How to Sync with Alice

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  2. Dr Feng Hao
  3. Professor Peter Ryan
Author(s)Hao F, Ryan PYA
Publication type Report
Series TitleSchool of Computing Science Technical Report Series
Source Publication DateJune 2011
Report Number1260
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This paper explains the sync problem and compares solutions in Firefox 4 and Chrome 10. The sync problem studies how to securely synchronize data across different computers. Google has added a built-in sync function in Chrome 10, which uses a user-defined password to encrypt bookmarks, history, cached passwords etc. However, due to the low-entropy of passwords, the encryption is inherently weak -- anyone with access to the ciphertext can easily uncover the key (and hence disclose the plaintext). Mozilla used to have a very similar sync solution in Firefox 3.5, but since Firefox 4 it has made a complete change of how sync works in the browser. The new solution is based on a security protocol called J-PAKE, which is a balanced Password Authenticated Key Exchange(PAKE) protocol. To our best knowledge, this is the first large-scale deployment of the PAKE technology. Since PAKE does not require a PKI, it has compelling advantages than PKI-based schemes such as SSL/TLS in many applications. However, in the past decade, deploying PAKE has been greatly hampered by the patent and other issues. With the rise of patent-free solutions such as J-PAKE and also that the EKE patent will soon expire in October, 2011, we believe the PAKE technology will be more widely adopted in the near future.
InstitutionSchool of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Place PublishedNewcastle upon Tyne
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