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One year on, SSL servers STILL cower before the BEAST

70% of sites still vulnerable to cookie monster

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

The latest monthly survey by the SSL Labs project has discovered that many SSL sites remain vulnerable to the BEAST attack, more than a year after the underlying vulnerability was demonstrated by security researchers.

BEAST is short for Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS. The stealthy piece of JavaScript works with a network sniffer to decrypt the encrypted cookies that a targeted website uses to grant access to restricted user accounts.

October figures from SSL Pulse survey of 179,000 popular websites secured with the ubiquitous secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol reveals that 71 per cent (127,000) are still vulnerable to the BEAST attack.

The latest stats show little change from September figures, down just one percentage point from the 71.6 per cent vulnerable to the BEAST attack recorded last month.

Exposure to the so-called CRIME attack was also rife, 41 per cent of the sample support SSL Compression, a key prerequisite of the attack.

The so-called CRIME technique lures a vulnerable web browser into leaking an authentication cookie created when a user starts a secure session with a website. Once the cookie has been obtained, it can be used by hackers to log in to the victim's account on the site.

The root cause of the BEAST attack, first outlined by security researchers in September 2011, is a vulnerable ciphersuite on servers. The dynamics of the CRIME attack are more complex but capable of being thwarted at the browser or quashed on a properly updated and configured server.

The SSL Pulse survey also looks at factors such the completeness of certificate chains and cipher strengths, among other factors.

Of the 179,000 sites surveyed only 24,400 (or 13.6 per cent) deserve the designation as "secure sites", according to SSL Labs. ®

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