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Elgamal, Marlinspike join dream team tackling SSL screw-ups

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Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Infosec 2012 A non-profit organisation has brought together a team of experts to tackle SSL governance and implementation issues and promote best practice.

The Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM) is convening a task force that includes Taher Elgamal, one of the creators of the SSL protocol; Moxie Marlinspike, creator of Convergence; Ivan Ristic, director of engineering at Qualys; and other experts from Google, PayPal and GlobalSign. Ristic founded SSL Labs, a research project to measure and track the effective security of SSL on the internet.

Earlier this week, the organisation launched SSL Pulse, a service that aims to track the progress of how well SSL is implemented across top websites. The SSL Pulse dashboard, launched on Wednesday, currently indicates that only 10 per cent of the world's top websites follow SSL deployment best practices.

Problems include sites that support weak or insecure cipher suites or those running with an incomplete certificate chain, among other shortcomings. This doesn't necessarily mean such sites are wide open to fraud, but it does mean they might be better protected than they currently stand.

Organisations can visit the site to retrieve their SSL implementation scores and download the SSL/TLS deployment best practice guides. "Making SSL pervasive on the internet is a must in order for the web to become a safer place,” said Philippe Courtot, founder of TIM and chief exec of Qualys. "Solving the implementation and governance problem can be achieved through industry collaboration and better auditing tools that give us visibility into the root causes of these issues and how to fix them."

The Trustworthy Internet Movement aims to develop proposals to make SSL pervasive on the web. It has set itself the tough task of fixing both the SSL and Certificate Authority (CA) ecosystems.

Ristic said he has invited representatives of browser suppliers to join the TIM taskforce, which he said aims to "raise awareness" about configuration problems and other common SSL deployment shortcomings. The group will not work in isolation from other entities working on the problem. "Tons of people doing great work," Ristic told El Reg. "We are not looking to do coding work ourselves but may well decide to fund it.

"We want to concentrate look at the SSL threat model and raise awareness about deployment issues," he concluded. ®

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