Time Security

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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. 

A new focus for the Internet Society in 2020, the primary goal of the Time Security project is to promote the global deployment of network time security. We’ll collaborate with interested communities, including the open source development community, network time product vendors, time service providers, network operators and policy makers to encourage implementation. We’ll work to promote operational best practices and to build operational capacity to decrease the costs and risks associated with deploying secure and robust network time infrastructure across the Internet. 

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 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 Due to the continued exponential expansion of the Internet, these mechanisms have become outdated and need to be redesigned. Work has been underway for many years in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to develop replacement technology – Network Time Security (NTS) – that will help to secure the Internet’s time synchronization infrastructure well into the future.

What we’re doing

  • Helping to increase global NTS deployment: We’re developing a distributed testbed to help implementors and operators test the performance and security characteristics of NTS so they can prepare for implementation on their own live networks. We’ll also organize virtual test events to facilitate troubleshooting.   
  • Building an information repository: We’re building a repository of information to help support and promote the worldwide deployment of NTS and inform everyone about the need for secure and accurate time. Documentation, Best Common Practice (BCP) documents, implementation guidelines and the latest network time security news and developments will be available on our standalone project website. 

Get involved

If you’re interested in contributing to work on the NTS protocol, take a look at what the IETF NTP Working Group is working on and find out how to participate.

We’re also keen to hear from anyone operating network time severs, building network time synchronization infrastructure, or interested in learning more about NTS, NTP and time security in general. Get in touch with us.

Contact us

Time Security News

Everything You Need to Know about Network Time Security
Everything You Need to Know about Network Time Security Thumbnail
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
Time Synchronization, Security, and Trust
Time Synchronization, Security, and Trust Thumbnail
Time Security 1 September 2017

Time Synchronization, Security, and Trust

Time is something that is often overlooked or taken for granted, but the accuracy and reliability of time is...

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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.

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