Feeds

Trustwave admits crafting SSL snooping certificate

Allowing bosses to spy on staff was wrong, says security biz

Boost IT visibility and business value

Certificate Authority Trustwave has revoked a digital certificate that allowed one of its clients to issue valid certificates for any server, thereby allowing one of its customers to intercept their employees' private email communication.

The skeleton-key CA certificate was supplied in a tamper-proof hardware security module (HSM) designed to be used within a data loss prevention (DLP) system. DLP systems are designed to block the accidental or deliberate leaking of company secrets or confidential information.

Using the system, a user's browser or email client would be fooled into thinking it was talking over a secure encrypted link to Gmail, Skype or Hotmail. In reality it was talking to a server on the firm's premises that tapped into communications before relaying them to the genuine server. The DLP system needed to be able to issue different digital certificates from different services on the fly to pull off this approach, which amounts to a man-in-the-middle attack.

The same principle approach might be used in government monitoring activities, such as spying on its own citizens using web services such as Gmail and Skype. Evidence suggests that digital certificates issued by Netherlands-based firm DigiNotar last year were used in this way to eavesdrop on the webmail communications of Iran users last year, although no firm state-sponsored connection has been established.

In a statement published on Sunday, Trustwave said it supplied the tamper-proof digital stamp issuing device to a private customer (not an ISP, government or law enforcement agency), adding that the technology could not have been used outside the private network to which it was supplied. The CA said it had carried out an audit of the target network before supplying the technology.

Nonetheless, it admits the approach was misguided and has promised not to use the technique again. It has also revoked the offending subordinate digital credential-issuing root server.

Sysadmins applying data loss prevention policies that state that a firm has the right the scan and or block webmails sent from work can set up an internal certificate authority on machines connected to a local intranet. That approach wouldn't work on personal mobile devices a user brought into work and this seems to be the reason why Trustwave took the approach it did – which it now admits was misguided.

Trustwave has come clean and admitted it supplied technology that enabled third parties to issue arbitrary SSL server certificates for monitoring, albeit for benign reasons. This is a significant admission and further shakes confidence in the whole digital certificate trust model, already rocked by the Comodo breach, the DigiNotar hack, the SSL BEAST attack and other problems over recent months. ®

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?