Protocol Police: The RFC

Independent Submission G. Grover
Request for Comments: 8962
Category: Informational N. ten Oever
ISSN: 2070-1721
C. Cath

S. Sahib
                                                        1 April 2021

                Establishing the Protocol Police


One mantra of the IETF is, “We are not the Protocol Police.”
However, to ensure that protocols are implemented and deployed in
full compliance with the IETF’s standards, it is important to set up
a body that is responsible for assessing and enforcing correct
protocol behavior.

This document formally establishes the Protocol Police. It defines
the body and sets out what aspects of IETF protocols they will
police. This document acts as a point of reference for networking
engineers, law enforcement officials, government representatives, and
others. It also provides advice on how to report issues to the
Protocol Police.

Status of This Memo

This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for informational purposes.

This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other
RFC stream. The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at
its discretion and makes no statement about its value for
implementation or deployment. Documents approved for publication by
the RFC Editor are not candidates for any level of Internet Standard;
see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

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

Copyright Notice

Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
document authors. All rights reserved.

This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust’s Legal
Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
( in effect on the date of
publication of this document. Please review these documents
carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
to this document.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Composition of the Protocol Police
    3.1. Recognizing the Protocol Police
    3.2. Recruitment
  4. Support for the Protocol Police
  5. Punishable Offenses
    5.1. Protocol-Layer Violations
    5.2. Deliberate Non-Interoperability
    5.3. Disobeying RFCs
  6. Reporting Offenses
  7. Punishment
    7.1. Traffic Imprisonment
  8. Morality Considerations
    8.1. Oversight
  9. IANA Considerations
  10. Security Considerations
  11. Privacy Considerations
  12. Human Rights Considerations
  13. Conclusion
  14. Informative References
    Authors’ Addresses
  1. Introduction

    IETF participants are often confronted with circumstances where
    developers or deployers choose to not obey the sacrosanct words of an
    RFC. This can lead to outcomes that are widely agreed to be
    unexpected, unwarranted, or undesirable.

    Some are of the opinion that IETF participants should come to a
    consensus and declare what protocol behavior is unacceptable, and
    that the maintainers and developers of non-compliant protocols should
    be chastised. Others (especially working group chairs) non-
    gracefully fall back on the undocumented mantra, “We [or the IETF] are not the Protocol Police.” Understandably, this has led to
    confusion about who should make judgments about proper interpretation
    of protocol specifications.

    This document formally establishes the Protocol Police, hitherto
    undocumented at the IETF. It defines the body and sets out what
    aspects of IETF protocols they will police. This document acts as a
    point of reference for networking engineers, law enforcement
    officials, government representatives, and others. It also provides
    advice on how to report issues to the Protocol Police.

    The Protocol Police, as defined in this document, are responsible for
    enforcing all IETF standards and best practices.

  2. Definitions

    For possibly the first time in IETF history, words like “SHALL” and
    “MAY” are used in this document in their real and enforceable sense.

  3. Composition of the Protocol Police

    The Protocol Police shall be selected by the IETF Nominating
    Committee (NomCom) as laid out in [RFC3797] in a manner similar to
    that used to select the IAB and IESG [RFC8713].

    However, the members of the Protocol Police shall not be publicly
    named. This will enable them to operate more effectively and without
    interference or unwarranted pressure from members of the community.
    The first rule of the Protocol Police is $CIPHERTEXT.

3.1. Recognizing the Protocol Police

When more than one person says, “We are not the Protocol Police,” at
least one of them is not telling the truth.

The Protocol Police love company and are never alone.

You are not the Protocol Police: we are. We are not the Protocol
Police: you are.

3.2. Recruitment

If you are interested in joining the Protocol Police, contact your
localhost. Your behavior will be monitored, and your implementation
will be analyzed for full RFC compliance. If your deeds, both now
and in the past, are recognized to be true to the scripture, NomCom
will of course be instructed to induct you to the ranks. But if you
have transgressed, any information the investigation produces MAY be
used against you in future proceedings.

In making an assessment of your suitability for membership of the
Protocol Police, contact may be made on your behalf with the Internet
Moral Majority [RFC4041].

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

  1. Support for the Protocol Police

    Support for the existence and operation of the Protocol Police is
    essential to the concept of “policing by consent.” Fortunately, the
    IETF community and all stakeholders may now consider themselves
    served by this document which, by dint of its existence, warrants

  2. Punishable Offenses

5.1. Protocol-Layer Violations

Some boundaries must not be crossed. There are no acceptable layer
violations. Even though layers, like borders, are ambiguous
abstractions only serving to uphold the legitimacy and identity of
the institutions that produce them, they shall be observed and
defended because the Protocol Police exist to defend them.

