Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2018/413

Scaling Backend Authentication at Facebook

Kevin Lewi and Callen Rain and Stephen Weis and Yueting Lee and Haozhi Xiong and Benjamin Yang

Abstract: Secure authentication and authorization within Facebook’s infrastructure play important roles in protecting people using Facebook’s services. Enforcing security while maintaining a flexible and performant infrastructure can be challenging at Facebook’s scale, especially in the presence of varying layers of trust among our servers. Providing authentication and encryption on a per-connection basis is certainly necessary, but also insufficient for securing more complex flows involving multiple services or intermediaries at lower levels of trust.

To handle these more complicated scenarios, we have developed two token-based mechanisms for authentication. The first type is based on certificates and allows for flexible verification due to its public-key nature. The second type, known as “crypto auth tokens”, is symmetric-key based, and hence more restrictive, but also much more scalable to a high volume of requests. Crypto auth tokens rely on pseudorandom functions to generate independently-distributed keys for distinct identities.

Finally, we provide (mock) examples which illustrate how both of our token primitives can be used to authenticate real-world flows within our infrastructure, and how a token-based approach to authentication can be used to handle security more broadly in other infrastructures which have strict performance requirements and where relying on TLS alone is not enough.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / authentication, secret-key cryptography

Date: received 3 May 2018, last revised 7 May 2018

Contact author: klewi at cs stanford edu

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20180510:203314 (All versions of this report)

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