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RE: [bc-gnso] Hackers exploit chink in Web's armor

  • To: "Phil Corwin" <psc@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: RE: [bc-gnso] Hackers exploit chink in Web's armor
  • From: <lynn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 17:23:27 -0700

<html><body><span style="font-family:Verdana; color:#000000; 
font-size:10pt;"><div>Thanks Phil!</div><div>This is helpful in discussions 
about consumer uses of Whois data. &nbsp;One view is that Whois data, if 
accurate and reliable, could provide validation of who "owns" a website. 
&nbsp;Another view is that websites who use SSL encryption have been 
"validated" and consumers can see the little lock icon on the URL space. &nbsp; 
</div><div><br></div><div>This article gives a good explanation on why 
consumers cannot rely on the SSL icon as proof that ownership of a domain name 
and associated website have been verified. &nbsp;And it emphasizes the need for 
consumer trust in the accuracy and ease of availability of Whois 
<blockquote id="replyBlockquote" webmail="1" style="border-left: 2px solid 
blue; margin-left: 8px; padding-left: 8px; font-size:10pt; color:black; 
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-------- Original Message --------<br>
Subject: [bc-gnso] Hackers exploit chink in Web's armor<br>
From: Phil Corwin &lt;<a 
Date: Thu, March 24, 2011 6:12 pm<br>
To: "<a href="mailto:bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx";>bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx</a>" &lt;<a 
    <style id="owaParaStyle">
 #wmQuoteWrapper P  { MARGIN-TOP: 0px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0px }

</style>   <div style="direction: ltr;font-family: Tahoma;color: 
#000000;font-size: 10pt;"> <div> <div>I'm not sure if there is a role 
for&nbsp;ICANN in addressing this, but it certainly appears to be a major 
Internet/e-commerce security issue ---</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a 
 <div>&nbsp;</div> <div style="BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none; TEXT-ALIGN: left; 
BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BACKGROUND-COLOR: transparent; COLOR: #000000; 
OVERFLOW: hidden; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; 
TEXT-DECORATION: none"> <div class="datestamp">March 24, 2011 4:00 AM PDT 
</div> <h1>Hackers exploit chink in Web's armor</h1> <div 
class="postByline"><span class="author">by <a target="_blank" 
href="http://www.cnet.com/profile/declan00/";> <font 
color="#0066a0">Declan&nbsp;</font></a><font color="#0066a0">McCullagh</font> 
and&nbsp;<font color="#0066a0"><a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">Elinor</font></a><a target="_blank" 
href="http://www.cnet.com/profile/elinormills/";> Mills</a></font><a 
target="_blank" href="http://www.cnet.com/profile/elinormills/";></a> 
</span></div> <div class="postByline"><span class="linkIcon 
fontSize"></span><span class="fbShare">  <fb:share-button class="fb_XFBML " 
class="fb_button_text"></span></span></fb:share-button></span> </div> <div 
class="postBody"> <div>A long-known but little-discussed vulnerability in the 
modern Internet's design was highlighted yesterday by a <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">report</font></a> that hackers traced to Iran spoofed the 
encryption procedures used to secure connections to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, 
and other major Web sites. </div> <div>This design, pioneered by Netscape in 
the early and mid-1990s, allows the creation of encrypted channels to Web 
sites, an important security feature typically identified by a closed lock icon 
in a browser. The system relies on third parties to issue so-called 
certificates that prove that a Web site is legitimate when making an "https://"; 
connection. </div> <div>The problem, however, is that the list of certificate 
issuers has ballooned over the years to approximately 650 organizations, which 
may not always follow the strictest security procedures. And each one has a 
copy of the Web's master keys. </div> <div style="WIDTH: 270px" 
class="cnet-image-div image-MEDIUM float-right"><a target="_blank" 
class="cnet-image" alt="Compromise related to fraudulent digital certificates 
is traced to IP addresses in Iran, Comodo says." 
width="270" height="73" entertime="1301004681208" showedtooltip="0"><font 
color="#0066a0"> </font></a> <div class="image-caption">Compromise related to 
fraudulent digital certificates is traced to IP addresses in Iran, Comodo says. 
</div> <span class="image-credit">(Credit: <a target="_blank" 
href="http://www.comodo.com/Comodo-Fraud-Incident-2011-03-23.html";> <font 
color="#0066a0">Comodo</font></a>)</span> </div> <div>"There is this problem 
that exists today where there are a very large number of certificate 
authorities that are trusted by everyone and everything," says <a 
target="_blank" href="https://www.eff.org/about/staff/peter-eckersley";><font 
color="#0066a0">Peter Eckersley</font></a>, senior staff technologist at the <a 
target="_blank" href="http://www.eff.org/";><font color="#0066a0">Electronic 
Frontier Foundation</font></a> who has compiled a list of them. </div> 
<div>This has resulted in a bizarre situation in which companies like Etisalat, 
a wireless carrier in the United Arab Emirates that <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">implanted spyware</font></a> on customers' BlackBerry devices, 
possess the master keys that can be used to impersonate any Web site on the 
Internet, even the U.S. Treasury, <a 
href="http://BankofAmerica.com";>BankofAmerica.com</a>, and <a 
href="http://Google.com";>Google.com</a>. So do more than 100 German 
universities, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and random 
organizations like the Gemini Observatory, which operates a pair of 8.1-meter 
diameter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. </div> <div>It's a situation that 
nobody would have anticipated nearly two decades ago when the cryptographic 
protection known as&nbsp;SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) began to be embedded into 
Web browsers. At the time, the focus was on securing the connections, not on 
securing the certificate authorities themselves--or limiting their numbers. 
