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
Member since:
2006-07-14

A ssl cert CA's business is based on trust. Others must trust them to at a minimum keep their cert issuing authority out of the hands of bad guys. If they don't as in the case of DigiNotar, then people like me stop trusting them. Then people who expect things to work, find they don't and blame the company they are trying to connect with. Then that company switches CA roots to someone who is trusted. And they system works for everyone again.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

So I guess you also removed Comodo, last time ?

To bad you can't use a quarter of the whole HTTPS sites on the internet.

You see, it isn't that simple. :-(

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

I didn't even know Comodo was hit.

http://www.infoworld.com/t/authentication/weaknesses-in-ssl-certifi...


You can't reasonably block them without breaking most HTTPS sites. If I'm not mistaken, microsoft has also chosen them to do code signing certificates in win vista+.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

I was referring to a different use of HTTPS other than the www. Which, I'd prefer not to delve into. But rest assured Comodo is blacklisted as is DigiNotar. In fact, we're in the process of switching to our own white list, rather than the default ones you see in browsers.

But actually, I did personally remove it from all of my browsers. It hasn't been a problem yet. Are there any big sites that actually use Comodo as a cert? Most I see are GeoTrust, Verisign,Thawte, Net Sol, TrustWave.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Bill Shooter of Bul,

"Then that company switches CA roots to someone who is trusted. And they system works for everyone again."

I know you understand what is going on. However what you view as working system, I view as a broken model.

3rd party authentication, as with the CAs, is inherently problematic when the CA's security is lower than that of the websites using SSL. As it stands, any CA has the technical ability to create a fraudulent certificate for any website. No matter what precautions SSL users/websites take, they are dependent upon *ALL* CA's to not screw up.

The CIA probably was not a client of DigiNotar, and yet they were a victim of the leak. DigiNotar didn't even bother to tell anyone about the leak for several weeks - if there are more leaked keys out there, we'd have no idea.

I don't want to sensationalize this and blow the risks out of proportion, but 3rd party trust is a disturbing requirement of SSL.

I'd be a bigger proponent of a secure DNS based solution which guaranties that we are communicating with the registered owner of a domain name. Everyone with a domain name would be entitled to publish their own certificate in their DNS records and not have to use a CA for the privilege.

This would still require trust in one's hosting provider to supply the legit certificate via secure DNS, however since trusting a hosting provider is implicit anyways, it doesn't increase the scope of trust and it can be insourced to increase security.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

You raise some good points. I would be in favor of a better system that wouldn't allow any trusted CA to issue a cert for any site.

Given the current system that we have, the best bet is to restrict the number of CA's that you trust.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

(sorry, the whole thing became a bit large)

A long time ago there was one CA and people were not all that happy about that either.

DNSSEC (crypto keys for DNS) with DANE (which is a proposed RFC) would be the closest thing to what you talk about, is in a way a single CA-system.

DNS is a hierarchy, it starts at the 'root'.

With ICANN at the top (root) and operations of the crypto handled by ICANN/IANA and Verisign.

The DNS root-servers however are handled by different organisations around the world. One is a large ISP (Cogent), one again is Verisign, one is the RIPE (European IP-addresses organisation), an other is the US department of defense. The list is here: http://www.root-servers.org/

The money to run ICANN comes from the US department of commerce (if I'm not mistaken). Although the department did sign a contract saying they don't interfere with technical operations.

The money from IANA and RIPE comes mostly from the people that need the IP-addresses. IANA is like RIPE, they 'lease IP-addresses' to organisations like ISP's that need them.

While they normally only tell DNS-servers where to find the DNS-servers for .com (which is Verisign) they could in theory point it somewhere else.

However DNSSEC adds crypto in the mix and access to the crypto keys is limited to a bunch of people from around the world.

As you can see it is complicated. ;-)

But there is a root and thus it is kind of similair to a single-CA-system. But a lot of different people and organisations have a say in different parts of it.

A lot of the organisations are US companies (because of historic reasons ofcourse) and thus the US has some power of those organisations.

Not everyone likes that, the Internet should be 'owned' by everyone.

DANE depends on DNSSEC being deployed and that deployment has been slow. Some currently deployed software and firewalls are not compatible. After all it is the largest change to DNS since it was created almost 30 years ago. Just an example, some operating systems and DSL-routers need to be fixed before everyone can use it.

Edited 2011-09-07 10:53 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2