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Security The Internet

New Extended SSL Certs Make Online Debut 106

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the bar-is-green-site-is-clean dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The first of the new 'extended validation' SSL certificates went live this week, signaling the latest effort by the browser makers and major Web sites to further verify the identity of SSL applicants and help consumers spot fraudulent Web sites, the Washington Post's Security Fix blog notes. The technology is pretty simple: Visit a login page for a site that uses one of these EV certs and the browser bar turns green; likewise, the browser's anti-phishing filters can turn the URL field red when the user is at a known phishing site. There is still quite a bit of debate over whether this whole scheme isn't just a new money-making racket for the SSL providers, and whether small mom-and-pop shops will be able to afford the pricey new certs."
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New Extended SSL Certs Make Online Debut

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  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:16PM (#17592334)
    It isn't whether mom-and-pop shops can afford the new certificates.

    It's whether they'll be allowed to purchase them.

    That's because sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rumith (983060)
      As far as I understand, the main trouble for mom'n'pop shops will be the green colored bar [which they will have a hard time obtaining, as opposed to larger companies]. What is the problem of marking connections established with old certificates green too, at least on non-Microsoft browsers? Another point: is the green bar alone enough of customer value so people go buying in 'those green internet shops'? Would things like comfortable product search, navigation and price suddently stop mattering?
      • by zecg (521666)
        That's what I was thinking. If I had points, I'd mod you up.
      • by Zeinfeld (263942)
        Mom and Pop Shops will have no difficulty getting the Green bar if they use Paypal or the like as their shopping basket.

        The woman quoted on the WSJ site does not have a certificate today, she uses a Paypal shopping basket. So quite why she thinks that she would want an EV cert is not clear.

        Mom and Pop shops that are incorporated can get a cert like anyone else. The issue is not size, it is what is being authenticated. The EV stage 1 rules specify minimum standards for authenticating incorporation creden

      • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:22PM (#17595970) Homepage Journal

        As far as I understand, the main trouble for mom'n'pop shops will be the green colored bar

        It is far worse than that:

        • This encourages people to "trust" Internet Explorer, which has not earned that trust in any meaningful sense
        • This encourages people to "trust" Verisign and others, which have also not earned that trust in any meaningful sense
        • This discourages customers from checking out an online shop themselves, which is just plain really, really bad
        • This certificate is an additional expense not just in obvious costs, but in hoop jumping
        • If a legitimate business is unable to obtain the cert, it will be unfairly damaged by the incorrect presumption of unreliability
        • Certificates never provide anything more valuable than data security, the "identification" is illusory and worse with these, since they create an "underclass" of nominally "untrusted" sites that have no performance reason to be so classed, which is the very definition of an inaccurate take on who is trustworthy
        • The idea that "trust" in one corporation can be settled merely by the endorsement of another is logically and realistically false
        • Browsers, by buying into this corporate scam, have been complicit in hurting the Internet's ability to do business, not in helping it; this is because historically, identification of "who is trusted" has been poorly done by underdoing (in other words, give us a check, we'll give you a cert... just a scam, no ID involved) now we have a scam where it will be overdone, so that perfectly legitimate businesses will be left out in the cold. Again, the idea that a corporation can be trusted to do your due diligence on checking out someone you want to do business with is wrong from its very roots.

        In the end, the benefit of SSL is that of encrypted traffic. The data goes from the client to the server, and nowhere else. That's what a certificate actually ensures. Nothing else. Not one blessed thing. The people who built this scam were either miserably uninformed and/or confused, or underhanded types who recognized the money to scooped up from people who could not afford to have a browser inaccurately claim that their business "might be a scam."

        This is just one more case where superficial thinking about something is being used as an excuse to generate a large and healthy cash cow over and above the current certificate scam. Nothing can legitimately substitute for you checking for complaints, longevity, experience with the product(s) you are interested in, that sort of thing. Which in turn means that by definition, the foisting off on the consumer that the "browser bar turning green" means "shopping or interaction is OK" is outright illegitimate.

        And will any of that stop this from happening? Not a chance. Because it isn't only the consumers that are failing to do due diligence here; it is the browser writers as well, and as per usual, we start with Microsoft who does not have the consumer's best interests at heart.

        The attempt is being made here to do something that is impossible. Wy? Because an operation that was trustworthy yesterday can become untrustworthy tomorrow. Likewise, an operation that was controlled by scammers can replace those people. It is a matter of people and goals that no one can see through the veil of the Internet. This is aside from the creation of a "ghetto" of untrusted merchants who cannot get certified, or cannot afford to get certified.

