Papers tagged as Usenix
  1. BITE: Bitcoin Lightweight Client Privacy using Trusted Execution 2019 Bitcoin TEE Usenix usenix.org
    Sinisa Matetic, Karl Wüst, Moritz Schneider, Kari Kostiainen, Ghassan Karame, and Srdjan Capkun

    Blockchains offer attractive advantages over traditional payments such as the ability to operate without a trusted authority and increased user privacy. However, the verification of blockchain payments requires the user to download and process the entire chain which can be infeasible for resource-constrained devices like mobile phones. To address this problem, most major blockchain systems support so called lightweight clients that outsource most of the computational and storage burden to full blockchain nodes. However, such verification leaks critical information about clients’ transactions, thus defeating user privacy that is often considered one of the main goals of decentralized cryptocurrencies.


    In this paper, we propose a new approach to protect the privacy of light clients in Bitcoin. Our main idea is to leverage the trusted execution capabilities of commonly available SGX enclaves. We design and implement a system called BITE where enclaves on full nodes serve privacy-preserving requests from light clients. However, as we will show, naive processing of client requests from within SGX enclaves still leaks client’s addresses and transactions. BITE therefore integrates several private information retrieval and side-channel protection techniques at critical parts of the system. We show that BITE provides significantly improved privacy protection for light clients without compromising the performance of the assisting full nodes.

  2. The Loopix Anonymity System 2017 Privacy Usenix usenix.org
    Ania M. Piotrowska, Jamie Hayes, Tariq Elahi, Sebastian Meiser and George Danezis

    We present Loopix, a low-latency anonymous communication system that provides bi-directional ‘third-party’ sender and receiver anonymity and unobservability. Loopix leverages cover traffic and Poisson mixing—brief independent message delays—to provide anonymity and to achieve traffic analysis resistance against, including but not limited to, a global network adversary. Mixes and clients self-monitor and protect against active attacks via self-injected loops of traffic. The traffic loops also serve as cover traffic to provide stronger anonymity and a measure of sender and receiver unobservability. Loopix is instantiated as a network of Poisson mix nodes in a stratified topology with a low number of links, which serve to further concentrate cover traffic. Service providers mediate access in and out of the network to facilitate accounting and off-line message reception.


    We provide a theoretical analysis of the Poisson mixing strategy as well as an empirical evaluation of the anonymity provided by the protocol and a functional implementation that we analyze in terms of scalability by running it on AWS EC2. We show that mix nodes in Loopix can handle upwards of 300 messages per second, at a small delay overhead of less than 1.5ms on top of the delays introduced into messages to provide security. Overall message latency is on the order of seconds – which is relatively low for a mix-system. Furthermore, many mix nodes can be securely added to the stratified topology to scale throughput without sacrificing anonymity.

  3. A Longitudinal, End-to-End View of the DNSSEC Ecosystem 2017 PKI Usenix usenix.org
    Taejoong Chung, Roland van Rijswijk-Deij, Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran, David Choffnes, and Dave Levin

    The Domain Name System’s Security Extensions (DNSSEC) allow clients and resolvers to verify that DNS responses have not been forged or modified inflight. DNSSEC uses a public key infrastructure (PKI) to achieve this integrity, without which users can be subject to a wide range of attacks. However, DNSSEC can operate only if each of the principals in its PKI properly performs its management tasks: authoritative name servers must generate and publish their keys and signatures correctly, child zones that support DNSSEC must be correctly signed with their parent’s keys, and resolvers must actually validate the chain of signatures.


    This paper performs the first large-scale, longitudinal measurement study into how well DNSSEC’s PKI is managed. We use data from all DNSSEC-enabled subdomains under the .com, .org, and .net TLDs over a period of 21 months to analyze DNSSEC deployment and management by domains; we supplement this with active measurements of more than 59K DNS resolvers worldwide to evaluate resolver-side validation.


    Our investigation reveals pervasive mismanagement of the DNSSEC infrastructure. For example, we found that 31% of domains that support DNSSEC fail to publish all relevant records required for validation; 39% of the domains use insufficiently strong key-signing keys; and although 82% of resolvers in our study request DNSSEC records, only 12% of them actually attempt to validate them. These results highlight systemic problems, which motivate improved automation and auditing of DNSSEC management.

