AuthentiCall: Efficient Identity and Content Authentication for Phone Calls

Authors: 

Bradley Reaves, North Carolina State University; Logan Blue, Hadi Abdullah, Luis Vargas, Patrick Traynor, and Thomas Shrimpton, University of Florida

Abstract: 

Phones are used to confirm some of our most sensitive transactions. From coordination between energy providers in the power grid to corroboration of high-value transfers with a financial institution, we rely on telephony to serve as a trustworthy communications path. However, such trust is not well placed given the widespread understanding of telephony’s inability to provide end-to-end authentication between callers. In this paper, we address this problem through the AuthentiCall system. AuthentiCall not only cryptographically authenticates both parties on the call, but also provides strong guarantees of the integrity of conversations made over traditional phone networks. We achieve these ends through the use of formally verified protocols that bind low-bitrate data channels to heterogeneous audio channels. Unlike previous efforts, we demonstrate that AuthentiCall can be used to provide strong authentication before calls are answered, allowing users to ignore calls claiming a particular Caller ID that are unable or unwilling to provide proof of that assertion. Moreover, we detect 99% of tampered call audio with negligible false positives and only a worst-case 1.4 second call establishment overhead. In so doing, we argue that strong and efficient end-to-end authentication for phone networks is approaching a practical reality.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {203842,
author = {Bradley Reaves and Logan Blue and Hadi Abdullah and Luis Vargas and Patrick Traynor and Thomas Shrimpton},
title = {AuthentiCall: Efficient Identity and Content Authentication for Phone Calls},
booktitle = {26th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-40-9},
address = {Vancouver, BC},
pages = {575--592},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity17/technical-sessions/presentation/reaves},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
}