Certificate Authoritities, DigiNotar, GlobalSign, OSes, Browsers, Adobe, more

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]DigiNotar Breach Affected 531 Certificates (Tom’s Hardware):

The break-in in Certificate Authority (CA) DigiNotar back in July was much worse than previously thought.

A preliminary analysis of the incident now claims that there have been 531 fraudulent certificates. The hackers may have explored DigiNotar’s servers for the first time in early June and gained control on June 17. The company detected the hack on June 19, but failed to prevent the creation of the first rogue certificate on July 2. The hacker activity apparently ended on July 22.

As a Aryeh Goretsky stated at Scot’s Newsletter Forums noted so succinctly:

DigiNotar, a company which issues digital certificates used to establish cryptographically-secure connections to web sites, was hacked, and over 500 certificates were acquired for high-profile web sites. Amongst other things, this would allow someone* to monitor what would otherwise be secure, private connections to those sites. Passwords, emails, personally-identifiable information and other sensitive data could be viewed by someone* who would otherwise not be able to see that information.

*Such as a government, ISP, or government-owned ISP.

Aryeh, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And highlighting the fact that it could be a government, ISP, or government-owned ISP is spot on to the concerns.

There was recently an article that suggested that this has already happened in Iran.

Hackers steal SSL certificates for CIA, MI6, Mossad (Computerworld):

Criminals acquired over 500 DigiNotar digital certificates; Mozilla and Google issue ‘death sentence’

Among the affected domains, said Markham, are those for the CIA, MI6, Mossad, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft’s Windows Update service.

Google has pointed fingers at Iran, saying that attacks using an ill-gotten certificate for google.com had targeted Iranian users.

Much more in this two page article where a link to Markham’s blog details more about this:

On Monday August 29th at 6.30pm BST Mozilla was informed by Google about a misissued certificate for *.google.com which was being used in active attacks on users in Iran. This certificate was chained to the root of the Dutch CA “DigiNotar”. Since that notification, I have been part of the Mozilla team working on our response.

The CNs concerned were as follows:

*.10million.org
*.balatarin.com
*.google.com
*.logmein.com
*.microsoft.com
*.mossad.gov.il
*.skype.com
*.torproject.org
*.walla.co.il
*.wordpress.com
addons.mozilla.org
azadegi.com
DigiCert Root CA
Equifax Root CA
friends.walla.co.il
login.yahoo.com
Thawte Root CA
twitter.com
VeriSign Root CA
wordpress.com
http://www.cia.gov
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.sis.gov.uk

So much more in Markham’s blog posting.

Delay in disclosing SSL theft put Iranian activists at risk, says researcher (Computerworld)

The delay in disclosing a theft of the digital certificates for some of the Web’s biggest sites, including Google, Skype, Microsoft and Yahoo, put Iranian activists’ lives at risk, a researcher argued Wednesday.

But I think EFF explains the issues best.

Iranian Man-in-the-Middle Attack Against Google Demonstrates Dangerous Weakness of Certificate Authorities (EFF)

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm.

What’s worse than discovering that someone has launched a man-in-the-middle attack against Iranian Google users, silently intercepting everything from email to search results and possibly putting Iranian activists in danger? Discovering that this attack has been active for two months.

People all over the world use Google services for sensitive or private communications every day. Google enables encrypted connections to these services in order to protect users from spying by those who control the network, such as ISPs and governments. Today, the security of this encryption relies entirely on certificates issued by certificate authorities (CAs), which continue to prove vulnerable to attack. When an attacker obtains a fraudulent certificate, he can use it to eavesdrop on the traffic between a user and a website even while the user believes that the connection is secure.

The certificate authority system was created decades ago in an era when the biggest on-line security concern was thought to be protecting users from having their credit card numbers intercepted by petty criminals. Today Internet users rely on this system to protect their privacy against nation-states. We doubt it can bear this burden.

This latest attack was reportedly caught by a user running the Google Chrome browser in Iran who noticed a warning produced by the “public key pinning” feature which Google introduced in May of this year. Basically, Google hard-coded the fingerprints for its own sites’ encryption keys into Chrome, and told the browser to simply ignore contrary information from certificate authorities. That meant that even if an attacker got a hold of a fake certificate for a Google site—as this attacker did—newer versions of the Chrome browser would not be fooled.

Certificate authorities have been caught issuing fraudulent certificates in at least half a dozen high-profile cases in the past two years and EFF has voiced concerns that the problem may be even more widespread. But this is the first time that a fake certificate is known to have been successfully used in the wild. Even worse, the certificate in this attack was issued on July 10th 2011, almost two months ago, and may well have been used to spy on an unknown number of Internet users in Iran from the moment of its issuance until it was revoked earlier today. To be effective, fraudulent certificates do not need to have been issued by the same authority that issued the legitimate certificates. For example, the certificate in question here was issued by a Dutch certificate authority with which Google had no business relationship at all; that didn’t make it any less acceptable to web browsers.

Much more in the article…

This problem is not only related to issues of privacy related to people who’s lives would be in danger, but also, victims of malware purveyors as well.

Cryptographic keys for SSL sites are only as good as the honesty of the holder and issuer of those keys, as well as the honesty and security diligence of the issuer, in this case DigiNotar.

They would like us to think that SSL is extremely safe, but it’s not as safe as those who issue them would like us to believe either. Anyone with money can purchase a SSL certificate, and there have been malware purveyors that have also bought them so folks would ‘feel’ secure. If you see the lock, you think, “Safe”. That’s what they want you to think.

However, just like anyone can purchase what is considered a ‘legitimate’ SSL certificate, good, bad or indifferent, there are worse things.

‘Legitimate’ SSL certificates can be created by site owners as well, good, bad, or indifferent.

The companies that sell SSL certificates and browser makers put out root certificates for their browers and show green or gold with the lock for those obtained by big name sellers of these certificates. So if you are legitimate site owner who creates their own to save money, you are automatically assumed to be ‘not legitimate’ by browsers and it shows as red/dangerous to users.

I don’t see what the solution is, but it really doesn’t matter whether you make your own, or if you buy one, you are still playing craps with SSL certificates in many ways these days.

As Corrine noted in the same topic at Scot’s Newsletter Forums:

Microsoft Security Advisory 2607712 has been updated to revoke the trust of the DigiNotar root certificates by placing them into the Microsoft Untrusted Certificate Store.

The update is available via Automatic Update and applies to all supported releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Within short order, Mozilla sent out updates to their products including Firefox, Thunderbird, et. revoking the certificates.

Opera has done the same thing yesterday, disabling the root store for DigiNotar.

Because Apple was slow to act, one researcher (thanks Corrine) rapped Apple for not blocking the stolen SSL certificates, and various places on the Internet were trying to help Mac users to take care of disabling and removing the DigiNotar certificates from the KeyChain so Safari and other browsers would be safer online on the Mac. Since then, Apple released an update to revoke DigiNotar from their trusted list:

If you are running an older Mac you can still protect yourself, but you will need to do it manually. You can follow the excellent instructions posted over at the ps | Enable blog.

And most recently, Adobe has posted instructions on how to remove DigiNotar from the Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL) for Adobe Reader.

And here we go again (thanks zlim)…

GlobalSign Stops Issuing Digital Certificates After Hack (PCWorld)

Second firms stops issuing digital certificates (CNET)

How many more will have fallen before it’s all said and done? I am beginning to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off just generating our own SSL certificates, it would likely be as safe as this fiasco has become…

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