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Dutch CA banished for life from Chrome, Firefox

Game over for DigiNotar and its PKIoverheid fiefdom

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The network breach in July that forged a near-perfect replica of a Google.com credential minted more than 200 other SSL certificates for more than 20 different domains, a top manager for Mozilla's Firefox browser said.

In stern rebuke of substandard practices at Netherlands-based certificate authority DigiNotar, Director of Firefox Engineering Johnathan Nightingale recited a litany of failures that put entire internet populations at risk. Bad enough was DigiNotar's inability to accurately account for the certificates it issued, and its six-week delay in warning Mozilla of fraudulent certificates detected in mid July, one of which spoofed the sensitive https://addons.mozilla.org site.

Worse yet was the determination that DigiNotar's lapses resulted in “multiple reports of these certificates being used in the wild.”

“The integrity of the SSL system cannot be maintained in secrecy,” Nightingale wrote in the first, and long-overdue, reprimand of DigiNotar. “Incidents like this one demonstrate the need for active, immediate and and comprehensive communication between CAs and software vendors to keep our collective users safe online.”

Nightingale went on to confirm what El Reg reported earlier today: that Mozilla was updating its software to permanently distrust two DigiNotar certificates formally adopted by the Dutch authorities for official government business. Previously, Mozilla, Google and possibly Microsoft excepted DigiNotar-signed PKIoverheid certificates from their ban after being assured by the Dutch officials they weren't compromised during the security breach DigiNotar detected on July 19.

“The Dutch government has since audited DigiNotar's performance and rescinded this assessment,” Nightingale wrote. “We are now removing the exemption for these certificates, meaning that all DigiNotar certificates will be untrusted by Mozilla products. We understand that other browser vendors are making similar changes.”

Around the same time Nightingale issued his statement, Google released a new version of its Chrome browser that also adds all DigiNotar certificates to a permanent block list.

Representatives with Microsoft have repeatedly declined to answer questions for the past 36 hours. Google officials have confirmed that preparations are under way to block the additional certificates but said discussions are still underway about whether they will follow suit.

Nightingale's update coincided with a bare-bones report from a Dutch news service that said Netherlands Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner gave a press conference in the early hours of Saturday in which he announced plans to “hand over control of internet security to a different firm.”

DigiNotar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vasco Data Security, an Illinois-based provider of two-factor authentication products and services. The company has barely uttered a peep since the fraudulent certificates first surfaced six days ago. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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