LogPicker: Strengthening Certificate Transparency Against Covert Adversaries

Authors: Alexandra Dirksen (TU Braunschweig), David Klein (TU Braunschweig), Robert Michael (TU Braunschweig), Tilman Stehr, Konrad Rieck (TU Braunschweig), Martin Johns (TU Braunschweig)

Volume: 2021
Issue: 4
Pages: 184–202
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2021-0066


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Abstract: HTTPS is a cornerstone of privacy in the modern Web. The public key infrastructure underlying HTTPS, however, is a frequent target of attacks. In several cases, forged certificates have been issued by compromised Certificate Authorities (CA) and used to spy on users at large scale. While the concept of Certificate Transparency (CT) provides a means for detecting such forgeries, it builds on a distributed system of CT logs whose correctness is still insufficiently protected. By compromising a certificate authority and the corresponding log, a covert adversary can still issue rogue certificates unnoticed. We introduce LogPicker, a novel protocol for strengthening the public key infrastructure of HTTPS. LogPicker enables a pool of CT logs to collaborate, where a randomly selected log includes the certificate while the rest witness and testify the certificate issuance process. As a result, CT logs become capable of auditing the log in charge independently without the need for a trusted third party. This auditing forces an attacker to control each participating witness, which significantly raises the bar for issuing rogue certificates. LogPicker is efficient and designed to be deployed incrementally, allowing a smooth transition towards a more secure Web.

Keywords: web privacy, web pki, secure communication

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