5.2. Deliberate Non-Interoperability

The Protocol Police are sanctioned to gain access to any walled
garden that undermines interoperability. At the same time, the
Protocol Police will defend legacy interoperability options in all
NTP eras (see Section 6 of [RFC5905]), and will be reachable via the
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) until at least era

5.3. Disobeying RFCs

In the beginning was the RFC, and the network was with the RFC, and
the RFC was with the network. Through the RFC all things were made;
without the RFC nothing was made that has been made. In the network
was life, and that life was the light of all the INTERNET. Thou
shalt not deviate from the path set out in the RFCs or else thou
shall be scattered over the data plane.

  1. Reporting Offenses

    Send all your reports of possible violations and all tips about
    wrongdoing to /dev/null. The Protocol Police are listening and will
    take care of it.

  2. Punishment

7.1. Traffic Imprisonment

The Protocol Police will maintain a list of hosts and clients that
have demonstrated their inability to comprehend simple commandments
contained in RFCs, which all IETF participants know to be precise and
accessible even to a general audience.

If this work is standardized, IANA is requested to register the list
of addresses (see Section 9). For a period specified in an official
notification, all other networks SHALL drop all network packets
originating from or intended for such addresses. This will result in
effective and forced confinement of criminal networks.

Using powerful machine-learning mechanisms for threat analysis, the
Protocol Police will identify networks that are likely to fail to
comply with this requirement. This process is known as Heuristic
Internet Policing (HIP). Networks identified in this way will be
disciplined by the Protocol Police with TCP RSTs. Let it be known:
the Protocol Police always shoot from the HIP.

  1. Morality Considerations

    This section contains morality considerations consistent with the
    demands of [RFC4041].

    | We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
    | We believe in: rough consensus and running code.
    | We only bow down to: the Protocol Police.
    | — My friend Dave

    | Woop-woop! This is the Protocol Police!
    | Woop-woop! That’s the packet of the beast!
    | — KRS-ZERO (after spotting an evil bit [RFC3514])

8.1. Oversight

All police forces must be accountable and subject to oversight. The
Protocol Police take full responsibility for oversight of their
actions and promise to overlook all activities.

  1. IANA Considerations

    If this work is standardized, IANA shall set up a registry for
    criminal networks and addresses. If the IANA does not comply with
    these orders, the Protocol Police shall go and cry to ICANN before
    becoming lost in its bureaucracy.

  2. Security Considerations

    Before the Protocol Police, there was no security. The Police have
    arrived. All your networks are belong to us.

  3. Privacy Considerations


  4. Human Rights Considerations

    There are none for you to worry about. The Police will see to it.

  5. Conclusion

    Case closed.

  6. Informative References

    [RFC3514] Bellovin, S., “The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header”,

    RFC 3514, DOI 10.17487/RFC3514, April 2003,
    [RFC3797] Eastlake 3rd, D., “Publicly Verifiable Nominations

    Committee (NomCom) Random Selection", RFC 3797,
         DOI 10.17487/RFC3797, June 2004,
    [RFC4041] Farrel, A., “Requirements for Morality Sections in Routing

    Area Drafts", RFC 4041, DOI 10.17487/RFC4041, April 2005,
    [RFC5905] Mills, D., Martin, J., Ed., Burbank, J., and W. Kasch,

    "Network Time Protocol Version 4: Protocol and Algorithms
         Specification", RFC 5905, DOI 10.17487/RFC5905, June 2010,
    [RFC8713] Kucherawy, M., Ed., Hinden, R., Ed., and J. Livingood,

    Ed., "IAB, IESG, IETF Trust, and IETF LLC Selection,
         Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the IETF
         Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP 10, RFC 8713,
         DOI 10.17487/RFC8713, February 2020,


Members of the Protocol Police MUST salute and ACK all network
traffic from Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Mallory Knodel, and Adrian Farrel.

Authors’ Addresses

Gurshabad Grover

Email: [email protected]

Niels ten Oever

Email: [email protected]

Corinne Cath

Email: [email protected]

Shivan Kaul Sahib

Email: [email protected]



*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Infosecurity.US authored by Marc Handelman. Read the original post at: