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Re: NetScape's dependence upon RSA down for the count!
>What you have described is the classic 'man in the middle' attack.
>Netscape claims that SSL V.3 is immune to the MITM attack in
>appendix D.4 of the SSL V.3 spec.
>You will need to get the 'filter' (MITM) key signed by Verisign.
>Or hack Verisign's server-key-signing key.
Or hack the Web of Trust used to verify the server's identity.
It _is_ still a Web of Trust even if it's a fascistly-hierarchical tree;
as long as it's possible to get a certificate without heavy contractual
obligations, you can hack it, since the software has no way to check,
now that Netscape is being nice and open and allowing non-Verisign certs.
Remember that anybody can be a CA, and keys can be signed by multiple CAs.
Verisign Business CA signs Carol's Certification Consultants' key.
Carol signs Bob's Better Browser Business's key.
Bob runs a server, selling really cool web tools.
Verisign Business CA signs Moriarty's Mallet Makers' key.
Moriarty signs Mr. X's personna key (trust us.)
Mr. X makes a key called Bob's Better Browser Business,
looking suspiciously like the real thing, only it's
signed by M
. X, and nobody bothered telling Bob about it.
Alice, using Netscape, encounter's http://www.Bob'sBetterBrowser.com/,
and decides to order a Better Browser. She gets Bob's public key
and X.509 certificates by pressing a button, and receives a key
and a pile of certs. Since it's not a secure session yet, is Mr. X
intercepting them and sending her _his_ key and cert for "Bob" and his
personna key with cert from Moriarty and his key and cert from Verisign?
So Mr. X rips off Alice and/or Bob somewhere here, and Alice decides
Bob, who says "Hey, that's not my key, see my real set of certs",
so they go off after Mr. X, who they can't find, and then go after
Moriarty, who says "Hey, it's just a personna certificate; all I
guaranteed was that I didn't sign more than one with the same name
which in fact appears to be true, and while after one case you can't
be sure that there really wasn't a Mr. X somewhere, if three or four
people start walking in saying Mr. X ripped them off using a key
that Moriarty signed, maybe somebody'll think it's a movement...
And remember that if you can finesse a signature, you can fake a Diffie-Hellman
session with authenticated keyparts into tolerating your MITM attack, because
you can convince Alice's browser into accepting the fake key for Bob,
and as far as Bob knows, Alice is just another web-client that he doesn't
know from Adam.
Now, X.509 certs don't limit themselves to hierarchical or Web use, and most
advice on using them recommends limiting the depth of a tree/web that you're
willing to trust. Unfortunately, X.509 certs don't even have a comment field,
much less a standardized "how much do you trust this person you're signing"
though I suppose you can cram a bit into the X.400/500-style name formats.
So if people want to really trust their digital signature system to prevent
forgeries, then either there's got to be a law demanding lots of government-
approved is-a-person nationalized ID card Internet Driver's License stuff,
or else there's a market need for companies providing heavy-duty contractual
backing for their key signatures (e.g. "In return for us signing your CA key
with our high-trust CA key, you agree to accept $XM of liability for any misuse
of keys you sign with it and to force anybody whose key you sign to also sign
a contract like this one"). Probably a need for some standards to go with it.
There's also a need for browsers and any associated certificate checkers to
provide good user interfaces (so the _user_ can read the signature chain)
and good tools to help the user decide what to trust. At minimum, the user
interface probably should support things like different required amounts of
trust for different categories of communication, e.g. business vs. personal
letters vs. politics vs. smuggling.
[This whole posting has been very annoying to write; I've just gone and
argued that you can munge an X.509 hierarchy back into the Web of Trust
and avoid the special-case treatment of Very Important CAs by just signing
the top nodes of a hierarchy yourself and treating them like any other
web-of-trust chain, and been thanking Netscape for allowing us to use
open protocols instead of depending on Big Organizational Infrastructures
that are run by the CON, and now I find myself posting a counter-example
that says sometimes you have to be very careful and/or reinvent Bigness
to avoid getting ripped off. But, hey, while it's not a demonstated hack,
it's at least the theory for pulling one off, so even if it doesn't get
me a T-shirt, at least it wins me a GIF of one :-) ]
# Thanks; Bill
# Bill Stewart, Freelance Information Architect, [email protected]
# Phone +1-510-247-0664 Pager/Voicemail 1-408-787-1281