Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Some more manipulations with the cat's fur

As I wrote a number of times, PKI's reliance on Certificate Authorities, which could possibly work 30 years ago when it was originally invented, doesn't perform well now, when the number of CAs has grown significantly, and it has become possible for a wide range of shady entities, both governmental and private, to become CAs or to issue CA certificates and make them trusted on customer computers. This includes hardware vendors (remember Superfish issue), antivirus software (check Kaspersky's root certificate issues), corporate proxies and more.

There's a need to check in some way, that the certificates presented during the connection, are the ones that the original server intended to send. It turns out that there's no standard way to do this, and the browser vendors are not looking for efficient ways to address the problem either. There's a great article on Computerworld, which lists some of the possible solutions for the problem, with descriptions and references. It contains a couple of simple yet easy to implement approaches, which beg for putting them into RFCs and similar standards. Instead, Google goes for implementing hard-to-enforce and hard-to-use approaches like Certificate Transparency Initiative. My vote goes to Certificate Validation Framework. Also, you can choose your favorite approach :).

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ignorance as a key to malware

The very disturbing study, described in detail here, indicates that any security warning are not effective, cause in the worst case people simply not "trust" the warnings. I.e. they trust a fishing website more, than the respected developer of the web browser. Ok ...

I think that's the same reason people go for Trump in these elections.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The flipside of cross-signing

The Chinese certificate authority WoSign used shady practices when issuing the certificates. To make things worse, it acquired the Israeli company named StartSSL and supposedly made it use WoSign's infrastructure. And that infrastructure was either misconfigured, or intentionally abused - we can only guess now.

Now, Apple has removed the root certificate of WoSign from its Trusted Roots. However, the WoSign's CA certificate is counter-signed by two other CAs, and that gives trust to the WoSign's CA. Without explicitly blocking this CA certificate neither Apple nor any other software vendor can't effectively prevent the abuse of the PKI infrastructure, when co-signing is used.

I was a proponent of the approach that certificates must be signed by more than one CA. This makes the system harder to compromise. But counter-signature must be validated using logical AND, not logical OR. One must require all three trusts to remain valid, rather than rely on any of the signatures, like in the above case.

I am wondering, how many security breaches should happen until the industry starts moving in the direction of requiring more than one valid signature on each certificate (or at least on CA certificates).

And I am afraid, that unless such movement is implemented in standards, we'll see vendors going in all directions implementing incompatible, if not mutually exclusive, approaches to strengthening PKI.

Full story here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The inhuman factor

It would be an anecdote if it didn't reflect the poor situation with humans dragging severely behind  the development of technology.

The website of Social Security Service of the US attempted to introduce two-factor authentication. The idea was cancelled after it appeared, that only about 35% of the target audience know, how to read SMS on their phones.

Well, the target audience is those after 65 y.o, so no wonder. But these same people, who can't manage reading a couple of digits from the screen, and typing them back, are still allowed to vote and define the future of the younger generations.

Actually, we'd call all those people technically illiterate. They've learned to read and write, but didn't learn to understand technology.

For those people only biometric authentication such as FIDO UAF could probably work. And that's another investment, which most retired people can't afford. A Catch 22 of a kind ...

Friday, August 19, 2016

A password as a lever

A nice story about how passwords changed the life of the author.

And you know what? It's a great idea. Just try it.