Purdue University Graduate School
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Systematic Evaluations Of Security Mechanism Deployments

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posted on 2019-08-13, 16:17 authored by Sze Yiu ChauSze Yiu Chau
In a potentially hostile networked environment, a large diversity of security mechanisms with varying degree of sophistication are being deployed to protect valuable computer systems and digital assets.

While many competing implementations of similar security mechanisms are available in the current software development landscape, the robustness and reliability of such implementations are often overlooked, resulting in exploitable flaws in system deployments. In this dissertation, we systematically evaluate implementations of security mechanisms that are deployed in the wild. First, we examine how content distribution applications on the Android platform control access to their multimedia contents. With respect to a well-defined hierarchy of adversarial capabilities and attack surfaces, we find that many content distribution applications, including that of some world-renowned publications and streaming services, are vulnerable to content extraction due to the use of unjustified assumptions in their security mechanism designs and implementations. Second, we investigate the validation logic of X.509 certificate chains as implemented in various open-source TLS libraries. X.509 certificates are widely used in TLS as a means to achieve authentication. A validation logic that is overly restrictive could lead to the loss of legitimate services, while an overly permissive implementation could open door to impersonation attacks. Instead of manual analysis and unguided fuzzing, we propose a principled approach that leverages symbolic execution to achieve better coverage and uncover logical flaws that are buried deep in the code. We find that many TLS libraries deviate from the specification. Finally, we study the verification of RSA signatures, as specified in the PKCS#1 v1.5 standard, which is widely used in many security-critical network protocols. We propose an approach to automatically generate meaningful concolic test cases for this particular problem, and design and implement a provenance tracking mechanism to assist root-cause analysis in general. Our investigation revealed that several crypto and IPSec implementations are susceptible to new variants of the Bleichenbacher low-exponent signature forgery.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ninghui Li

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Aniket Kate

Additional Committee Member 2

Dongyan Xu

Additional Committee Member 3

Lin Tan

Additional Committee Member 4

Omar Haider Chowdhury