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Network working group          Stephen R. Hanna, Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Internet Draft
January 2002
Expires: July 2002                   draft-hanna-zeroconf-seccfg-00.txt

           Configuring Security Parameters in Small Devices

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is subject to all
   provisions of Section 10 of RFC 2026.

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   Before a device is installed into a secure network, certain security
   parameters (such as keys) must be configured. This document describes
   several techniques for establishing these parameters and analyzes
   their advantages and disadvantages, considering especially their
   suitability for inexpensive devices and inexperienced operators.

1. Introduction

The IETF's Zero Configuration Networking working group is working on
protocols that allow devices to form a network with little or no
configuration. Unfortunately, securing such a network is problematic.
All proposed security techniques require some configuration. Otherwise,
your new lamp won't know that it should respond to your commands and
not your neighbors'.

The challenge is to make this configuration as easy as possible and
keep the per-device cost low. This document describes several
techniques for establishing security parameters and analyzes their
advantages and disadvantages, especially their suitability for
inexpensive devices and inexperienced operators.

This document does not describe the exact set of security parameters
to be established or how those parameters should be used in a zeroconf
environment. Another document will tackle that problem. But a simple
example of such parameters would be a single symmetric key shared by
all trusted devices on the network and used for encrypting and
authenticating transmissions between those devices.

2. Evaluation Criteria

Several criteria are examined for each configuration technique. For
each criterion, I will rate the schemes on a 1-5 scale with 1 being
unacceptable and 5 being excellent.

No perfect solution has been found. Each technique provides different
tradeoffs among the various criteria.

2.1. Device Cost

Solutions should increase the cost of the device as little as possible.
Cost is a crucial criterion for consumer goods. My goal is to keep
incremental cost so low that anyone who creates a device with zeroconf
networking abilities will include security.

2.2. Ease of Use

Solutions should be as easy for the user as possible. A slow, complex,
or cumbersome process is a barrier to use.

2.3. Security

Solutions should be as secure as possible. Security is the point.
See section 3 for a threat analysis.

2.4. Flexibility

Solutions should be flexible, so that they can work with many
different kinds of devices. For instance, a solution that requires
the device to display a number won't work if the device doesn't
have a display.

3. Threat Analysis

The goal is to easily configure a device so that it can communicate
securely with other devices on a network. I will only analyze
configuration mechanisms, not the protocols used to communicate
among devices. But it is still important to have a clear understanding
of the threats against which these configuration mechanisms are
designed to protect. I will examine attacker's goals, motivations,
and abilities.

3.1. Attacker Goals and Motivations

Attackers may want to read messages sent by the device, such as
audio signals or other monitoring data from sensors. They may
also want to control the device by sending it commands, such as
the ability to open doors or windows, turn lights on and off, etc.
Or they may just want to detect homes that have wireless
networks and therefore might be good targets for burglary.

Attackers' motivations may include curiosity, mischief-making,
malicious destruction, or financial gain.

3.2. Ability to Read and Modify Network Data

I assume that attackers can read or modify data sent over the
network and inject arbitrary messages into the network. This is
consistent with networks commonly used in zero configuration
environments, such as a wireless or power line network. Layer 2
encryption can be used to secure such networks and should be
employed when available. However, some layer 2 encryption systems
are easily bypassed or broken. Also, some networks do not offer
level 2 encryption and a zero configuration network can span
multiple layer 2 networks, thus providing a vulnerability.

Even a network completely protected against outside participation
can be vulnerable to these attacks if some of the devices on the
network become compromised or act as gateways for outside networks.
In general, it's best to assume that attackers have access to the

3.3. Physical Security

In general, I assume that attackers are not able to violate a
device's physical security. With inexpensive devices, even a brief
period of unmonitored physical access will generally allow a
skilled attacker to compromise a device or replace it with an
identical, compromised unit.

