Interlock Protocol - The Bellovin/Merritt Attack

The Bellovin/Merritt Attack

Davies and Price proposed the use of the Interlock Protocol for authentication in a book titled Security for Computer Networks. But an attack on this was described by Steven M. Bellovin & Michael Merritt. A subsequent refinement was proposed by Ellison.

The Bellovin/Merritt attack entails composing a fake message to send to the first party. Passwords may be sent using the Interlock Protocol between A and B as follows:

A B Ea,b(Pa)<1>-------> <-------Ea,b(Pb)<1> Ea,b(Pa)<2>-------> <-------Ea,b(Pb)<2>

where Ea,b(M) is message M encrypted with the key derived from the Diffie-Hellman exchange between A and B, <1>/<2> denote first and second halves, and Pa/Pb are the passwords of A and B.

An attacker, Z, could send half of a bogus message—P?--to elicit Pa from A:

A Z B Ea,z(Pa)<1>------> <------Ea,z(P?)<1> Ea,z(Pa)<2>------> Ez,b(Pa)<1>------> <------Ez,b(Pb)<1> Ez,b(Pa)<2>------> <------Ez,b(Pb)<2>

At this point, Z has compromised both Pa and Pb. The attack can be defeated by verifying the passwords in parts, so that when Ea,z(P?)<1> is sent, it is known to be invalid and Ea,z(Pa)<2> is never sent (suggested by Davies). However, this does not work when the passwords are hashed, since half of a hash is useless, according to Bellovin. There are also several other methods proposed in, including using a shared secret in addition to the password. The forced-latency enhancement can also prevent certain attacks.

Read more about this topic:  Interlock Protocol

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