Feeds

Worried OpenSSL uses NSA-tainted crypto? This BUG has got your back

Discovered software blunder disabled distrusted random number generator

High performance access to file storage

As fears grow that US and UK spies have deliberately hamstrung key components in today's encryption systems, users of OpenSSL can certainly relax about one thing.

It has been revealed that the cryptography toolkit – used by reams of software from web browsers for HTTPS to SSH for secure terminals – is not using the discredited random number generator Dual EC DRBG.

And that's due to a bug that's now firmly a WONTFIX.

A coding flaw uncovered in the library prevents "all use" of the dual elliptic curve (Dual EC) deterministic random bit generator (DRBG) algorithm, a cryptographically weak algorithm championed by none other than the NSA.

No other DRBGs used by OpenSSL are affected, we're told.

"The nature of the bug shows that no one has been using the OpenSSL Dual EC DRBG," Steve Marquess of the OpenSSL Software Foundation wrote yesterday in a mailing list post. He credited the find to Stephen Checkoway and Matt Green of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute.

The bug in fips_drbg_ec.c can be fixed with a one-line change so that the Dual EC DRBG state is updated and its output used. It is a rare example of a software screwup that has beneficial side-effects.

Cryptographers have harboured suspicions about Dual EC DRBG for at least six years. The technology was disowned [PDF] earlier this year by US government tech standards body NIST, and people were warned by RSA, EMC's security division, to ditch the algo.

Computer scientists have come to believe that the algorithm's design was crippled during its development, effectively creating a backdoor [PDF] so that encryption systems that relied on it could be easily cracked. Such encryption systems rely on cryptographically secure random number generators to make them extremely hard to predict.

Given that Dual EC DRBG is "pretty much toxic for any purpose", we're told, there are no plans to fix the OpenSSL bug; doing so would be far more trouble than its worth. The best, and most straightforward, resolution of the problem is to snub the technology, which until recently came with a US government endorsement.

"A FIPS 140-2 validated module cannot be changed without considerable expense and effort, and we have recently commenced that process of entirely removing the Dual EC DRBG code from the formally validated module," Marquess added. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.