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12 May 2017

AuthentiCall: Efficient Identity and Content Authentication for Phone Calls


Phones are used to confirm some of our most sensitive transactions. From coordination between energy providers in the power grid to corroboration of high-value transfers with a financial institution, we rely on telephony to serve as a trustworthy communications path. However, such trust is not well placed given the widespread understanding of telephony’s inability to provide end-to-end authentication between callers. In this poster, we address this problem through the AuthentiCall system. AuthentiCall not only cryptographically authenticates both parties on the call, but also provides strong guarantees of the integrity of conversations made over traditional phone networks.  We achieve these ends through the use of formally verified protocols that bind low-bitrate data channels to heterogeneous audio channels. Unlike previous efforts, we demonstrate that AuthentiCall can be used to provide strong authentication before calls are answered, allowing users to ignore calls claiming a particular Caller ID that are unable or unwilling to provide proof of that assertion. Moreover, we detect 99% of tampered call audio with negligible false positives and only a worst-case 1.4 second call establishment overhead. In so doing, we argue that strong and efficient end-to-end authentication for phone networks is approaching a practical reality.

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