        I saw a comment elsewhere here by some moron who was pontificating about how "if some business cannot afford $500 for this cert, I would not trust them, etc. ad nauseam." The fact is, some businesses are striving on the edge and that money is important to them. Seeing as how it does nothing for them but keep them from being creamed by this new scam - meaning, it doesn't add value to what they do, just brings them back to a status quo

        • Every one of you who ever coded a browser to announce anything threatening about a site because a certificate was self-signed is complicit in a monumental scam

          The purpose of a certificate is for a server (or less commonly a client) to "prove" that the public key it's presenting belongs to the entity that its peer intends to communicate with. If you don't know that you're using the right key, what's the value of encrypting? I agree that many CAs have weak verification processes, and since any CA can certify

          • by fyngyrz (762201) *

            the purpose of a certificate is for a server (or less commonly a client) to "prove" that the public key it's presenting belongs to the entity that its peer intends to communicate with.

            It can't "prove" any such thing. A simple security breach, or intended malfeasance on the part of the cert holder, and you're talking to someone else. The idea that it could prove such a thing more than half a second after it is issued is 100% illusion.

            If you don't know that you're using the right key, what's the valu

      • I don't know about others, but having a valid key from a CA doesn't make me trust the site any more. I don't care if they have "levels" of trust. I look for a CA to verify the site is who they say they are and there is no man in the middle attack (supposedly).

        I trust the site based upon what I know about the company behind it. If I don't know anything, I'll try searching for info about them before I buy.

        The issues for me are:

        1. Will the seller deliver the product I bought in a reasonable amount of time
    • by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:29PM (#17592494) Homepage
      That's because sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color.

      Thats because we all know there is no such thing as a shady corporation with enough money for expensive certifications.
      • by sowth (748135)

        I would add incompetent companies to that. Plenty of companies will lose info, send the wrong package, send to the wrong address, have really stupid policies, etc. Every company will have problems from time to time, but some more than others. You won't have any idea unless you check them out, and no cert is going to tell you what issues a given company has.

        Dealing with screw-ups can be as bad or worse than a scam....

        in addition, even if the cert does weed out all pure scammers, I doubt it will take out

    • by wfberg (24378) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:35PM (#17592576)
      sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color

      Ironically, it's much easier to establish an individual's identity (many databases that you can look in and merge, require multiple forms of ID, etc.) than the fact whether an individual is actually a proper agent of some huge megacorporation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zymurgy_cat (627260)
        Ironically, it's much easier to establish an individual's identity (many databases that you can look in and merge, require multiple forms of ID, etc.) than the fact whether an individual is actually a proper agent of some huge megacorporation.

        Very true, and my experience is that most places don't even make an effort.

        Last year, I decided to get a signed certificate for a site that my company uses for internal purposes. When I provided the information, the CA called me and pointed out that I needed to pro
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by noz (253073)

      It's whether they'll be allowed to purchase them.

      Yet another poorly moderated comment. The parent is not "Informative": neither does it quote detail nor simply related to another. It is an original thought developing insight into the consequences of the system under discussion.

      It seems most slashdot moderators have insight and information confused. Compare the above to this comment [slashdot.org] which is informative, not insightful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ShaggyBOFH (694048)
      Here's an interesting phishing site (according to Microsoft)... Department of Navy's Recruitment Site of Civilian Jobs. [navy.mil]

      By the way, the worst job search page ever created.

    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      That's because sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color.

      Most mom-and-pop shops probably go through an order clearinghouse like PayPal anyway, so once you go to the order page there'll be a green bar.

      -b.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beadfulthings (975812)
      Well, it is and it isn't. The cost of filing as a limited liability corporation (LLC) isn't all that bad. Our lawyer (who has handled wills and other family matters) will do it for somewhere between $300 and $500. He actually dissuaded me from setting this up a couple of years ago because, as he points out, there aren't any real advantages for a small retail business. The true cost at this point lies in the price of the EV certificate, which is a real shocker. Verisign, for example [verisign.com] wants $1299 for a one-yea
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Zeinfeld (263942)
        What's irritating to me is that I've been a sole proprietorship for almost six years now. I can furnish bank and credit references and tax records to that effect. Seems as though there ought to be a way to verify through those records.

        Length of time that a company has been in business is a pretty good indication of legitimacy. The question is how to codify the rules in a form that works internationally.

        There are certainly sole traders who hold organizational validation certificates today but the vast ma

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Well, it is and it isn't. The cost of filing as a limited liability corporation (LLC) isn't all that bad. Our lawyer (who has handled wills and other family matters) will do it for somewhere between $300 and $500.

        It's a *hell* of a lot cheaper [swiftformations.com] than that.

        Your lawyer was price gouging.

        • Well, it is and it isn't. The cost of filing as a limited liability corporation (LLC) isn't all that bad. Our lawyer (who has handled wills and other family matters) will do it for somewhere between $300 and $500.

          It's a *hell* of a lot cheaper than that. Your lawyer was price gouging.

          The reason why it's cheaper for shell corporations is that they're exactly that, pre-generated cookie-cutter shells. Getting an existing, operating business switched over requires considerable legal work, and is there

    • by eneville (745111)

      It isn't whether mom-and-pop shops can afford the new certificates.

      It's whether they'll be allowed to purchase them.