  4. REM: Resource-Efficient Mining for Blockchains 2017 Blockchains Usenix usenix.org
    Fan Zhang, Ittay Eyal, Robert Escriva, Ari Juels, and Robbert van Renesse

    Blockchains show promise as potential infrastructure for financial transaction systems. The security of blockchains today, however, relies critically on Proof-of- Work (PoW), which forces participants to waste computational resources.


    We present REM (Resource-Efficient Mining), a new blockchain mining framework that uses trusted hardware (Intel SGX). REM achieves security guarantees similar to PoW, but leverages the partially decentralized trust model inherent in SGX to achieve a fraction of the waste of PoW. Its key idea, Proof-of-Useful-Work (PoUW), involves miners providing trustworthy reporting on CPU cycles they devote to inherently useful workloads. REM flexibly allows any entity to create a useful workload. REM ensures the trustworthiness of these workloads by means of a novel scheme of hierarchical attestations that may be of independent interest.


    To address the risk of compromised SGX CPUs, we develop a statistics-based formal security framework, also relevant to other trusted-hardware-based approaches such as Intel’s Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET). We show through economic analysis that REM achieves less waste than PoET and variant schemes.


    We implement REM and, as an example application, swap it into the consensus layer of Bitcoin core. The result is the first full implementation of an SGX-based blockchain. We experiment with four example applications as useful workloads for our implementation of REM, and report a computational overhead of 5—15%.

  5. "I Have No Idea What I'm Doing" - On the Usability of Deploying HTTPS 2017 Measurement TLS Usenix usenix.org
    Katharina Krombholz, Wilfried Mayer, Martin Schmiedecker, and Edgar Weippl

    Protecting communication content at scale is a difficult task, and TLS is the protocol most commonly used to do so. However, it has been shown that deploying it in a truly secure fashion is challenging for a large fraction of online service operators. While Let’s Encrypt was specifically built and launched to promote the adoption of HTTPS, this paper aims to understand the reasons for why it has been so hard to deploy TLS correctly and studies the usability of the deployment process for HTTPS. We performed a series of experiments with 28 knowledgable participants and revealed significant usability challenges that result in weak TLS configurations. Additionally, we conducted expert interviews with 7 experienced security auditors. Our results suggest that the deployment process is far too complex even for people with proficient knowledge in the field, and that server configurations should have stronger security by default. While the results from our expert interviews confirm the ecological validity of the lab study results, they additionally highlight that even educated users prefer solutions that are easy to use. An improved and less vulnerable workflow would be very beneficial to finding stronger configurations in the wild.

  6. SmartPool: Practical Decentralized Pooled Mining 2017 Blockchains Usenix usenix.org
    Loi Luu, Yaron Velner, Jason Teutsch, and Prateek Saxena

    Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are operated by a handful of mining pools. Nearly 95% of Bitcoin’s and 80% of Ethereum’s mining power resides with less than ten and six mining pools respectively. Although miners benefit from low payout variance in pooled mining, centralized mining pools require members to trust that pool operators will remunerate them fairly. Furthermore, centralized pools pose the risk of transaction censorship from pool operators, and open up possibilities for collusion between pools for perpetrating severe attacks.


    In this work, we propose SMARTPOOL, a novel protocol design for a decentralized mining pool. Our protocol shows how one can leverage smart contracts, autonomous blockchain programs, to decentralize cryptocurrency mining. SMARTPOOL gives transaction selection control back to miners while yielding low-variance payouts. SMARTPOOL incurs mining fees lower than centralized mining pools and is designed to scale to a large number of miners. We implemented and deployed a robust SMARTPOOL implementation on the Ethereum and Ethereum Classic networks. To date, our deployed pools have handled a peak hashrate of 30 GHs from Ethereum miners, resulting in 105 blocks, costing miners a mere 0:6% of block rewards in transaction fees.

  7. Beauty and the Burst: Remote Identification of Encrypted Video Streams 2017 MachineLearning Usenix usenix.org
    Roei Schuste, Vitaly Shmatikov, and Eran Tromer

    The MPEG-DASH streaming video standard contains an information leak: even if the stream is encrypted, the segmentation prescribed by the standard causes content-dependent packet bursts. We show that many video streams are uniquely characterized by their burst patterns, and classifiers based on convolutional neural networks can accurately identify these patterns given very coarse network measurements. We demonstrate that this attack can be performed even by a Web attacker who does not directly observe the stream, e.g., a JavaScript ad confined in a Web browser on a nearby machine.

