA to provide the PA with richer information about itself. For
example, the presence of the methods parameter listing the method
"MESSAGE" indicates support for instant messaging.
The q values from the Contact header field  can be used to
establish relative priorities amongst the various communications
addresses in the Contact header fields.
The usage of registrations to obtain presence information increases
the requirements for authenticity and integrity of registrations.
Therefore, REGISTER requests used by presence user agents MUST be
7.3. Uploading Presence Documents
If a means exists to upload presence documents from PUA to the PA,
the PA can act as an aggregator and redistributor of those documents.
The PA, in this case, would take the presence documents received from
each PUA for the same presentity, and merge the tuples across all of
those PUA into a single presence document. Typically, this
aggregation would be accomplished through administrator or user
defined policies about how the aggregation should be done.
The specific means by which a presence document is uploaded to a
presence agent are outside the scope of this specification. When a
PUA wishes to have direct manipulation of the presence that is
distributed to subscribers, direct uploading of presence documents is
8. Example Message Flow
This message flow illustrates how the presence server can be
responsible for sending notifications for a presentity. This flow
assumes that the watcher has previously been authorized to subscribe
to this resource at the server.
In this flow, the PUA informs the server about the updated presence
information through some non-SIP means.
When the value of the Content-Length header field is "..." this means
that the value should be whatever the computed length of the body is.
Watcher Server PUA
| F1 SUBSCRIBE | |
| F2 200 OK | |
| F3 NOTIFY | |
| F4 200 OK | |
| | |
| | Update presence |
| |<------------------ |
| | |
| F5 NOTIFY | |
| F6 200 OK | |
F1 SUBSCRIBE watcher->example.com server
SUBSCRIBE sip:firstname.lastname@example.org SIP/2.0
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP watcherhost.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKnashds7
CSeq: 17766 SUBSCRIBE
F2 200 OK example.com server->watcher
SIP/2.0 200 OK
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP watcherhost.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKnashds7
CSeq: 17766 SUBSCRIBE
F3 NOTIFY example.com server-> watcher
NOTIFY sip:email@example.com SIP/2.0
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP server.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKna998sk
CSeq: 8775 NOTIFY
F4 200 OK watcher-> example.com server
SIP/2.0 200 OK
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP server.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKna998sk
CSeq: 8775 NOTIFY
F5 NOTIFY example.com server -> watcher
NOTIFY sip:firstname.lastname@example.org SIP/2.0
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP server.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKna998sl
CSeq: 8776 NOTIFY
[New PIDF Document]
F6 200 OK
SIP/2.0 200 OK
Via: SIP/2.0/TCP server.example.com;branch=z9hG4bKna998sl
CSeq: 8776 NOTIFY
9. Security Considerations
There are numerous security considerations for presence. RFC 2779
 outlines many of them, and they are discussed above. This
section considers them issue by issue.
Confidentiality encompasses many aspects of a presence system:
o Subscribers may not want to reveal the fact that they have
subscribed to certain users
o Users may not want to reveal that they have accepted
subscriptions from certain users
o Notifications (and fetch results) may contain sensitive data
which should not be revealed to anyone but the subscriber
Confidentiality is provided through a combination of hop-by-hop
encryption and end-to-end encryption. The hop-by-hop mechanisms
provide scalable confidentiality services, disable attacks involving
traffic analysis, and hide all aspects of presence messages.
However, they operate based on transitivity of trust, and they cause
message content to be revealed to proxies. The end-to-end mechanisms
do not require transitivity of trust, and reveal information only to
the desired recipient. However, end-to-end encryption cannot hide
all information, and is susceptible to traffic analysis. Strong
end-to-end authentication and encryption can be done using public
keys, and end-to-end encryption can be done using private keys .
Both hop-by-hop and end-to-end mechanisms will likely be needed for
complete privacy services.
SIP allows any hop by hop encryption scheme, but TLS is mandatory to
implement for servers. Therefore, it is RECOMMENDED that TLS  be
used between elements to provide this function. The details for
usage of TLS for server-to-server and client-to-server security are
detailed in Section 26.3.2 of RFC 3261 .
SIP encryption, using S/MIME, MAY be used end-to-end for the
transmission of both SUBSCRIBE and NOTIFY requests.
9.2. Message Integrity and Authenticity
It is important for the message recipient to ensure that the message
contents are actually what was sent by the originator, and that the
recipient of the message be able to determine who the originator
really is. This applies to both requests and responses of SUBSCRIBE
and NOTIFY. NOTIFY requests are particularly important. Without
authentication and integrity, presence documents could be forged or
modified, fooling the watcher into believing incorrect presence
RFC 3261 provides many mechanisms to provide these features. In
order for the PA to authenticate the watcher, it MAY use HTTP Digest
(Section 22 of RFC 3261). As a result, all watchers MUST support
HTTP Digest. This is a redundant requirement, however, since all SIP
user agents are mandated to support it by RFC 3261. To provide
authenticity and integrity services, a watcher MAY use the SIPS
scheme when subscribing to the presentity. To support this, all PA
MUST support TLS and SIPS as if they were a proxy (see Section 26.3.1
of RFC 3261).