      That's because sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color.
      its just more reason for people to jump browsers and use something that's not a pain in the ass.
    • by Chalex (71702)
      Not only that, but free Certificate Authorities (like CAcert.org [cacert.org]) are not allowed to issue these EV certs. Only the large commercial CAs like Verisign can issue them. reference: http://blog.cacert.org/2006/11/194.html [cacert.org]
      • by init100 (915886)

        Not only that, but free Certificate Authorities (like CAcert.org) are not allowed to issue these EV certs. Only the large commercial CAs like Verisign can issue them.

        Not allowed? By whom? I understand if Verisign very much would want this, but do they have that power? Are all browser vendors in on this "conspiracy"?

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:23PM (#17592424) Journal
    Do we end up paying for new methods to make the Internet safe (supposedly) or should we spend the money trying to educate people to recognize when they are being sent to a phishing site?

    I predict (brave of me, I know) that no matter what efforts are made to protect Internet users, there will still be phishing on the Internet.

    I think we're better off with the training.
    • by jginspace (678908)
      "should we spend the money trying to educate people to recognize when they are being sent to a phishing site?"

      The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security [ranum.com] - See #5 - 'Educating Users'.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:52PM (#17592778) Homepage
      With training, you still have the problem that some people are utterly and incurably stupid and careless. Security (in general) should be a multi-pronged initiative. You should educate people how to be secure and how to spot potential security issues, but you should also, where feasible, make it difficult for people to do insecure things.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        With training, you still have the problem that some people are utterly and incurably stupid and careless.

        The best teacher is experience. Once the stupid and careless people get burned once or twice, I'm sure that they'll learn to be more careful in the future. Their lesson just might be a bit more expensive than the lesson given to quicker learners. BTW, in my experience, if you just look at the URL bar before entering private information, this takes care of 999 out of 1000 spam/phishing scams. If t

    • by zecg (521666)
      I think we're better off with the training.

      Certainly, just as soon as our fifty million trainers finish eradicating AIDS through instructing people to practice safe sex.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:25PM (#17592454) Homepage Journal
    Entrust plans to sell its EV certs at $499 apiece per year (and that's its "intro price")... Verisign, the world's largest and probably most recognizable SSL provider, has set its price for EV certs starting at a hefty $1,300 per year.

    The smallest of legit web sites will not pay this, especially when they're just starting up. Add to that the requirements (what type of corporate entity the site belongs to) and you'll have few small takers. This is definitely going to hurt small sites as all of the medium and large sites will eventually sign up. Users will eventually expect the green bar on every site where they might do business. So I see this as merely a money making scheme. If they really wanted to improve security they wouldn't rely on the type of corporation or charge such high fees.
    • > Users will eventually expect the green bar on every site where they might do
      > business. So I see this as merely a money making scheme. If they really wanted
      > to improve security they wouldn't rely on the type of corporation or charge
      > such high fees.

      It isn't just a money-making scheme. It also serves to drive out small businesses and set the bar higher for startups.
      • Why would Verisign or Entrust want to drive out small businesses or set the bar higher for startups? It's in their best interest to have as many customers as possible. I think they're just trying to sqeeze more money out of people, and if that hurts small business, well they don't care.
    • by anagama (611277)

      Users will eventually expect the green bar on every site where they might do business.

      I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but it is also possible that so many legit businesses will fail to get these, that people will expect them only for the largest corporations. In other words, people will get so used to seeing a yellow bar or whatever color they choose, that they'll start ignoring it.

      Another option is to use a payment processor who's big enough to afford one of these and make it clear to custome

    • by zecg (521666)
      This is definitely going to hurt small sites as all of the medium and large sites will eventually sign up.

      I predict differently: it's eventually not going to matter at all. Since only a small percentage of online destination will make the bar turn green, it'll never be viewed as a necessity - merely as a shiny luxury item that certifies a site is big and expensive. But (IMO) it will not decrease the volume of business for small sites and it will never become standard expectation. Not at those prices for
  • There will certainly be somebody that can take advantage of this too. The only thing that SSL actually tells you is that the traffic you have is encrypted. The only thing that this really does is to provide an incentment for the bad guys to crack the solution since it will mean that there may be more money to gain at the sites that relies on those SSL certificates.

    Don't trust anybody - not even yourself!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TheSunborn (68004)
      No, ssl also tell you who you are communicating with.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        All SSL really knows is what public key it's communicating with.

        It will download a data structure in which the public key and some character strings are authenticated with yet another party's private key.

        The rest is hope and trust that the signer does due diligence and hasn't been compromised.

        If the "certificate" does prove who you're communicating with, SSL doesn't tell you that until you click on the padlock and look up certificate properties. Until then, all it's told you is that the domain name matches.
    • The only thing that SSL actually tells you is that the traffic you have is encrypted.

