FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 9

‘Network security and performance’ marked the ninth week of FIT5037. This is a logical extension of the previous weeks lecture of organizational level network security. There has traditionally been a mutual exclusivity between speed and security. This is most definitely a sore spot for many organizations, particularly when finding a degradation in performance after investing money! The lecture looked at common techniques that should be used to ensure convenience is not disproportional affected by security efforts. The notes outlined four key topics for the week:

  • Load balancing and firewalls
  • VPN and network performance
  • Network address translation [NAT] and load balancing
  • Network security architecture

Key awareness issues that were recurring through the lecture:

  • Security! – Does a software/hardware/architecture solution or combination of these provide sufficient security
  • Speed and availability – Do security solutions allow for the required level of service availability for operational requirements? Is service speed affected to an unacceptable extent?
  • Robustness – If one component fails, what are the repercussion for the rest of the network in terms of previous issues?
Example of adjustments to design in consideration to organisational concerns (source: notes10)

The diagram above illustrates how the adoption of load balancers and multiple parallel firewalls suffices speed and robustness requirements.

The lecture went on to introduce the topics of protocol security and certain VPN solutions.

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 8

Taking a more abstract view on computer security, week 8’s topic was computer security for large networks. This first part of the lecture discussed risk analysis. Some key steps in conducting risk analysis:

  • Value of assets being protected – if attacks break into our network what is the worst case scenario? This value is constantly rising in today’s business environment. This step will also establish a budget range for system security, there is no point spending 1 million protecting a system that contains information and assets worth one hundred thousand.
  • Threat identification – What are the known threats to our system? This could include likely attackers, the types of known exploits and an understanding of what possible unknown exploits may be capable of.
  • Identification of key system components:
Some key components (source: Week 9 lecture notes)
  • Define each step in the security life cycle – Prevention -> Detection -> Response -> Recovery
  • Specifying policy areas for People, Processes and Tools
  • Begin development of security policy using a logical framework: Organizational -> Security Architecture -> Technical
  • Design, implementation and testing of chosen security tools:
Some security tools (source: Week 9 lecture notes)
  • Audit any security systems in place at set time periods (ie: once a year)
  • Understand that organization requirements can change quickly and that the security policy is in place to protect organizations whilst allowing them to operate as unhindered as possible, there is no point having a completely secure systems that takes employees 2 hours to gain access to.

Design of system wide security policies may come off as a more managerial, less technical operation. However, to implement a good security policy, decision makers must be aware of and have an in depth understanding of the available tools, threats from attackers and the organizational requirements. I would be very surprised if most vulnerabilities were as a direct result of technical issues rather than holes as a result of poorly designed and implemented security policies.

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 7

Week 7 jumped away from snort and on to wireless communications. The lecture slides was particularly detailed, the key enhancements to be covered:

  • TKIP – Temporal Key Integrity Protocol
  • LEAP – Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (according to most sources, becoming legacy to EAP-FAST)
  • EAP-TLS – Extensible Authentication Protocol – Transport Layer Security (A public key system for wireless lans using a RADIUS server)
  • PEAP – Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol – “PEAP is similar in design to EAP-TTLS, requiring only a server-side PKI certificate to create a secure TLS tunnel to protect user authentication
  • RADIUS – Remote Authentication Dial In User Service
  • 802.11 – (a,b,g,n) IEEE standardized wireless protocols 😀
  • 802.16 – IEEE standardize WiMAX [Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access] family.

So, to start with there is a bag full of acronyms which are all interlinked.

There seem to be a few fundamental problems when securing wireless networks:

  1. Devices connecting may have low computational power, ie: smart phones. (This is relative to desktops and servers so will most likely always be the case)
  2. Incoming and outgoing packets are broadcasted thus easy to intercept
  3. Users can be moving to between access points
  4. Performance requirements are high, people expect wireless connections not to be slow than wired connections

These points combined force the situation of weaker security.

The detail of the lecture was in covering the different forms of handshakes and authentication that are floating around at the moment… and all of their flaws. It will take a fair bit of time to really become familiar with these.

I get the feeling that wireless security is always going to be an issue simply because of the computing power mismatch between mobile and fixed devices in addition to the broadcast nature of the communications. The advancement over the past 5 years does however show that the band-aid approach is sufficient to facilitate most of the world adopting wireless networks.

WiMAX - The way of the future!

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 6

Week 6 completed the lecture on security in distributed programming. Dr. Le provided a summary of the key advantages associated with modern solutions provided by Java and CORBA. Given the wide variety of options and applications there is unfortunately no standard solution. Considering the large workload already provided by the subjects 3 assignments I have had little time to further investigate the alternatives.

