Secure protocols are a vital element in carrying out safe online interactions between a user's Web browser and a company Web server, for example a bank's Web server in an online banking application. Though such protocols might look simple, they can often be extremely difficult to get absolutely right, such as with no bugs or weaknesses in the protocol.
Armando quotes the classic example of the Needham-Schroeder public-key protocol, which was first published in 1978 as a means of mutual authentication between two parties using public-key cryptography. The protocol was eventually found to be vulnerable to simple attacks in 1996, eighteen years later!
AVISPA participants aimed to develop a push-button, industrial-strength technology for the analysis of such security-sensitive Internet protocols and applications. The project finished in July 2005 with the release of the AVISPA tool, which is a simple software application that runs on a PC or via a Web interface. It can be accessed online, and offers both a Basic and an Expert mode.
The consortium partners believe that this new tool will help speed the development of the next generation of security protocols, and improve their security in the process.
Project partner Siemens has already discovered a weakness in one of its own protocols using the tool, and has revised the protocol and issued a new patent accordingly. The partners have also been joined by SAP and submitted the AVISPA results for inclusion into a potential new IST project AVACOSS which will analyse more complex security-sensitive applications.
Professor Alessandro Armando
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (DIST)
University of Genoa