  8. Measuring HTTPS Adoption on the Web 2017 Measurement TLS Usenix usenix.org
    Adrienne Porter Felt, Richard Barnes, April King, Chris Palmer, Chris Bentzel, and Parisa Tabriz

    HTTPS ensures that the Web has a base level of privacy and integrity. Security engineers, researchers, and browser vendors have long worked to spread HTTPS to as much of the Web as possible via outreach efforts, developer tools, and browser changes. How much progress have we made toward this goal of widespread HTTPS adoption? We gather metrics to benchmark the status and progress of HTTPS adoption on the Web in 2017. To evaluate HTTPS adoption from a user perspective, we collect large-scale, aggregate user metrics from two major browsers (Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox). To measure HTTPS adoption from a Web developer perspective, we survey server support for HTTPS among top and long-tail websites. We draw on these metrics to gain insight into the current state of the HTTPS ecosystem.

  9. ORide: A Privacy-Preserving yet Accountable Ride-Hailing Service 2017 Privacy Usenix usenix.org
    Anh Pham, Italo Dacosta, Guillaume Endignoux, Juan Ramon Troncoso Pastoriza, Kevin Huguenin, and Jean-Pierre Hubaux

    In recent years, ride-hailing services (RHSs) have become increasingly popular, serving millions of users per day. Such systems, however, raise significant privacy concerns, because service providers are able to track the precise mobility patterns of all riders and drivers. In this paper, we propose ORide (Oblivious Ride), a privacy-preserving RHS based on somewhat-homomorphic encryption with optimizations such as ciphertext packing and transformed processing. With ORide, a service provider can match riders and drivers without learning their identities or location information. ORide offers riders with fairly large anonymity sets (e.g., several thousands), even in sparsely populated areas. In addition, ORide supports key RHS features such as easy payment, reputation scores, accountability, and retrieval of lost items. Using real data-sets that consist of millions of rides, we show that the computational and network overhead introduced by ORide is acceptable. For example, ORide adds only several milliseconds to ride-hailing operations, and the extra driving distance for a driver is less than 0.5 km in more than 75% of the cases evaluated. In short, we show that a RHS can offer strong privacy guarantees to both riders and drivers while maintaining the convenience of its services.

  10. MCMix: Anonymous Messaging via Secure Multiparty Computation 2017 MPC Usenix usenix.org
    Nikolaos Alexopoulos, Aggelos Kiayias, Riivo Talviste, and Thomas Zacharias

    We present MCMix, an anonymous messaging system that completely hides communication metadata and can scale in the order of hundreds of thousands of users. Our approach is to isolate two suitable functionalities, called dialing and conversation, that when used in succession, realize anonymous messaging. With this as a starting point, we apply secure multiparty computation (“MC” or MPC) and proceed to realize them. We then present an implementation using Sharemind, a prevalent MPC system. Our implementation is competitive in terms of latency with previous messaging systems that only offer weaker privacy guarantees. Our solution can be instantiated in a variety of different ways with different MPC implementations, overall illustrating how MPC is a viable and competitive alternative to mix-nets and DC-nets for anonymous communication.

  11. CLKSCREW: Exposing the Perils of Security-Oblivious Energy Management 2017 Attacks TEE Usenix usenix.org
    Adrian Tang, Simha Sethumadhavan, and Salvatore Stolfo

    The need for power- and energy-efficient computing has resulted in aggressive cooperative hardware-software energy management mechanisms on modern commodity devices. Most systems today, for example, allow software to control the frequency and voltage of the underlying hardware at a very fine granularity to extend battery life. Despite their benefits, these software-exposed energy management mechanisms pose grave security implications that have not been studied before.


    In this work, we present the CLKSCREW attack, a new class of fault attacks that exploit the security-obliviousness of energy management mechanisms to break security. A novel benefit for the attackers is that these fault attacks become more accessible since they can now be conducted without the need for physical access to the devices or fault injection equipment. We demonstrate CLKSCREW on commodity ARM/Android devices. We show that a malicious kernel driver (1) can extract secret cryptographic keys from Trustzone, and (2) can escalate its privileges by loading self-signed code into Trustzone. As the first work to show the security ramifications of energy management mechanisms, we urge the community to re-examine these security-oblivious designs.

