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On the Performance of Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Encryption for Real-Time Video Conferencing System

On the Performance of Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Encryption for Real-Time Video Conferencing System

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Providing security for video conferencing systems is in fact a challenging issue due to the unique requirements of its real-time multimedia encryption. Modern cryptographic techniques can address the security objectives of multimedia conferencing system. The efficiency of a viable encryption scheme is evaluated using two critical performance metrics: Memory usage, and CPU usage. In this paper, two types of cryptosystems for video conferencing system were tested and evaluated. The first cryptosystem is asymmetric, whereas the second is symmetric. Both cryptosystems were integrated and tested on a commercial based video and multimedia conferencing platform.
Providing security for video conferencing systems is in fact a challenging issue due to the unique requirements of its real-time multimedia encryption. Modern cryptographic techniques can address the security objectives of multimedia conferencing system. The efficiency of a viable encryption scheme is evaluated using two critical performance metrics: Memory usage, and CPU usage. In this paper, two types of cryptosystems for video conferencing system were tested and evaluated. The first cryptosystem is asymmetric, whereas the second is symmetric. Both cryptosystems were integrated and tested on a commercial based video and multimedia conferencing platform.

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(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 8, No.

7, October 2010

On the Performance of Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Encryption for Real-Time Video Conferencing System
Maryam Feily, Salah Noori Saleh, Sureswaran Ramadass
National Advanced IPv6 Centre of Excellence (NAv6) Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, Malaysia {maryam, salah, sures}@nav6.usm.my

Abstract— Providing security for video conferencing systems is in fact a challenging issue due to the unique requirements of its realtime multimedia encryption. Modern cryptographic techniques can address the security objectives of multimedia conferencing system. The efficiency of a viable encryption scheme is evaluated using two critical performance metrics: Memory usage, and CPU usage. In this paper, two types of cryptosystems for video conferencing system were tested and evaluated. The first cryptosystem is asymmetric, whereas the second is symmetric. Both cryptosystems were integrated and tested on a commercial based video and multimedia conferencing platform. Keywords- Encryption; Asymmetric; Symmetric; Security; Efficiency; Video Conferencing.

Since the mid 90’s, numerous efforts have been devoted towards the development of real-time multimedia encryption solutions. However, most of the proposed algorithms are characterized by a significant imbalance between security and efficiency. Some of them are efficient enough to meet the requirements of the multimedia encryption, but only provide limited security, whilst others are robust enough to meet the security demands but require complex computations [5]. This paper proposes a viable multimedia encryption that addresses the requirements of video conferencing systems. The efficiency of the proposed encryption scheme is evaluated using two critical performance metrics: Memory usage, and CPU usage. In this paper, the performance of two different types of cryptosystems (symmetric and asymmetric encryption) for encrypting real-time video data are tested and evaluated based on the aforementioned performance metrics. Performance tests of both encryption schemes have been carried out using the Multimedia Conferencing System (MCS) [6] that is a commercial video conferencing application. The first encryption system is an asymmetric cryptosystem based on Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) [7], whereas the second encryption scheme is based on Blowfish [8] which is a symmetric cryptosystem. These schemes have been chosen as the best representative of each symmetric and asymmetric encryption based on their advantages. In fact, ECC is a recent public key cryptosystem which is more efficient and faster than the other asymmetric cryptosystems [9]. On the other hand, Blowfish is known as the fastest symmetric encryption scheme which is compact and suitable for large blocks of data, and therefore suitable for video data encryption [8]. The rest of this paper is organized as follows: Section II provides an overview of cryptographic schemes and compares symmetric and asymmetric cryptography. Section III discusses the asymmetric encryption scheme for real-time video conferencing system, while Section IV discusses the symmetric encryption scheme. Section V provides details on performance tests and a comparison of both cryptosystems. Finally the paper will be concluded in Section VI.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Video and multimedia conferencing systems are currently one of the most popular real-time multimedia applications and have gained acceptance as an Internet based application as well. And since the Internet is involved, security has now become a very important aspect of such systems. To provide a secure video conferencing system, cryptography is used to address data confidentiality and authentication. However, unlike plaintext, encryption of multimedia data, including compressed audio and video, is a challenging process due to the following two constrains. First, the multimedia data encryption and decryption must be done within real-time constraints with minimal delays. Hence, applying heavy encryption algorithms during or after the encoding phase will increase the delay, and are likely to become a performance bottleneck for real-time multimedia applications. The second constraint is that multimedia data is time dependent, and must be well synchronized. Therefore, the needed encryption must be done within the defined time restrictions to keep temporal relations among the video streams intact [1]. There are also other limitations due to the large size of multimedia data [2], [3], but the operation system’s network layer can be called upon to handle this. In overall, a viable security mechanism for real-time multimedia transmission must consider both security and efficiency [4].
This paper is financially sponsored by the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) through the USM Fellowship awarded to Maryam Feily.
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II.

