Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Sep 2011 22:26 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption So, people from within Iran have hacked the Dutch company DigiNotar, allowing them to issue fake certificates so they could listen in on Iranian dissidents and other organisation within Iran. This is a very simplified version of the story, since it's all quite complicated and I honestly don't even understand all of it. In any case, DigiNotar detected the intrusion July 19, but didn't really do anything with it until it all blew up in their face this past week. Now, the Dutch government has taken over operational management of DigiNotar... But as a Dutch citizen, that doesn't really fill me with confidence, because, well - whenever the Dutch government does anything even remotely related to IT technology, they mess it up. And mess it up bad.
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Bill Shooter of Bul,

1 - I think you missed my point. A bank/commerce site can choose whatever CA they want, but it doesn't matter when 99% of their customers (purely made up) have default CAs in their browsers. It may not be the site's fault, but users are never the less vulnerable through the weakest CAs in their browser. There is absolutely nothing you can do as a website owner to protect your users.

2 - That's quite a hassle. Even for people who have the extra time and expertise to do it, it's bad that they'd need to give up their online choices due to shortcomings of HTTPS.

2b - Even if we assume that it's possible to audit the internal security of a CAs in a comparatively meaningful way, that knowledge is not really public. I certainly can't tell if vendor X is more secure than vendor Y, so on what basis should I white/black list them? Popularity?

So, I don't think it's reasonable or helpful to ask normal users to manage their own CAs. If anything, CAs should be licensed and audited to ensure some kind of compliance with security protocols. Better yet, transition to technologies which take third party CAs out of the loop.

Edit: I guess another possibility would be to change HTTPS validation to require two valid certificates from two independent CAs. This would significantly reduce the attack windows when one CA is compromised.

This would be pretty good from a security robustness standpoint...I don't think it'd be popular though.

Edited 2011-09-06 21:52 UTC

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