International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Shan Chen


Integrating Causality in Messaging Channels
Shan Chen Marc Fischlin
Causal reasoning plays an important role in the comprehension of communication, but it has been elusive so far how causality should be properly preserved by instant messaging services. To the best of our knowledge, causality preservation is not even treated as a desired security property by most (if not all) existing secure messaging protocols like Signal. This is probably due to the intuition that causality seems already preserved when all received messages are intact and displayed according to their sending order. Our starting point is to notice that this intuition is wrong. Until now, for messaging channels (where conversations take place), both the proper causality model and the provably secure constructions have been left open. Our work fills this gap, with the goal to facilitate the formal understanding of causality preservation in messaging. First, we focus on the common two-user secure messaging channels and model the desired causality preservation property. We take the popular Signal protocol as an example and analyze the causality security of its cryptographic core (the double-ratchet mechanism). We show its inadequacy with a simple causality attack, then fix it such that the resulting Signal channel is causality-preserving, even in a strong sense that guarantees post-compromise security. Our fix is actually generic: it can be applied to any bidirectional channel to gain strong causality security. Then, we model causality security for the so-called message franking channels. Such a channel additionally enables end users to report individual abusive messages to a server (e.g., the service provider), where this server relays the end-to-end-encrypted communication between users. Causality security in this setting further allows the server to retrieve the necessary causal dependencies of each reported message, essentially extending isolated reported messages to message flows. This has great security merit for dispute resolution, because a benign message may be deemed abusive when isolated from the context. As an example, we apply our model to analyze Facebook’s message franking scheme. We show that a malicious user can easily trick Facebook (i.e., the server) to accuse an innocent user. Then we fix this issue by amending the underlying message franking channel to preserve the desired causality.
Provable Security Analysis of FIDO2 📺
We carry out the first provable security analysis of the new FIDO2 protocols, the promising FIDO Alliance’s proposal for a standard for passwordless user authentication. Our analysis covers the core components of FIDO2: the W3C’s Web Authentication (WebAuthn) specification and the new Client-to-Authenticator Protocol (CTAP2). Our analysis is modular. For WebAuthn and CTAP2, in turn, we propose appropriate security models that aim to capture their intended security goals and use the models to analyze their security. First, our proof confirms the authentication security of WebAuthn. Then, we show CTAP2 can only be proved secure in a weak sense; meanwhile, we identify a series of its design flaws and provide suggestions for improvement. To withstand stronger yet realistic adversaries, we propose a generic protocol called sPACA and prove its strong security; with proper instantiations, sPACA is also more efficient than CTAP2. Finally, we analyze the overall security guarantees provided by FIDO2 and WebAuthn+sPACA based on the security of their components. We expect that our models and provable security results will help clarify the security guarantees of the FIDO2 protocols. In addition, we advocate the adoption of our sPACA protocol as a substitute for CTAP2 for both stronger security and better performance.
Secure Communication Channel Establishment: TLS 1.3 (over TCP Fast Open) versus QUIC
Secure channel establishment protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) are some of the most important cryptographic protocols, enabling the encryption of Internet traffic. Reducing latency (the number of interactions between parties before encrypted data can be transmitted) in such protocols has become an important design goal to improve user experience. The most important protocols addressing this goal are TLS 1.3, the latest TLS version standardized in 2018 to replace the widely deployed TLS 1.2, and Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC), a secure transport protocol from Google that is implemented in the Chrome browser. There have been a number of formal security analyses for TLS 1.3 and QUIC, but their security, when layered with their underlying transport protocols, cannot be easily compared. Our work is the first to thoroughly compare the security and availability properties of these protocols. Toward this goal, we develop novel security models that permit “layered” security analysis. In addition to the standard goals of server authentication and data confidentiality and integrity, we consider the goals of IP spoofing prevention, key exchange packet integrity, secure channel header integrity, and reset authentication, which capture a range of practical threats not usually taken into account by existing security models that focus mainly on the cryptographic cores of the protocols. Equipped with our new models we provide a detailed comparison of three low-latency layered protocols: TLS 1.3 over TCP Fast Open (TFO), QUIC over UDP, and QUIC[TLS] (a new design for QUIC that uses TLS 1.3 key exchange) over UDP. In particular, we show that TFO’s cookie mechanism does provably achieve the security goal of IP spoofing prevention. Additionally, we find several new availability attacks that manipulate the early key exchange packets without being detected by the communicating parties. By including packet-level attacks in our analysis, our results shed light on how the reliability, flow control, and congestion control of the above layered protocols compare, in adversarial settings. We hope that our models will help protocol designers in their future protocol analyses and that our results will help practitioners better understand the advantages and limitations of secure channel establishment protocols.

Program Committees

PKC 2023