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How to Expose an Eavesdropper (1984) (fermatslibrary.com)
76 points by joaobatalha on Aug 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments



Neat concept! This protocol appears to be a response to weaknesses in DH key exchange, which I understand to already be thoroughly broken. Can someone with more expertise perhaps explain if my understanding is correct, and whether this interlock technique is applicable or has been adopted anywhere?


Yes, you are correct, it addresses the well-known possibility for an active eavesdropper in the DH protocol.

The interlock technique is very clever, I have never seen anything quite like it. However, at first glance, I do not know where the data blocks MA and MB for the interlocking come from. If they are hard-coded, breaking the scheme is trivial for C. If they are dependent on A or B, then we presuppose knowledge about the other party, and in that case, why not just use public key infrastructure with public keys for A and B?

I think the most important stepping stone that makes it hard to apply this protocol in practice is that you somehow need these blocks MA and MB of information that C does not have. If we are talking about voice samples here, it is likely that you can recognize them, but not your computer. Therefore, you'd also need some complex UI interactions to make sure it really is the other person. I'm having a hard time thinking about a practical application and its security implications right now.


As I understood the paper, blocks MA and MB can have arbitrary contents as long as possessing the following block (MA' or MB' respectively) is required for decoding.

An eavesdropper cannot then substitute the contents of either MA or MB without either breaking the decoding process or dropping portions of the conversation. Either way, the eavesdropper cannot fully conceal their presence.


For anyone interested in this, it's worth also taking a look at a related follow-up paper discussing a weakness in the use of the interlock technique for authentication [0]. I recognised the title here and recalled reading this paper some time ago.

[0] Bellovin, Steven M., and Michael Merritt. "An attack on the interlock protocol when used for authentication." IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 40.1 (1994): 273-275.

PDF at http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.112...

From the abstract,

> [...] We demonstrate that an active attacker can, at the cost of a timeout alarm, bypass the password exchange, and capture the passwords used. Furthermore, if the attack is from a terminal or workstation attempting to contact a computer, the attacker will have access before any alarm can be sounded.





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