      Maybe I'm not understanding what you're saying, but part of the idea of SSL certificates is also to verify that the site you're connecting to is actually the site it's claiming to be. You can use SSL to encrypt the traffic without this feature, and maybe there are ways around SSL anyway, but if you don't want 3rd-party certification of your identity, you don't need to pay for SSL certs anyway.

      • Maybe I'm not understanding what you're saying, but part of the idea of SSL certificates is also to verify that the site you're connecting to is actually the site it's claiming to be.

        That depends upon how you mean that.

        If I get a certificate issued to server "apple" at "berry.com" with address 123.456.789.012, then that is all that you know from that certificate. The server's resolved name and address match the server name and address for which that certificate was issued.

        But that is all you know. That mean

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:30PM (#17592508)
    The purpose of a Certificate Authority is to verify the identity of the person who requested the certificate.

    Since they've done such a bad job of this so far (it was quite strict at first), they've now turned around and offered a more expensive certificate with the promise that this time they'll _really_ do their job.

    I've no doubt they'll get away with it when all the big names buy the more expensive certificates and see an opportunity to squeeze out the smaller competition, and/or otherwise help to raise the barrier to entry for their market. Watch this get a lot of media attention and advertising.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      Since they've done such a bad job of this so far (it was quite strict at first), they've now turned around and offered a more expensive certificate with the promise that this time they'll _really_ do their job.

      The only certs I trust are the ones I personally sign. So when I am on a PC without the signing CA, it pops up and I can view it. If it isn't mine or one I expect I know a Bluecoat or some other SSL in the middle device is at work. The only way I know to protect against it is to view the cert each

    • by sjwest (948274)

      Well there Sales operation is good and no im not trying to troll

      Looking into certs, requested a free pdf, send all your details, click ok and wham bang thank you mam expect a pdf to download - nothing there. Think about something else and a week later Vogan from verisign rings

      can i help

      I politelly tell him that his request form was screwed up and no we would not be using you and could he please go jump under a train.

      I learnt to make my own ca's - Vogan and Versign pretty useless but good at sal

    • by doj8 (542402)
      As said by others, these new certificates are simply the old certificates with the verification work done. The first SSL cert I purchased entailed several weeks of verification, a copy of business paperwork, calls from the certifcate authority to the office, personal identification, listed phone number, and such. It took two tries to get everything right. The last SSL cert took 15 minutes and only required an email account. This is inexcusable.

      The certificate authorities are supposed to be involved in the b
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        The last cert I got wanted the company number.. or to be exact they wanted *a* company number. They didn't verify anything else (in fact the registration address is our accountants and is unrelated to the rest of the company).

        They sent the cert the same day.

        Verification of 'limited company' status is bullshit anyway. I can buy an off the shelf limited company for £30 over the web, and apply for a certificate tomororrow if I want.
        • by doj8 (542402)
          I can incorporate a business in my state for US$115 with online forms. I don't know how quickly they issue a company number now, but before the Internet it took about a week. Other states & countries may be cheaper, easier and faster. So, it is easy to create a quick corporation. So I agree verification of corporate status is not useful. A D-U-N-S number (Dun & Bradstreet) takes no more than 30 days. It doesn't verify much information either from my last experience. Since phone services are fragment
      • Of course, the reason there was an incentive for these drive-by certs is that the bundling of encryption/authentication is moronic. The reason businesses want certs isn't so their customers know it's them - for the most part, the customers already trust the website. They want them for encryption, even though technically encryption can be done without one. The reason customers look for the little padlock isn't to verify that this site really is amazon.com - they already think it is. They look for the little
        • by doj8 (542402)
          > even though the little padlock doesn't tell them anything about how their details are
          > stored on the receivers end, and that's probably a larger point of failure than a
          > man-in-the-middle attack

          You are correct. Nor does it indicate whether they have a keylogger installed on their system either. So, you have two effectively untrusted ends and a secured channel between them, yielding, at best, a modest increase in security.

          Encryption should almost be the default nowadays. That is completely separat
  • by jannic (152373) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#17592514)
    Instead of relying on the trustworthiness of third parties issuing the certificates, one could easily verify the key fingerprints directly.

    Unfortunately, browsers make this unnecessarily difficult, and few sites (even online banking sites) publish their fingerprints offline. Wouldn't it be easy for a bank to print the fingerprints in a letter sent to the customer, possibly together with his credit card etc.? If then there were an easy way to show this fingerprint in a web browser, without clicking through several layers of complicated 'key details' pages, people could actually be sure to connect to the correct site.

    Additionally, I miss a feature to lock a site to a given key. Say, I'm regularly connecting to the same site, like slashdot. I don't care if the slashdot site is actually related to some company with the same name, or whatever CAs try to tell me with their certificates. All I want to know is if the site I'm sending my password to is really the one I have been visiting since several years, or a fake one trying to steal my password. So all I need is a big warning whenever the site key changes.