In the zero configuration environment, these assumptions may not
hold. Neighbors, workmen, and other partially trusted guests are
often welcomed into one's home with little supervision. Even
roommates or family members can become adversaries at times,
perhaps resulting in "insider attacks". Device security cannot
offer a great deal of protection against such problems. However,
some of the configuration systems noted below provide a bit of
protection against physical attacks, especially against unskilled
attackers. I will note such protection where present.

3.4. Device Vulnerabilities

The attacker may be able to take advantage of bugs and
vulnerabilities in the device software or hardware to compromise
the device (for instance, sending an invalid message that causes
a buffer overflow and allows the attacker to execute arbitrary code).
Configuration solutions cannot offer much protection against
such vulnerabilities.

Device manufacturers often include backdoors that their support
staff can use to help customers gain access. Such backdoors can
represent a serious security hole. If they decide that backdoors
are required, manufacturers should design them so that they
require physical access to the device.

3.5. Denial Of Service

An attacker who can send data on the network can probably easily
jam the network with packets (or just with noise). Configuration
techniques can't provide much protection against such attacks.
However, this sort of active attack may make it easier to find
an attacker.

3.6. Configuration Attack

Most people probably won't ever enable security on their device.
An attacker can mount a clever denial of service attack by
configuring security on the device (or reconfiguring it, if it's
already enabled) so that the user can't access the device. To
prevent such attacks, security should be hard to enable (requiring
physical access and perhaps a password shipped with the device)
and easy to disable (if you have physical access to the device).

Of course, this will make it easy for attackers with physical
access to the device to disable security. But a home controller
can quickly detect this and notify the owner. Requiring physical
access to disable security (pressing a button) is a reasonable
compromise. After all, device manufacturers will not include
security features if they are likely to increase support costs.

3.7. Traffic Analysis

Various attacks based on traffic analysis may be possible.
One of the more obvious is for a burglar to drive around
with a wireless networking antenna, detecting wireless network
traffic to decide which homes are likely to have computers inside.
Possible countermeasures could include using wired networking to
make detection more difficult. Installing a monitored security
alarm and purchasing sufficient theft insurance would also be
prudent. In any case, this has little to do with configuration.

3.8. Summary

Device security typically offers little protection against
physical attacks and insider attacks. However, some protection
can be offered by employing a controller that monitors devices
and notifies the owner when devices change.

Since device security can be used to lock someone out of their
devices, it should be easy to disable device security if you
have physical access to the device. The home controller should
detect and log such changes, in case they were unauthorized.

The primary area where device security can be effective is against
attacks that are mounted remotely (through the network). Such
attacks can be mounted with little risk or cost to the attacker
and without raising the suspicions of the attacked party,
especially when a wireless network is employed. The configuration
techniques described in this document provide a way to configure
security parameters (such as keys) that may be employed in
protocols to protect against remote attacks.

4. Security Configuration Mechanisms

On conventional systems, initial security parameters such as
trusted keys and security policies are usually typed in with
a keyboard or loaded from floppy disk or other removable storage
device such as a CD-ROM or smart card. Once those initial parameters
have been established, they can be used to securely deliver other
things such as software and updated security parameters.

Many consumer devices don't have a keyboard or removable storage
device. Adding these things would increase the cost of the device
too much. Some devices have a limited keyboard and display, but
entering a long key into my microwave oven isn't my idea of fun!

Here are some other ways that security parameters can be
configured into consumer devices.

4.1. Secret stored in device during manufacturing

   With this solution, a cryptographic secret is stored in the device
   during manufacturing. This secret generally cannot be changed. The
   secret is also printed as a bar code, which is sealed in a
   tamper-evident manner and shipped with the device. When the device
   is purchased, the bar code is scanned into a home controller or
   other security manager. The security manager can now use this
   shared secret to send the security parameters to the device
   over an untrusted network (encrypting the data with the secret).

   The secret can be transferred to the security manager in many other
   ways. It can be printed in a human readable format and typed on a
   keyboard, stored on and read from a mag stripe card or a floppy disk,
   etc. In general, I will say that it is transported to the
   security manager via a "secure transport mechanism". Including a
   keyboard, barcode reader, or removable storage device in the
   security manager shouldn't be a big cost problem. You only need one
   security manager per home and it will probably have a keyboard and
   display to interact with the user, anyway.