I was having a look at some youtube videos to get a better feel for the key issues in this topic. A good one was from a GoogleTechTalk (see the channel:

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 5

Week 5 saw an introduction to security  programming distributed applications. As I have very little experience in distributed programming it was difficult to understand everything covered in the lecture. The first question posed was, when developing a distributed program, which of the following is best for secure distributed programs:

Next came a discussion over the strengths and weaknesses of stateless and stateful servers.
The risk associated with multithread/process methods to deal with load became quite detailed. Analysis moved into the vulnerabilities of shared memory in operating systems, the most prominent being buffer overflows.

One of the key issues with using complex third party libraries is lack of confidence in the code. Many components in a distributed system will be written in C/C++ likely leading to vulnerabilities. We spent some to reading code to look for vulnerabilities, it seems that this will be an imperative skill for anyone pursuing a career in network security. Vulnerabilities in code range from buffer overflows, lack of sanitation allowing for injections, forced deadlocks and sharing of information between processes (ie: XSS).

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 4

After a review of some of the previous weeks discussion on ECC week 4’s lecture focused on Intrusion Detection Systems [IDS]. The initial slide of the lecture featured a great summary of IDS:

Intrusion Detection System
Intrusion Detection System- source week 4 lecture notes

The concepts behind IDSs are not overly complicated; analyse incoming traffic, compare it to known bad traffic and take action accordingly. Unfortunately implementation of such a system is not so simple, some of the primary difficulties are:

  • To what extent can we generalize on bad.malicious traffic recognition?
  • How much time/computational resources can be spent on each incoming packet?
  • How can knowledge base and analysis engines communicate in real-time without slowing the network?
  • How can definitions/knowledge bases keep up with new exploits?

To help deal with these difficulties IDS systems are modularized into:

  • Host Based IDS [HIDS] – Examines all packets flowing through a network (ie: Tripwire, AIDE)
  • Network Based IDS [NIDS] – Examines process activity on a system, identifying malicious process behavior

Snort, the IDS we have been experimenting with in labs, was introduced in the lecture as an example of a NIDS. It strengths were identified as being an open-source option the is extremely fast and lightweight in comparison to it’s competition.

The rest of the lecture discussed how snort rules work and how to write them. A detailed version can be found in chapter 3 of:

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 3

Week 3 of network security continued our introduction to Elliptic Curve cryptology. Specifically the mathematical operations and rationale behind this public key encryption method. At the moment I am implementing the RSA requirements for assignment 1 so did not get a chance to do much practical experiment with ECC. For me, understanding how the algorithms work can only be achieved by implementing them.

The lecture began with a definition of the Discrete Logarithm Problem [DLP]. Put simply:

In this scenario it is relatively easy to compute B. However, given a and B, computing x is computationally expensive.

The operation of log(B,base a) to find x is not dissimilar in computational complexity to finding p and q given n (n = pq). Note that the logarithmic function is only particularly expensive in a discrete domain.

An example of an elliptic curve function

Moving from a definition of elliptic curves we related this to encryption.

Given an elliptic curve function and and infinite point O a set G can be established:

Take two points, P and Q and the intersect of the line PQ, is R -> P + Q = R (remembering these are co-ordinates).

For every P, P + (-P), a tangent on point P will intersect with -(R).

ECC operation definitions:

P + Q -> (-Xr) = s^2 – Xp – Xq, -(Yr) = s(Xp – Xr) – Yp

where s = (Yp – Yq) / (Xp – X q)

P + P (2P) -> (-Xr) = s^2 – 2Xp, Yr = s(Xp – Xr) – Yp

I am going to begin using the Python Library, Sage ( to test these operations and hopefully get a graphical representation. Java also has an elliptic curve library (,5.0/docs/api/java/security/spec/EllipticCurve.html). I don’t have a good understanding as yet of how these operations fit into the elliptic curve cryptology algorithm.

Of the two common elliptic curve families, Binary and Prime number curves, I will be focusing on Prime number curves as it is most relevant to our assignment requirements, and hopefully the most understandable.

As the field needs to be discrete, we defined a group (Zp, mod) = {0,1, p -1} where p is a prime number.

The elliptic field will be defined as y^2 = x^3 +ax + b mod p where a, b, y and x are all members of Zp.


p=11, Zp=Z(11) – > y^2 = x^3 + x + 6 (mod 11)

E (Z11, mod) = {(2,4),(2,7), (3,5),(3,6), (5,2),(5,9), (7,2),(7,9), (8,3),(8,8), (10,2),(10,9)}

The next step is to select a generate, say g = (2,7).

Using the operation defined above for P + P we can calculate a set of G, 2G ….nG:

g=(2,7), 2g=(5,2), 3g=(8,3), 4g=(10,2) 5g=(3,6), 6g=(7,9), 7g=(7,2), 8g=(3,5), 9g=(10,9), 10g=(8,8),11g=(5,9),12g=(2,4)

Now, both parties know the elliptic curve and the generator g (2,7) -each party (lets say Alice and Bob) must now create a public key.

Alice generates a random number, say 2. Her public key becomes 2g (see the set above) -> (5, 2).

Bob also has a public key, random number say 3. His public key becomes 3g -> (8,3).

