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SoK: An Analysis of Protocol Design: Avoiding Traps for Implementation and Deployment

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Fiebig, T., Lichtblau, F., Streibelt, F., Krueger, T., Lexis, P., Bush, R., et al. (2016). SoK: An Analysis of Protocol Design: Avoiding Traps for Implementation and Deployment. Retrieved from

Today's Internet utilizes a multitude of different protocols. While some of these protocols were first implemented and used and later documented, other were first specified and then implemented. Regardless of how protocols came to be, their definitions can contain traps that lead to insecure implementations or deployments. A classical example is insufficiently strict authentication requirements in a protocol specification. The resulting Misconfigurations, i.e., not enabling strong authentication, are common root causes for Internet security incidents. Indeed, Internet protocols have been commonly designed without security in mind which leads to a multitude of misconfiguration traps. While this is slowly changing, to strict security considerations can have a similarly bad effect. Due to complex implementations and insufficient documentation, security features may remain unused, leaving deployments vulnerable. In this paper we provide a systematization of the security traps found in common Internet protocols. By separating protocols in four classes we identify major factors that lead to common security traps. These insights together with observations about end-user centric usability and security by default are then used to derive recommendations for improving existing and designing new protocols---without such security sensitive traps for operators, implementors and users.