OVERVIEW OF CRYPTOGRAPHY

Cryptography is the art and science of hiding secret documents [9]. Security is very important in applications like multimedia conferencing system. To provide a secure multimedia conferencing system, cryptography is used to address data confidentiality, and authentication [10]. Modern cryptographic techniques address the security objectives of multimedia conferencing systems. In general, there are two main categories of cryptography; symmetric and asymmetric key cryptography [9], [11]. A brief overview of each category will be provided in this Section. In addition, symmetric and asymmetric cryptography will be compared briefly to realize the advantages and disadvantages of each one. A. Symmetric Key Cryptography Symmetric key cryptography is one of the main categories of cryptography. In symmetric key cryptography, to provide a secure communication a shared secret, called “Secret Key”, must be established between sender and recipient. The same key is used for both encryption and decryption. Thus, such a cryptosystem is called “Symmetric” [9]. This type of cryptography can only provide data confidentiality, and cannot address the other objectives of security [9], [11]. Moreover, symmetric key cryptography cannot handle communications in large n-node networks. To provide a confidential communication in a large network of n nodes, each node needs n-1 shared secrets. Hence, n (n-1) shared secrets need to be established that is highly impractical and inconvenient for a large value of n [11]. All classical cryptosystems that were developed before 1970s and also most modern cryptosystems are symmetric [11]. DES (Data Encryption Standard) [12], 3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard) [13], AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) [14], IDEA [15], RC5 [16], Blowfish [8], and SEAL [17] are some of the popular examples of modern symmetric key cryptosystems. Amongst all symmetric encryption schemes, Blowfish [8] is known as the fastest symmetric encryption scheme which is compact and suitable for large blocks of data, and therefore suitable for video data encryption [8]. Thus, Blowfish is chosen as the best example of symmetric scheme for video encryption in this research. B. Asymmetric Key Cryptography Asymmetric or public key cryptography is the other category of cryptography. Despite symmetric key cryptography, public key cryptosystems use a pair of keys instead of a single key for encryption and decryption. One of the keys, called “Public Key”, is publicly known and is distributed to all users, whereas the “Private Key” must be kept secret by the owner. Data encrypted with a specific public key, can only be decrypted using the corresponding private key, and vice versa. Since different keys are used for encryption and decryption, the cryptosystem is called “Asymmetric” [9].