   The secret could be transmitted from the device to the security
   manager over a secure network, such as a dedicated wire, a proximity
   network (like infrared or Bluetooth), or by touching electrical contacts.
   However, if a secure network is available, it is usually better to
   generate the secret on the fly (as describe in section 4.2). This
   reduces manufacturing cost and eliminates the risk of the user losing
   the secret. Therefore, this option is not analyzed any further.

   It is not good to just print the secret on the bottom of the device,
   or a casual visitor can read it without detection. Putting the secret
   on a storage mechanism (like paper) that is included with the device
   allows the user to keep this copy of the secret in a safe place, away
   from prying eyes.

   Making the secure transport mechanism tamper-evident (by wrapping it with
   a printed piece of plastic or using a sealed piece of paper) makes it less
   likely that someone will copy the secret before the user receives it,
   without their knowledge. This attack seems unlikely, especially
   if the user buys the device from a large store. Therefore, I conclude that
   tamper-resistance should only be used if it doesn't add much to the cost
   or decrease ease of use much.

   Another way to get the secret to the security manager is to have
   the security manager download the secret from a central server by
   providing the device's serial number or some other identifier.
   Unfortunately, such identifiers are usually not secret (or there would
   be no need to download the secret!). So it would be easy for an
   unauthorized party to find out the serial number and download the
   secret. So this isn't a great answer, either.

   In order to protect against configuration attacks (where someone turns
   on security and the owner doesn't know how to use it), there should be
   a switch, button, or other control on the device that enables and
   disables security. It should be shipped with security off, since most
   people won't want to use security.

   Someone with physical access to the device could use the switch to disable
   security, but the security manager should be able to detect this and notify
   the owner. Why not allow security to be enabled over the network? Because
   that means you can mount a configuration attack without physical access.

4.1.1. Evaluation


      The device will need a place to store the secret. However, it would
      already need a place to store the security parameters, so this probably
      will not add much to cost.

      Including a switch to enable and disable security may add some
      significant cost (up to $1). Devices that already have a keyboard
      can use a special combination of keys for this, eliminating any
      incremental cost.

      Manufacturing cost will increase, due to the need to generate the secret,
      store it on the device, and place it on the secure transport mechanism.
      The cost of the secure transport mechanism must be considered, as well.

      And there must be a security manager that knows all of the device
      secrets and supports the secure transport mechanism (via a keyboard, a
      barcode reader, or some similar mechanism). However, this cost may be
      spread across many devices. Also, this device can serve other functions
      as well, such as providing a UI for controlling and configuring devices.

      The incremental cost per device will vary. For simple devices, the
      cost of the security switch may be significant. But increased
      manufacturing costs will probably be the greatest factor.

      I'll rate this scheme a 3 for cost.

   Ease of Use

      Scanning the secret into the security manager should be pretty easy.
      But what if the user loses the slip of paper first? Or what if their
      security manager breaks? They need to find the slip of paper to scan
      into the new security manager. In many households, the slip will be
      lost quickly. Flipping the switch to enable security is a minor
      irritant compared to this problem.

      I'll rate this scheme a 2 for ease of use.


      What if someone nasty learns the secret? They might see the slip of
      paper, take the security maneger, or some such. There's no way to
      change the secret. So they will have total control over the device.
      And the device's owner may not even know about this.

      I'll rate this scheme a 2 for security.


      This scheme requires a switch or similar control to enable and disable
      security (unless you're willing to live with configuration attacks).
      It will be inconvenient for devices that are hard to access, such as
      a ceiling light. But enabling security should be a one-time event.
      Overall, this scheme gets high marks for flexibility. It should work
      with almost any kind of device.

      I'll rate this scheme a 4 for flexibility.

