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Search for Trust: An Analysis and Comparison of CA System Alternatives and Enhancements
Alexandra C. Grant
Dartmouth TR2012-716

Abstract: The security of the Public Key Infrastructure has been reevaluated in response to Certification Authority (CA) compromise which resulted in the circulation of fraudulent certificates. These rogue certificates can and have been used to execute Man-in-the-Middle attacks and gain access to users’ sensitive information. In wake of these events, there has been a call for change to the extent of either securing the current system or altogether replacing it with an alternative design. This paper will explore the following proposals which have been put forth to replace or improve the CA system with the goal of aiding in the prevention and detection of MITM attacks and improving the trust infrastructure: Convergence, Perspectives, Mutually Endorsed Certification Authority Infrastructure (MECAI), DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE), DNS Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) Resource Records, Public Key Pinning, Sovereign Keys, and Certificate Transparency. Provided are brief descriptions of each proposal, along with an indication of the pros and cons of each system. Following this, a new metric is applied which, according to a set of criteria, ranks each proposal and gives readers an idea of the costs and benefits of implementing the proposed system and the potential strengths and weaknesses of the design. We conclude with recommendations for further research and remark on the proposals with the most potential going forward.

Note: Senior Honors Thesis. Advisor: Charles Palmer.


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   Alexandra C. Grant, "Search for Trust: An Analysis and Comparison of CA System Alternatives and Enhancements." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2012-716, June 2012.

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