Decentralized Certificate Authorities


The security of TLS depends on trust in certificate authorities, and that trust stems from their ability to protect and control the use of a private signing key. The signing key is the key asset of a certificate authority (CA), and its value is based on trust in the corresponding public key which is primarily distributed by browser vendors. Compromise of a CA private key represents a single point-of-failure that could have disastrous consequences, so CAs go to great lengths to attempt to protect and control the use of their private keys. Nevertheless, keys are sometimes compromised and may be misused accidentally or intentionally by insiders. We propose splitting a CA’s private key among multiple parties, and producing signatures using a generic secure multi-party computation protocol that never exposes the actual signing key. This could be used by a single CA to reduce the risk that its signing key would be compromised or misused. It could also enable new models for certificate generation, where multiple CAs would need to agree and cooperate before a new certificate can be generated, or even where certificate generation would require cooperation between a CA and the certificate recipient (subject). Although more efficient solutions are possible with custom protocols, we demonstrate the feasibility of implementing a decentralized CA using a generic two-party secure computation protocol with an evaluation of a prototype implementation that uses secure two-party computation to generate certificates signed using ECDSA on curve secp192k1.

In arXiv 2017
Bargav Jayaraman
PhD in Computer Science

My research interests include machine learning and privacy.