Feeds

Fix finalized for SSL protocol hole

Now comes the hard part

Boost IT visibility and business value

Engineers have signed off on a fix for a potentially serious vulnerability in the SSL, or secure sockets layer, protocol that secures email, web transactions and other types of sensitive internet traffic.

The final draft updates the industry-wide specifications for SSL, which is also referred to as TLS, or transport layer security. Now that the Internet Engineering Task Force has approved it for publishing as a formal standard, it will update RFC 5246, the most recent request for comments that maps out the current SSL protocol.

The new protocol overhauls the way SSL-enabled software renegotiates encrypted sessions so it's no longer possible for attackers to inject malicious payloads into encrypted traffic passing between two endpoints. The vulnerability violated one of the core guarantees provided by SSL by making it possible to perform man-in-the-middle attacks that could steal sensitive data or tamper with secure transactions.

Since the flaw was disclosed in November, many software makers have disabled the renegotiation feature in their programs, a tweak that meant their applications were technically not compliant with official specifications laid out in RFCs that govern SSL. The new protocol provides a longer-term fix by restoring renegotiation capabilities without putting SSL sessions at risk.

Putting the new blueprint into place, however, won't be quick.

"Now that the standard is final, people will need to go back to polish up their implementations and make sure they conform exactly to the standard so they function well," said Steve Dispensa, chief technology officer of PhoneFactor, a provider of two-factor authentication services whose researchers first reported the decades-old bug. "There's still quite a bit of work to be done."

After the vulnerability became public knowledge, many people dismissed it as an oddity that had little practical effect because the conditions under which it could be exploited were extremely limited. But within a few weeks, a Turkish grad student showed how it could be used to steal Twitter authentication credentials. Twitter responded by disabling SSL renegotiation on its site.

With the completion of the specification, SSL libraries will have to be updated to implement the changes. Applications that rely on those libraries will then have to be updated. Dispensa said he's in the process of patching the open-source GNU TLS so it's compliant, and he believes OpenSSL already has done so.

PhoneFactor maintains this status page of SSL patches, and the IETF announcement of the new standard is here. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?