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The Internet Society's Symposium on Network & Distributed System Security

Catamaran Resort Hotel, San Diego, California,
March 11-13, 1998


Reprinted from the May/June 98 OTI (Vol. 4, No. 3)

Nearly 200 engineers and network security professionals met in San Diego, California, 11-13 March for the Internet Society's fifth annual Network and Distributed Systems Security (NDSS) conference. The three-day event brings together hardware and software developers as a means to foster information exchange on practical aspects of network and distributed system security. The meeting offers presentations, debates, and interaction on network security, with a focus on system design and implementation rather than theory. According to conference organizers, that approach encourages and enables the Internet community to apply, deploy, and advance the state of available security technology.

This year's topics included intranet security, firewalls and IP security, all-optical network security, timestamping, remote password protocols, mobile agent systems, Java security, electronic commerce, trust management, traffic analysis, and secure bootstrapping. New this year was a full day of preconference tutorials with topics ranging from principles of network security to electronic payment and commerce systems, to security with firewalls. NDSS organizers are planning to expand the tutorials for next year.

The NDSS conference has long been regarded as the premier event for exploring and advancing the technical underpinnings of system security, and this year's event, chaired by Dave Balenson, was particularly noteworthy. The conference offered eight sessions with three panels and 12 papers. A standing ovation was earned by Bob Blakley for his scripted skit on the marriage of names to certificates, which many attendees considered to be the highlight of the symposium. Panel sessions touched on issues related to implementation for electronic commerce, trust management, and firewalls and IPSEC.

The panel on implementation for electronic commerce, chaired by Avi Ruben, brought together leading security experts Donald Eastlake, Kevin McClurley, Gary McGraw, and Cliff Neuman. "Most computer security problems are caused by buggy software," Rubin pointed out. "System development proceeds from a specific idea through deployment, at which point a gaping hole is found." The problem, said Rubin, is that e-commerce systems are being developed and deployed by implementors who often do not know much about security. "Sound requirements, flaw-free design and specification, secure protocols, strong encryption, and error-free implementation," he said, "are needed."

The second panel, chaired by Barbara Fox, brought together representatives from Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems, and IBM, and made for an amusing set of jokes. The session attempted to explore whether trust management offered a simple, scalable approach to Internet client security. According to panelist Li Gong, CGI, ActiveX, and Java accentuate trust management issues. The shrink-wrap model, he said, defined trust before the Web. "High-risk dialogue boxes do not seem to get users' attention," he said.

In Experience with Firewalls and IPSEC, panel chair Steve Kent explained that IP is a desirable layer for encryption because it can function end to end or between gateways, it is independent of lower layers, and it can protect virtually anything with tunneling. "Intranets, extranets, and mobile users can benefit by getting better security than with authenticated firewall traversal and less expensive service than real private networks or 800-number direct dial," he said. Panelists at the session included Naganand Doraswamy, Cheryl Madson, and Dan McDonald.

This year's keynote address was delivered by Howard Gittleson, director of the Internet Security Products Group of Bell Laboratories at Lucent Technologies, who discussed the need for computer security in the underlying infrastructure that supports critical business application such as messaging, publishing, collaboration, and transactions. "In 1992," said Gittleson, "Bill Cheswick measured about 40 attacks on AT&T's Internet connection a week. Voice traffic is growing by 5 percent a year, data at 300 percent. In 1996 revenue for data was 8 percent of voice. In 2001 it will be 25 percent." Security, he said, is a major concern in the public's eye.

Speaking of Lucent's view of the security dilemma, Gittleson pointed out that when the company announced its first security product, Managed Firewall, in December 1997, it took the view that betting on hardened operating systems is simply delaying disaster. "NT and UNIX are not a secure enough foundation," he said. "Firewalls should be fast and reliable choke points, invisible to the network. Management and security functions must be separate parts of the intial design."

A session titled Internet and Intranet was the result of papers the program committee chose to include but that did not fit into any of the other session topics. Papers presented in this session included Enabling the Internet White Pages Service--the Directory Guardian, The Multilayer Firewall, and Efficient Protocols for Signing Routing Messages. The session titled All-Optical Networks Security, chaired by Jeff Ingle of the National Security Agency, offered two papers: one titled Attack Detection Methods for All-Optical Networks and the other Distributed Algorithms for Attack Localization in All-Optical Networks.

A session on protocols, chaired by Wolfgang Schneider of GMD, offered papers titled Credential Management and Secure Single Login for SPKM, Some Timestamping Protocol Failures, and Secure Remote Password Protection for Authentication. Mobile agents were the topic of another session, chaired by Gene Tsudik. Papers in this session included On the Problem of Trust in Mobile Agent Systems and Implementing Protection Domains in the Java Development. Papers offered in the session on Traffic Analysis and Secure Bootstrapping included Live Traffic Analysis of TCP/IP Gateways and Automatic Recovery in a Secure Bootstrap Process.

According to Publications Chair Steve Welke, "NDSS'98 was a great time for network security researchers and practitioners to gather and share ideas, both formally and informally. The weather, food, and facilites all were excellent, facilitating an enjoyable time of technical interaction for all attendees."

NDSS'98 was sponsored by GTE, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and CyberCash. Proceedings and a summary report will be posted at