Formally Reasoning about the Cost and Efficacy of Securing the Email Infrastructure (full version)

Speicher, Patrick and Steinmetz, Marcel and Künnemann, Robert and Simeonovski, Milivoj and Pellegrino, Giancarlo and Hoffmann, Jörg and Backes, Michael
(2018) Formally Reasoning about the Cost and Efficacy of Securing the Email Infrastructure (full version).
Extended Version of EuroS&P 2018 Paper.

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Abstract

Security in the Internet has historically been added post-hoc, leaving services like email, which, after all, is used by 3.7 billion users, vulnerable to large-scale surveillance. For email alone, there is a multitude of proposals to mitigate known vulnerabilities, ranging from the introduction of completely new protocols to modifications of the communication paths used by big providers. Deciding which measures to deploy requires a deep understanding of the induced benefits, the cost and the resulting effects. This paper proposes the first automated methodology for making formal deployment assessments. Our planning algorithm analyses the impact and cost-efficiency of different known mitigation strategies against an attacker in a formal threat model. This novel formalisation of an infrastructure attacker includes routing, name resolution and application level weaknesses. We apply the methodology to a large-scale scan of the Internet, and assess how protocols like IPsec, DNSSEC, DANE, SMTP over TLS and other mitigation techniques like server relocation can be combined to improve the confidentiality of email users in 45 combinations of attacker and defender countries and nine cost scenarios. This is the first deployment analysis for mitigation techniques at this scale.

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