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.

Risk

10/14/2016
03:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Thousands Of Secure Websites Dubbed Insecure Due To Cert Error

A certificate revocation exercise gone awry At GlobalSign is browsers to mistakenly treat many sites as insecure. For some users, the problem could take up to four days to resolve.

A maintenance exercise gone awry at root certificate authority GlobalSign caused what could be thousands of websites to be mistakenly treated as insecure by web browsers and therefore become inaccessible to users attempting to reach them.

GlobalSign itself has resolved the issue at its end. But users who visited the affected sites before the problem was resolved could find themselves being blocked until their browser cache expires—a process that could take four or more days.

In an alert this week, GlobalSign described the problem as stemming from its revocation of a cross-certificate linking two root certificates. As a certificate authority that manages several root certificates, GlobalSign provides cross-certificates linking the roots to maximize effectiveness across different platforms, the company said in its alert.

During a scheduled cleanup of some of the links last week, GlobalSign revoked a cross-certificate linking two root certificates. The revoked certificate was included in a Certificate Revocation List (CRL) published Oct. 7.

About a week later, on Oct. 13, when GlobalSign’s delegated Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) responder database was updated, it incorrectly determined that all intermediate or downstream certificates associated with the root had been revoked as well, along with the cross certificate.

This caused browsers that use OCSP to determine the revocation status of digital certificates, to treat thousands of websites using the “revoked” certificates as untrustworthy and in some cases preventing access to the sites.

In an update on the issue posted Friday, GlobalSign said it uses a third-party OCSP responder system for relaying information about the status of its certificates.

“However, and unfortunately for our ecosystem and our stakeholders and their customers, the logic within the responder code base determined that the revocation of the Cross Certificate … was effectively an instruction to also identify all other subordinate certificate authorities,” as bad, the company said.

“We made a couple of incorrect assumptions,” in revoking the cross-certificate linking two roots, says Steve Roylance, strategic products director at GlobalSign, in comments to Dark Reading.

When revoking the certificate, GlobalSign had no idea that the OCSP server would push out responses indicating intermediate certificates had been revoked, he said. “That was unfortunate and not something that was expected,” Roylance says. “It came as a surprise to us,” Roylance says. He added that it is not possible to say how many websites might have been affected by the mix-up.

Since discovering the problem, GlobalSign has removed the cross-certificate from the OCSP database and cleared all caches and made new intermediate certificates available to customers, the company said. However, some end users could continue to experience difficulties accessing affected websites since their browser caches would still show the sites as being untrustworthy. In such situations, the problems will resolve in about four days when the caches refresh, the company said.

Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi, says GlobalSign’s customers too could run into problems installing the newly issued intermediate certificates.

“Do security operations teams know they use GlobalSign? Do they know where the servers that use GlobalSign are located?” he says. “Do they know how to add new CA certificates to application truststores,” he said noting differences in the process for doing so between different applications like WebSphere, Microsoft IIS, and Apache.

“In our experience, most organizations do not have this visibility and are unable to quickly locate and change out certificates,” he says.

Related stories

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2016 | 8:11:24 PM
Browser choice
This is one reason of many I don't rely solely on Firefox.  The blasted thing sometimes won't let you override "certificate errors" that are obviously problematic themselves.
Luxi_Turna
100%
0%
Luxi_Turna,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2016 | 6:41:13 PM
Classic techno screw-up
I thought I was reading The Andromeda Strain.

Simple errors like this spark a "domino effect" failure chain that ends with someone losing all their business records, a hospital making the same fatal mistake on dozens of patients, or a whole town of people being killed like in Bhopal.

Google "failure mode analysis." You'll never feel smug again.

Which is as it should be.
10 Ways to Keep a Rogue RasPi From Wrecking Your Network
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  7/10/2019
The Security of Cloud Applications
Hillel Solow, CTO and Co-founder, Protego,  7/11/2019
Where Businesses Waste Endpoint Security Budgets
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Jim, stop pretending you're drowning in tickets."
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-3571
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
An input validation issue affected WhatsApp Desktop versions prior to 0.3.3793 which allows malicious clients to send files to users that would be displayed with a wrong extension.
CVE-2019-6160
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
A vulnerability in various versions of Iomega and LenovoEMC NAS products could allow an unauthenticated user to access files on NAS shares via the API.
CVE-2019-9700
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
Norton Password Manager, prior to 6.3.0.2082, may be susceptible to an address spoofing issue. This type of issue may allow an attacker to disguise their origin IP address in order to obfuscate the source of network traffic.
CVE-2019-12990
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
Citrix SD-WAN 10.2.x before 10.2.3 and NetScaler SD-WAN 10.0.x before 10.0.8 allow Directory Traversal.
CVE-2019-12991
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-16
Citrix SD-WAN 10.2.x before 10.2.3 and NetScaler SD-WAN 10.0.x before 10.0.8 have Improper Input Validation (issue 5 of 6).