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Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client

AnyConnect Client Reconnects Every Minute Which Causes a Disruption in Traffic Flow

Document ID: 116881

Updated: Dec 18, 2013

Contributed by Mashal Alshboul, Anu M Chacko, and Oleg Tipisov, Cisco TAC Engineers.

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Introduction

This document discusses the specific scenario where the AnyConnect client might reconnect to the Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) in exactly one minute. The users might not be able to receive traffic over the Transport Layer Security (TLS) tunnel until AnyConnect reconnects. This is dependent upon a few other factors which are discussed in this document.

Affected Components

  • ASA Release 9.0 or Release 9.1
  • AnyConnect Client Release 3.0 or Release 3.1

Symptoms

In this example, the AnyConnect client is shown as it reconnects to the ASA.

116881-technote-anyconnect-01.png

This syslog is seen on the ASA:

%ASA-6-722036: Group <ac_users_group> User <vpn> IP <10.1.75.111> 
Transmitting large packet 1418 (threshold 1347).

Problem Description

These Diagnostics and Reporting Tool (DART) logs are seen with this issue:

******************************************

Date        : 11/16/2013
Time        : 01:28:50
Type        : Warning
Source      : acvpnagent

Description : Reconfigure reason code 16:
New MTU configuration.

******************************************

Date        : 11/16/2013
Time        : 01:28:50
Type        : Information
Source      : acvpnagent

Description : The entire VPN connection is being reconfigured.

******************************************

Date        : 11/16/2013
Time        : 01:28:51
Type        : Information
Source      : acvpnui

Description : Message type information sent to the user:
Reconnecting to 10.1.1.2...

******************************************

Date        : 11/16/2013
Time        : 01:28:51
Type        : Warning
Source      : acvpnagent

Description : A new MTU needs to be applied to the VPN network interface.
Disabling and re-enabling the Virtual Adapter. Applications utilizing the
private network may need to be restarted.



******************************************

Causes

The cause of this issue is the failure to build a Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) tunnel. This could be because of two reasons:

  • DTLS is blocked somewhere in the path

  • Use of a non-default DTLS port

DTLS is Blocked Somewhere in the Path

As of ASA Release 9.x and AnyConnect Release 3.x, an optimization has been introduced in the form of distinct Maximum Transition Units (MTUs) that are negotiated for TLS/DTLS between the client/ASA. Previously, the client derived a rough estimate MTU which covered both TLS/DTLS and was obviously less than optimal. Now, the ASA computes the encapsulation overhead for both TLS/DTLS and derives the MTU values accordingly.


As long as DTLS is enabled, the client applies the DTLS MTU (in this case 1418) on the VPN adapter (which is enabled before the DTLS tunnel is established and is needed for routes/filters enforcement), to ensure optimum performance. If the DTLS tunnel cannot be established or it is dropped at some point, the client fails over to TLS and adjusts the MTU on the virtual adapter (VA) to the TLS MTU value (this requires a session level reconnect).

Resolution

In order to eliminate this visible transition of DTLS > TLS,  the administrator can configure a separate tunnel group for TLS only access for users that have trouble with the establishment of the DTLS tunnel (such as due to firewall restrictions).

  1. The best option is to set the AnyConnect MTU value to be lower than the TLS MTU, which is then negotiated.

    group-policy ac_users_group attributes
     webvpn
      anyconnect mtu 1300

    This makes TLS and DTLS MTU values equal. Reconnections are not seen in this case.

  2. The second option is to allow fragmentation. 

    group-policy ac_users_group attributes
     webvpn
      anyconnect ssl df-bit-ignore enable

    With fragmentation, large packets (whose size exceeds the MTU value) can be fragmented and sent through the TLS tunnel.

  3. The third option is to set the Maximum Segment Size (MSS) to 1460 as follows:

    sysopt conn tcpmss 1460

    In this case, the TLS MTU will be 1427 (RC4/SHA1) which is larger than the DTLS MTU 1418 (AES/SHA1/LZS). This should resolve the issue with TCP from the ASA to the AnyConnect client (thanks to MSS), but large UDP traffic from the ASA to the AnyConnect client might suffer from this as it will be dropped by the AnyConnect client due to the lower AnyConnect client MTU 1418. If sysopt conn tcpmss is modified, it might affect other features such as LAN-to-LAN (L2L) IPSec VPN tunnels.

Use of a Non-default DTLS Port

Another potential cause for the DTLS failure is enabling DTLS on a non-default port after the WebVPN is enabled (for example, when the webvpn enable outside command is entered). This is due to Cisco bug ID CSCuh61321 and has been seen in Release 9.x where the ASA pushes the non-default port to the client, but continues to listen to the default port. Consequently, the DTLS is not built and AnyConnect reconnects.

webvpn
 port 444
 enable outside
 dtls port 444
 anyconnect enable
 
ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show asp table socket


Protocol  Socket    State      Local Address             Foreign Address
SSL       0001fc08  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:444           0.0.0.0:*
                               
DTLS      00020dc8  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:443           0.0.0.0:*

After the TLS tunnel is established, the client attempts to establish the DTLS tunnel to port 444 as expected :

116881-technote-anyconnect-02.png

The order of the commands that lead to the problem and the accelerated security path (ASP) table sockets opened is:

  1. Start with the WebVPN sockets not enabled.

    ciscoasa(config)# show run webvpn
    webvpn
     anyconnect image disk0:/anyconnect-win-3.1.04066-k9.pkg 1
     anyconnect enable
     

    ciscoasa(config)# show asp table socket
    Protocol  Socket    State      Local Address             Foreign Address
    ciscoasa(config)#
  2. Change TLS port to 444 and enable WebVPN.

    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show run webvpn
    webvpn
     port 444
     enable outside
     anyconnect image disk0:/anyconnect-win-3.1.04066-k9.pkg 1
     anyconnect enable


    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show asp tabl socket
    Protocol  Socket    State      Local Address            Foreign Address
    SSL       0001fc08  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:444          0.0.0.0:*
    DTLS      00020dc8  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:443          0.0.0.0:*
  3. Change the DTLS port to 444.

    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# dtls port 444
    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)#
    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show run webvpn
    webvpn
     port 444
     enable outside
     dtls port 444
     anyconnect image disk0:/anyconnect-win-3.1.04066-k9.pkg 1
     anyconnect enable
     
    ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show asp table socket


    Protocol  Socket    State      Local Address            Foreign Address
    SSL       0001fc08  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:444          0.0.0.0:*
    DTLS      00020dc8  LISTEN     172.16.11.1:443          0.0.0.0:*

Note: The DTLS socket port is still 443. At this point the AnyConnect clients establish DTLS to 444 though!

Resolution

The workaround for this problem is to follow the order of :

  1. Disable the WebVPN.

  2. Enter the DTLS port.

  3. Enable the WebVPN.

This behaviour does not exist in Release 8.4.x versions, where the DTLS sockets get updated with the configured ports immediately after the configuration is entered:

ASA Release 8.4.6 :

ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# port 444
ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# enable outside
ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show asp table socket

Protocol Socket Local Address Foreign Address State
SSL 0000bf2f 172.16.11.1:444 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN
DTLS 0000d5df 172.16.11.1:443 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN

ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# dtls port 444
ciscoasa(config-webvpn)#
ciscoasa(config-webvpn)# show asp table socket

Protocol Socket Local Address Foreign Address State
SSL 0000bf2f 172.16.11.1:444 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN
DTLS 0000eb5f 172.16.11.1:444 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN << changed immediately

Reconnect Workflow

Suppose that these ciphers are configured:

ssl encryption rc4-sha1 aes128-sha1 aes256-sha1

This sequence of events takes place in this case:

  • AnyConnect establishes a parent tunnel and a TLS data tunnel with RC4-SHA as the SSL encryption.
  • DTLS is blocked in the path and a DTLS tunnel cannot be established.   
  • ASA announces parameters to AnyConnect, which includes TLS and DTLS MTU values, which are two separate values.
  • DTLS MTU is 1418 by default.
  • TLS MTU is calculated from the sysopt conn tcpmss value (default is 1380). This is how the TLS MTU is derived (as seen from the debug webvpn anyconnect output):
            1380 - 5 (TLS header) - 8 (CSTP) - 0 (padding) - 20 (HASH) = 1347
  • AnyConnect brings the VPN adapter up and assigns DTLS MTU to it in anticipation that it will be able to connect via DTLS.
  • The AnyConnect client is now connected and the user goes to a particular website.
  • The browser sends TCP SYN and sets MSS = 1418-40 = 1378 in it.
  • The HTTP-server on the inside of the ASA sends packets of size 1418.
  • The ASA cannot put them into the tunnel and cannot fragment them as they have Don't Fragment (DF) bit set.
  • ASA prints
    %ASA-6-722036: Group <ac_users_group> User <vpn> IP <10.1.75.111> 
    Transmitting large packet 1418 (threshold 1347)
    and drops packets with mp-svc-no-fragment-ASP drop reason.
  • At the same time the ASA sends ICMP Destination Unreachable, Fragmentation Needed to the sender:
            
    %ASA-6-602101: PMTU-D packet 1418 bytes greater than effective mtu 1347, 
    dest_addr=10.10.10.1, src_addr=10.48.66.200, prot=TCP
  • If Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is allowed, then the sender retransmits dropped packets and everything starts to work. If ICMP is blocked, then traffic is blackholed on the ASA.
  • After several retransmits it understands that the DTLS tunnel cannot be established and it needs to reassign a new MTU value to the VPN adapter.
  • The purpose of this reconnect is to assign a new MTU.

For more information on reconnect behavior and timers, see AnyConnect FAQ: Tunnels, Reconnect Behavior, and the Inactivity Timer

Caveats

Cisco bug ID CSCuh61321  AC 3.1:ASA incorrectly handles alternate DTLS port,causes reconnect

Related Information

Updated: Dec 18, 2013
Document ID: 116881