4.2. Secret established over a secure network

   When the user wants to enable security, she connects the device to
   a security manager via a secure network (such as a wire directly
   connecting the two). Then she presses a button on the device, which
   generates a new secret and sends it to the security manager over
   the network. Now the device can be removed from the secure network
   and security parameters can be downloaded securely from the security
   manager, using the secret. Security can be disabled by holding down
   the button for a longer period of time.

   As a further alternative, the secret can be generated by the security
   manager instead of the device. This makes more sense, since the
   security manager will probably include a good source of entropy.
   The device can send a secret request when the security button is
   depressed and the security manager can respond by sending a new secret.
   This also means that security could be disabled by disconnecting the
   device from the secure network, pressing the button to trigger a
   security request, and noting that no response was received.

   What kind of secure network can be used here? Many things will work:
   a dedicated wire (like a USB cable), a proximity network (like infrared
   or Bluetooth), or physical contact by touching electrical contacts.
   Probably the simplest thing to do is to use power line networking.
   Most devices have a power plug and the security manager can have a
   special socket that's isolated from the rest of the power grid.
   Devices that don't have a power plug may have a recharging stand
   that has a power plug and could relay communications to the device.

   There are a few obvious alternatives to the secure network. The security
   manager could display the secret after generating it and the user could
   type that value into the device's keyboard. But that's much too painful
   for the user and it requires the device to have a keyboard (and a display,
   to check for typos). If the device generates the secret and displays it,
   then the device only needs a display but the user still has to type the
   secret (which will typically be dozens of letters and numbers). The
   device could print the secret as a barcode or store it on a floppy disk
   or other storage device, but including a printer or storage device in
   every toaster and light switch is much too expensive.

4.2.1. Evaluation


      The cost of storing the secret and the cost of the security
      button should be the same as with the previous scheme.

      The incremental manufacturing cost of the last scheme isn't
      required for this one, since there's no need to generate a secret,
      print it, etc.

      There may be extra cost for including the secure network. However,
      many devices that support zero configuration networking will
      probably already include support for power line networking, which
      means that no extra cost will be incurred.

      I'll rate this scheme a 4 for cost.

   Ease of Use

      Connecting the device to the security manager and pressing a
      button is pretty easy.

      I'll rate this scheme a 4 for ease of use.


      If a secret is compromised, it's easy to generate a new one with
      this system. As with the previous system, anyone with physical
      access to the device can disable security with the press of a
      button. But that's a good thing, since it makes it easy to
      recover from configuration attacks. And it should be easy for
      the security manager to notice if security is disabled on a device.

      I'll rate this scheme a 4 for security.


      With a device that doesn't have a power plug (like a light
      switch), it may be difficult to establish a secure network.
      A secondary cable could be used, but this will require extra
      cost and it may be difficult to agree on a standard connector
      and cable type.

      I'll rate this scheme a 3 for flexibility.

4.3. Secret established over an insecure network

   Wouldn't it be nice if the device and the security manager could
   establish a shared secret over the normal zeroconf network? Then
   there would be no need to use a secure network, as in the last

   Actually, there is a way to do this, even if nasty folks are
   listening in. It's a Diffie-Hellman exchange. Here's a simplified
   description. A large prime number p and a generator g are chosen
   in advance and are well-known. The device and security manager
   each choose a random number between 1 and p-2. Call the device's
   random number a and the security manager's number b. The device
   computes g^a mod p and sends this value to the security manager.
   The security manager computes g^b mod p and sends this value to
   the device. Now each of them can compute g^(ab) mod p. And no
   eavesdropper can determine g^(ab) mod p without a *lot* of work.

   The problem with this system is that the device and the security
   manager can't be sure they're talking to each other. There might be
   a "man-in-the-middle" who has established a different shared secret
   with each of them. Or maybe the interloper just impersonated the
   security manager and the security manager wasn't aware of any exchange?
   Since the network is not secure, this sort of thing can happen.

   One way to overcome this problem is to have the device and the
   security manager hash the newly-established secret and display a
   few bits of this hash. The user can then compare the displayed
   values. If they match, then the secret has been established properly.

