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Government Could Forge SSL Certificates 168

FutureDomain writes "Is SSL becoming pointless? Researchers are poking holes in the chain of trust for SSL certificates which protect sensitive data. According to these hypothesized attacks, governments could compel certificate authorities to give them phony certificates that are signed by the CA, which are then used to perform man in the middle attacks. They point out that Verisign already makes large sums of money by facilitating the disclosure of US consumers' private data to US government law enforcement. The researchers are developing a Firefox plugin (PDF) that checks past certificates and warns of anomalies in the issuing country, but not much can help if government starts spying on the secure connections of its own citizens."
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Government Could Forge SSL Certificates

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  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:24AM (#31625852) Journal

    SSL is, and always has been, and ugly hack. End-to-end encryption should be done at the IP layer, not the TCP layer. Now that we have IPSEC, we have a standard way of doing it properly. The only remaining part of the problem is key distribution, but with DNSSec we can put IPSEC public keys in DNS entries and get end-to-end encryption.

    A government able to insert something into the chain of trust is still able to fake a connection, but distributing the chain of trust makes this a bit harder. The US government won't be able to insert something into a .cn domain, for example, although the Chinese government can. For the ultra-paranoid, you can publish the same IPSec public key on both and make clients compare the two. Unlike an SSL certificate, the IPSec key is visible to anyone, even people who don't try to make a connection, so it's much easier to spot if someone has tampered with the connection, and will be cached in ISP's DNS caches, making an unnoticed attack much harder.

  • by yup2000 ( 182755 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:24AM (#31625862) Homepage

    And it took you how long to figure this out? Anyone with real security in mind would create their own certificates and sign them. What's always been missing is a convenient way to verify the identify of the person you're communicating with. CAs only help in certain situations. SSL has always been more about encrypted content than identification no matter what people try to tell you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:26AM (#31625886)

    Well, at least it would be Obama watching our every move instead of Bush, so it's not that bad. //head-smack

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @12:57PM (#31628460)

    My Firefox displays a message saying "If you're an average internet user, please stare in confusion, panic, pull the plug on your computer, set your internet connection on fire and call the FBI. If you happen to know what you're doing, you may access this site, though we strongly urge you not to, by standing on one leg for exactly 36 minutes while hitting yourself on the head with a chicken."

    Just as the article suggests, it's ready to be overridden by any old large country of questionable ethics at any time, though.

    I'd consider an assurance that I'm connecting to the same content provider each time much more assuring than an assurance that I'm always connecting to someone a CA trusts, so I don't see why they have to penalize small sites from using "casual encryption" with a self-signed certificate.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger