Since March 2019, I’m a researcher and Ph.D. Student at Klaus Wehrle’s Chair of Communication and Distributed Systems at RWTH Aachen University. Currently, I’m dedicated to scrutinizing the security of industrial deployments, identifying the roots of insecure configurations, and devising mechanisms to improve the level of security. I also research mechanisms for secure communication in the ICT network of critical infrastructures. Before starting my Ph.D. studies, I graduated with an M.Sc. in Computer Science in September 2018 and received my B.Sc. in 2016. During my Bachelor’s and Master’s studies I, amongst others, got in touch with kernel-programming and anonymous communication via Tor.
M.Sc. in Computer Science, 2018
RWTH Aachen University
B.Sc. in Computer Science, 2016
RWTH Aachen University
📰 Our research on the occurrence and impact of leaked secrets in container images got, amongst others, picked up by Bleeping Computer, Golem.de (in German), TechRadar, DarkReading, teiss, itnews, Techzine.nl (in Dutch), and Infopoint Security (in German).
📰 I got interviewed about further details on our OPC UA Internet-wide security assessment. The interview is published in das elektohandwerk (in German).
📃 I summarized our research results on Internet-reachable OPC UA systems for the APNIC Blog.
💾 We released our OPC UA assessment modules for Metasploit.
Containerization allows bundling applications and their dependencies into a single image. The containerization framework Docker eases the use of this concept and enables sharing images publicly, gaining high momentum. However, it can lead to users creating and sharing images that include private keys or API secrets—either by mistake or out of negligence. This leakage impairs the creator’s security and that of everyone using the image. Yet, the extent of this practice and how to counteract it remains unclear. In this paper, we analyze 337,171 images from Docker Hub and 8,076 other private registries unveiling that 8.5% of images indeed include secrets. Specifically, we find 52,107 private keys and 3,158 leaked API secrets, both opening a large attack surface, i.e., putting authentication and confidentiality of privacy-sensitive data at stake and even allow active attacks. We further document that those leaked keys are used in the wild: While we discovered 1,060 certificates relying on compromised keys being issued by public certificate authorities, based on further active Internet measurements, we find 275,269 TLS and SSH hosts using leaked private keys for authentication. To counteract this issue, we discuss how our methodology can be used to prevent secret leakage and reuse.
The ongoing trend to move industrial appliances from previously isolated networks to the Internet requires fundamental changes in security to uphold secure and safe operation. Consequently, to ensure end-to-end secure communication and authentication, (i) traditional industrial protocols, e.g., Modbus, are retrofitted with TLS support, and (ii) modern protocols, e.g., MQTT, are directly designed to use TLS. To understand whether these changes indeed lead to secure Industrial Internet of Things deployments, i.e., using TLS-based protocols, which are configured according to security best practices, we perform an Internet-wide security assessment of ten industrial protocols covering the complete IPv4 address space. Our results show that both, retrofitted existing protocols and newly developed secure alternatives, are barely noticeable in the wild. While we find that new protocols have a higher TLS adoption rate than traditional protocols (7.2 % vs. 0.4 %), the overall adoption of TLS is comparably low (6.5 % of hosts). Thus, most industrial deployments (934,736 hosts) are insecurely connected to the Internet. Furthermore, we identify that 42 % of hosts with TLS support (26,665 hosts) show security deficits, e.g., missing access control. Finally, we show that support in configuring systems securely, e.g., via configuration templates, is promising to strengthen security.
The ongoing digitization of industrial manufacturing leads to a decisive change in industrial communication paradigms. Moving from traditional one-to-one to many-to-many communication, publish/subscribe systems promise a more dynamic and efficient exchange of data. However, the resulting significantly more complex communication relationships render traditional end-to-end security futile for sufficiently protecting the sensitive and safety-critical data transmitted in industrial systems. Most notably, the central message brokers inherent in publish/subscribe systems introduce a designated weak spot for security as they can access all communication messages. To address this issue, we propose ENTRUST, a novel solution for key server-based end-to-end security in publish/subscribe systems. ENTRUST transparently realizes confidentiality, integrity, and authentication for publish/subscribe systems without any modification of the underlying protocol. We exemplarily implement ENTRUST on top of MQTT, the de-facto standard for machine-to-machine communication, showing that ENTRUST can integrate seamlessly into existing publish/subscribe systems.
Due to increasing digitalization, formerly isolated industrial networks, e.g., for factory and process automation, move closer and closer to the Internet, mandating secure communication. However, securely setting up OPC UA, the prime candidate for secure industrial communication, is challenging due to a large variety of insecure options. To study whether Internet-facing OPC UA appliances are configured securely, we actively scan the IPv4 address space for publicly reachable OPC UA systems and assess the security of their configurations. We observe problematic security configurations such as missing access control (on 24% of hosts), disabled security functionality (24%), or use of deprecated cryptographic primitives (25%) on in total 92% of the reachable deployments. Furthermore, we discover several hundred devices in multiple autonomous systems sharing the same security certificate, opening the door for impersonation attacks. Overall, in this paper, we highlight commonly found security misconfigurations and underline the importance of appropriate configuration for security-featuring protocols.
More and more traditional services, such as malware detectors or collaboration services in industrial scenarios, move to the cloud. However, this behavior poses a risk for the privacy of clients since these services are able to generate profiles containing very sensitive information, e.g., vulnerability information or collaboration partners. Hence, a rising need for protocols that enable clients to obtain knowledge without revealing their requests exists. To address this issue, we propose a protocol that enables clients (i) to query large cloud-based knowledge systems in a privacy-preserving manner using Private Set Intersection and (ii) to subsequently obtain individual knowledge items without leaking the client’s requests via few Oblivious Transfers. With our preliminary design, we allow clients to save a significant amount of time in comparison to performing Oblivious Transfers only.