Feeds

Crypto guru urges incentives for SSL cert recall

Come in MD5, your time is up

SANS - Survey on application security programs

An SSL security guru is urging incentives to promote website certificate upgrade in response to problems with a widely-used digital-signature algorithm.

Collisions in the MD5 hashing algorithm mean that two different inputs can produce the same output. Last year independent researchers showed how the cryptographic flaw might make it possible to forge counterfeit digital certificate credentials.

The trick might be used to set up phony websites with bogus certificates that, as far as a visiting surfer's browser is concerned, are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Dr Taher Elgamal, chief security officer at Axway, who is credited as the inventor of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, told El Reg that solving the problem means moving onto digital certificates that use a more secure SHA-1 or SHA-2 hash function. However, progress has been far too slow, according to Elgamal. Although he didn't have figures the distinguished cryptographer was adamant that the digital certificate refresh process was p[proceeding only at snail's pace, and needed to be pushed along.

"Web servers need to discontinue MD5," Elgamal told El Reg. "VeriSign, which is fully aware of the problem, should offer discounted SHA-1 and SHA-2 certificates."

MD5 was fine in the past but is now simply not sophisticated enough. Indeed even SHA-1 is beginning to show itself as potentially vulnerable to the same sort of collision problems, albeit to a lesser extent than MD5.

"Algorithms don't stay secure forever, it's an issue of computing," Elgamal explained.

Much has been written, since the discovery of a serious vulnerability in the nets addressing system by Dan Kaminsky last year, about the need to move from DNS to a more secure version, DNSSec.

The SSL protocol, by contrast, remains robust and workable, according to Elgamal. "The protocol needs no big change, it's how it integrates with browser that needs to be improved," he explained.

For one thing, the trust model of browser makes it easy for consumers to add new trusted digital roots (Certificate Authorities). "Browser just randomly trust the root. There's not enough checking on the browser side."

Browser security came across as one of Elgamal's key concerns. He praised Google's developers for adopting a robust security model with Chrome, which used sandboxing to isolate any malware that does come through the browser from the rest of a system while adding that this is "the right model but it's not there yet". More generally, Elgamal said browser developers should "avoid trying to compete on trust", instead working more closely together on security.

Such co-operation is commonplace in cryptography but harder (though not impossible) to imagine between rival development teams at Microsoft, Google and Apple, of course.

Elgamal also said more needed to be done to address the potential danger of man-in-the middle attacks, where hackers sit in the middle of a conversation between a surfer and a bank, impersonating one to the other.

"This breaks the trust model, not the encryption, as such," Elgamal said. He added that two-factor authentication - while not complete - offered a way of mitigating risk. Two-factor authentication technology means, in practice, that users use a token that generates a variable electronic code in addition to their login credentials in order to gain access to an online banking site, for example. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.