SCS Undergraduate Thesis Topics

2003-2004
Student Advisor(s) Thesis Topic
Hongxian Tay Adrian Perrig Visual Validation of SSL Certificates in the Mozilla Browser using Hash Images

Many internet transactions nowadays require some form of authentication from the server for security purposes. Most browsers are presented with a certificate coming from the other end of the connection, which is then validated against root certificates installed in the browser, thus establishing the server identity in a secure connection. However, an adversary can install his own root certificate in the browser and fool the client into thinking that he is connected to the correct server. Unless the client checks the certificate public key or fingerprint, he would never know if he is connected to a malicious server. These alphanumeric strings are hard to read and verify against, so most people do not take extra precautions to check.

My research centers on building the visual hash output (image) into the Mozilla open source browser. Using a hash algorithm, a unique image is generated using the fingerprint of the certificate. Images are easily recognizable and the user can identify the unique image normally seen during a secure AND accurate connection. By making a visual comparison, the origins of the root certificate is known.


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