</div> <div>"It was the '90s," says security researcher <a target="_blank" 
href="http://dankaminsky.com/";> <font color="#0066a0">Dan </font></a><font 
color="#0066a0">Kaminsky</font>, who <a target="_blank" 
href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-10789_3-9985618-57.html";> <font 
color="#0066a0">discovered</font></a> a serious Domain Name System flaw in 
2008. "We didn't realize how this system would grow." Today, there are now 
about 1,500 master keys, or signing certificates, trusted by Internet Explorer 
and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.cnet.com/firefox-3/"; 
section="luke_topic"><font color="#0066a0">Firefox</font></a>. </div> <div>The 
vulnerability of today's authentication infrastructure came to light after 
Comodo, a Jersey City, N.J.-based firm that issues&nbsp;SSL certificates, 
alerted Web browser makers that an unnamed European partner had its systems 
compromised. The attack originated from an Iranian Internet Protocol address, 
according to&nbsp;Comodo Chief Executive&nbsp;Melih Abdulhayoglu, who told CNET 
that the skill and sophistication suggested a government was behind the 
intrusion. </div> <div>Spoofing those Web sites would allow the Iranian 
government to use what's known as a man-in-the-middle attack to impersonate the 
legitimate sites and grab passwords, read e-mail messages, and monitor any 
other activities its citizens performed, even if Web browsers show that the 
connections were securely protected with&nbsp;SSL encryption. </div> 
<div>If&nbsp;Comodo is correct about the attack originating from Iran, it 
wouldn't be the first government in the region to have taken similar steps. 
Late last year, the Tunisian government <a target="_blank" 
 <font color="#0066a0">undertook</font></a> an ambitious scheme to steal an 
entire country's worth of Gmail, Yahoo, and&nbsp;Facebook passwords. It used 
malicious JavaScript code to siphon off unencrypted log-in credentials, which 
allowed government agents to infiltrate or delete protest-related discussions. 
</div> <div>Comodo's&nbsp;revelation throws into sharp relief the list of flaws 
inherent in the current system. There is no automated process to revoke 
fraudulent certificates. There is no public list of certificates that companies 
like&nbsp;Comodo have issued, or even which of its resellers or partners have 
been given a duplicate set of the master keys. There are no mechanisms to 
prevent fraudulent certificates for Yahoo Mail or Gmail from being issued by 
compromised companies, or repressive regimes bent on surveillance; Tunisia even 
has its own <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">certificate-issuing government agency</font></a>. </div> 
<div>"These organizations act as cornerstones of security and trust on the 
Internet, but it seems like they're not doing basic due diligence that other 
organizations are expect to do, like the banks," says Mike Zusman, managing 
consultant at Web app security firm&nbsp;<font color="#0066a0"><a 
target="_blank" href="http://intrepidusgroup.com/";><font 
color="#0066a0">Intrepidus</font></a><a target="_blank" 
href="http://intrepidusgroup.com/";> Group</a></font><a target="_blank" 
href="http://intrepidusgroup.com/";></a>. "I'm not sure what we need to do but I 
think it's time we start addressing the issue of trust and issues of 
certificate authorities potentially not living up to standards that they should 
be." </div> <div>Over the last few years, a handful of papers and 
demonstrations at hacker conferences have focused more attention on the topic. 