   This system has several problems. Most important, it requires too much
   work from the user. Also, it requires a display on the device. This
   isn't practical for light switches and other small or cheap devices.
   Finally, computing g^a mod p and g^(ab) mod p in a few seconds requires
   lots of compute power (or a p that's too small to be secure). And the
   device must have a good-quality random number generator. Much too
   expensive for a cheap device.

4.3.1. Evaluation


      Including a display, high-quality random number generator, and
      serious computing power in the device will increase cost of goods
      substantially (probably $10 or more).

      I'll rate this scheme a 1 for cost.

   Ease of Use

      Copying down a long string of numbers and letters and comparing
      them to another set of numbers and letters isn't easy or pleasant.

      I'll rate this scheme a 1 for ease of use.


      If the user fails to compare the secrets, a man-in-the-middle
      attack is possible. The user has to do this for each device.

      I'll rate this scheme a 2 for security.


      Small devices may not have space for a display.

      I'll rate this scheme a 3 for flexibility.

4.4. Other systems

   Many other solutions have been considered and rejected. Here's
   a brief description of some of these solutions.

   The user could choose a secret and enter it into the device and the
   security manager. But users don't generally choose good cryptographic
   keys (which must be very long and truly random numbers). An attacker
   with a computer could find a user-chosen key in a fraction of a second.

   The security manager could choose a secret and then have the user
   enter it into a keypad on the device. But this would not be easy for
   the user and it would require a keypad on the device (and a display,
   to check for errors).

   The device and/or the security manager could have a public-private
   key pair (and perhaps a certificate). But then I must securely configure
   the public key or certificate identifier for one into the other. This is
   similar to the problem of establishing a shared secret, above. And public
   key cryptography requires much more CPU power than symmetric cryptography.

5. Conclusions

5.1. Configuring Security Parameters

   Security parameters can be safely configured with the systems
   described above. Several of these systems are practical and add
   little or no extra cost per device. Some user configuration is
   required, but that seems to be inevitable.

   I recommend that a standard be created (maybe by the IETF, maybe
   by someone else) that describes the first two schemes listed above
   (Secret stored in device during manufacturing and Secret established
   over a secure network) and develops them into a form that can be
   incorporated into shipping products in an interoperable manner.

   Most devices should probably use the secure network technique,
   since this is easier for the user and less error-prone. Devices
   that do not have a power plug may want to use the secret stored
   during manufacturing technique.

   Certainly, there may be other good techniques. I welcome ideas
   from others. Please send them to my email address, listed below.

5.2. Zeroconf Security

   Currently, each of the zeroconf protocol specifications has its
   own security system. Each of these systems requires configuration
   and complexity. This is not practical. I recommend that the
   zeroconf working group create a security specification that either
   explains how these several security systems can be automatically
   bootstrapped using the mechanisms described above or (preferably)
   replaces these security mechanisms with a simpler system such as
   IPsec with a single group key shared by all authorized members
   of the zeroconf network.

6. Acknowledgments

   I would like to thank Erik Guttman, Radia Perlman, and Aiden Williams
   for useful discussions on these topics.

   Ross Anderson's Resurrecting Duckling paper [1] describes the need to
   "imprint" a device with security parameters and describes one
   solution (electrical contact).

7. Security Considerations

   This document is full of security analysis and proposed security

8. References

[1] Stajano, F. and R. Anderson, "The Resurrecting Duckling: Security
    Issues for Ad-hoc Wireless Networks", from Security Protocols:
    7th International Workshop Proceedings, Lecture Notes in Computer
    Science, 1999, Springer-Verlag.

9. Authors' Addresses

      Stephen R. Hanna
      Sun Microsystems, Inc.
      One Network Drive
      Burlington, MA 01803 USA
      Phone: +1.781.442.0166
      Email: steve.hanna@sun.com

10. Intellectual Property Statement

   Sun Microsystems holds intellectual property rights pertaining to
   several of the ideas described in this document.

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