Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Inductive verification of cryptographic protocols

Giampaolo Bella

July 2000, 189 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted March 2000 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Clare College.


The dissertation aims at tailoring Paulson’s Inductive Approach for the analysis of classical cryptographic protocols towards real-world protocols. The aim is pursued by extending the approach with new elements (e.g. timestamps and smart cards), new network events (e.g. message reception) and more expressive functions (e.g. agents’ knowledge). Hence, the aim is achieved by analysing large protocols (Kerberos IV and Shoup-Rubin), and by studying how to specify and verify their goals.

More precisely, the modelling of timestamps and of a discrete time are first developed on BAN Kerberos, while comparing the outcomes with those of the BAN logic. The machinery is then applied to Kerberos IV, whose complicated use of session keys requires a dedicated treatment. Three new guarantees limiting the spy’s abilities in case of compromise of a specific session key are established. Also, it is discovered that Kerberos IV is subject to an attack due to the weak guarantees of confidentiality for the protocol responder.

We develop general strategies to investigate the goals of authenticity, key distribution and non-injective agreement, which is a strong form of authentication. These strategies require formalising the agents’ knowledge of messages. Two approaches are implemented. If an agent creates a message, then he knows all components of the message, including the cryptographic key that encrypts it. Alternatively, a broad definition of agents’ knowledge can be developed if a new network event, message reception, is formalised.

The concept of smart card as a secure device that can store long-term secrets and perform easy computations is introduced. The model cards can be stolen and/or cloned by the spy. The kernel of their built-in algorithm works correctly, so they spy cannot acquire unlimited knowledge from their use. However, their functional interface is unreliable, so they send correct outputs in an unspecified order. The provably secure protocol based on smart cards designed by Shoup Rubin is mechanised. Some design weaknesses (unknown to the authors’ treatment by Bellare Rogaway’s approach) are unveiled, while feasible corrections are suggested and verified.

We realise that the evidence that a protocol achieves its goals must be available to the peers. In consequence, we develop a new a principle of prudent protocol design, goal availability, which holds of a protocol when suitable guarantees confirming its goals exist on assumptions that both peers can verify. Failure to observe our principle raises the risk of attacks, as is the case, for example, of the attack on Kerberos IV.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Bella, Giampaolo},
  title = 	 {{Inductive verification of cryptographic protocols}},
  year = 	 2000,
  month = 	 jul,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-493}