Revisiting User Privacy for Certificate Transparency presented at IEEEEuroS&P 2019

by Daniel Kales, Sebastian Ramacher, Olamide Omolola,

Summary : Public key infrastructure (PKI) based on certificate authorities is one of the cornerstones of secure communication over the internet. Certificates issued as part of this PKI provide authentication of web servers among others. Yet, the PKI ecosystem is susceptible to certificate misissuance and misuse attacks. To prevent those attacks, Certificate Transparency (CT) facilitates auditing of issued certificates and detecting certificates issued without authorization. Users that want to verify inclusion of certificates on CT log servers contact the CT server directly to retrieve inclusion proofs. This direct contact with the log server creates a privacy problem since the users' browsing activities could be recorded by the log server owner. Lueks and Goldberg (FC 2015) suggested the use of Private Information Retrieval (PIR) in order to protect the users' privacy in the CT ecosystem. With the immense amount of certificates included on CT log servers, their approach runs into performance issues, though. Nevertheless, we build on this approach and extend it using multi-tier Merkle trees, and render it practical using multi-server PIR protocols based on distributed point functions (DPFs). Our approach leads to a scalable design suitable to handle the increasing number of certificates, and is in addition generic allowing instantiations using secure accumulators and PIRs. We implement and test this mechanism for privacy-preserving membership proof retrieval and show that it can be integrated without disrupting existing CT infrastructure. Most importantly, even for future-proof CT log sizes of 2^31 certificates, the performance overhead is less than 9 milliseconds in total.