Modern public key cryptosystems rely on some computationally intractable problems, and the security of public key cryptosystems depends on the difficulty of the hard problem on which they rely. Hence, public key algorithms operate on sufficiently large numbers to make the cryptanalysis practically infeasible, and thus make the system secure [9], [18]. However, due to smart modern cryptanalysis and modern high speed processing power, the key size of public key cryptosystems grew very large [11]. Using large keys is one of the disadvantages of public key cryptography due to the large memory capacity and large computational power required for key processing. There are several standard public key algorithms such as RSA [19], El-Gamal [20] and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) [7]. However, ECC [7] is a recent public key cryptography which is more efficient and faster than the other asymmetric cryptosystems. Unlike previous cryptography solutions, ECC is based on geometric instead of number theory [9]. In fact, the security strength of the ECC relies on the Elliptic Curve Discrete Logarithm Problem (ECDLP) applied to a specific point on an elliptic curve [21], [22]. In ECC, the private key is a random number, whereas the public key is a point on the elliptic curve which is obtained by multiplying the private key with the generator point G on the curve [18]. Hence, computing public key from private key is relatively easy, whereas obtaining private key from public key is computationally infeasible .This is considered as ECDLP that is much more complex than the DLP, and it is believed to be harder than integer factorization problem [18]. Hence, ECC is one of the strongest public key cryptographic systems known today. In addition, ECC uses smaller keys than the other public key cryptosystems, and requires less computation to provide a high level of security. In other words, efficiency is the most important advantage of the ECC since it offers the highest cryptographic strength per bit [9], [23]. This a great advantage in many applications, especially in cases that the computational power, bandwidth, storage and efficiency are critical factors [9], [23]. Thus, ECC has been chosen as the best asymmetric encryption in this research. C. Symmetric Versus Asymmetric Key Cryptography Despite the Public key cryptography that can only provide data confidentiality, asymmetric key cryptography addresses both data confidentiality and authentication. Public key cryptography solves the problem of confidential communication in large n-node networks, since there is no need to establish a shared secret between communicating parties. Moreover, there are protocols that combine public key cryptography, public key certificates and secure hash functions to enable authentication [11]. However, public key cryptosystems are significantly slower than symmetric cryptosystems. Moreover, public key cryptography is more expensive since it requires large memory capacity and large computational power. For instance, a 128bit key used with DES provides approximately the same level of security as the 1024-bit key used with RSA [24]. A brief comparison of symmetric and asymmetric key cryptography is summarized in Table I.

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TABLE I. SYMMETRIC VERSUS ASYMMETRIC CRYPTOGRAPHY Cryptosystem Symmetric Asymmetric Yes Yes Confidentiality No Yes Data Integrity No Yes Authentication 1 2 Number of Keys Smaller Larger Key Size Faster Slower Speed Less More Memory Usage Less More Computational Overhead Yes Good for N-node Networks No DES/RC5/Blowfish RSA/El-Gamal/ECC Some Examples

Figure 1. Video Capture Architecture

III.

ASYMMETRIC ENCRYPTION FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING

The asymmetric cryptosystem [25] based on ECC [7] will be reviewed in this Section. In addition, this Section will describe how this encryption scheme was implemented into the MCS video conferencing system. A. ECC-Based Cryptosystem The asymmetrical encryption scheme that is tested in this research is a public key cryptosystem based on the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) [25]. It is a robust security platform that employs the most advanced algorithms recognized by the global cryptography community to meet the severe security requirements of certain applications. Furthermore, it is a multilayer cryptosystem which consists of multi layers of public-private key pairs [25]. In its standard mode of encryption, this cryptosystem only uses 256-bit ECC to encrypt the data. Although this cryptosystem is an ECC public key cryptosystem, it uses other encryption algorithms as well. Mainly, it uses ECDSA for authentication, AES and RSA for key encryption and SHA-2 for hashing. However, since this cryptosystem is based on ECDSA, the security strength of its encryption scheme mostly relies on the Elliptic Curve Discrete Logarithm Problem (ECDLP) applied to a specific point on an elliptic curve. Hence, breaking this cryptosystem is theoretically equivalent to solving ECDLP, which is computationally impractical for a large key size of 256-bit [25]. B. Implementation of Asymmetric Scheme As mentioned earlier, a proper security solution for video conferencing system must address authentication and data confidentiality [9]. However, authentication is well addressed by most video conference systems. Therefore, in order to have a secure video conferencing system, data confidentiality must be provided. Thus, in this research, the aforementioned asymmetric encryption [25] is applied only to the video component of the MCS [6] to protect the video stream. There are two modules in video component responsible for video encryption and decryption that are “Video Capture” and “Video Playback” correspondingly. The architecture of Video Capture and Video Playback are depicted in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 respectively.