    Both are not too difficult to implement, I guess, but users need a little more training than just telling them 'a green browser bar means secure'.
    • Great ideas, but they don't serve a "business purpose".
    • by butlerdi (705651) *
      This does already exist. No need for third party providers. Take a look at http://www.httpy.com/ [httpy.com] with an implementation shown at http://www.waterken.com/dev/Browser/ [waterken.com] Great idea and simple. Just not much profit incentive for the big boys .
    • by beebware (149208)
      Well, there's a sort of way of doing this in Firefox. Have it remember your username for the site - if it doesn't pre-fill the username for you when you go back to the site, get a bit more worried and be really especially careful before manually entering your login details...
  • by wfberg (24378) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#17592526)
    I don't know specifically which bit in the certificate makes the address bar green, but the idea of these certificates is that the CA took extra super care to make sure they weren't issued to some bum, but to the people the certificate says it was issued to.

    The example in the article immediately points out a failure of this idea. Go to entrust.com and your address bar turns green. And who is the CA that has verified that this site is really operated by entrust? "Entrust or an independent local registration authority has verified that Entrust Inc is an existing business and owns or operates the domain name www.entrust.com".. Yeah. So, this is basically a self-signed certificate, but it turns up green, because you're supposed to trust entrust, because you're supposed to trust entrust, because you're supposed to trust internet explorer.

    Meanwhile, their 'extra validation' CPS states that they offer no warranties or guarantees, nor any detail about what they DO do to make extra super sure they don't issue certificates to some random Joe.
    • by Jerf (17166)
      For better or for worse, shipping the user a browser that defaults to trusting nobody isn't going to happen anytime soon.

      If you did ship a normal end-user a browser that trusted nobody, it would be equivalent to shipping one that trusted everybody, as they'd learn to "just click 'yes'", so while it's theoretically superior, it isn't practically. You can try this; you're free to remove all that automated trust.

      Although you could make a case that no automated trust is better than inaccurate automated trust.

      I
    • by legirons (809082)
      "Meanwhile, their 'extra validation' CPS states that they offer no warranties or guarantees, nor any detail about what they DO do to make extra super sure they don't issue certificates to some random Joe."

      You're assuming that they're in the business of being secure and trustworthy, as they claim. It makes more sense if you think about their business as taking a toll on e-commerce websites.

      "Pay us money, or Internet Explorer will tell your customers not to trust you"

      Would it matter to them if a load of peop
      • I think you can probably tell the users to ignore the IE alert and a good deal of them will do just that without question.
    • >...because you're supposed to trust internet explorer.

      And continue trusting after it's been installed for a while. Bruce Schneier once asked the obvious question of how hard it was to add a new trusted root. It's trivial, and there's a "web accelerator" on the market that installs itself as a new trusted CA so that it can proxy SSL traffic.
  • Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by finkployd (12902) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:54PM (#17592810) Homepage
    So, the CA oligopoly is now going to be charging extra for doing the assurance checking they should have been doing all along but now admit they were not. And once they decide they need more money I am sure they will claim that they have been screwing up their assurance checking on these new ones as well but for a little bit extra, they will do SUPER DUPER identity validation. Then we can REALLY trust the certs.

    Why are we paying and trusting them again?

    Finkployd
  • Gripes with HTTPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @02:15PM (#17593078) Homepage Journal
    I have one major gripe with HTTPS:

    If you don't pay the Powers That Be, you can still make your site more secure, but it will appear to be less secure.

    The way HTTPS normally works is that you create a key to be associated with your domain name. This key is then signed by some certificate authority (supposedly after verifying you are you). If the certificate authority is one of those trusted by your visitors' browsers, the browser will go ahead and use your site, as well as display some indication that it is secure. The security includes both encryption (confidentiality) and authentication (you're really communicating with foobar.com - VeriSign says so).

    However, you have to pay the certificate authority to sign your key. If you don't, you can still sign the key, but it won't be trusted by browsers. So far so good. The problem is that browsers will scream bloody murder, because they can't verify that you are you, making at look like you're attempting some kind of scam, while, actually, you're offering your visitors encryption. It's not as secure as encryption and authentication, but it's still better than plain HTTP - a protocol which browsers will accept without a hitch.

    As a minor issue, the SSL key is sent during the connection set up, before the client can send a Host: header. This means that each host wishing to employ HTTPS has to have its own IP address - otherwise, the server doesn't know which key to use. There's actually a way around this: HTTP 1.1 specifies how to upgrade a connection to HTTPS, which can be done after the Host: header has been sent. Unfortunately, a lot of software appears not to support this feature.
    • by Sloppy (14984)

      However, you have to pay the certificate authority to sign your key. If you don't, you can still sign the key, but it won't be trusted by browsers. So far so good. The problem is that browsers will scream bloody murder, because they can't verify that you are you, making at look like you're attempting some kind of scam, while, actually, you're offering your visitors encryption.

