Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

8/29/2011
07:12 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Gmail Attack Highlights Web Insecurity

A man-in-the-middle attack that relied on an unauthorized Google SSL certificate has revived concern over whether any Web communication is really secure.

Gmail Add-On Boosts Support Features
Slideshow: Gmail Add-On Boosts Support Features
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
A user posting to Google's Gmail Help forum under the name "Alibo" claims to have received a warning from Google's Chrome browser that the SSL certificate he received when visiting Gmail was a fake. A self-described resident of Iran, "Alibo" speculates that either his government or ISP, ParsOnline, presented the fake certificate to intercept his communications.

"Alibo" posted a copy of the certificate to PasteBin, and security researcher Moxie Marlinspike confirmed via Twitter that the certificate has a valid signature. That means that the person or entity using it could use it to intercept Gmail traffic via a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.

Google acknowledged the reported MITM attack and noted that the certificate authority (CA) issuing the certificate, DigiNotar, should not be issuing certificates for Google. The company also called attention to a Chrome security feature that blocked the attack.

"We're pleased that the security measures in Chrome protected the user and brought this attack to the public's attention," a spokesperson said in an email. "While we investigate, we plan to block any sites whose certificates were signed by DigiNotar."

Mozilla said it has issued updates to Firefox and other software that revoke trust in the DigiNotar root.

A separate post to PasteBin provides information about verifying the validity of the certificate's signature and condemns Dignotar.nl for possibly enabling the Iranian government to intercept communications.

"This CA should receive an Internet death sentence as [its] carelessness may have resulted in deaths in Iran--this cert was issued in JULY of 2011 and it is now just a few days before SEPTEMBER," the unattributed post said. "It is being used in the wild against real people in Iran *right* now."

Or it was. DigiNotar issued a statement Tuesday saying that on July 19, 2011 it had detected an intrusion into its systems that had resulted in the fraudulent issuance of several public key certificate requests. The company says it conducted an audit to revoke those certificates but recently discovered at least one certificate had not been revoked. It subsequently consulted the Dutch government and revoked the fake certificate.

On one level, this is a triumph for Google, which just introduced a way to ensure that only SSL certificates from a pre-approved list of CAs will be accepted for Google sites and a limited number of third-party sites like PayPal, LastPass, and a handful of others.

On another level, it's reminder that certificate authorities can be hacked, duped, or induced to surrender the keys to someone else's Web kingdom. And there really isn't any penalty for CAs that allow this to happen.

The issue was brought to the fore in March when certificate authority Comodo acknowledged that two affiliated registration authorities had been compromised, allowing a hacker to obtain certificates associated with Google, Mozilla, Skype, Windows Live, and Yahoo. As if to underscore that point, Comodo was hacked three more times in the following two months.

But as Marlinspike noted in his presentation at the Black Hat security conference, a UBM TechWeb event, this year, nothing happened to Comodo as a result of these breaches.

Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher and privacy advocate, said in phone interview that while webmail can be secured, "the certificate authority infrastructure is horribly broken." He documented the issues at length in a paper he published in March, Certified Lies: Detecting and Defeating Government Interception Attacks Against SSL.

Essentially, the U.S. government and other governments around the world, either via appliances purchased from legitimate vendors or using illegitimate means, can intercept supposedly secure SSL sessions. And anyone else who can obtain a certificate from a CA, and possesses the technical know-how and network access, can do so as well.

"I don't know how much worse it could get," said Soghoian. "You would think folks would be worried about people spying on confidential communications."

Soghoian said that none of the browser vendors wants to be the first address the issue for fear that a fix might break some websites and prompt users to switch to other browsers. He said the browser vendors should work together to resolve the issue and that if they can't, the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission might have to mandate a coordinated effort to address the problem.

"This is an issue of national security," he said. "The real story is this is happening every day."

See the latest IT solutions at Interop New York. Learn to leverage business technology innovations--including cloud, virtualization, security, mobility, and data center advances--that cut costs, increase productivity, and drive business value. Save 25% on Flex and Conference Passes or get a Free Expo Pass with code CPFHNY25. It happens in New York City, Oct. 3-7, 2011. Register now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19619
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
domain/section/markdown/markdown.go in Documize before 3.5.1 mishandles untrusted Markdown content. This was addressed by adding the bluemonday HTML sanitizer to defend against XSS.
CVE-2019-19616
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
An Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR) vulnerability in the Xtivia Web Time and Expense (WebTE) interface used for Microsoft Dynamics NAV before 2017 allows an attacker to download arbitrary files by specifying arbitrary values for the recId and filename parameters of the /Home/GetAttachment fun...
CVE-2019-19617
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
phpMyAdmin before 4.9.2 does not escape certain Git information, related to libraries/classes/Display/GitRevision.php and libraries/classes/Footer.php.
CVE-2012-1114
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
A Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists in LDAP Account Manager (LAM) Pro 3.6 in the filter parameter to cmd.php in an export and exporter_id action. and the filteruid parameter to list.php.
CVE-2012-1115
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
A Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists in LDAP Account Manager (LAM) Pro 3.6 in the export, add_value_form, and dn parameters to cmd.php.