Figure 2. Video Playback Architecture

In addition, it is important to mention that all encryptions and decryptions are performed only at the clients. In this architecture, video encryption and decryption are both performed within the application layer. After integration of the ECC-based cryptosystem [25] into the video component of the MCS [6], the performance of the system was tested to evaluate the efficiency of asymmetric encryption for real-time video data. The result and analysis of the performance test are presented in Section V. IV. SYMMETRIC ENCRYPTION FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING

In this Section, an alternative symmetric cryptosystem scheme for video conferencing system is discussed. Amongst all known symmetric encryption such as DES [12], 3DES [13], AES [14], IDEA [15], and RC5 [16], using Blowfish [8] for video data encryption is suggested as it is known to be a fast and compact encryption suitable for large blocks of data [8]. The symmetrical encryption scheme based on Blowfish was implemented by using OpenVPN [26], [27]. In this Section, Blowfish encryption is introduced, and the algorithm is explained briefly. Furthermore, the details of implementing this security scheme into the MCS are explained. A. Blowfish Encryption Blowfish is a symmetric block cipher based on the Feistel network. The block size is 64 bits, whereas the key can be any length up to 448 bits. Blowfish algorithm consists of two phases: Key Expansion and Data Encryption [8]. In Key Expansion phase a key of at most 448 bits will be converted into several subkey arrays with maximum of 4168 bytes which will be used in the Data Encryption phase afterward. During the encryption phase, blocks of 64-bit input data will be encrypted using a 16-round Feistel network. Each round of this algorithm consists of permutations and

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substitutions. Permutations are key dependant, whereas substitutions depend on both key and data. Decryption is exactly the same as encryption, except that subkeys are used in the reverse order. All operations are XORs and additions on 32-bit words. In addition to these operations, there are four indexed array data lookups per round. Ultimately, the algorithm is cost-effective due to its simple encryption function. Moreover, Blowfish is the fastest block cipher available [8]. Table II shows the speed comparison of block ciphers on a Pentium based computer [8]. B. Implementation of Symmetric Scheme In order to implement the symmetrical encryption scheme based on Blowfish, OpenVPN software [26] is used as it provides the advantage of choosing from a wide range of cryptographic algorithms according to the level of security required. OpenVPN’s cryptography library implements a broad range of standard algorithms to efficiently address both data confidentiality and authentication [26], [27]. For implementation, a VPN server is installed and configured to run in UDP and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) mode as the MCS uses UDP for its video stream, and the SSL Mode is more scalable than the Static Key Mode [27]. Most importantly, Blowfish CBC-mode with 128-bit is selected as the symmetric cipher for data channel encryption to implement the alternative symmetric encryption scheme. In order to provide a multi layer encryption equal to the first scheme, SHA1 with 160-bit message digest is chosen as the hash function algorithm, and 1024-bit RSA as the asymmetric cipher for the control channel to provide authentication. The implemented VPN tunneling and secure data transmission scheme is illustrated in Fig. 3 below. In this scheme, VPN implements a reliable transport layer on top of UDP using SSL/TLS standard protocol. In other words, a secure layer is established between transport layer and application layer. Hence, it provides a highly secure and reliable connection without the implementation complexities of the network level VPN protocols.