Alice wants to send the encrypted message -> (3,6)

Here is a major difference to the RSA algorithm. Instead of only using Bob’s public key to encrypt a message, Alice must use both Bo and her own public key.

So, to encrypt the message (3,6) for transmission to Bob, Alice must complete the following operation:

Cypher = (AlicePubKey(5,2), AliceRandomNubmber(4) *BobPublicKey(8,3) + m(3,6))

= ((5,2), 4(8,3) + (3,6) => (5,2),( (8,3) + (8,3) +(8,3) +(8,3) + (3,6)

See the operation definitions in bold above for how to calculate the point additions.

Cypher ready for transmission from Alice to Bob = ((5,2), (5,9))

Now, Bob receives the cypher text and must decrypt using the elliptic curve, AlicePublicKey(5,2) and his Random(3).

The operation is:

(Cypher excl. AlicePubKey) – (AlicePubKey * Bob’sRandom)

= (5,9) – ((5,2) + (5,2) + (5,2)) => (5,9) – (7,9)

Again from the operations above P + Q is defined so lets turn P -Q -> (5,9) – (7,9) into P + Q -> (5,9) + (7, -9).

Which will output the message – (3,6)!

So, we can see that encryption and decryption is not that difficult in terms of operations. With that in mind how can we be sure that if we are transmitting our the elliptic curve, the generator and our publickey, an attacker can’t find our RandomNumber (which is in fact the private key).

The attacker will know:

Alices Public Key was found by taking the set generated using the Elliptice curve and generator (2, 7).

Her public key (Q) can be defined as -> Q = kP -> where k is here secret random number and P is the generator (2,7).

Finding k given Q and P is the equivalent of a Discrete Logarithm problem which as mentioned is computationally expensive.

The safety of Alice’s secret random is source in the Elliptic Curve Logarithm Problem presented above.
For an elliptic curve modeling tool


FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 2

Miller-Rabin Python Implementation (slow but readable):


As with my other subjects for week 2 I was absent for Adv. Network Security so this will be a summary of the lecture notes and reading materials. The title for this weeks lecture was ‘Adv. Cryptology, RSA and its implementation’. Considering the extensive assignment we completed last semester on PGP/GPG and it’s utilization of the RSA public key system, this will most likely be somewhat of a revision. I wrote a summary of the RSA system in that assignment which is will paraphrase below:

Generating Public and Private Keys (RSA):

The lecture notes explain these processes with much more correct mathematical notation, however this is the easiest way for me to express the process.

Also discussed in the lecture was a topic generating and tesing prime numbers. I did not complete strong analysis of ths process in the past semester. The Miller-Rabin test was introduced here. As per usual I find the easiest way to get my head around mathematical algorithms is not reviewing the mathematical proof/concept but by writing a script implementing the algorithm: http://mchost/sourcecode/

FIT5037 – Advanced Network Security Week 1

Week 1 of Adv network security to be lectured by Dr Phu Dung Le provided an introduction to the topics covered in the unit:

  • Modern computing and network security
  • Ellicptic curve public key encryption
  • Design and implementation of RSA and ECC
  • Intrusion detection systems
  • Network and distributed software security
  • Advance wireless security
  • Large computer security systems
  • Security, load balancing and network performance
  • Main research in security

The lecture broke off in to some very interesting discussion over information retrieval from encrypted data sources. The example provided seems like a one of case but this problem will become increasing relevant with the rise of cloud computing.  For example, as large companies such as Sony find strong efficiency and financial motivators to outsource their data storage to cloud providers, encryption of that data is paramount. With a large, off site, encrypted data sources there are issue with the efficient retrieval of data and the point of decryption. For example:

  • If searching for similar images given and initial image, how can this be accomplished without downloading and decrypting the entire database?
  • When retrieving data, at what point does decryption occur, if at the client then all the incoming data will fly straight past firewall, intrusion detection systems and anti-virus software.

A paper proposing a solution where:

an encryption scheme where each authorised user in the system has his own keys to encrypt and decrypt data. The scheme supports keyword search which enables the server to return only the encrypted data that satisfies an encrypted query without decrypting it.


The problem of like image recognition is still not easily addressable using this solution. Although it could be argued that categorization schema could work effectively. I wonder at plausibility of using unsupervised neural networks in conjunction with the hash algorithm to provide a method not dependent on designer imposed categorization. Imagine the network would need to be infinitely complex to follow hashing however…

The tutorial introduced Snort (a leading intrusion detection system) –

Installing and making a basic configuration for snort was the task.  I am not a big fan of the red hat linux distro that we have access to in the tutorials so I complete the install of snort along with snort report 1.3.1 on my home gateway. I used the latest dynamic rules from

The tutorial I followed loosely for the install can be view: (*note that following the instructions blindly will result in disaster).

It was also mentioned in the lecture that we would be investigating the RSA in comparison to Elliptic curve cryptology [ECC]. I had no idea what ECC was, a good video I found providing a brief explanation: