TrustBase: An Architecture to Repair and Strengthen Certificate-based Authentication


Mark O’Neill, Scott Heidbrink, Scott Ruoti, Jordan Whitehead, Dan Bunker, Luke Dickinson, Travis Hendershot, Joshua Reynolds, Kent Seamons, and Daniel Zappala, Brigham Young University


The current state of certificate-based authentication is messy, with broken authentication in applications and proxies, along with serious flaws in the CA system. To solve these problems, we design TrustBase, an architecture that provides certificate-based authentication as an operating system service, with system administrator control over authentication policy. TrustBase transparently enforces best practices for certificate validation on all applications, while also providing a variety of authentication services to strengthen the CA system. We describe a research prototype of TrustBase for Linux, which uses a loadable kernel module to intercept traffic in the socket layer, then consults a userspace policy engine to evaluate certificate validity using a variety of plugins. We evaluate the security of TrustBase, including a threat analysis, application coverage, and hardening of the Linux prototype. We also describe prototypes of TrustBase for Android and Windows, illustrating the generality of our approach. We show that TrustBase has negligible overhead and universal compatibility with applications. We demonstrate its utility by describing eight authentication services that extend CA hardening to all applications.

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@inproceedings {203828,
author = {Mark O{\textquoteright}Neill and Scott Heidbrink and Scott Ruoti and Jordan Whitehead and Dan Bunker and Luke Dickinson and Travis Hendershot and Joshua Reynolds and Kent Seamons and Daniel Zappala},
title = {TrustBase: An Architecture to Repair and Strengthen Certificate-based Authentication},
booktitle = {26th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-40-9},
address = {Vancouver, BC},
pages = {609--624},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},