Posts Tagged ‘SSL Myths’

*Editor’s Note: This post is syndicated from the Interop Blog.You can see the original post by clicking here

By Rainer Enders, CTO at NCP engineering

At Interop 2012, I’ll be hosting a session, “Less is More: Why SSL VPN is NOT What You Think It Is” that explores the inherent flaws of SSL VPN. The reality is, SSL has been buoyed by a staggering number of myths and security assurances promised by vendors and assumed as safe by VPN users. But in fact, high profile security breaches have occurred as a result of using key security building blocks of SSL VPN technology. These have included various Certificate Authority (CA) breaches, such as those at ComodoDigiNotar, GlobalSign, Gemnet and KPN.

So, why is this happening? Do users implement the technology incorrectly, or is it simply not as good as all the hype makes it out to be? Is there something else or different we should be doing? What are solutions to the underlying problems?

These are the very questions I’ll answer in this session, drawing upon my 20 years of experience in the networking and security industry. As CTO, Americas for NCP engineering – I’m confronted with examples of SSL misunderstanding and misuse on a daily basis. With this session, I’ll expose SSL VPN security myths and dispel dangerous hype, which is leading to over-reliance on the protocol. I’ll also leverage real-life examples and provide practical ways you can strengthen your remote access connectivity.

Clearly, confusion exists about the security capabilities of SSL. Ultimately, this misinformation undermines the technology and lessens its appeal in scenarios where SSL is an ideal solution. This session will put the most persistent SSL myths to rest and clarify the technology’s capabilities – and its limitations. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

The session Less is More: Why SSL VPN is NOT What You Think It Is will be held Thursday, May 10, 2012, 11:30am – 12:30pm at Interop 2012.

Since posting our series on SSL myths, some people have asked how these SSL vulnerabilities apply to mobile phones. While mobile phones and other handheld devices are mistakenly considered relatively safe, this misnomer does not qualify as an SSL myth. It does, however, require addressing, as the consumerization of IT forces CIOs and network security architects to integrate these devices into the VPN structure.

Beyond the recent consumer-oriented, high profile hacks to celebrity address books, the danger to enterprises is being laid bare in a more subtle manner. In May 2011, Juniper Networks published a study that found risks to mobile phone security at an all time high, and cited a 400% rise in malware against the Android, for example. In 2008, critical mobile SSL VPN vulnerabilities were discovered by Christophe Vandeplas, as a laboratory example of the man-in- the-middle (MITM) exploit.

In mid-March 2011, after Comodo issued nine fraudulent certificates affecting several domains, Microsoft issued updates for its PC platforms to fix the vulnerabilities, but the company’s patch for Windows Phone 7 was  not immediately available. More details surrounding this attack were outlined in Myth 1. But clearly, the priority is not currently on the mobile platform, creating an undeniable threat.

We all know that employees’ use of Skype  whether for personal or business use is exploding. The service reported  an average of 145 million connected users per month in the fourth quarter of 2010, before the Facebook rollout of Skype-powered group video chat service to 750 million users worldwide by August  2011, or the Verizon 4G LTE mobile broadband network deal to integrate Skype on all phones took effect. Not to mention other Skype-empowered deals that have since emerged, like the OnStar Skype-enabled system on its GM cars.

Skype uses SSL and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hashed with the RSA security algorithm for its public key cryptography. The details of how this combination is dismantled as a security model are explained in Myth 3 and Myth 6 in our series on debunking SSL myths. Suffice it to say that Skype is not nearly as secure as people think. As we saw in Myth 5, the public key cryptography is susceptible to the infamous MITM attack. As a result of these revelations, Skype and Facebook users need to be very concerned about what they disclose in their personal and business conversations.

The net effect of attacks against the trust model for mobile certificates and use of Skype should leave CIOs and network security architects uneasy about SSL and using it to secure mobile devices and Skype within their network ecosystems. Employees are using them, and policies restricting mobile devices and Skype use are no longer effective or logical.

What do you think? Is Skype a secure communication channel for the enterprise?

For the final myth in our series isn’t just about SSL – it’s about security. The prevailing attitude at organizations – no matter the size – is that the responsibility for security falls in the court of someone with a job title related to security, like application security specialist, cyber security guru or chief security officer, and so forth.  As a result, the well-known SSL vulnerability announcements (and any security alert for that matter) are often overlooked and ignored by the development staff.

But in reality, when employees use SSL technology, as provided by their company’s VPN client vendor to remotely log in to use sensitive company resources, they should bear some responsibility for ensuring security. Yet, few of these employees ever realize that effective security should be everyone’s concern.

Of course, this mentality is not entirely the fault of employees. The companies themselves and their executive leadership are ultimately responsible for ensuring all personnel have adequate security training. Legal statutes and regulatory regimes in every industry require companies to create a culture of awareness and security knowledge through effective training programs. When organizations lack definitive security policies, this type of thinking is more pervasive.

But in today’s world, the stakes are far too high for a single department to shoulder the full responsibility for securing an organization. All employees, no matter where they sit in the organization, should have some degree of security training.


Copyright (c)

Today’s myth is about the security of thick-client SSL VPNs. Some believe that thick-client SSL VPNs are more secure than thin-client ones, but this is actually untrue. Thick client is defined as an application client that processes data in addition to rendering. An example of a thick client application can be a Visual Basic, JAVA or VB.NET application that communicates with a database. And as you might already know, all of these have are vulnerable to security gaps.

The risks observed in thick-client applications generally include information disclosures, unauthorized access, authentication bypass, application crashes, unauthorized, high privilege transactions or privilege escalations. With the single exception of cross-site scripting, the vulnerabilities of thick clients are the same as the Top 10 OWASP Vulnerabilities of Web Applications. So there you go, another myth gone the way of the 8-track.

One more myth to go…stay tuned.