Vertical Protocol Composition (Extended Version)

The security of key exchange and secure channel protocols, such as TLS, has been studied intensively. However, only few works have considered what happens when the established keys are actually used—to run some protocol securely over the established "channel". We call this a vertical protocol composition, and it is truly commonplace in today’s communication with the diversity of VPNs and secure browser sessions. In fact, it is normal that we have several layers of secure channels: For instance, on top of a VPN connection, a browser may establish another secure channel (possibly with a different end point). Even using the same protocol several times in such a stack of channels is not unusual: An application may very well establish another TLS channel over an established one. We call this self-composition. In fact, there is nothing that tells us that all these compositions are sound, i.e., that the combination cannot introduce attacks that the individual protocols in isolation do not have.

In this work, we prove a composability result in the symbolic model that allows for arbitrary vertical composition (including self-composition). It holds for protocols from any suite of channel and application protocols that fulfills a number of sufficient preconditions. These preconditions are satisfied for many practically relevant protocols such as TLS.

Mödersheim, Modersheim

A shortened version of this report has appeared in: Proc. 24th IEEE Computer Security Foundations Symp. "CSF 2011," Cernay-La-Ville, France (IEEE, June 2011) 235-250.

By: Thomas Gross, Sebastian Moedersheim

Published in: RZ3803 in 2011


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