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Secure Internet Messaging


In order to mitigate the common security problems associated to e-mail in the Internet, and in particular the illegitimate usage of well-known Internet domain names for e-mail attacks, also known as phishing, a number of technologies have been developed by within the IETF in the last ten years. They range from path-based e-mail authentication techniques, e.g., the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) scheme, to approaches based on server-side cryptographic mechanisms, which are supposed to provide a reliable means of authenticating or de-authenticating the purported sender of the e-mail, e.g., DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). However, all these techniques have experienced only unsystematic deployment throughout the Internet, with various combinations of different parameters which often lead to irrational or even unpredictable authentication results for particular messages. Therefore, the Secure Internet Messaging project aims at analyzing the current configurations of the different mechanisms in the Internet based on large scale measurements, with the aim of identifying both the current best practices and potential mid- to long-term trends in the parameterization of the studied techniques.  Furthermore, based on real-world data from operational, large-scale e-mail systems, the Secure Internet Messaging project will assess the performance of the relevant mechanisms based on concrete, message level-granularity authentication results both for the sending and the receiving party, which will enable obtaining a realistic snapshot of current e-mail authentication practices for domains with different messaging volumes and configurations of the preferred authentication mechanisms.

Apart from e-mail authentication, the Secure Internet Messaging project also studies measures to secure contents and identities (confidentiality, privacy) within (group) chats – e.g., by investigating group chat cryptography for instant messaging – and e-mail conversations – e.g., through various end-to-end encryption techniques. As a result of emphasizing on open, federated and secure solutions, our work concentrates on friction points arising between reliability (e.g., asynchronous delivery whenever connectivity is lost) and user experience/convenience considerations and outmost secure and anonymous message exchanges. While in the extreme case any identity, geolocation, time, device and content information may be covered up to any other participant, the formation of meaningful trust relationships or the proper execution of malware and spam protection mechanisms may require the handling and exchange of certain pieces of information.

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Further details
internal research projects
2013 - 2016
Research Group Cooperative Systems
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Faculty of Computer Science
University of Vienna

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A-1090 Vienna