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Section: Overall Objectives

Malicious behaviors in large scale networks

A failure model is always considered and clearly stated when designing fault-tolerant applications. The most benign faults consist of processes that execute their protocol correctly before silently stopping execution. However, processes may exhibit malicious (or arbitrary) behaviors (commonly called Byzantine processes), voluntarily or not. A Byzantine process can send spurious information, send multiple information to processes, etc. Such a behavior could be due to an external attack or even to an unscrupulous person with administrative access. More generally, Byzantine processes can also cooperate to maximize the damage caused to the system. We refer to the notion of "adversary". When defining the system failure model, it is necessary to explicit the assumed adversary. For example, can the adversary delay messages exchanged among correct processes? Can the adversary delay a correct process (by jamming the system)? Can the Byzantine processes cooperate? Is the computational power of Byzantine processes "unbounded"? In such a case, the use of cryptography is useless.

Considering malicious behaviors is therefore related to fault-tolerance but it is also at the core of security. System security encompasses a family of mechanisms and techniques that help protect the system from internal and external attacks. These mechanisms control different aspects of the system (cryptography, secured links, controlled access, etc.). Protecting a distributed system, partially under the control of an adversary is an extremely challenging task. Dealing with process crashes is far from being trivial, many problems are known to be impossible in pure asynchronous systems. Assuming Byzantine processes complicates the problem even further. This is one of the hottest topics of distributed computing today.


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