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The Taub Faculty of Computer Science Events and Talks

How Can we Recover from Protocol Failure? (Talk II - The Israel Pollak Distinguished Lecture Series)
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Ross Anderson (Computer Laboratory, University Of Cambridge)
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Thursday, 12.12.2013, 11:00
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Room 337-8 Taub Bld.
Security protocols are the foundations on which the digital age is built. SSL/TLS is the basis for online commerce, email privacy and much else; EMV is taking over the world of card payments; and lesser-known protocols such as SSH and DNSSEC protect the infrastructure. Stable, reliable platforms are the basis on which others can innovate; but what happens when the platforms themselves fail? We have so far seen about a dozen failures of SSL/TLS, and had to patch them in very ad-hoc ways because it is not feasible to replace whole ciphersuites quickly, or even to change the clients and the servers at the same time. There has been a whole series of attacks on EMV, many of which are still not really patched. And now we find, pace Snowden, that many protocols have been the subject of deliberate attempts to weaken them; we are dealing not just with bugs and blunders but with adversarial behaviour. One of the most challenging problems we face is how to repair broken protocols when some of the participants are obstructive; we may have to move beyond protocol analysis and security-economic analysis to think in terms of strategy, politics and even diplomacy. A related problem is how to design protocols that will be as resilient as possible against future adversarial behaviour.

Ross Anderson is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University. He holds a Brandeis award for lifetime achievement in health privacy; he has worked for the British and Icelandic medical associations, been a special advisor to the UK parliament's health committee, and was an author of "Database State" – a report that led the UK government in 2010 to cancel two large systems to collect data on children. He has made a number of technical contributions to security, from cryptography through hardware tamper-resistance to API security; and he is one of the founders of security economics, which brings the tools of game theory and microeconomic analysis to bear on complex multistakeholder systems.