Zero-Knowledge Middleboxes

Authors: 

Paul Grubbs, Arasu Arun, Ye Zhang, Joseph Bonneau, and Michael Walfish, NYU

Abstract: 

This paper initiates research on zero-knowledge middleboxes (ZKMBs). A ZKMB is a network middlebox that enforces network usage policies on encrypted traffic. Clients send the middlebox zero-knowledge proofs that their traffic is policy-compliant; these proofs reveal nothing about the client's communication except that it complies with the policy. We show how to make ZKMBs work with unmodified encrypted-communication protocols (specifically TLS 1.3), making ZKMBs invisible to servers. As a contribution of independent interest, we design optimized zero-knowledge proofs for TLS 1.3 session keys.

We apply the ZKMB paradigm to several case studies. Experimental results suggest that in certain settings, performance is in striking distance of practicality; an example is a middlebox that filters domain queries (each query requiring a separate proof) when the client has a long-lived TLS connection with a DNS resolver. In such configurations, the middlebox's overhead is 2–5 ms of running time per proof, and client latency to create a proof is several seconds. On the other hand, clients may have to store hundreds of MBs depending on the underlying zero-knowledge proof machinery, and for some applications, latency is tens of seconds.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {280026,
title = {{Zero-Knowledge} Middleboxes},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
address = {Boston, MA},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/grubbs},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,
}