TABLE II. SPEED COMPARISON OF BLOCK CIPHERS ON A PENTIUM Algorithm Number of Clock Cycles Per Round 9 5 12 18 50 18 Number of Rounds 16 32 16 16 8 48 Number of Clock Cycles per Byte Encrypted 18 20 23 45 50 108

Blowfish Khufu RC5 DES IDEA Triple DES

The performance of this scheme is tested on the commercial conferencing system, MCS [6] to realize the efficiency of Blowfish as a symmetric encryption for real-time video data. The results of the performance test and evaluation are presented in Section V. V. PERFORMANCE TEST AND EVALUATION

In this Section, the performance test and evaluation of both symmetrical and asymmetrical encryption schemes for video conferencing are explained in details, and a comparison of both schemes is provided. In fact, the performance of both encryption schemes is tested to evaluate the efficiency of each scheme and to choose the optimal encryption scheme for realtime video conferencing system. A. Performance Test Performance tests of both symmetric and asymmetric encryption schemes have been carried out on the MCS [6] that is a commercial conferencing application. In order to test and evaluate the performance of these cryptosystems, two critical performance parameters namely, the average of CPU usage and the average of Memory usage were measured. These parameters are then compared with a baseline that is the performance of the video conferencing system without any video data encryption/decryption. However, it is important to mention that both encryption schemes have been tested and evaluated only in terms of efficiency, but not security; since

Secure Video Conference Between MCS Clients
Secured Network

MCS Server 10.207.160.121

MCS Client 219.93.2.13
Payload Payload

MCS Client 219.93.2.14 Secure VPN Tunnel Secure VPN Tunnel
Payload

Payload

VPN Client 10.207.161.219
Header Encrypted Payload

VPN Server

VPN Client 10.207.161.205
Header Encrypted Payload

Figure 3. VPN Tunneling and Secure Data Transmission Scheme

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the security strength of both encryption schemes are confirmed [8], [25]. All testing have been performed on the same test bed, using identical clients with the following configuration in Table III. This is the recommended system specification for a typical video conference client using the MCS. First, to provide a baseline for performance evaluation, the performance of the MCS without any video encryption/decryption is tested, and intended parameters are measured. The measurement test bed comprised a video conference between two clients connected to the LAN with a high speed network connection with the speed of 100 Mbps. At the next stage, the same critical parameters have been measured after applying each encryption schemes. Testing of each case was performed for 80 sessions of video conference between two clients using the MCS, and the average of intended parameters (Memory usage, and CPU usage) was calculated. B. Evaluation of Performance Result In this part, the performance results of both symmetric and asymmetric cryptosystems are compared to evaluate the efficiency of each scheme, and to choose the appropriate encryption scheme for real-time video conferencing. The results of CPU usage and Memory usage of both schemes are depicted in Fig. 4 and Fig. 5 respectively. According to the results, applying asymmetric encryption [25] to the video component increases both CPU usage and Memory usage significantly. The noticeable increase of the CPU usage shown in Fig. 4 is related to the Video Capture module, and shows the heavy processing of the 256-bit ECCbased encryption. Moreover, as it is illustrated in Fig. 5, the Memory usage is also high and it keeps increasing during the video conference. This is due to the excess Memory usage by the cryptosystem as it creates several memories to encrypt each block of raw data. The dramatic increase of CPU usage and Memory usage are considered as performance bottleneck for the video conferencing system due to the limited processing power and memory capacity. In contrast, the symmetrical encryption based on Blowfish [8] is more cost-effective in terms of both CPU and Memory usage. Fig. 4 shows that applying symmetric encryption for video conferencing increases the average CPU usage slightly. The 2% increase of the CPU usage is due to the Blowfish encryption and decryption which is obviously far less than the CPU usage of the 256-bit ECC-based encryption. It is important to mention that OpenVPN [26] that is used to implement asymmetric encryption uses public key cryptography only for authentication which is mainly done in a
TABLE III. SYSTEM SPECIFICATION OF CLIENTS Windows XP Professional (SP2) P4 1.80 GHz 512MB 40 GB Platform Processor RAM Hard Disk

Figure 4. Comparison of CPU Usage

Figure 5. Comparison of Memory Usage

the VPN server, and does not affect the CPU usage of the clients. Moreover, unlike ECC-based encryption, Blowfish cipher does not require a large amount of memory, since it is a compact cipher with a small key size of 128-bit [8]. In addition, Blowfish encrypts and decrypts the payload of each UDP packet, without creating any memory. Therefore, Memory usage grows by almost a fixed amount of 5000 Kb as shown in Fig. 5. However, the slight increase in CPU usage and Memory usage is acceptable and does not affect the overall performance of video conferencing system. VI. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK

