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Keyjacking: Risks of the Current Client-side Infrastructure
John C. Marchesini, Sean W. Smith, Meiyuan Zhao
Dartmouth TR2003-443

Abstract: In theory, PKI can provide a flexible and strong way to authenticate users in distributed information systems. In practice, much is being invested in realizing this vision via client-side SSL and browser-based keystores. Exploring this vision, we demonstrate that browsers will use personal certificates to authenticate requests that the person neither knew of nor approved (and which password-based systems would have defeated), and we demonstrate the easy permeability of these keystores (including new attacks on medium and high-security IE/XP keys). We suggest some countermeasures, but also suggest that a fundamental rethinking of the trust, usage, and storage model might result in a more effective PKI.


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   John C. Marchesini, Sean W. Smith, and Meiyuan Zhao, "Keyjacking: Risks of the Current Client-side Infrastructure." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2003-443, February 2003.


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