A Surfeit of SSH Cipher Suites

Martin Albrecht, Jean Degabriele, Torben Hansen, Kenneth Paterson

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This work presents a systematic analysis of symmetric encryption modes for SSH that are in use on the Internet, providing deployment statistics, new attacks, and security proofs for widely used modes. We report deployment statistics based on two Internet-wide scans of SSH servers conducted in late 2015 and early 2016. Dropbear and OpenSSH implementations dominate in our scans. From our first scan, we found 130,980 OpenSSH servers that are still vulnerable to the CBC-mode-specific attack of Albrecht et al. (IEEE S&P 2009), while we found a further 20,000 OpenSSH servers that are vulnerable to a new attack on CBC-mode that bypasses the counter-measures introduced in OpenSSH 5.2 to defeat the attack of Albrecht et al. At the same time, 886,449 Dropbear servers in our first scan are vulnerable to a variant of the original CBC-mode attack. On the positive side, we provide formal security analyses for other popular SSH encryption modes, namely ChaCha20-Poly1305, generic Encrypt-then-MAC, and AES-GCM. Our proofs hold for detailed pseudo-code descriptions of these algorithms as implemented in OpenSSH. Our proofs use a corrected and extended version of the "fragmented decryption" security model that was specifically developed for the SSH setting by Boldyreva et al. (Eurocrypt 2012). These proofs provide strong confidentiality and integrity guarantees for these alternatives to CBC-mode encryption in SSH. However, we also show that these alternatives do not meet additional, desirable notions of security (boundary-hiding under passive and active attacks, and denial-of-service resistance) that were formalised by Boldyreva et al.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-4139-4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2016

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