But the&nbsp;Comodo intrusion, which appears to be the first public evidence of 
an actual attack on the way the Web handles authentication, could be a catalyst 
for rethinking the way to handle security. </div> <div>Two years ago, for 
instance,&nbsp;Zusman <a target="_blank" 
href="http://intrepidusgroup.com/insight/2009/01/nobody-is-perfect/";> <font 
color="#0066a0">was able to get a certificate</font></a> from Thawte, a 
VeriSign subsidiary, for "<a href="http://login.live.com";>login.live.com</a>" 
just based on an e-mail address he created on the Hotmail domain. Even though 
it was revoked, it still worked in a Web browser during a demonstration at the 
Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. Comodo, too, has previously been shown to 
have <a target="_blank" href="https://blog.startcom.org/?p=145";><font 
color="#0066a0">lax security standards</font></a> among its resellers as far 
back as December 2008. </div> <div>"Remember, the only reason Iran has to go to 
the lengths they've gone to&nbsp;to get certificates is because they don't have 
a (certificate issuer) of their own... most countries can just generate their 
own," says Moxie Marlinspike, chief technology officer of mobile app developer 
<a target="_blank" href="http://www.whispersys.com/";><font 
color="#0066a0">Whisper Systems</font></a>, who has discovered <a 
color="#0066a0">serious problems</font></a> with Web authentication before. One 
problem, he says, is that companies that issue certificates have a strong 
economic incentive to make it as easy as possible to obtain them. </div> 
<div>Another worrisome aspect is that browser makers don't always have a good 
way to revoke fraudulent certificates. A <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">discussion thread</font></a> at <a 
href="http://Mozilla.org";>Mozilla.org</a>, makers of the Firefox browser, shows 
that after being alerted by Comodo, they had no process to revoke the faux 
certificates. Mozilla developers ended up having to write new code and test a 
patch, which took a few days and, even after its release, meant that only users 
who downloaded new versions of Firefox benefit. </div> <div>Google's Chrome, on 
the other hand, uses a <a target="_blank" 
 <font color="#0066a0">transparent update system</font></a> for desktop 
versions but not necessarily mobile ones. Microsoft <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">said yesterday</font></a> that "an update is available for all 
supported versions of Windows to help address this issue." </div> <div><a 
target="_blank" href="http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/";><font 
color="#0066a0">Ross Anderson</font></a>, professor of security engineering at 
the University of Cambridge's computer laboratory, offered an anecdote in this 
paper (<a target="_blank" href="http://spw.stca.herts.ac.uk/2.pdf";><font 
color="#0066a0">PDF</font></a>): "I asked a panelist from the Mozilla 
Foundation why, when I updated Firefox the previous day, it had put back a 
certificate I'd previously deleted, from an&nbsp;organisation associated with 
the Turkish military and intelligence services. The Firefox spokesman said that 
I couldn't remove certificates--I had to leave them in but edit them to remove 
their capabilities - while an outraged Turkish delegate claimed that the body 
in question was merely a 'research organisation.'" </div> <div>Jacob Appelbaum, 
a Tor Project developer who is a subject of a <a target="_blank" 
href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20042277-281.html";> <font 
color="#0066a0">legal spat</font></a> with the Justice Department over his <a 
target="_blank" href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20010866-83.html";> <font 
color="#0066a0">work with </font></a><font color="#0066a0">WikiLeaks</font>, 
says Mozilla should have warned of the vulnerability immediately and shipped 
Firefox 4 with a way to detect and revoke bad certificates turned on by 
default. (The technique is called <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">Online Certificate Status Protocol</font></a>, or OSCP). </div> 
<div>"Mozilla's not taking their responsibility to the Internet seriously," 
said Appelbaum, who wrote an <a target="_blank" 
 <font color="#0066a0">independent analysis</font></a> of the situation. "A Web 
browser isn't a toy. It's being used as a tool to overthrow governments...At 
the end of the day, they did not put their users first." </div> <div>Some 
long-term technical fixes have been proposed, with names like <a 
target="_blank" href="http://www.ietf.org/id/draft-ietf-dane-protocol-06.txt";> 
<font color="#0066a0">DANE</font></a>, <font color="#0066a0"><a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">HASTLS</font></a></font>,&nbsp;<font color="#0066a0"><a 
color="#0066a0">CAA</font></a></font> (Comodo's Philip Hallam-Baker is a 
co-author), and <font color="#0066a0"> <a target="_blank" 
color="#0066a0">Monkeysphere</font></a></font>. The technology known as <a 
 color="#0066a0">Domain Name System Security Extensions</font></a>, or DNSSEC, 
can help. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eckersley, who runs the 
groups&nbsp;<font color="#0066a0"><a target="_blank" 
href="https://www.eff.org/observatory";><font color="#0066a0">SSL</font></a><a 
target="_blank" href="https://www.eff.org/observatory";> 
Observatory</a></font><a target="_blank" 
href="https://www.eff.org/observatory";></a> that tracks&nbsp;SSL certificates, 
hints that he'll soon offer another proposal about how to reinforce the Web's 
cryptographic architecture. </div> <div>"We do in fact need a way not to trust 
everyone," Eckersley says. "We have 1,500 master certificates for the Web 
running around. That's 1,500 places that could be hacked and all of a sudden 
you have to scramble to dream up a solution." </div> </div> <br> <br> Read 
more: <a target="_blank" style="COLOR: #003399" 
<div>&nbsp;</div> <div style="FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma; FONT-SIZE: 13px"> 
<div><strong><font color="#000080">Philip S. Corwin, Founding 
Principal</font></strong></div> <div><strong><font 
<div><strong><font color="#000080">1155 F Street, NW</font></strong></div> 
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<div><strong><font color="#000080"></font></strong> </div> 
<div><em><strong><font color="#000080">"Luck is the residue of design" -- 
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</div> </div> </div> </div>   

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