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Using Identity-Based Public-Key Cryptography with Images to Preserve Privacy


Abstract and Figures

We propose a public-key signature and encryption application which strongly relies on identity-based public-key cryptography. By alternately using obvious identity information like names and essential image data of the involved parties as public keys we preserve all advantages gained by identity-based public-key schemes, mainly including the absence of a public-key infrastructure [1]. On the other hand, all parties obtain only obvious and necessary information about other involved parties. Full Text at Springer, may require registration or fee
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Using Identity-Based Public-Key Cryptography
with Images to Preserve Privacy
Sebastian Pape and Nabil Benamar
Databases and Interactive Systems Research Group, University of Kassel
Wilhelmsh¨oher Allee 73, 34121 Kassel
Abstract. We propose a public-key signature and encryption applica-
tion which strongly relies on identity-based public-key cryptography. By
alternately using identity information and pictures of the involved par-
ties as public keys we preserve all advantages gained by identity-based
public-key schemes, mainly including the absence of a public-key infras-
tructure ([8]). On the other hand, all parties obtain only obvious and
necessary information about other involved parties.
1 Introduction
The purpose of our application is to avoid tickets written on paper and particu-
larly to remove those bondings, where a customer’s name is printed on his ticket
and he has to show his passport, that the controller can check the identity of the
name on the ticket and the one in the passport. The controller’s next step then
usually is to compare the customer’s appearance with the picture in his pass-
port. In many cases the passport is only a sort of translation from the customer’s
name to his picture. Thus, the customer’s identity is not needed here, the con-
troller only wants to check if the person who claims a service is legitimated. Our
approach aimes at an image-based legitimation of customers with mobile devices
like PDAs or cell phones. While there are several identity based applications, we
found none which uses stand-alone pictures to protect the customer’s privacy.
Given that customers should be able to hold arbitrary devices, no tickets are
stored on their mobile device(s). This design avoids unnecessary bondings to
specific devices. The customer only needs to setup each of his devices once and
is then able to switch them at his choice. Therefore, the tickets have to be stored
in one (or more) database(s). But central ticket storage involves a drawback:
Other persons – including the party providing the database – should not be able
to browse the tickets of any customer. Third persons should only gain informa-
tion with the customer’s knowledge and control, e.g. when he proves his tickets
valid to a train conductor. This leads to a database where all (most) informa-
tion is encrypted with the appropriate customer’s key. Since the customer has
to decrypt his ticket before showing it, it has to be assured that he is not able
to change or misuse the ticket’s data.
As abovementioned a trivial example for our application is selling and controlling
train tickets. We state more examples and wherein they differ later on.
2 Scenario and Terms
There is a customer Cwho buys or receives a ticket tfrom a dealer D. Later
on Chas to prove the validity of his ticket to a Guard G. Note that Dcould
be any kind of salesman, e.g. for train or concert tickets or he even could be a
doctor writing out prescriptions while Gcould be a controller or a pharmacist,
respectively. Since we store the tickets in a database, Dmust have write access
to this database while it is sufficient for Gto have read only access. An adequate
setup does not necessarily include a central database. As long as Dwrites to
the same database Greads from, it is satisfactory to have subgroups sharing
one database for each task. For example one database stores train tickets and
another one contains recipes.
The customer’s public and private keys are denoted by cpub and cpriv, respectively.
Analogous notations correspond to the dealer’s and the guard’s keys. Since all
participants possess public-key pairs, we assume they communicate through a
secure channel and do not need to consider authentication and encryption any
further. But first of all each of the involved parties have to get their private keys
from a trusted third party TTP. The following paragraph describes the setup.
2.1 Setup
Since it should be easy to check for any of C’s counterparts (Dor G) that C’s
public key cpub really belongs to him, the public key is a picture of the customer.
As known in identity-based public-key crytography C’s private key cpriv is com-
puted by a trusted third party TTP, which has to make sure that Cis using
his own picture (Fig. 1). Given that Cusually has face-to-face contact to Dand
G, the picture reveals only information that both of them can get anyway. Note
that we intentionally use C’s picture, since fingerprints, iris recognition or gene
checks would disclose private information of C.
All dealers and guards use their identity information (e.g. unique name, address
or a symbolic name) as public key dpub respective gpub.TTP approves their iden-
tity and computes their private keys dpriv and gpriv. Since Cknows where he
applies for a ticket it is easy for him to verify D’s and G’s identity (and public
As an option TTP may also have a key pair. Knowing that the trusted third
party computes the private keys of all involved parties, key distribution is no
problem here. This key pair enables TTP to sign the public keys of all parties
- either to complicate faking of keys or to allow the use of actual ID-based sys-
tems which require additional data (see [7, p. 562]). Another option is to replace
TTP by a certification authority (CA). This would render central private key
computation by TTP unnecessary. Public keys then need to include the neces-
sary identity information like C’s picture as already known from PGP ([9]). As
Fig. 1. Setup
before CA has to verify all participants’ public information (identity or picture)
and sign their public keys. A minor drawback here is, that all participants have
to exchange their public keys. But since face recognition software is far from
being perfect, Chas to give his public key to Danyway. Only if face recognition
software advances, it would be possible to use specific datasets as public keys,
thus Dmay be able to derive C’s public key by a digital camera.
2.2 Creation of Tickets
If cpub is not already known to Dhe receives it from C. Since cpub is a picture of
C,Dis able to check easily that the received key belongs to C(if he wants to).
As soon as Dcreates a ticket t, he signs it with his private key dpriv and then
encrypts the result with cpub . Now Dhas to store encrc(signd(t)) in the common
database as shown in Fig. 2.
Depending on the level of trust Chas on D,Dhas to prove that he really inserted
the ticket. Assuming Dis a doctor, Cmight trust Dwill insert the ticket in the
database while Cmay want some evicence when buying train or concert tickets.
Due to the fact that no deterministic two-party contract-signing protocol can
achieve fairness ([5]), a trusted third party may be present here. Since the usual
setup probably is, that Cis at D’s facility and has no (straight) access to TTP,
a convenient solution could be the so-called optimistic approach ([1, 3]). When
using optimistic protocols TTP can be regarded as offline, since TTP comes only
into play if a problem appears, e.g. a technical failure or a cheating party. TTP’s
function can be fulfilled either by a trusted database provider or by the trusted
party who already provides the participant’s keys. Thus, using the optimistic
protocol for fair exchange Dmay return a signed receipt to Cwhile receiving C’s
payment. This procedure is almost equivalent to today’s traditional processing.
Alternatively any other fair protocol involving a trusted third party operating
Fig. 2. creation of tickets
the database may be used instead.
Since the tickets are stored encrypted, they are stored in relation to C’s public
key to make it possible to recover them later on. If there are lots of tickets it
may be an option to include additional (plain text) information (e.g. a date or
a place) to reduce the number of tickets Chas to decrypt later (see Sect. 2.4).
2.3 Validation of Tickets
When Chas to prove to Gthat he is the owner of a valid ticket, Greceives
all tickets from the database associated with cpub and the optional, additional
information. If cpub is not already present, similar to the procedure when creating
tickets Greceives cpub from Cand can easily verify that the received key belongs
to C.Gthen passes all matching data sets to C. Thus, Cobtains a set of tickets
of the form encc(signd(t)). Cis then able to decrypt the encrypted tickets and
returns to Gthe unencrypted but signed ticket signd(t) suitable for this situation.
An overview of the procedure is depicted in Fig. 3
Since Cproved to be the owner of cpriv by decrypting encc(signd(t)) and Cis
not able to sign tickets with dpriv, it seems Gmay infer that Chas received a
valid ticket from D. But checking D’s signature is not enough here. Since it is
necessary to hand Cthe encrypted tickets he can not be prevented from keeping
a copy. To make sure copies are useless to other persons, Ghas to encrypt the
plain text again with cpub and check wether encc(signd(t)) was really stored in
the database. Note that Gdoes not need to read from the database again, he
simply uses the set of tickets he received earlier. Alternatively C’s public key or
at least its fingerprint or hash has to be included into the ticket (see also Sect.
2.4 Privacy Issues
As described above, the encrypted data stored in the database may include ad-
ditional plain text information. This may be necessary if some customers hold
Fig. 3. validation of tickets
many tickets. Since in the majority of cases Gholds a mobile device and at least
C’s power is limited, it may be useful to lower the number of tickets transferred.
There is only sparse information that can be used here, because if we made C
storing information he would better keep the ticket itself. However, depending
on the amount of tickets it is possible to use time ranges here. Note that –
independent of the kind of information stored – this is a trade-off to improve
efficiency by compromising privacy since this information is stored unencrypted.
Since Gcompares two different encryptions of the same plaintext when validating
the ticket he received from Cit becomes obvious, that the underlying cryptosys-
tem has to be deterministic. Remembering that in public-key cryptography any
attacker has the capability of chosen-plaintext attacks this is again a trade-off.
If improved privacy is required, a probabilistic cryptosystem ([6]) can be used,
but as stated in Sect. 2.3 C’s public key has to be included in the ticket then.
Keep in mind that this also involves a drawback regarding the system’s security
(see Sect. 2.5). Ghas no possibility to check if the ticket he received from Cwas
really stored in the database when using a probabilistic cryptosystem. However,
an attacker would still have to forge D’s signature.
Gmay also be able to learn which dealers Cprefers since he has to verify their
signature. This may be circumvented by using group signature schemes ([4], [2]).
In this concept the group signature provides anonymity to the dealer, Gis only
able to verify that a member of a specific group signed the ticket. The trusted
third party acts as a group manager and is able to revoke anonymity in the case
of abuse. Thus, C’s privacy is protected.
