Visible to the public Analysis of the Secure Remote Password Protocol Using CPSA

We analyze the Secure Remote Password (SRP) protocol for structural weaknesses using the Cryptographic Protocol Shapes Analyzer (CPSA) in the rst formal analysis of SRP (specically, Version 3).

SRP is a widely deployed Password Authenticated Key Exchange (PAKE) protocol used in 1Password, iCloud Keychain, and other products. As with many PAKE protocols, the two participants (e.g., client and server) use knowledge of a pre-shared password to authenticate each other and establish a session key. SRP aims to resist dictionary attacks, not store plaintext-equivalent passwords on the server, avoid patent infringement, and avoid export controls by not using encryption. Formal analysis of SRP is challenging in part because existing tools provide no simple way to reason about its use of the mathematical expression "v + gb mod q".

Modelling v + gb as encryption, we complete an exhaustive study of all possible execution sequences of SRP. Ignoring possible algebraic attacks, this analysis detects no major structural weakness, and in particular no leakage of any secrets. We do uncover one notable weakness of SRP, which follows from its design constraints. It is possible for a malicious server to fake an authentication session with the client, without the client's knowledge or participation. This action might facilitate an escalation of privilege attack, if the client has higher privileges than does the server. We conceived of this attack before we used CPSA and confirmed it by generating corresponding execution shapes using CPSA.

Keywords. Cryptographic protocols, cryptography, Cryptographic Protocol Shapes Analyzer (CPSA), cybersecurity, formal methods, Password Authenticated Key Exchange (PAKE) protocols, protocol analysis, Secure Remote Protocol (SRP), UMBC Protocol Analysis Lab (PAL).

1Now with Intelligent Systems Lab, Hume Center, Virginia Tech, Arlington, VA 22309.
2The MITRE Corporation, Burlington, MA 01720.
3National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755.
4Two Six Labs, Arlington, VA 22203.


Thanks to John Ramsdell (MITRE) and other participants at the Protocol eXchange for fruitful interactions.

This research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Defense under CySP Capacity grants H98230-17-1-0387 and H98230-18-1-0321. Sherman, Golaszewski, WnukFink, Bonyadi, and the UMBC Cyber Defense Lab were supported also in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant DGE-1753681.

See Sherman, et al. [SLL+20] for our full paper, and see Wu [Wu98, Wu00, Wu02] for a description of SRP.


[SLL+20] Alan T. Sherman, Erin Lanus, Moses Liskov, Edward Zieglar, Richard Chang, Enis Golaszewski, Ryan Wnuk-Fink, Cyrus Jian Bonyadi, Mario Yaksetig, and Ian Blumenfeld. Formal methods analysis of the secure remote password protocol, February 2020. Submitted to Springer LNCS for Andre Scedrov's Festschrift. Available as

[Wu98] ThomasWu. The Secure Remote Password Protocol. In Proceedings of the Internet Society on Network and Distributed System Security, 1998.

[Wu00] Thomas Wu. The SRP Authentication and Key Exchange System, RFC 2945, September 2000.

[Wu02] Thomas Wu. SRP-6: Improvements and Renements to the Secure Remote Pass- word Protocol, October 2002.

Dr. Erin Lanus is a Research Assistant Professor at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech. She has a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a concentration in cybersecurity from Arizona State University. Her experience includes work as a Research Fellow at University of Maryland Baltimore County and as a High Confidence Software and Systems Researcher with the Department of Defense. Her current research interests are software and combinatorial interaction testing, machine learning in cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence assurance.

Creative Commons 2.5

Other available formats:

Analysis of the Secure Remote Password Protocol Using CPSA
Switch to experimental viewer