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Posts Tagged ‘ssl certificates’

Neutralizing and protecting against rogue TLS certificates in the wild

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Techniques for fighting mis-issuance of TLS certificates

The web has reached the tipping point where encrypted traffic – connections protected by HTTPS, which is HTTP over SSL/TLS – has overtaken unencrypted (HTTP) traffic. There are many reasons for this change, variously called HTTPS Everywhere or Always-On SSL, which we described in a previous FYI blog post. While this move certainly improves the security and privacy of interactions on the web, there still remains the Achilles’ heel of this ecosystem – the problem of mis-issuance of cryptographically legitimate certificates to rogue site operators. This blog post describes recent steps taken to guard against such occurrences, using techniques which can raise the necessary alarms before much harm propagates.

The Achilles’ heel of internet security is the mis-issuance of cryptographically legitimate certificates to rogue site operators.

 

SSL and TLS Certificates

The entire edifice of SSL/TLS-based security rests on certificates issued to the legitimate operators of websites, so that browser indicators (the secure lock icon, for example) based on various cryptographic checks can reassure users that they are communicating with their intended destination. Mis-issued certificates, whether available through lax procedures at a certificate authority (CA) or by a malignant act, removes that critical trust. A browser’s cryptographic checks cannot distinguish a duly-vetted legitimate server from a man-in-the-middle that has improperly obtained a cryptographically valid certificate. The latter might arise owing to the (mis)placed trust in a compromised root CA embedded in the browser or one issued by a corrupted intermediate CA that is in a legitimate chain of trusted certificates.  This is, for example, why Google is reducing trust in SSL certificates issued by Symantec and why even Microsoft is the latest and last browser vendor to no longer going to trust anything issued by the WoSign/StartCom certificate authorities.

Some CAs make mistakes and fix them; some have a habit not well controlling certificate issuance.  This seriously damages our trust in a secure internet.

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Google to Strip Trust from Symantec SSL Certificates

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Last Thursday, a Google developer announced that Chrome will be reducing its levels of trust in Symantec issued SSL certificates, as well as those issued by its subsidiaries. This comes after a two year skirmish between the two companies, with Google asserting that Symantec has continually failed to follow appropriate verification practices.

Under Google’s proposal, the Extended Validation status from Symantec issued certificates will be removed, the validity period of newly issued Symantec certificates will be gradually reduced to a maximum of nine months, and current Symantec certificates will be incrementally distrusted with each Google Chrome release up to 64. These measures aim to balance out compatibility problems alongside the security risks.

Symantec SSL Certificate

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Everything You Wanted to Know about SSL Certificates

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

SSL certificates are pervasively used on the Internet for securing all the data sent between servers, devices, clouds, phones, computers, etc.  SSL certificates are intrinsic in the encryption of communications using  “SSL and TLS” (how do these work?  What is the difference?) — you can’t have secure communications without them!

In this article, we answer many common and not-so-common questions about SSL certificates.

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