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12th USENIX Security Symposium — Abstract

Pp. 295-308 of the Proceedings

Establishing the Genuinity of Remote Computer Systems

Rick Kennell and Leah H. Jamieson, Purdue University


A fundamental problem in distributed computing environments involves determining whether a remote computer system can be trusted to autonomously access secure resources via a network. In this paper, we describe a means by which a remote computer system can be challenged to demonstrate that it is genuine and trustworthy. Upon passing a test, it can be granted access to distributed resources and can serve as a general-purpose host for distributed computation so long as it remains in contact with some certifying authority. The test we describe is applicable to consumer-grade computer systems with a conventional network interface and requires no additional hardware. The results of the test can be conveyed over an unsecured network; no trusted human intermediary is needed to relay the results. We examine potential attacks and weaknesses of the system and show how they can be avoided. Finally, we describe an implementation of a genuinity test for a representative set of computer systems.
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