      I think what you have identified is a bad UI, not really a HTTPS problem. A browser shouldn't create popups or other warnings when

      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        You're right that the problem is mostly with the presentation. However, HTTPS may also get part of the blame for not specifying an "no authentication (encryption only)" mode.
    • by modeless (978411)
      Encryption without authentication is and always has been a stupid idea. What's to stop anyone from self-signing their own certificate claiming to be Amazon.com? Nothing, that's what.

      In order for an unauthenticated connection to actually be secure, you have to trust *every* *single* router your packets cross, because *any* of them can trivially break your encryption. Do you trust your ISP? Your ISP's ISP? Every other ISP between you and Amazon? Do you trust the coffee shop wireless access point? The f [slashdot.org]
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Encryption without authentication is and always has been a stupid idea.''

        I disagree. It does prevent people from eavesdropping on your communication, which is valuable in itself. Sometimes, it's even enough: for example, for anonymous services, or for setting up a secure channel for authentication.

        It's also worth pointing out that the authentication that SSL (and HTTPS) uses by no means guarantees that the other party is who they say they are. Yes, they have a key which was signed by a party which your so
        • by dkf (304284)

          It's also worth pointing out that the authentication that SSL (and HTTPS) uses by no means guarantees that the other party is who they say they are. Yes, they have a key which was signed by a party which your software vendor trusts...but mistakes can be made an are made.

          You're obviously ignorant of many important aspects of how a practical PKI works. Two of the key things that a CA does are to publish a list of certificates that have been withdrawn before their scheduled expiry, and to add a URL to each cer

      • This all sounds well and good, until you are asked to deploy and support intreanet-based applications on private IP address ranges, like the company I work for.

        The UI for our product is web-based, and of course we prefer it be SSL encrypted, as it can contain sensitive information. But because the product is always deployed AFTER sale by our customers on some private IP address, with god-knows-what hostname, there is NO WAAY for us to provide them with a valid SSL cert. that will not pop up these annoying w
        • by modeless (978411)
          I maintain that encryption without authentication is a stupid idea even on intranets. There's nothing special about intranets that makes MITM attacks impossible. In fact they're easy with an ARP spoofing tool.

          Encryption without authentication only defends against people who can eavesdrop but not perform MITM. Unless you have set up static ARP records throughout your network, anyone who can eavesdrop can also perform MITM and trivially break your encryption. Who then is encryption going to defend against
          • by kayditty (641006)
            It is much stupider on an intranet. A man in the middle attack is much less likely on the internet (though neither impossible nor improbable), but atleast encryption sans authentication can actually do _something_ meaningful over the internet.
        • by kayditty (641006)

          This is where the SSL standard falls FLAT ON ITS FACE. It is only acceptable for PUBLIC FACING, INTERNET BASED SIDES. It is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for intranet based solutions. Now, this really is not totally an SSL problem.

          It is absolutely not an SSL problem. SSL is a cryptographic protocol; HTTPS is the secure web protocol (actually, I don't think there's an official name for SSL+HTTP).

          well, I guess SSL may be partially responsible, but you make the implication that SSL was only ever intended for the

    • by _Knots (165356)
      Incidentally, there is an extension to TLS to embed the host name in the initial handshake, so that one need not use the Upgrade: extension of HTTP. I find this solution simpler, if also rarely implemented, but YMMV.
    • by init100 (915886)

      As a minor issue, the SSL key is sent during the connection set up, before the client can send a Host: header. This means that each host wishing to employ HTTPS has to have its own IP address - otherwise, the server doesn't know which key to use.

      If you create a certificate with the x509_v3 extension subjectAltName set to a number of hostnames all those hosts can use the same certificate. I use this setup at work on an internal server that provides several name-based virtual hosts. The setup is further described here [cacert.org] (called CN+subjectAltName). I don't know if this method is the one you referred to below:

      There's actually a way around this: HTTP 1.1 specifies how to upgrade a connection to HTTPS, which can be done after the Host: header has been sent. Unfortunately, a lot of software appears not to support this feature.

    • by rs79 (71822)
      Fuckit.

      Self sign your own certs.

      If google [google.com] and paypal [paypal.com] can't get it right why should anybody else care?

      all people should care about is it's encrypted. Do you REALLY believe CA's check who you are?

      A previous posting regarding cert keys hit the nail on the head.
    • You're right. It would make more sense to have no "accept this certificate popup at all" and to create a new "encrypted but not authenticated" icon to replace the lock.

      • by dkf (304284)

        It would make more sense to have no "accept this certificate popup at all" and to create a new "encrypted but not authenticated" icon to replace the lock.

        So now you can rest safe in the knowledge that you are either communicating directly with your bank or directly with some scummy phisher? That's such a useful thing to know! (It was said earlier, but it bears repeating: SSL encryption without authentication is useless, and this is because attackers are not always just passive eavesdroppers.)

        • SSL encryption without authentication is useless

          False. It prevents passive eavesdropping attacks.

