On Mar 25, 2010, at 8:05 AM, Dave Kleiman wrote:
March 24th, 2010 New Research Suggests That Governments May Fake SSL Certificates
Technical Analysis by Seth Schoen 

""Today two computer security researchers, Christopher Soghoian and Sid Stamm, released a draft of a forthcoming research paper in which theypresent evidence that certificate authorities (CAs) may be cooperating with government agencies to help them spy undetected on "secure" encrypted communications....
While the paper provides a nice analysis and description of the situation, what surprises me most about it is ... that anyone was surprised. Hardware to support man-in-the-middle splicing of HTTPS sessions has been available in the marketplace for several years. They are sold by companies like Bluecoat who build appliances to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic at the interconnection points between corporate networks and the greater Internet. They're sold as means to monitor and control what sites can be accessed (they block things like gambling sites, pornography - whatever the corporation doesn't want its employees browsing from work) and also inspect the data for auditing/information leakage control purposes.

In the corporate environment, where desktops/laptops are managed, the way such a device is given the ability to do MitM attacks is straightforward: The corporation simply pushes a new root CA - for a CA that actually lives inside the intercept device - into the browser's pool. The device can then generate and sign any certs it needs to to wedge into any HTTPS session invisibly. Even when the corporation allows personal machines onto the network, it will often require users to accept a corporate CA for access to internal sites. Of course, since browsers only have one pool of CA's, once you've accepted that CA, you've accepted invisible MitM attacks by the monitoring device.

Since the techniques and hardware for doing this has been around for a while, it should come as no surprise that someone would notice that governments are another good market - in fact, one that tends to be fairly price-insensitive. It's distressing how much government intrusion technology is basically relabeled corporate security/ compliance technology.

Governments may or may not be in a position to force CA's onto a machine, so it would be natural for them to compel existing CA's, as the paper rightly points out.
                                                        -- Jerry

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