Research to restore trust in telephones

AuthLoop: End-to-End Cryptographic Authentication for Telephony over Voice Channels

USENIX Security Symposium

Bradley Reaves, Logan Blue, and Patrick Traynor


This research paper describes the design and evaluation of a prototype system that authenticates calls with an in-band cryptographic authentication protocol in the voice channel.


Telephones remain a trusted platform for conducting some of our most sensitive exchanges. From banking to taxes, wide swathes of industry and government rely on telephony as a secure fall-back when attempting to confirm the veracity of a transaction. In spite of this, authentication is poorly managed between these systems, and in the general case it is impossible to be certain of the identity (i.e., Caller ID) of the entity at the other end of a call. We address this problem with AuthLoop, the first system to provide cryptographic authentication solely within the voice channel. We design, implement and characterize the performance of an in-band modem for executing a TLS-inspired authentication protocol, and demonstrate its abilities to ensure that the explicit single-sided authentication procedures pervading the web are also possible on all phones. We show experimentally that this protocol can be executed with minimal computational overhead and only a few seconds of user time (≈9 instead of ≈97 seconds for a naïve implementation of TLS 1.2) over heterogeneous networks. In so doing, we demonstrate that strong end-to-end validation of Caller ID is indeed practical for all telephony networks.