2.5 Security Aspects
First of all it has to be ensured that Cis unable to forge tickets. Since all tickets
are signed by Dit is infeasible for Cto create tickets as long as the underlying
cryptosystem holds. Cis also not able to pass tickets to other customers, because
either the tickets have to originate from the database which is assured by Gor
cpub is linked with the ticket.
Due to the fact that Dis able to write to the common database, Dis a more
sensitive party. If Dwants to insert forged tickets to the database he still has
the same problem as mentioned above. Entries in the database have to be signed
correctly – otherwise Gwill not accept the ticket later. As anyone can imagine
signing tickets with his own key may be no wise decision if Dwants to cheat.
However, Dmust be prevented from deleting tickets and flooding the database
with invalid entries. The former can easily be achieved by adapting the database’s
interface. The latter would require an additional database layer. Since all entries
to the database are encrypted the integrity of new entries can not be checked.
By using group signature schemes and additional records it is possible to track
which dealer inserted invalid entries to the database. When Cdecrypts data he
is then able to complain about invalid entries and the untrustworthy dealer’s
license can be removed. Note that C’s claim can be easily proved here, since the
encrypted entry has to be stored in the database.
Accounting G’s capability is quite interesting in spite of the fact he is only able
to read the database. Gis able to change data he read from the database before
he hands it to C. Given that Gis always able to decline C’s legitimation – even
if Cturns over a valid ticket, his only intention could be accusing Dof cheating.
On the one hand this may easily be prevented if the database provider adds an
other layer of signed encryption – remember cpub is already available to him,
since it is C’s database-key. On the other hand this accusation can not be hold
up for long, simply because any other honest guard can prove the opposite.
Since any combination of cheating parties that involves the guard benefits from
the fact, that Gis able to manipulate the legitimation test, the only combina-
tion of parties cheating in common that makes sense to consider is the pair of
customer and dealer. But even if Cand Dmake common cause with each other,
two handicaps still exist. The ticket has to be signed by the dealer and it has to
be encrypted with the customer’s public key and stored in the database, since
Gproves both of it. Precisely because Gproves if the signed ticket he receives
from Cis really stored in the database, Chas not left any ways to change the
ticket, even if he possesses the customer’s private key and is able to create and
sign tickets by his own. Due to the fact, the ticket is stored encrypted and Gis
unable to read it, the customer and the dealer do not benefit from the ability of
changing the ticket later, since Gis unable to read it in between anyway.
Thus, we claim our application is secure against forgery as long as the underly-
ing cryptosystem holds and the guard really examines the tickets. The latter is
no drawback since dishonest guards or controllers cancel almost any real world
ticket system.
An interesting instance arises concerning an underlying probabilistic cryptosys-
tem as mentioned in Sect. 2.4. Since Gis not able to prove if a particular entry
is in the database Cand Dmay cheat if they pool together – or if Dis also a
customer. In this scenario Dissues a ticket to C, but instead of transmitting it
to the database he hands it to C. When Chas to prove to Gthat he has a valid
ticket, he discards the set of tickets from Gand shows the ticket he received from
Dto G. Due to the fact that re-encryption probably results in another encryp-
tion, Gis unable to detect this deception. If this flaw can be exploited depends
on the exact procedure charges are payed and is beyond the scope of this paper.
3 Conclusion and Drawbacks
By using the above setup implicite key management is given as known by
identity-based public-key systems and almost no unnecessary information is re-
vealed to any party. Since the customer knows at least the symbolic identity of
salesmen, doctors, controllers, pharmacists and so on he easily derives the corre-
sponding public keys without gaining additional knowledge. Vice versa because
the customer’s public key is a picture of him all groups mentioned above learn
nothing more about him than they could see anyway when negotiating face-to-
face. Note that TTP is only involved when setting up the system. The trusted
third party is not needed during the communication phase also it could be useful
if the customer does not trust his dealer (see Sect. 2.2).
As stated in Sect. 2.5 none of the participating parties is able to cheat and as
long as the underlying cryptosystem holds our application can be regarded as
However, there are some drawbacks. First of all many concrete proposals of
identity-based systems include additional data ([7]) which modifies our setup
into a slightly more complicate one. The trusted third party has to sign public
keys and make its key available to all parties similar to the option replacing
the trusted third party by a certification authority. Given that both dealer and
guard need the ticket’s plain text information it is impossible to prevent them
from keeping their own records. Nevertheless, this is not a major drawback since
today’s real world scenario already allows that. Depending on the situation the
customer may even want to keep them informed (e.g. doctor, pharmacist).
Finally the proposed application removes the bonding between a customer’s
name and a service and makes it possible to bind tickets to a picture, so the
customer reveals no more information than obvious in face-to-face communica-
tion. If the progress of face recognition software continues, it may be possible to
derive the customer’s key straightly from a digital camera.
4 Acknowledgments
We would like to thank all our colleagues for helpful discussions, especially Heiko
Stamer for his numerous annotations.
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