CROSSING Research Seminar: Dealing with variability in cryptographic api misuse detection

21.01.2021 13:00-14:00

Speaker: Krishna Narasimhan, TU Darmstadt | Location: Online (Networking afterwards)

Organizer: Johannes Braun, CROSSING


APIs are the primary mechanism for developers to gain access to externally defined services and tools. This is true especially with cryptographic APIs where developers not familiar with nitty-gritty of cryptography can gain access to the security provided by the sophisticated algorithm. However, previous research has revealed API misuses that violate the contract of APIs to be prevalent. Such misuses can have disastrous consequences, especially in the context of cryptographic libraries. To address this issue, various API-misuse detectors have been proposed. CogniCrypt, one of the most versatile of such detectors, involves a specification language to specify API usage contracts. APIs evolve over time, though, and any specification describes API usages only for a single version of an API in a single context. There are various sources of variability that affect how an API should be used. For example, a new release may introduce breaking changes. Many APIs like JCA, the standard cryptography library for Java, have a provider architecture promoting extensibility through pluggable implementations. Different security standards require different usages of the same API. Currently, little is known about how such variability impacts the specification of correct API usage. In this paper, we investigate this question by analysing the impact of various sources of variability on the most widely used cryptographic library in Java, the JCA. The results of our investigation show that sources of variability like new versions of the API, security standards and pluggable providers significantly impact the specifications and introduce number of breaking changes. We then use the insights gained from our investigation to motivate extensions to the CrySL language called MetaCrySL, which builds on the concept of meta variables and feature modelling. We evaluate MetaCrySL by specifying usage rules for a family of Android versions, and illustrate that our DSL extension, MetaCrySL is not only able to model all forms of variability we identified, but also drastically simplify specifying a large family of APIs and maintaining these specifications when compared to the CrySL core.

Short Bio
Krishna is a Postdoc in the research group of Mira Mezini. (