          The question here is very simple: How should the browser treat a self-signed certificate or a certificate signed by an unknown CA? There are four choices: 1.) Pop up a scary warning 2.) Treat it like a PKI-authenticated page 3.) Treat it like any normal HTTP page. 4.) Give it its own "encrypted/not authenticated" icon.

          Option 2 is obviously wrong. The page can't be authenticated cryptographically, so we can't

  • by chill (34294) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @02:25PM (#17593210) Journal
    I thought it was obvious this was nothing more than a money-making scam. You know, like those "Privacy Certificates", where anyone with a privacy policy gets a cert. Even those whose policy says "we'll sell your info to anyone whose check clears"...
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @02:56PM (#17593606) Homepage Journal

    The user interface aspect of this is a good idea. One of the bad things about x.509 up to now is that it's all-or-nothing; the other side's identity is either completely trusted or not trusted at all. Real life isn't like that, as pgp took into account a decade and a half ago. Acknowledging that there is a degree to which the other side has been authenticated, and then showing this in the browser, is a step in the right direction. I enthusiastically approve of this change to browser UIs.

    On the non-UI front, things are a little less encouraging, but it's still a slight improvement (but with a dark side). It is a fact of reality that an identity certifier has limited resources and no matter what they do, they can be fooled. Letting the certifier put something into the cert to indicate how hard they tried to authenticate, is a good thing. When I sign someone's pgp key, it's good that I can indicate degree of trust; casual trust if all I did was look at someone's government-issued photo id, and strong trust if I actually know the person I'm signing (i.e. a fake ID wouldn't be enough to fool me). I am pleased that the x.509 system now has some sort of way to do this.

    It's still unfortunate that they left the biggest weakness in the system, though. An identity is still only certified by one certifier. That's really dumb. Verisign can be fooled, Thawte can be fooled, I can be fooled, but fooling all 3 of us at the same time is a bigger feat, so that would be a great way to improve the amount by which an identity can be believed. That's something that pgp also figured out a decade and a half ago, but x.509 hasn't caught up.

    But that leads to the dark side. I think there is a reason the system doesn't support multiple signers: it makes it easier for new CAs to enter the certifying "market", and also could lead users to think about how much they trust the big brand name certifiers. Suppose I claim to meet Amazon's keymaster and I sign their cert. The issue that 99.99% of users would face, upon seeing my signature on Amazon's key, is that they don't have the foggiest idea of who the hell I am or why they should trust me, so they would go into their software and make sure their trust level for me is zero (or really really close to zero). Actually that would be the default. But then it strikes the user: "Wait a minute, how much do I trust Verisign? I don't know any more about them, than I know about Sloppy." So the user then goes into their software and also sets Verisign to a low value. The user should only really trust people they have reason to trust. They probably wouldn't really delete Verisign from their list, but they'd set the trust level to very low. Probably not zero, as there's some "sheep factor" faith level in a big brand name. But the whole issue of thinking about who you trust and to which degree, would be a major threat to the brand name CAs.

    I understand why Microsoft is willing to play along with the big CAs. I don't understand why the Mozilla, Konqueror, Safari, etc teams do. Supporting a multiple-certifier system (e.g. OpenPGP) would improve those browers with no apparent downside.

    • Good post; your analysis is spot on. If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. Alas, I've already posted in this thread.
    • One of the bad things about x.509 up to now is that it's all-or-nothing; the other side's identity is either completely trusted or not trusted at all.

      This is because x.509 was designed for the Directory Access Protocol (x.500) which is entirely hierarchical and has no room for uncertainty or rival authorities.

      Acknowledging that there is a degree to which the other side has been authenticated, and then showing this in the browser, is a step in the right direction.

      This still says nothing about trustworthin

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @03:27PM (#17593956) Homepage
    OK, here's Entrust's SSL certificate. Let's see what we've got.

    Domain: www.entrust.com

    Server identity:
    CN = www.entrust.com
    serialNumber = DOC:19961216
    OU = it
    O = Entrust Inc
    jurisdictionOfIncorporationStateOrProvinceName = MD
    jurisdictionOfIncorporationCountryName = US
    L = Ottawa
    ST = Ontario
    C = CA
    Issuer identity:
    CN = Entrust Certification Authority - L1A
    OU = (c) 2006 Entrust, Inc.
    OU = www.entrust.net/CPS is incorporated by reference
    OU = CPS CONTAINS IMPORTANT LIMITATIONS OF WARRANTIES AND LIABILITY
    OU = AND ADDITIONAL TERMS GOVERNING USE AND RELIANCE
    O = Entrust, Inc.
    C = US Certificate has 10 extensions.

