Technical Reports (CIS)

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

April 1996


University of Pennsylvania Department of Computer and Information Science Technical Report No. MS-CIS-96-32.


Fail-stop cryptographic protocols are characterized by the property that they terminate when an active attack is detected, rather than releasing information valuable to the attacker. Since such a construction forces attacks (other than denial-of-service) to be passive, the protocol designer's concerns can be restricted to passive attacks and malicious insiders. A significant advantage of such protocols is that by stopping and not attempting to recover, proofs about protocol behavior and security properties are greatly simplified. This paper presents a generic method of converting any existing (cryptographic) protocol into a fail-stop one, or designing new protocols to be fail-stop. Our technique uses cryptographic hashes to validate sequences of messages by reflecting message dependencies in the hash values. An informal proof of correctness is given. We apply it to an early version of Netscape's Secure Socket Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocol. We also suggest a possible application to TCP streams as a high-performance alternative to the per-packet authentication of IPSEC. The modified protocols require small increases in message size and the number of cryptographic operations relative to the initial non-fail-stop protocols.



Date Posted: 11 July 2007