The Security of the Network Time Protocol
Boston University

Time is a fundamental building block for computing applications, and is heavily utilized by many cryptographic protocols (eg. digital certificates and TLS, bitcoin, authentication with Kerberos, DNSSEC, etc). Time on computer clocks is commonly set using the Network Time Protocol (NTP). This project considers the security of NTP, and its specifications, and its reference implementation ntpd. We consider various threats to NTP that allow an attacker to either (a) alter time on computer systems that set their clocks using NTP (timeshifting attacks), or (b) prevent those systems from synchronizing their clocks (denial of service attacks). We are also designing protocols that can secure NTP against these attacks.



We thank the
Network Time Foundation, NTPsec, Cisco, and RedHat's security team for quickly issuing patches for various issues described in this work. We thank Jared Mauch and the openNTPproject for measurement data and assistance with coordinating responsible disclosure of our attacks. Our work was supported, in part, by NSF awards 1347525, 1350733 and 1012910 and a gift from Cisco. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.