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Title: Modelling escalation of attacks in federated identity management
Authors: Simpson, Sean Joshua Mallory
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Federated Identity Management (FIM) is an increasingly prevalent method for authenticating users online. FIM offloads the authentication burden from a Service Provider (SP) to an Identity Provider (IdP) that the SP trusts. The different entities involved in the FIM process are referred to as stakeholders. The benefits of FIM to stakeholders are clear, such as the ability for users to use Single Sign-On. However, the security of FIM also has to be evaluated. Attacks on one point in a FIM system can lead to other attacks being possible, and detecting those attacks can be hard just from modelling the functionality of the FIM system. Attacks in which the effect of one attack can become the cause for another attack are referred to in this thesis as escalating attacks. The overall research question this thesis revolves around: how can we model escalating attacks to detect attacks which are possible through an adversary first launching another attack, and present causality of attacks to the FIM stakeholders involved? This thesis performs a survey of existing attacks in FIM. We categorise attacks on FIM using a taxonomy of our own design. This survey is the first attempt at categorising attacks that target FIM using a taxonomy. Some attacks can have an effect that causes another attack to be possible in ways that are difficult to predict. We consider a case study involving OAuth 2.0 (provided by existing literature), as a basis for modelling attack escalation. We then seek to present a language for modelling FIM systems and attacker manipulations on those systems. We find that FIM systems can be generalised for the purpose of a programmatic logical analysis. In addition, attacker manipulations on a system can be broken down using an existing conceptual framework called Malicious and Accidental Fault Tolerance (MAFTIA). Using a generalised FIM system model and MAFTIA, we can express a complex interlinking of attacks informed by case studies in FIM security analysis. This is the first attempt to model FIM systems generally and apply logical analysis to that model. Finally, we show how causality of attacks can be analysed using attack trees. We find that any solutions to an escalating attack can be expressed using a tree model which conforms to existing research on attack trees. Our approach is the first attempt of modelling attacks on FIM systems through the use of attack trees. We consider stakeholder attribution and cost analysis as concrete methods for analysing attack trees.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Computing

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