  12. Vale: Verifying High-Performance Cryptographic Assembly Code 2017 Implementation Usenix usenix.org
    Barry Bond and Chris Hawblitzel, Manos Kapritsos, K. Rustan M. Leino, Jacob R. Lorch, Bryan Parno, Ashay Rane, Srinath Setty, and Laure Thompson

    High-performance cryptographic code often relies on complex hand-tuned assembly language that is customized for individual hardware platforms. Such code is difficult to understand or analyze. We introduce a new programming language and tool called Vale that supports flexible, automated verification of high-performance assembly code. The Vale tool transforms annotated assembly language into an abstract syntax tree (AST), while also generating proofs about the AST that are verified via an SMT solver. Since the AST is a first-class proof term, it can be further analyzed and manipulated by proven correct code before being extracted into standard assembly. For example, we have developed a novel, proven-correct taint-analysis engine that verifies the code’s freedom from digital side channels. Using these tools, we verify the correctness, safety, and security of implementations of SHA-256 on x86 and ARM, Poly1305 on x64, and hardware-accelerated AES-CBC on x86. Several implementations meet or beat the performance of unverified, state-of-the-art cryptographic libraries.

  13. Phoenix: Rebirth of a Cryptographic Password-Hardening Service 2017 Passwords Usenix usenix.org
    Russell W. F. Lai, Christoph Egger, Dominique Schröder, and Sherman S. M. Chow

    Password remains the most widespread means of authentication, especially on the Internet. As such, it is the Achilles heel of many modern systems. Facebook pioneered using external cryptographic services to harden password-based authentication in a large scale. Everspaugh et al. (USENIX Security ’15) provided the first comprehensive treatment of such a service and proposed the PYTHIA PRF-Service as a cryptographically secure solution. Recently, Schneider et al. (ACM CCS ’16) proposed a more efficient solution which is secure in a weaker security model.


    In this work, we show that the scheme of Schneider et al. is vulnerable to offline attacks just after a single validation query. Therefore, it defeats the purpose of using an external crypto service in the first place and it should not be used in practice. Our attacks do not contradict their security claims, but instead show that their definitions are simply too weak. We thus suggest stronger security definitions that cover these kinds of real-world attacks, and an even more efficient construction, PHOENIX, to achieve them. Our comprehensive evaluation confirms the practicability of PHOENIX: It can handle up to 50% more requests than the scheme of Schneider et al. and up to three times more than PYTHIA.

  14. Speeding up detection of SHA-1 collision attacks using unavoidable attack conditions 2017 Hashing Usenix usenix.org
    Marc Stevens and Daniel Shumow

    Counter-cryptanalysis, the concept of using cryptanalytic techniques to detect cryptanalytic attacks, was introduced at CRYPTO 2013 [23] with a hash collision detection algorithm. That is, an algorithm that detects whether a given single message is part of a colliding message pair constructed using a cryptanalytic collision attack on MD5 or SHA-1.


    Unfortunately, the original collision detection algorithm is not a low-cost solution as it costs 15 to 224 times more than a single hash computation. In this paper we present a significant performance improvement for collision detection based on the new concept of unavoidable conditions. Unavoidable conditions are conditions that are necessary for all feasible attacks in a certain attack class. As such they can be used to quickly dismiss particular attack classes that may have been used in the construction of the message. To determine an unavoidable condition one must rule out any feasible variant attack where this condition might not be necessary, otherwise adversaries aware of counter-cryptanalysis could easily bypass this improved collision detection with a carefully chosen variant attack. Based on a conjecture solidly supported by the current state of the art, we show how we can determine such unavoidable conditions for SHA-1.


    We have implemented the improved SHA-1 collision detection using such unavoidable conditions and which is more than 20 times faster than without our unavoidable condition improvements. We have measured that overall our implemented SHA-1 with collision detection is only a factor 1.60 slower, on average, than SHA-1. With the demonstration of a SHA-1 collision, the algorithm presented here has been deployed by Git, GitHub, Google Drive, Gmail, Microsoft OneDrive and others, showing the effectiveness of this technique.

