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Time Security

In 2020, we saw the world change in ways that no one could have anticipated. Because of this, like so many other organizations, the Internet Society had to assess its current and future plans and evaluate the resources available. As a result, some changes have been made to our activities for the upcoming year. Moving into 2021, we will no longer focus on Time Security as a standalone project. We still deeply believe that securing the Internet’s time synchronization infrastructure is a critical component for building an open and trustworthy Internet and will continue to promote and defend this concept through our other projects, initiatives and activities. 

Accurate time is essential for the security and trustworthiness of the Internet. Many systems that we regularly interact with rely on accurate time to function properly. Financial transactions, transportation, electricity and industrial production processes are just a few of these things. Accurate time also provides an essential foundation for online security, and many security mechanisms, such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and digital signature creation and verification, depend on accurate timekeeping.

Contributing to a More Secure and Trustworthy Internet through Open Standards

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is one of the oldest Internet protocols in use. It enables the synchronization of clocks on computer networks to within a few milliseconds of standard universal coordinated time (UTC). It is a crucial component of Internet security. The NTP’s original security mechanisms were designed back in an era when most Internet traffic was trusted and the risk of attack was unlikely. Due to the continued exponential expansion of the Internet, these mechanisms became outdated and needed to be redesigned. 

Work was underway in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for many years to develop replacement technology – Network Time Security (NTS) – to help secure the Internet’s time synchronization infrastructure well into the future. On 1 October, 2020, RFC 8915: Network Time Security for the Network Time Protocol was published by the IETF. This key milestone now means that NTP can now confirm the identity of the network clocks that are exchanging time information and protect the transmission of that time information across the network.

Our Work in 2020

A new focus for the Internet Society in 2020, the primary goal of our work on Time Security was to promote the global deployment of NTS, promote operational best practices and support operational capacity building. Throughout the year to date we: 

  • Collaborated with interested communities, including the open source development community, network time product vendors and time service providers to encourage the future implementation of the NTS protocol.
  • Promoted the need for secure time across the global Internet.
  • Participated in test events to test the emerging NTS protocol and improve interoperability between implementations.

Looking Ahead

As we move towards the end of the year, we will finalize our work on an information repository, which will contain documentation, news and events related to NTP, NTS and time security in general. We will also share details of how some of our work on Time Security will continue in 2021.

Time Security News

Changes to Our Work in 2021
Time Security 5 November 2020

Changes to Our Work in 2021

Here at the Internet Society, we believe that the Internet is for everyone. Our work focuses on ensuring that...

NTS RFC Published: New Standard to Ensure Secure Time on the Internet
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Time Security 1 October 2020

NTS RFC Published: New Standard to Ensure Secure Time on the Internet

The Internet Society is pleased to see the publication of RFC 8915: Network Time Security for the Network Time...

Can You Spare a Minute? Network Time Security Featured on The Hedge Podcast
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Time Security 30 September 2020

Can You Spare a Minute? Network Time Security Featured on The Hedge Podcast

Are you interested in finding out more about Network Time Protocol (NTP), Network Time Security (NTS), and discovering why...

Working Collaboratively to Improve Emerging Network Time Security Implementations
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Time Security 21 August 2020

Working Collaboratively to Improve Emerging Network Time Security Implementations

Accurate and secure time is essential for the security and trustworthiness of the Internet. Many systems that we regularly...

Everything You Need to Know about Network Time Security
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Time Security 6 August 2020

Everything You Need to Know about Network Time Security

This article was first published on Netnod’s Blog. It is reposted here with permission of Netnod. A lot of...

A New Security Mechanism for the Network Time Protocol
IETF Journal Filler Photo
In the News 31 October 2017

A New Security Mechanism for the Network Time Protocol

IETF Journal
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Resources

The Road to Deployment: Network Time Security

Presentation by Karen ‘O’Donoghue at LACNIC 33

IETF BCP 223: Network Time Protocol Best Current Practices

The Network Time Protocol (NTP) is one of the oldest protocols on the Internet and has been widely used since its initial publication.

This document is a collection of best practices for the general operation of NTP servers and clients on the Internet. It includes recommendations for the stable, accurate, and secure operation of NTP infrastructure.

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New Security Mechanisms for Network Time Synchronization Protocols

As evolving security concerns have prevailed, the network time synchronization protocol community has been actively engaged in the development of improved security mechanisms for both the IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and the IETF Network Time Protocol (NTP). These activities have matured to the point where this year should see the finalization of the first new security mechanisms for time protocols in ten years.

Read more