Reducing the Dependence of SPKI/SDSI on PKI

Hao Wang, Somesh Jha, Thomas Reps, Stefan Schwoon, and Stuart Stubblebine

Trust-management systems address the authorization problem in distributed systems. They offer several advantages over other approaches, such as support for delegation and making authorization decisions in a decentralized manner. Nonetheless, trust-management systems such as KeyNote and SPKI/SDSI have seen limited deployment in the real world. One reason for this is that both systems require a public-key infrastructure (PKI) for authentication, and PKI has proven difficult to deploy, because each user is required to manage his/her own private/public key pair. The key insight of our work is that issuance of certificates in trust-management systems, a task that usually requires public-key cryptography, can be achieved using secret-key cryptography as well. We demonstrate this concept by showing how SPKI/SDSI can be modified to use Kerberos, a secret-key based authentication system, to issue SPKI/SDSI certificates. The resulting trustmanagement system retains all the capabilities of SPKI/SDSI, but is much easier to use because a public key is only required for each SPKI/SDSI server, but no longer for every user. Moreover, because Kerberos is already well established, our approach makes SPKI/SDSI-based trust management systems easier to deploy in the real world.

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