In this paper, the performance of two different encryption schemes for real-time video encryption for video conferencing is evaluated in terms of efficiency. The first encryption was an asymmetric cryptosystem based on Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), whereas the second cryptosystem was an alternative symmetric encryption based on Blowfish cipher. These schemes have been chosen as the best representative of each symmetric and asymmetric encryption based on their advantages. Performance tests of both encryption schemes have been carried out on the MCS [6] that is a commercial application. According to the results, the ECC-based cryptosystem [25] caused significant performance bottleneck, and was not effective for real-time video encryption. In contrast, the alternative symmetric encryption based on Blowfish cipher [8] worked well with the MCS [6], and proved to be efficient for encrypting video data in real-time as it is capable to provide an acceptable balance between efficiency and security demands of video and multimedia conferencing systems.

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Performance analysis shows that the inefficiencies of the ECC-based encryption [25] are in fact due to the expensive and heavy computation of the underlying cryptosystem which is a multi layer public key encryption. In fact, ECC public key is suitable to address authentication, and it is not proper for real-time video encryption. However, authentication is usually well addressed by most video conferencing systems, and just a proper encryption for real-time video data is required. Hence, ECC-based encryption is not appropriate for real-time video conferencing as it fails to provide an acceptable balance between efficiency and security demands of video conference. Yet, it is a robust security solution either for non real-time applications or instant messaging where the data is an ordinary text, but not a huge video stream. Unlike ECC-based cryptosystem that sacrifices efficiency for security, the symmetric encryption based on Blowfish meets both security demands and real-time requirements of the video conferencing system with a better performance. It is concluded that the Blowfish which is known as the fastest block cipher is the optimal scheme for real-time video encryption in video conferencing systems. Nevertheless, there are also few drawbacks of the symmetric encryption scheme implementation using OpenVPN. First, if the VPN server and the video conference server are not located in a secure network, the transmission is not totally secure. Moreover, there will be the problem of single point of failure due to the central VPN server. Hence, the first idea for future work is to implement VPN server directly into the video conference server to eliminate these problems. However, during the time, there will be definitely other new ideas and requirements for the future. ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors graciously acknowledge the support from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) through the USM Fellowship awarded to Maryam Feily.

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[2]

AUTHORS PROFILE

[3]

[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

Maryam Feily is a Ph.D. Student and a Research Fellow at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).She received the B.Eng. degree in Software Engineering from the Azad University (Iran) in 2002, and the M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from USM (Malaysia) in 2008. She has been awarded with the USM Fellowship in 2009. Furthermore, she is proud of being one of the successful graduates of Iran’s National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET). Her research interests include Network Management, Network Security, Cyber Security, and Overlay Networks.

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Salah Noori Saleh is a Senior Developer and Researcher in the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He has received the Ph.D. degree from USM in 2010. He received the B.Sc. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Baghdad (Iraq) and the M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from USM (Malaysia). His research interests include Network Architectures and Protocols, Multimedia and Peer-to-Peer Communications, Overlay Networks, and Network Security.

Sureswaran Ramadass is a Professor with the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He is also the Director of the National Advanced IPv6 Centre of Excellence (NAV6) at USM. He received the B.Sc. degree and the M.Sc. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Miami in 1987 and 1990 respectively. He received the Ph.D. degree from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 2000 while serving as a full time faculty in the School of Computer Sciences. He is a Primary Member of APAN as well as the Head of APAN Malaysia (Asia Pacific Advanced Networks). He is currently the IPv6 Domain Head for MYREN (Malaysian Research and Education Network) and the Chairman of the Asia Pacific IPv6 Task Force (APV6TF).

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