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infosec-news: [ISN] Is SSL Cert Holder ID Verification A Joke?

[ISN] Is SSL Cert Holder ID Verification A Joke?

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_nospam>
Date: Tue Jan 24 2012 - 09:03:50 GMT

By Ericka Chickowski
Contributing Editor
Dark Reading
Jan 24, 2012

With the release of the BEAST exploit and subsequent scrambling by
browser vendors to close up vulnerabilities against SSL authentication,
many Web authentication discussions have been focused on the SSL/TLS
protocol’s weaknesses in recent months. As some IT professionals
explain, though, some of the biggest problems with SSL have nothing to
do with the technology. Instead, the woes are attributed to poor
practices. According to some, one finger should be pointed at
certificate authorities, which they say need to do a better job
confirming the identity of certificate holders in order to bolster the
trust placed in SSL certificates.

“SSL has been burdened with procedural failures, not technical ones. The
issue is simple in concept, and complicated in execution: verifying a
user's identity can't be done reliably by a machine,” says Bill Horne,
who runs William Warren Consulting. “At some point, anyone who is trying
to convince web users that their PKI certificate is valid must venture
into meatspace and show up before a neutral third party to prove that
they--or their company--are entitled to use the name that's on their
X.509 PKI certificate.”

Chet Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, echoes Horne’s
sentiments, stating that he doesn’t think that the SSL protocol is
broken aside from the fact that it relies on the antiquated model of
relying on central CAs.

“The methods they use to verify your identity are a bit of a joke. You
can get an SSL certificate for just about anything. For $19, which is
what these certs cost, they're domain-validated, which just doesn't mean
a lot,” he says. “As far as I'm concerned, having those certs there is
better than nothing because it protects you against things like
Firesheep. But they should be free and the fact that they say they
validate who (the certificate holders) say they are, it’s just horse


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