Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Weakness In Internet Security Uncovered

Date:
January 1, 2009
Source:
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Summary:
Independent security researchers have found a weakness in the Internet digital certificate infrastructure that allows attackers to forge certificates that are fully trusted by all commonly used web browsers.

Independent security researchers in California and researchers at the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in the Netherlands, EPFL in Switzerland, and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands have found a weakness in the Internet digital certificate infrastructure that allows attackers to forge certificates that are fully trusted by all commonly used web browsers.

Related Articles


As a result of this weakness it is possible to impersonate secure websites and email servers and to perform virtually undetectable phishing attacks, implying that visiting secure websites is not as safe as it should be and is believed to be. By presenting their results at the 25C3 security congress in Berlin on the 30th of December, the experts hope to increase the adoption of more secure cryptographic standards on the Internet and therewith increase the safety of the internet.

When you visit a website whose URL starts with "https", a small padlock symbol appears in the browser window. This indicates that the website is secured using a digital certificate issued by one of a few trusted Certification Authorities (CAs). To ensure that the digital certificate is legitimate, the browser verifies its signature using standard cryptographic algorithms. The team of researchers has discovered that one of these algorithms, known as MD5, can be misused.

The first significant weakness in the MD5 algorithm was presented in 2004 at the annual cryptology conference "Crypto" by a team of Chinese researchers. They had managed to pull off a so-called "collision attack" and were able to create two different messages with the same digital signature. While this initial construction was severely limited, a much stronger collision construction was announced by the researchers from CWI, EPFL and TU/e in May 2007. Their method showed that it was possible to have almost complete freedom in the choice of both messages. The team of researchers has now discovered that it is possible to create a rogue certification authority (CA) that is trusted by all major web browsers by using an advanced implementation of the collision construction and a cluster of more than 200 commercially available game consoles.

The team of researchers has thus managed to demonstrate that a critical part of the Internet's infrastructure is not safe. A rogue CA, in combination with known weaknesses in the DNS (Domain Name System) protocol, can open the door for virtually undetectable phishing attacks. For example, without being aware of it, users could be redirected to malicious sites that appear exactly the same as the trusted banking or e-commerce websites they believe to be visiting. The web browser could then receive a forged certificate that will be erroneously trusted, and users' passwords and other private data can fall in the wrong hands. Besides secure websites and email servers, the weakness also affects other commonly used software.

"The major browsers and Internet players – such as Mozilla and Microsoft – have been contacted to inform them of our discovery and some have already taken action to better protect their users," reassures Arjen Lenstra, head of EPFL's Laboratory for Cryptologic Algorithms. "To prevent any damage from occurring, the certificate we created had a validity of only one month – August 2004 – which expired more than four years ago. The only objective of our research was to stimulate better Internet security with adequate protocols that provide the necessary security."

According to the researchers, their discovery shows that MD5 can no longer be considered a secure cryptographic algorithm for use in digital signatures and certificates. Currently MD5 is still used by certain certificate authorities to issue digital certificates for a large number of secure websites. "Theoretically it has been possible to create a rogue CA since the publication of our stronger collision attack in 2007," says cryptanalyst Marc Stevens (CWI). "It's imperative that browsers and CAs stop using MD5, and migrate to more robust alternatives such as SHA-2 and the upcoming SHA-3 standard," insists Lenstra.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Weakness In Internet Security Uncovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081231005357.htm>.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. (2009, January 1). Weakness In Internet Security Uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081231005357.htm
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Weakness In Internet Security Uncovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081231005357.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) — Microsoft's Q3 earnings showed its tablets and cloud services are really hitting their stride. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Apps to Organize Your Life

The Best Apps to Organize Your Life

Buzz60 (Oct. 23, 2014) — Need help organizing your bills, schedules and other things? Ko Im (@konakafe) has the best apps to help you stay on top of it all! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nike And Apple Team Up To Create Wearable ... Something

Nike And Apple Team Up To Create Wearable ... Something

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — For those looking for wearable tech that's significantly less nerdy than Google Glass, Nike CEO Mark Parker says don't worry, It's on the way. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins