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A Good Reason To Go Full-Time SSL For Gmail 530

Ashik Ratnani writes with this snippet from Hungry Hackers: "A tool that automatically steals IDs of non-encrypted sessions and breaks into Google Mail accounts has been presented at the Defcon hackers' conference in Las Vegas. Last week, Google introduced a new feature in Gmail that allows users to permanently switch on SSL and use it for every action involving Gmail, not just authentication. Users who did not turn it on now have a serious reason to do so, as Mike Perry, the reverse engineer from San Francisco who developed the tool, is planning to release it in two weeks."
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A Good Reason To Go Full-Time SSL For Gmail

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:27AM (#24659201)

    Or else someone could hijack my accBILL GATS SI TEH DEVLI!!!!!!!!!

  • Just for Google? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:28AM (#24659235)

    Is there any reason to not use SSL every time one sends a password?

    Unfortunately, the general public still seems entirely uneducated about SSL, figuring that passwords must be secure because they appear as bullets on the screen, right?

    • Re:Just for Google? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:30AM (#24659269) Homepage

      Like when you read slashdot?

    • Re:Just for Google? (Score:4, Informative)

      by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:32AM (#24659287)

      The password is sent over SSL, the problem is that it will happily send your cookie over HTTP which is for all intensive purposes just as good as a password.

    • Re:Just for Google? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spad ( 470073 ) <(ku.oc.daps) (ta) (todhsals)> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:32AM (#24659307) Homepage

      Gmail always uses SSL for logins.

      Previously if you wanted to maintain SSL for the whole session you had to login via [] otherwise it dropped back to http after login. Now you can set it to always use SSL regardless of the URL you visit it from.

    • Re:Just for Google? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Timothy Brownawell ( 627747 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:35AM (#24659351) Homepage Journal

      Is there any reason to not use SSL every time one sends a password?

      Firefox 3, and I think other newer browsers, lie to people by strongly implying that HTTPS with self-signed certificates is far more dangerous than bare unencrypted HTTP.

      • by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:07PM (#24659821)

        They don't lie, they assume that if a site is self-signed it has been hijacked which is very resonable, if my bank suddenly changed to self-signed I'd want a proper warning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Loki_1929 ( 550940 )

      There's a sizable portion of the general public that doesn't want to be bothered having to remember any passwords for anything. They simply want to click a button and have it work.

      You'd have better luck explaining the security implications of such a system to a chimp.

      • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:15PM (#24659963)

        God, I've had some insane conversations with retarded people.

        *me**: You know doing what you're doing is terribly terribly insecure, someone might get into your email account!
        *Him*: .... ah well, it's not like there's anything important in there. I mean what are they gonna do, email someone in my name?
        *me**: ....You have a paypal account right?
        *Him*: Ya...
        *me**: And it's linked to your email account right?
        *Him*: Ya...
        *me**: And if you forget your paypal password you can have them send you an email to change it right?
        *Him*: Ya....
        *me**: And your credit card is linked to your paypal account isn't it?
        *Him*: Hmmm...
        *me**: So someone with access to your mail account could get hold of your paypal and run up some insane charges buying horse porn.
        *Him*: Oh....

        It's depressing how people will set up accounts with things like paypal, link them to their email and then dismiss anything about security since "sure my email isn't that important"

  • 3 clicks (Score:5, Informative)

    by pebcak ( 773787 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:31AM (#24659279) Homepage
    Once you're signed into Gmail: Settings -> Always use https -> Save changes
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Loether ( 769074 )

      I'm admin for a few domains that use gmail apps. None of mine have that option yet. It may be a rolling update.?

      • That's actually pretty typical. I use an e-mail address on such a domain and I've noticed this in the past. Typically the updates take a while to get to the hosted domains.

        In the meantime, I think I'm going to use the info I gleaned here and use the https: address to keep my connection secured throughout my sessions... although I wonder if the exploit wouldn't work if I just didn't use the 'remember me' feature. Firefox remembers my password, so the 'remember me' isn't necessary anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pz ( 113803 )

      Once you're signed into Gmail:

      Settings -> Always use https -> Save changes

      And then you need to reload the page otherwise you're still on http. At least that's what my browser showed.

    • mutt -f imaps://

    • Re:3 clicks (Score:4, Informative)

      by blindd0t ( 855876 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:31PM (#24660223)
      Thanks for that tip, I hadn't noticed that at the bottom of the settings area before. If, for some reason, you're not sure you'll always have SSL available to you (i.e. you connect from airports or hotels often, which occasionally only allow HTTP/80 outbound), you can use Firefox with the Better GMail plugin and choose to require SSL there.
  • Google Announcement (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:32AM (#24659293)
    For info on the new setting and how to enable it, see the Gmail blog post [].
  • A few notes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:32AM (#24659297) Homepage

    Mike Perry did a great public service by making this tool and making it available.

    This attack also works against yahoo mail, hotmail, etc. Just Yahoo, hotmail, etc don't even OFFER SSL, so well, if you use them, your FSCKed.

    And Google has known about this problem for a LONG time. EG, see my blog post from last february! [].

    Google waited for a year before even giving users the OPTION to be protected when SSL is used, and notice that it was only after they found out about Mike Perry's talk that the option was even added.

    Also, as I argue, they got it wrong. The checkbox is good, but most users don't know about it. But if a user MANUALLY enters [] I argue that google should INFER that the user wants to be SSL-only, at least until they explicitly log out.

    • Re:A few notes... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by derrickh ( 157646 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:02PM (#24659725) Homepage

      So he's going to release a tool that lets people break into Gmail accounts. And unless you read slashdot, you'd have no idea to go into preferences and flip a switch.

      How is this a public service? For the 99% of the world who dont read SD every day, they're pretty much screwed.

      It's good I'm a nerd and will now flip the magic switch on my gmail account...but it seems like a big f-u to everyone else.


    • Re:A few notes... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dolohov ( 114209 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @01:03PM (#24660761)

      Mike Perry did a great public service by making this tool and making it available.

      WTF? No he didn't. Pointing out the vulnerability is a a public service, yes. Giving a talk where he outlines the problem? Also a public service. Distributing the means for anyone to make use of this vulnerability (ESPECIALLY when so many major vendors aren't prepared for it yet) is not a public service anymore. It's just arming script kiddies. Ralph Nader was able to do plenty of good without going around ramming into Chevy Corvairs to somehow "drive home" the need for a fix.

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:52AM (#24659587) Homepage

    Unless you SET THE PREFERENCE, you are insecure, even if you MANUALLY type in [] always.

    Because unless you SET THE PREFERENCE, google does NOT set the session cookie to be SECURE.

    This is what Mike Perry's tool does: it takes any of your OTHER connections, redirects it to [] so your browser spits out the session cookie anyway, and then can redirect you back (so you don't know what happened).

    Google's SSL mode for gmail, UNLESS YOU SET THE PREFERENCE, offers you NO protection against an active adversary. And since someone snooping your traffic at starbucks can just as easily inject packets, IT OFFERS NO PROTECTION EVEN IF YOU MANUALLY TYPE IN HTTPS ALL THE TIME, UNLESS YOU SET THE PREFERENCE!!!!

  • Gmail Notifier (Score:5, Informative)

    by triplej3000 ( 804712 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:55AM (#24659635)
    Selecting 'Always use https' breaks Gmail Notifier. Luckily Google has released a patch for this. Here is a link: []
  • If I direct people to via http it forwards them to the insecure version after login. Unfortunately you can't hit with https and as a result to be secure people who use my Google Apps mail have to type the long drawn out to connect to it. I can't seem to find a setting anywhere to force security.... I first submitted the https->http thing to Google when I started using it in like 2004.... about damn time they started doing something about it.

  • by thomasdz ( 178114 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:02PM (#24659731)

    I can understand that back in the web's "stone age" (mid 1990s), having HTTPS for every web site would have seriously slowed down all the computers due to CPU usage, but nowadays is there any real good reason that the whole web can't be HTTPS?
    With all the government and ISP snoopings going on, I'm surprised that at least some sites haven't gone that way.
    (or is it that embedded browsers like on cell phones can't do SSL?)


    • Is probably DNSSEC. Cue Antibozo to explain why (or why not:)
    • by Quietust ( 205670 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:23PM (#24660079) Homepage
      One of the main problems is that HTTPS is fundamentally incompatible with virtual hosts - you connect, do the SSL handshake (and get the server's certificate), verify that the common name on the SSL cert matches the hostname you typed in (to make sure the site is who you think it is, otherwise display big warning messages) and that it is trusted (i.e. complain if it's self-signed), and then you send your HTTP request. The only way it could work would be if an SSL certificate could match multiple hostnames (which I don't believe is the case, though I could be wrong).

      Interestingly, net-wide HTTPS would probably make IPv6 a bit more important (since a great deal of web hosting services put dozens of sites on the same machine and same IP address, charging significantly more if you want SSL due to the requirement of having a unique IP address).
      • by salahx ( 100975 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @01:04PM (#24660775)
        This used to be true, but not anymore. Now there's Server Name Indication - RFC3546 [], that would allow this. However, OpenSSL (and by extension, mod_ssl) does not support it. GNUTLS does, however (and there's a corresponding mod_gnutls for Apache.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by psydeshow ( 154300 )

        An SSL Certificate can match multiple hostnames in SSLv3 and TLS, which are both old enough to be in use everywhere.

        There are two methods, depending on what you want (and your level of paranoia): wildcards (match * and "Subject Alternative Names" which can match any from a list of domain names.

        The subject alt name is incredibly useful, as the certificate for a physical host can enumerate alternative names for each of its virtual hosts, even if they aren't subdomains of the host's domain.

    • Because CA-signed ssl certs cost $$ for often no measurable (as in $$) benefit, HTTPS doesn't work with name-based virtual hosting, and new browsers treat self-signed SSL as evil incarnate.
  • Author's site (Score:5, Informative)

    by Captain Segfault ( 686912 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:09PM (#24659855) Homepage Journal

    Mike Perry's site [] might (or might not) be a better source than some random blog post that doesn't even link to it.

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:10PM (#24659883)

    I mean it's Google Mail, Google stores your e-mails till all ethernity and will surely hand it out to any dictator waving something which looks like an official document.

    It doesn't matter much how secure the login is as the service itself is designed to be a gapping security hole.

  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:13PM (#24659931)

    Yes, this is a vulnerability. But it isn't like every person out there on the internet is going to be able to steal your session cookies in two weeks when the tool is released.

    In order to execute this attack, a person would have to be able to sniff your packets and steal the cookies. And since the vast majority of people on the internet have no ability to intercept your traffic, this means in practice, the average person is pretty safe without having to worry about all this.

  • by DuSTman31 ( 578936 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:25PM (#24660125)

    One thing that I find somewhat counterproductive is that browsers do not save files sent over SSL in their caches.

    It's sensible, I suppose, to assume that if something's sent over an SSL channel that it's sensitive and therefore shouldn't be saved, but it would give a speed and bandwidth efficiency hit which would deter usage of SSL for everyday browsing.

    You could, of course, have the HTML transmitted over SSL and the supporting images over plain HTTP, but then the browser will scare people by warning that not all content on the page is secure..

    I think browsers should start looking at encrypting their cache files, so that stuff such as SSL can be accommodated without breaking caching.

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:37PM (#24660327)

    The summary (and many, many replies) have it all wrong. The point is not that you need to be encrypting all of your traffic to Gmail (for example) with SSL.

    The need for SSL-encrypting your session was known with sidejacking. If you use SSL for credential exchange but not for the whole session, your session cookie is transmitted in the clear, and an attacker can sniff it and use your session (as the cookie acts temporarily as a credential). Encrypting the whole session with SSL prevents this. This is well-known at this point.

    The subject of this talk was not sidejacking. If the site (Gmail) does not set the secure bit on the session cookie, then your session cookie can be transmitted in the clear, even if all of your intentional communication with Gmail is over SSL! An attacker need only inject a link to the appropriate domain (e.g., in some other page you request, and the cookie will be sent with that request over HTTP. Only by marking the cookie as secure will the browser refuse to send it over HTTP.

  • by remitaylor ( 884490 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @12:46PM (#24660475)

    The author of this post seems to be really, really confused. There were multiple presentations on ways to hack your Google accounts and Google security flaws, etc.

    There was a presentation on howto exploit Google Gadgets (which have access to your local javascript), a few presentations on Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)(which you can do to send your own HTTP requests as the visitor if you have your own image or iframe on the page), and a presentation on hijacking your sessions if you ever access a site over plain-text (non-SSL), and putting the password page on SSL doesn't help (this requires the attacker to be on your local network!!!!!!!).

    The title of the post sounds like they're talking about The Middler, a Ruby-based proxy by Jay Beale for intercepting all user data on a shared network, such as a coffee shop, where you can get users to go through your proxy.

    If the author is talking about The Middler ... that attacker has to be on your network!!! This is only an issue on untrusted networks.

    Jay Beale's talk was the one the mentioned SSL the most, so I'm gonna guess that the author is talking about that, even tho the article seems to mix everything up.

    To see the descriptions of the actual talks and whatnot, visit the DEFCON schedule: []

  • by legirons ( 809082 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @01:43PM (#24661409)

    "Last week, Google introduced a new feature in Gmail that allows users to permanently switch on SSL and use it for every action involving Gmail, not just authentication."

    Unfortunately not available for anyone who has their own domain's email hosted at google :(

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake