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PoliCert: A Highly Resilient Public-Key Infrastructure

Event Type
Advanced Digital Sciences Center
FUSIONOPOLIS: A*STAR - Connexis SOUTH Tower Level 17 , Charles Babbage Room
Nov 24, 2014   9:15 am  
Adrian Perrig - Professor of Computer Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Z├╝rich


PoliCert: A Highly Resilient Public-Key Infrastructure

The recently proposed concept of publicly verifiable logs is a promising approach for mitigating security issues and threats of the current Public-Key Infrastructure (PKI). Although much progress has been made towards a more secure infrastructure, the currently proposed approaches still suffer from security vulnerabilities, inefficiency, and incremental deployment challenges.

We propose PoliCert, a comprehensive log-based and domain-oriented architecture that enhances the security of PKI by offering: a) stronger authentication of a domain's public keys, b) comprehensive and clean mechanisms for certificate management, and c) an incentivised incremental deployment plan. Surprisingly, our approach has proved fruitful in addressing other seemingly unrelated problems such as TLS-related error handling and client/server misconfiguration.

To ensure correctness of our design, we have formally verified a subset of PoliCert using the Tamarin prover. We verify that our approach offers extremely strong security guarantees: (1) it prevents attacks by ensuring that compromising all-but-one trusted signing and verifying entities is insufficient to launch an impersonation attack; and (2) it enforces accountability and deterrence against misbehavior since all operations are publicly visible.

We have completely implemented PoliCert and we demonstrate its efficiency and resilience to attacks.

Exciting Security Research Opportunity: Next-generation Internet

The Internet has been successful beyond even the most optimistic expectations. It permeates and intertwines with almost all aspects of our society and economy. The success of the Internet has created a dependency on communication as many of the processes underpinning the foundations of modern society would grind to a halt should communication become unavailable. However, much to our dismay, the current state of safety and availability of the Internet is far from commensurate given its importance.

Although we cannot conclusively determine what the impact of a 1-minute, 1-hour, 1-day, or 1-week outage of Internet connectivity on our society would be, anecdotal evidence indicates that even short outages have a profound negative impact on governmental, economic, and societal operations. To make matters worse, the Internet has not been designed for high availability in the face of malicious actions by adversaries. Recent patches to improve Internet security and availability have been constrained by the current Internet architecture, business models, and legal aspects. Moreover, there are fundamental design decisions of the current Internet that inherently complicate secure operation.

Given the diverse nature of constituents in today's Internet, another important challenge is how to scale authentication of entities (e.g., AS ownership for routing, name servers for DNS, or domains for TLS) to a global environment. Currently prevalent PKI models (monopoly and oligarchy) do not scale globally because mutually distrusting entities cannot agree on a single trust root, and because everyday users cannot evaluate the trustworthiness of each of the many root CAs in their browsers.

To address these issues, we study the design of a next-generation Internet that is secure, available, and offers privacy by design; that provides appropriate incentives for a transition to the new architecture; and that considers economic and policy issues at the design stage. Such a research environment offers a bonanza for security researchers: a critically important problem space with a medley of challenges to address, and unfettered freedom to think creatively in the absence of limiting constraints. Once we know how good a network could be, we can then engage in incorporating these ideas into the current Internet or study strategies for transition to a next-generation network.

Lightweight Source Authentication and Path Validation

In-network source authentication and path validation are fundamental primitives to construct higher-level security mechanisms such as DDoS mitigation, path compliance, packet attribution, or protection against flow redirection.  Unfortunately, currently proposed solutions either fall short of addressing important security concerns or require a substantial amount of router overhead. In this paper, we propose lightweight, scalable, and secure protocols for shared key setup, source authentication, and path validation.  Our prototype implementation demonstrates the efficiency and scalability of the protocols, especially for software-based implementations. 

About the speaker: Adrian Perrig is a Professor of Computer Science at the Department of Computer Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, where he leads the network security group. He is also a Distinguished Fellow at CyLab, and an Adjunct Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. From 2002 to 2012, he was a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, and Computer Science (courtesy) at Carnegie Mellon University; From 2007 to 2012, he also served as the technical director for Carnegie Mellon's Cybersecurity Laboratory (CyLab). He earned his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University under the guidance of J. D. Tygar, and spent three years during his Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Berkeley. He received his B.Sc. degree in Computer Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER award in 2004, IBM faculty fellowships in 2004 and 2005, the Sloan research fellowship in 2006, the Security 7 award in the category of education by the Information Security Magazine in 2009, the Benjamin Richard Teare teaching award in 2011, and the ACM SIGSAC Outstanding Innovation Award in 2013. Adrian's research revolves around building secure systems -- in particular secure future Internet architectures.

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