Passing Time and Syncing Secrets: Demonstrating Covert Channel Vulnerabilities in Precision Time Protocol (PTP)
Honors Project - Open Access
Covert channels use steganographic approaches to transfer secret digital communications; when applied to network protocols, these strategies can facilitate undetectable data exfiltration and insertion attacks. Because covert channel techniques are protocol- and implementation-specific, individual case studies are necessary to assess for vulnerabilities under different conditions. While several investigations have been published evaluating covert channel potential in infrastructure- and manufacturing-based contexts, no existing research explores Precision Time Protocol (PTP), a time synchronization protocol commonly used in industrial control systems. This study aims to fill this gap by demonstrating the feasibility of a covert channel-based attack on a PTP-enabled network.
Smith-Donovan, Aron J., "Passing Time and Syncing Secrets: Demonstrating Covert Channel Vulnerabilities in Precision Time Protocol (PTP)" (2022). Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Honors Projects. 65.
raw PTP message logs collected over two 10-minute periods using Wireshark v2.6.10 packet-monitoring software
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