Five papers by CSE researchers presented at IEEE S&P conference

Ten CSE researchers have authored papers for the conference spanning topics related to security and privacy.

Five papers authored by researchers in the Computer Science and Engineering Division have been accepted for presentation at the 2023 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP), taking place May 22-25 in San Francisco, CA. Papers by CSE researchers will cover a variety of compelling topics in computer security and electronic privacy. They include research exposing the leaking of acoustic information from smartphone cameras; a novel method for detecting lapses in browser extension privacy; an exploration of on-screen text leaks using eyeglass reflections in video calls; and more.

The following papers have been accepted by IEEE S&P (CSE-affiliated authors in bold):

Side Eye: Characterizing the Limits of POV Acoustic Eavesdropping from Smartphone Cameras with Rolling Shutters and Movable Lenses

Yan Long, Pirouz Naghavi, Blas Kojusner, Kevin Butler, Sara Rampazzi, Kevin Fu

Abstract: Our research discovers how the rolling shutter and movable lens structures widely found in smartphone cameras modulate structure-borne sounds onto camera images, creating a point-of-view (POV) optical-acoustic side channel for acoustic eavesdropping. The movement of smartphone camera hardware leaks acoustic information because images unwittingly modulate ambient sound as imperceptible distortions. Our experiments find that the side channel is further amplified by intrinsic behaviors of Complementary metal-oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) rolling shutters and movable lenses such as in Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Auto Focus (AF). Our paper characterizes the limits of acoustic information leakage caused by structure-borne sound that perturbs the POV of smartphone cameras. In contrast with traditional optical-acoustic eavesdropping on vibrating objects, this side channel requires no line of sight and no object within the camera’s field of view (images of a ceiling suffice). Our experiments test the limits of this side channel with a novel signal processing pipeline that extracts and recognizes the leaked acoustic information. Our evaluation with 10 smartphones on a spoken digit dataset reports 80.66%, 91.28%, and 99.67% accuracies on recognizing 10 spoken digits, 20 speakers, and 2 genders respectively. We further systematically discuss the possible defense strategies and implementations. By modeling, measuring, and demonstrating the limits of acoustic eavesdropping from smartphone camera image streams, our contributions explain the physics-based causality and possible ways to reduce the threat on current and future devices.

Detection of Inconsistencies in Privacy Practices of Browser Extensions

Duc Bui, Brian Tang, Kang G. Shin

Abstract: All major web browsers support extensions to provide additional functionalities and enhance users’ browsing experience while the extensions can access and collect users’ data during their web browsing. Although web extensions inform users of their data practices via multiple forms of notices, prior work has overlooked the critical gap between the actual data practices and the published privacy notices of browser extensions. To fill this gap, we propose ExtPrivA that automatically detects the inconsistencies between browser extensions’ data collection and their privacy disclosures. From the privacy policies and Dashboard disclosures, ExtPrivA extracts privacy statements to have a clear interpretation of the privacy practices of an extension. It emulates user interactions to trigger the extension’s functionalities and analyzes the initiators of network requests to accurately extract the users’ data transferred by the extension from the browser to external servers. Our end-to-end evaluation has shown ExtPrivA to detect inconsistencies between the privacy disclosures and data-collection behavior with an 85% precision. In a large-scale study of 47.2k extensions on the Chrome Web Store, we found 820 extensions with 1,290 flows that are inconsistent with their privacy statements. Even worse, we have found 525 pairs of contradictory privacy statements in the Dashboard disclosures and privacy policies of 360 extensions. These discrepancies between the privacy disclosures and the actual data-collection behavior are deemed as serious violations of the Store’s policies. Our findings highlight the critical issues in the privacy disclosures of browser extensions that potentially mislead, and even pose high privacy risks to, end-users.