Furthermore, SMIME MAY be used for integrity and authenticity of
SUBSCRIBE and NOTIFY requests. This is described in Section 23 of
9.3. Outbound Authentication
When local proxies are used for transmission of outbound messages,
proxy authentication is RECOMMENDED. This is useful to verify the
identity of the originator, and prevent spoofing and spamming at the
9.4. Replay Prevention
Replay attacks can be used by an attacker to fool a watcher into
believing an outdated presence state for a presentity. For example,
a document describing a presentity as being "offline" can be
replayed, fooling watchers into thinking that the user is never
online. This may effectively block communications with the
SIP S/MIME can provide message integrity and authentication over SIP
request bodies. Watchers and PAs MAY implement S/MIME signatures to
prevent these replay attacks. When it is used for that purpose, the
presence document carried in the NOTIFY request MUST contain a
timestamp. In the case of PIDF, this is accomplished using the
timestamp element, as described in Section 6 of . Tuples whose
timestamp is older than the timestamp of the most recently received
presence document SHOULD be considered stale, and discarded.
Finally, HTTP digest authentication (which MUST be implemented by
watchers and PAs) MAY be used to prevent replay attacks, when there
is a shared secret between the PA and the watcher. In such a case,
the watcher can challenge the NOTIFY requests with the auth-int
quality of protection.
9.5. Denial of Service Attacks Against Third Parties
Denial of Service (DOS) attacks are a critical problem for an open,
inter-domain, presence protocol. Unfortunately, presence is a good
candidate for Distributed DoS (DDOS) attacks because of its
amplification properties. A single SUBSCRIBE message could generate
a nearly unending stream of notifications, so long as a suitably
dynamic source of presence data can be found. Thus, a simple way to
launch an attack against a target is to send subscriptions to a large
number of users, and in the Contact header field (which is where
notifications are sent), place the address of the target. RFC 3265
provides some mechanisms to mitigate these attacks . If a NOTIFY
is not acknowledged or was not wanted, the subscription that
generated it is removed. This eliminates the amplification
properties of providing false Contact addresses.
Authentication and authorization at the PA can also prevent these
attacks. Typically, authorization policy will not allow
subscriptions from unknown watchers. If the attacks are launched
from watchers unknown to the presentity (a common case), the attacks
9.6. Denial Of Service Attacks Against Servers
Denial of service attacks can also be launched against a presence
agent itself, in order to disrupt service to a community of users.
SIP itself, along with RFC 3265 , describes several mechanisms to
mitigate these attacks.
A server can prevent SYN-attack style attacks through a four-way
handshake using digest authentication . Even if the server does
not have a shared secret with the client, it can verify the source IP
address of the request using the "anonymous" user mechanism described
in Section 22.1 of RFC 3261 . SIP also allows a server to
instruct a client to back-off from sending it requests, using the 503
response code (Section 21.5.4 of RFC 3261 ). This can be used to
fend off floods of SUBSCRIBE requests launched as a result of a
distributed denial of service attack.
10. IANA Considerations
This specification registers an event package, based on the
registration procedures defined in RFC 3265 . The following is
the information required for such a registration:
Package Name: presence
Package or Template-Package: This is a package.
Published Document: RFC 3856
Person to Contact: Jonathan Rosenberg, email@example.com.
The following individuals were part of the initial team that worked
through the technical design of this specification:
1214 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10027-7003
5100 Tennyson Parkway
Plano, Texas 75024
5100 Tennyson Parkway
Plano, Texas 75024
1214 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10027-7003
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
170 West Tasman Dr.
San Jose, CA 95134
We would like to thank Rick Workman, Adam Roach, Sean Olson, Billy
Biggs, Stuart Barkley, Mauricio Arango, Richard Shockey, Jorgen
Bjorkner, Henry Sinnreich, Ronald Akers, Paul Kyzivat, Ya-Ching Tan,
Patrik Faltstrom, Allison Mankin and Hisham Khartabil for their
comments and support of this specification.
13. Normative References
 Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, H., Johnston, A.,
Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M., and E. Schooler, "SIP:
Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261, June 2002.
 Roach, A., "Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-Specific Event
Notification", RFC 3265, June 2002.
 Peterson, J., "Common Profile for Presence (CPP)", RFC 3859,
 Bradner, S., "Key Words for Use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
 Peterson, J., "Address Resolution for Instant Messaging and
Presence", RFC 3861, August 2004.
 Sugano, H., Fujimoto, S., Klyne, G., Bateman, A., Carr, W., and
J. Peterson, "Presence Information Data Format (PIDF)", RFC
3863, August 2004.
 Dierks, T. and C. Allen, "The TLS Protocol Version 1.0", RFC
2246, January 1999.
 Rosenberg, J., "A Watcher Information Event Template-Package for
the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)", RFC 3857, August 2004.
 Schulzrinne, H. Rosenberg, J., and P. Kyzivat, "Indicating User
Agent Capabilities in the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)",
RFC 3840, August 2004.
14. Informative References
 Day, M., Rosenberg, J., and H. Sugano, "A Model for Presence and
Instant Messaging", RFC 2778, February 2000.
 Peterson, J., "Enhancements for Authenticated Identity
Management in the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)", Work in
Progress, May 2004.
 Calhoun, P., Loughney, J., Guttman, E., Zorn, G., and J. Arkko,
"Diameter Base Protocol", RFC 3588, September 2003.
 Day, M., Aggarwal, S., Mohr, G., and J. Vincent, "Instant
Messaging / Presence Protocol Requirements", RFC 2779, February
 Gutmann, P., "Password-Based Encryption for CMS", RFC 3211,
15. Author's Address
600 Lanidex Plaza
Parsippany, NJ 07054
16. Full Copyright Statement
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