  15. BLENDER: Enabling Local Search with a Hybrid Differential Privacy Model 2017 DifferentialPrivacy Usenix usenix.org
    Brendan Avent, Aleksandra Korolova, David Zeber, Torgeir Hovden, and Benjamin Livshits

    We propose a hybrid model of differential privacy that considers a combination of regular and opt-in users who desire the differential privacy guarantees of the local privacy model and the trusted curator model, respectively. We demonstrate that within this model, it is possible to design a new type of blended algorithm for the task of privately computing the most popular records of a web search log. This blended approach provides significant improvements in the utility of obtained data compared to related work while providing users with their desired privacy guarantees. Specifically, on two large search click data sets comprising 4.8 million and 13.2 million unique queries respectively, our approach attains NDCG values exceeding 95% across a range of commonly used privacy budget values.

  16. Locally Differentially Private Protocols for Frequency Estimation 2017 DifferentialPrivacy Usenix usenix.org
    Tianhao Wang, Jeremiah Blocki, Ninghui Li, and Somesh Jha

    Protocols satisfying Local Differential Privacy (LDP) enable parties to collect aggregate information about a population while protecting each user’s privacy, without relying on a trusted third party. LDP protocols (such as Google’s RAPPOR) have been deployed in real-world scenarios. In these protocols, a user encodes his private information and perturbs the encoded value locally before sending it to an aggregator, who combines values that users contribute to infer statistics about the population. In this paper, we introduce a framework that generalizes several LDP protocols proposed in the literature. Our framework yields a simple and fast aggregation algorithm, whose accuracy can be precisely analyzed. Our in-depth analysis enables us to choose optimal parameters, resulting in two new protocols (i.e., Optimized Unary Encoding and Optimized Local Hashing) that provide better utility than protocols previously proposed. We present precise conditions for when each proposed protocol should be used, and perform experiments that demonstrate the advantage of our proposed protocols.

  17. TrustBase: An Architecture to Repair and Strengthen Certificate-based Authentication 2017 Certificates Usenix usenix.org
    Mark O’Neill, Scott Heidbrink, Scott Ruoti, Jordan Whitehead, Dan Bunker, Luke Dickinson, Travis Hendershot, Joshua Reynolds, Kent Seamons, and Daniel Zappala

    The current state of certificate-based authentication is messy, with broken authentication in applications and proxies, along with serious flaws in the CA system. To solve these problems, we design TrustBase, an architecture that provides certificate-based authentication as an operating system service, with system administrator control over authentication policy. TrustBase transparently enforces best practices for certificate validation on all applications, while also providing a variety of authentication services to strengthen the CA system. We describe a research prototype of TrustBase for Linux, which uses a loadable kernel module to intercept traffic in the socket layer, then consults a userspace policy engine to evaluate certificate validity using a variety of plugins. We evaluate the security of TrustBase, including a threat analysis, application coverage, and hardening of the Linux prototype. We also describe prototypes of TrustBase for Android and Windows, illustrating the generality of our approach. We show that TrustBase has negligible overhead and universal compatibility with applications. We demonstrate its utility by describing eight authentication services that extend CA hardening to all applications.

  18. AuthentiCall: Efficient Identity and Content Authentication for Phone Calls 2017 Authentication Usenix usenix.org
    Bradley Reaves, Logan Blue, Hadi Abdullah, Luis Vargas, Patrick Traynor, and Thomas Shrimpton

    Phones are used to confirm some of our most sensitive transactions. From coordination between energy providers in the power grid to corroboration of high-value transfers with a financial institution, we rely on telephony to serve as a trustworthy communications path. However, such trust is not well placed given the widespread understanding of telephony’s inability to provide end-to-end authentication between callers. In this paper, we address this problem through the AuthentiCall system. AuthentiCall not only cryptographically authenticates both parties on the call, but also provides strong guarantees of the integrity of conversations made over traditional phone networks. We achieve these ends through the use of formally verified protocols that bind low-bitrate data channels to heterogeneous audio channels. Unlike previous efforts, we demonstrate that AuthentiCall can be used to provide strong authentication before calls are answered, allowing users to ignore calls claiming a particular Caller ID that are unable or unwilling to provide proof of that assertion. Moreover, we detect 99% of tampered call audio with negligible false positives and only a worst-case 1.4 second call establishment overhead. In so doing, we argue that strong and efficient end-to-end authentication for phone networks is approaching a practical reality.