PCspooF: Compromising the Safety of Time-Triggered Ethernet

Andrew Loveless, Linh Thi Xuan Phan, Ronald Dreslinski, Baris Kasikci

Abstract: Designers are increasingly using mixed-criticality networks in embedded systems to reduce size, weight, power, and cost. Perhaps the most successful of these technologies is Time-Triggered Ethernet (TTE), which lets critical time-triggered (TT) traffic and non-critical best-effort (BE) traffic share the same switches and cabling. A key aspect of TTE is that the TT part of the system is isolated from the BE part, and thus BE devices have no way to disrupt the operation of the TTE devices. This isolation allows designers to: (1) use untrusted, but low cost, BE hardware, (2) lower BE security requirements, and (3) ignore BE devices during safety reviews and certification procedures. We present PCspooF, the first attack to break TTE’s isolation guarantees. PCspooF is based on two key observations. First, it is possible for a BE device to infer private information about the TT part of the network that can be used to craft malicious synchronization messages. Second, by injecting electrical noise into a TTE switch over an Ethernet cable, a BE device can trick the switch into sending these malicious synchronization messages to other TTE devices. Our evaluation shows that successful attacks are possible in seconds, and that each successful attack can cause TTE devices to lose synchronization for up to a second and drop tens of TT messages – both of which can result in the failure of critical systems like aircraft or automobiles. We also show that, in a simulated spaceflight mission, PCspooF causes uncontrolled maneuvers that threaten safety and mission success. We disclosed PCspooF to aerospace companies using TTE, and several are implementing mitigations from this paper.

Private Eye: On the Limits of Textual Screen Peeking via Eyeglass Reflections in Video Conferencing

Yan Long, Chen Yan, Shilin Xiao, Shivan Prasad, Wenyuan Xu, Kevin Fu

Abstract: Personal video conferencing has become a new norm after COVID-19 caused a seismic shift from in-person meetings and phone calls to video conferencing for daily communications and sensitive business. Video leaks participants’ on-screen information because eyeglasses and other reflective objects unwittingly expose partial screen contents. Using mathematical modeling and human subjects experiments, this research explores the extent to which emerging webcams might leak recognizable textual and graphical information gleaming from eyeglass reflections captured by webcams. The primary goal of our work is to measure, compute, and predict the factors, limits, and thresholds of recognizability as webcam technology evolves in the future. Our work explores and characterizes the viable threat models based on optical attacks using multi-frame super resolution techniques on sequences of video frames. Our models and experimental results in a controlled lab setting show it is possible to reconstruct and recognize with over 75% accuracy on-screen texts that have heights as small as 10 mm with a 720p webcam. We further apply this threat model to web textual contents with varying attacker capabilities to find thresholds at which text becomes recognizable. Our user study with 20 participants suggests present-day 720p webcams are sufficient for adversaries to reconstruct textual content on big-font websites. Our models further show that the evolution towards 4K cameras will tip the threshold of text leakage to reconstruction of most header texts on popular websites. Besides textual targets, a case study on recognizing a closed-world dataset of Alexa top 100 websites with 720p webcams shows a maximum recognition accuracy of 94% with 10 participants even without using machine-learning models. Our research proposes near-term mitigations including a software prototype that users can use to blur the eyeglass areas of their video streams. For possible long-term defenses, we advocate an individual reflection testing procedure to assess threats under various settings, and justify the importance of following the principle of least privilege for privacy-sensitive scenarios.

Weak Fiat-Shamir Attacks on Modern Proof Systems

Quang Dao, Jim Miller, Opal Wright, Paul Grubbs 

Abstract: A flurry of excitement amongst researchers and practitioners has produced modern proof systems built using novel technical ideas and seeing rapid deployment, especially in cryptocurrencies. Most of these modern proof systems use the Fiat-Shamir (F-S) transformation, a seminal method of removing interaction from a protocol with a public-coin verifier. Some prior work has shown that incorrectly applying F-S (i.e., using the so-called “weak” F-S transformation) can lead to breaks of classic protocols like Schnorr’s discrete log proof; however, little is known about the risks of applying F-S incorrectly for modern proof systems seeing deployment today.

In this paper, we fill this knowledge gap via a broad theoretical and practical study of F-S in implementations of modern proof systems. We perform a survey of open-source implementations and find 36 weak F-S implementations affecting 12 different proof systems. For four of these—Bulletproofs, Plonk, Spartan, and Wesolowski’s VDF—we develop novel knowledge soundness attacks accompanied by rigorous proofs of their efficacy. We perform case studies of applications that use vulnerable implementations, and demonstrate that a weak F-S vulnerability could have led to the creation of unlimited currency in a private blockchain protocol. Finally, we discuss possible mitigations and takeaways for academics and practitioners.