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Weak forms of lying

Although we assume that nodes are generally honest, it can be worth adding mechanisms to software that guard against weak forms of “lying”—for example, invalid messages due to hardware issues, software bugs, and misconfiguration. Such protection mechanisms are not full-blown Byzantine fault tolerance, as they would not withstand a determined adversary, but they are nevertheless simple and pragmatic steps toward better reliability. For example:

  • • Network packets do sometimes get corrupted due to hardware issues or bugs in operating systems, drivers, routers, etc. Usually, corrupted packets are caught by the checksums built into TCP and UDP, but sometimes they evade detection [85, 86, 87]. Simple measures are usually sufficient protection against such corruption, such as checksums in the application-level protocol.
  • • A publicly accessible application must carefully sanitize any inputs from users, for example checking that a value is within a reasonable range and limiting the size of strings to prevent denial of service through large memory allocations. An internal service behind a firewall may be able to get away with less strict checks on inputs, but some basic sanity-checking of values (e.g., in protocol parsing [85]) is a good idea.
  • • NTP clients can be configured with multiple server addresses. When synchronizing, the client contacts all of them, estimates their errors, and checks that a majority of servers agree on some time range. As long as most of the servers are okay, a misconfigured NTP server that is reporting an incorrect time is detected as an outlier and is excluded from synchronization [37]. The use of multiple servers makes NTP more robust than if it only uses a single server.
 
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