Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/626

Help, my Signal has bad Device! Breaking the Signal Messenger’s Post-CompromiseSecurity through a Malicious Device

Jan Wichelmann and Sebastian Berndt and Claudius Pott and Thomas Eisenbarth

Abstract: In response to ongoing discussions about data usage by companies and governments, and its implications for privacy, there is a growing demand for secure communication techniques. While during their advent, most messenger apps focused on features rather than security, this has changed in the recent years: Since then, many have adapted end-to-end encryption as a standard feature. One of the most popular solutions is the Signal messenger, which aims to guarantee forward secrecy (i.e. security of previous communications in case of leakage of long-term secrets) and future secrecy (i.e. security of future communications in case of leakage of short-term secrets). If every user uses exactly one device, it is known that Signal achieves forward secrecy and even post-compromise security (i.e. security of future communications in case of leakage of long-term secrets). But the Signal protocol also allows for the use of multiple devices via the Sesame protocol. This multi-device setting is typically ignored in the security analysis of Signal.

In this work, we discuss the security of the Signal messenger in this multi-device setting. We show that the current implementation of the device registration allows an attacker to register an own, malicious device, which gives them unrestricted access to all future communication of their victim, and even allows full impersonation. This directly shows that the current Signal implementation does not guarantee post-compromise security. We discuss several countermeasures, both simple ones aiming to increase detectability of our attack, as well as a broader approach that seeks to solve the root issue, namely the weak device registration flow.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / Signal, Post-Compromise Security

Original Publication (in the same form): DIMVA 2021

Date: received 12 May 2021, last revised 8 Jul 2021

Contact author: sebastian berndt at gmail com, j wichelmann at uni-luebeck de

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20210708:202253 (All versions of this report)

Short URL: ia.cr/2021/626


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