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12/19/2010
08:42 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
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Security Design Fail

It's common for routers to enable an HTTPS interface so that the device can be remotely administered. However, as was made clear this weekend, many routers are secured with hard-coded SSL keys that can be extracted and used by others.

It's common for routers to enable an HTTPS interface so that the device can be remotely administered. However, as was made clear this weekend, many routers are secured with hard-coded SSL keys that can be extracted and used by others.That was the news posted to the /dev/ttyS0 blog today. The hard-coded SSL keys are found in many routers supported by DD-WRT, as well as routers from Cisco and Netgear.

From the /dev/ttyS0 blog post, Breaking SSL on Embedded Devices:

Here's where it gets fun: many of these devices use hard-coded SSL keys that are baked into the firmware. That means that if Alice and Bob are both using the same router with the same firmware version, then both of their routers have the same SSL keys. All Eve needs to do in order to decrypt their traffic is to download the firmware from the vendor's Web site and extract the SSL private key from the firmware image.

However, there are some practical limitations to this attack. If Eve doesn't know what router or firmware version Alice and Bob are using, it will be difficult to impossible for her to identify which firmware image to extract the SSL keys from. A good example of this is DD-WRT. There are several versions of DD-WRT available for each router supported by DD-WRT. And for each of those versions, there are several different "flavors": micro, standard, VPN, etc. Even if Eve knows that Alice and Bob are running DD-WRT, that's a lot of firmware images to work through. This becomes even more difficult when dealing with vendors whose firmware is not as standardized between releases.

That's where the LittleBlackBox project comes in. It contains a database of more than 2,000 private SSL keys that can be matched with the right hardware/firmware, and public certificates.

LittleBlackBox can be downloaded from here.

I'm not sure what admins or home users with affected routers are to do to protect themselves on this one, other than sloppy workarounds or find a different and unaffected router. I do know I'm quite tired of hard wired certificates and passwords embedded within devices.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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