david wong

Hey! I'm David, cofounder of zkSecurity and the author of the Real-World Cryptography book. I was previously a crypto architect at O(1) Labs (working on the Mina cryptocurrency), before that I was the security lead for Diem (formerly Libra) at Novi (Facebook), and a security consultant for the Cryptography Services of NCC Group. This is my blog about cryptography and security and other related topics that I find interesting.

Real World Crypto 2017: Day 2 posted January 2017

Here we go again. Some really short notes as well for today. (The notes for day 1 are here.)

Trevor Perrin talked about Message Encryption from an historical point of view, from key directories to public key infrastructures and how to authenticate users to each other. Something interesting that Trevor talked about was CONIKS, some sort of Certificate Transparency-like protocol but for secure messaging (they call it key transparency).

when Alice wants to send a secure message to some other user, say Bob, her CONIKS client looks up Bob's key at the key directory, and verifies that this key has not changed unexpectedly over time. It also checks that this key is consistent with the key other clients are seeing for Bob. Only if these two consistency checks pass will the CONIKS client send Alice's message to Bob. The CONIKS client also performs these same checks for Alice's own key on a regular basis to ensure that the service provider is not tampering with Alice's key.

This sounds like an audit system (users can check what a key distribution server has been up to) + a gossip protocol (users can talk between them to verify consistency of the obtained public keys). Which seems like an excellent idea and makes me wonder why would Signal not use it.

djb mentioned the Self-Healing feature of ZRTP, similar to the recovery feature of Signal.

ZRTP caches symmetric key material used to compute secret session keys, and these values change with each session. If someone steals your ZRTP shared secret cache, they only get one chance to mount a MiTM attack, in the very next session. If they miss that chance, the retained shared secret is refreshed with a new value, and the window of vulnerability heals itself, which means they are locked out of any future opportunities to mount a MiTM attack. This gives ZRTP a "self-healing" feature if any cached key material is compromised.

Signal's self-healing property comes from the fact that an ephemeral Diffie-Hellman key agreement is continuously happening during communication. Like ZRTP it seems like it works out well only if the attacker is slow to act, thus it doesn't seem to be exactly comparable to backward secrecy (which might just be impossible in a protocol).

Later, someone (I don't know who from Felix G√ľnther, Britta Hale, Tibor Jager and Sebastian Lauer because the program doesn't specify who the speaker is), presented on a 0-RTT system that would provide forward secrecy and anti-replayability. 0-RTT is one of the feature of TLS 1.3, which allows a client to start sending encrypted data to a server during its very first flight of messages. Unfortunately, and this was the topic of many discussions on TLS 1.3, these messages are replayable. The work builds on top of Math Green's work with Puncturable Encryption where the server (and the client?) use some key derivation system and remove parts of it after a message has been sent using the 0-RTT feature. I am not sure if this system is really efficient though, especially since the point of 0-RTT is to be able to be fast. If this solution isn't faster or, worse, slower than doing a normal TLS 1.3 handshake (1.5 round trips) then the 0-RTT has no meaning in life anymore.

It also seems like this wouldn't be applicable to the "ticket" way of doing 0-RTT in TLS 1.3, which basically encrypts the whole state and hand up the opaque blob to the client, this way the server doesn't store anything.

Hugo Krawczyk (the HKDF guy) talked about passwords and leaks with some Comic Sans MS (and there was this handy website to check if your username/password/... had been compromised). Hugo then presented some of his recent work on SPHINX, PPSS, X-PAKE, ... everything is listed with link to papers here.

SPHINX is a client-focused and transparent-to-the-server password manager (like all of them really). The desktop password manager uses some derivation parameter stored online or on a user's mobile phone to derive any website key from a master password. The online service or the mobile phone never sees anything (thanks to a simple blinding technique, reminding me of what Ari Juel did last year's RWC with PASS). Because of that, no offline attack are possible. The slides are here and are pretty self explanatory. I have to admit that the design makes a lot of sense to me. I dozed off for the second part of the talk but it was about "How to store a secret" and his PPSS thing (Password Protected Secret Sharing), same for the third part of the talk that was about X-PAKE, which I can imagine was a mix of his ideas with the PAKE protocol.

There were two talks about memory-hardness and proving that password hashing functions are memory-hard. It seemed like some people think it's important that these functions be data-independent as well (probably because in some cases cache attacks might be an issue). Most of the techniques here seemed to make sure that a minimum amount of memory was to be used at all time, and that this couldn't be reduced. I would have liked to see a comparison between Argon2 (the winner of the PHC), Blake 2 (which seems to be the thing people like and use) and Balloon Hashing (which seems to be Dan Boneh's new thing).

George Tankersley and Filippo Valsorda finished the day with a talk on Cloudflare and their CAPTCHA problem. A lot of attacks/spam seems to come from TOR, which has deteriorated the reputation of the TOR nodes' IPs. This means that when Cloudflare sees some traffic coming from TOR, it will present the user with a CAPTCHA to make sure they are dealing with a human. TOR users tend to strongly dislike Cloudflare because these CAPTCHA are shown for every different website, and for every time the TOR path is changed (10 minutes?). This, in addition to TOR already slowing down your browsing efficiency, has annoyed more than one person. Cloudflare is trying to remediate the problem by giving not one, but N tokens to the user for one CAPTCHA solved. By using blind signatures Cloudflare hopes to demonstrate its inability to deanonymize users by using a CAPTCHA token as a tracking cookie.

(I have been made aware of this problem in the past and have manually added TOR visitors as an "allowed country" in my Cloudflare's setup for cryptologie.net., which is one of the solution given to Cloudflare's customers.)

I believe the drafted solution is readable here if you're interested.

Here are more resources:

The notes for day 3 are here.

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