    • Extension #0: keyUsage = Digital Signature, Key Encipherment
    • Extension #1: privateKeyUsagePeriod = Not Before: Jan 12 13:57:28 2007 GMT, Not After: Jan 12 14:17:41 2009 GMT
    • Extension #2: extendedKeyUsage = TLS Web Server Authentication, TLS Web Client Authentication
    • Extension #3: authorityInfoAccess = OCSP - URI:http://ocsp.entrust.net
    • Extension #4: crlDistributionPoints = URI:http://crl.entrust.net/level1a.crl
    • Extension #5: certificatePolicies = Policy: 2.16.840.1.114028.10.1.2 CPS: http://www.entrust.net/cps [entrust.net] User Notice: Explicit Text: The Entrust SSL Web Server Certification Practice Statement (CPS) available at www.entrust.net/cps is hereby inc orporated into your use or reliance on this Certificate. This CPS contains limitations on warranties and liabilities. Copyright (c) 2002 Entrust Limited
    • Extension #6: authorityKeyIdentifier = keyid:7E:B7:FC:4C:26:E6:B0:7A:FB:54:E2:3C:45:73:C6 :43:90:5E:28:04
    • Extension #7: subjectKeyIdentifier = 10:E0:70:1B:D7:78:17:32:B4:BA:EB:00:6A:E2:25:C3:67 :FC:77:1D
    • Extension #8: basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
    • Extension #9: UNDEF = None (this is a bug in the cert. viewer)

    The CA Browser Forum has published a standard for these certificate. [cabforum.org] So that's what we go by.

    How do you tell this is an Extended Validation certificate? That's not in the CA Browser Forum's standard. It's dependent on the certificate issuer.

    It's documented, on Entrust's web site [entrust.net] "Each EV SSL Certificate issued by the Entrust EV SSL CA to a Subscriber contains an Object Identifier (OID) defined by the Entrust EV SSL CA in the certificate's certificatePolicies extension ... which by pre-agreement with Application Software Vendors, marks the certificate as being an EV SSL Certificate.

    The following OID has been registered by the Entrust EV SSL CA for inclusion in EV SSL Certificates: 2.16.840.1.114028.10.1.2"

    That OID number appears in the middle of a comment in the certificatePolicies extension. So, for each issuer, you have to look for something different.

    The certificate checker has to be really careful. To verify that a certificate is an Extended Validation certificate, it's not enough to find that OID. You have to make sure that the certificate was issued by the issuer entitled to use that OID. Otherwise, it's easy to forge these certificates.

    But if you're too thorough in the checking, the certificate bounces. The whole point of an Extended Validation certificate is to validate the company's identity. So we have the new fields "serialNumber", "jurisdictionOfIncorporationStateOrProvinceName", and "jurisdictionOfIncorporationCo

    • "DOC:19961216" refers to the Date of Incorporation, which is 1996/12/16. It does not refer to the Maryland Tax Dept. ID #, which is "D04566428". Ottawa, Ontario is Entrust's Canadian headquarters. They probably do more work out of Canada then Texas, or maybe that's where most of their staff is located. I don't consider that questionable information. Could this have been done better? Probably.
      • by Animats (122034)

        No, the spec says, on page 9:

        Registration Number:
        Certificate Field: Subject:serialNumber (OID 2.5.4.5)
        Required/Optional: Required
        Contents: This field MUST contain the unique Registration Number assigned to the Subject by the Incorporating Agency in its Jurisdiction of Incorporation (for Private Organization Subjects only).

        So when you go to validate the certificate against incorporation records, it bounces.

        The whole point of Extended Validation certificates was that the organization was supposed

    • by Animats (122034)

      Since there's no public OID list for these certificates, I've added one to the Wikipedia entry for Extended Validation Certificates. [wikipedia.org] Entrust, Verisign, and Comodo are filled in; if you can find the documented values for other vendors, please add them. Thanks.

  • SSL Certs should go hand in hand with domain registration and every domain registration should include a wildcard SSL Cert for that domain. A cert isn't a valid way to prove that John Smith or company x controls the site, it is a valid way to assure that the content you are viewing is coming from bla.com. There is no reason that every domain on the web shouldn't have the ability to give visiters that assurance. It uses what, about a penny worth of electricty to generate a cert? Wildcard certs don't cost any
    • Question: Assuming that certs and domain registration were tied together, what damage could DNS spoofing do to the integrity of this system? It would seem to be immune to that problem, but I don't know enough about this to be sure.
  • SRP [stanford.edu] would go a long way to prevent phishing more reliably, and you don't even need a trusted authority (though one is recommended).

    SRP is a password-based system, rather than a key-based system. SRP validates not just that the client knows the password, but that the server knows the password (hash), all the while not revealing anything useful to an eavesdropper or a man in the middle. It uses the password to establish a shared secret (session key) between the client and server for further communication.

    It
  • This orgnization represents what is wrong with the software industry today. On top of unfair business practices and anti-competative monopolistic bullying -- they:

    * write insecure products that people cannot fix themselves
    * delay patching their insecure products
    * try to prevent SOA/REST from emerging quickly; relying on obscene vendor lockin for revenue
    * build and use languages that promote and maintain poor programmming practices

    They are the prototypical entrenched power monger, and they continue to pollu

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