Network time protocol

For what ever reason I have always been interested in time. One of the first things I did when we arrived in the States was buy a wrist watch that had an atomic time synchronization feature.
(FWIW I got the CASIO titanium solar tri-sensor).

So it was only a matter of time (heh) till I wrote about NTP/SNPT for the Opto22 blog.
You can read it here.
Really enjoyed writing that blog, it checked all the stuff that I love.. Time, atomic time sources, computers and computer networks…. It does not get much better for a time geek.

Anyway, the thing is, NTP is not really secure. It is pretty old, and has a few gaps. But, its just a time synchronization server right, how much of a problem could that be?

Turns out…. A fair bit.

Serious weaknesses in the Internet’s time-synchronization mechanism can be exploited to cause debilitating outages, snoop on encrypted communications, or tamper with Bitcoin transactions, computer scientists warned Wednesday.

The vulnerabilities reside in the Network Time Protocol, the widely used specification computers use to ensure their internal clocks are accurate. Surprisingly, connections between computers and NTP servers are rarely encrypted, making it possible for hackers to perform man-in-the-middle attacks that reset clocks to times that are months or even years in the past.

It’s simply complicated. In short, if you change the time on some select (important) computers you can bypass when their security certificates expire.

Even worse, the attacks can be used to snoop on encrypted traffic or to bypass important security measures such as DNSSEC specification preventing the tampering of domain name system records. The most troubling scenario involves bypassing HTTPS encryption by forcing a computer to accept an expired transport layer security certificate.

Anyway, my point is, it’s interesting to me how close to the edge all our tech is.