Delay in disclosing SSL theft put Iranian activists at risk, says researcher
Hacked security company disputes charge
Computerworld - The delay in disclosing a theft of the digital certificates for some of the Web's biggest sites, including Google, Skype, Microsoft and Yahoo, put Iranian activists' lives at risk, a researcher argued Wednesday.
Comodo, the Jersey City, NJ-based security company whose reseller issued the bogus certificates, disputed the charge, saying that at no time was anyone at risk.
Last week, attackers used a valid username and password to obtain nine SSL certificates -- used to prove that a site is legitimate -- from an Comodo affiliate. The certificates were for six Web sites, including the log-on sites for Microsoft's Hotmail, Google's Gmail, the Internet phone and chat service Skype, and Yahoo Mail. A certificate for Mozilla's Firefox add-on site was also acquired.
At least one of the certificates, for logon.yahoo.com, was used to legitimize a fake Yahoo site hosted by an Iranian ISP (Internet service provider), Comodo said yesterday.
Comodo's CEO and founder, Melih Abdulhayoglu, said there was evidence, largely circumstantial, that the Iranian government had backed the hack of its partner to obtain SSL certificates.
"I'm betting on Iran," said Abdulhayoglu, who said that the original attack on its reseller originated from that country. "It was too well executed for cybercriminals. It was very well planned, and they knew exactly what to get."
If that was the case, then Iranian authorities could have manipulated the country's DNS infrastructure -- the Internet's traffic routing mechanism -- to divert any Iranian users trying to reach, say, Yahoo Mail, to a fake version secured by the stolen certificate. When an Iranian logged into his Yahoo Mail account, he would have then unknowingly given his username and password to authorities, who in turn could use those credentials to read his e-mail.
Comodo waited eight days before disclosing the attack, using that time to investigate, revoke the certificates and contact browser makers such as Google, Mozilla and Microsoft so that they could issue updates to block the bogus certificates.
That delay put Iranians at risk, said Jacob Appelbaum, a researcher at the University of Washington's Security and Privacy Research Lab. Appelbaum independently uncovered the theft of the certificates last week, and contacted Comodo, Mozilla and Google with his findings.
On Tuesday, Appelbaum published his analysis on the Tor Project's blog. Tor is a system that lets people connect to the Web anonymously, and is often used in countries where governments monitor their citizens' online activities.
"By keeping this quiet for eight days, Comodo and others put lives at risk," said Appelbaum, referring to Iranian anti-government activists who may have been redirected to fake sites and thus revealed their identities and plans. "They were completely unable to protect themselves during that time. Users should have had this information sooner."
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast Best Practices for the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network To the Age of Constant Connectivity and Information overload
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts