February 14, 2006

SSL phishing, Microsoft moves to brand, and nyms

fm points to Brian Krebs who documents an SSL-protected phishing attack. The cert was issued by Geotrust:

Now here's where it gets really interesting. The phishing site, which is still up at the time of this writing, is protected by a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption certificate issued by a division of the credit reporting bureau Equifax that is now part of a company called Geotrust. SSL is a technology designed to ensure that sensitive information transmitted online cannot be read by a third-party who may have access to the data stream while it is being transmitted. All legitimate banking sites use them, but it's pretty rare to see them on fraudulent sites.

(skipping details of certificate manufacturing...)

Once a user is on the site, he can view more information about the site's security and authenticity by clicking on the padlock located in the browser's address field. Doing so, I was able to see that the certificate was issued by Equifax Secure Global eBusiness CA-1. The certificate also contains a link to a page displaying a "ChoicePoint Unique Identifier" for more information on the issuee, which confirms that this certificate was issued to a company called Mountain America that is based in Salt Lake City (where the real Mountain America credit union is based.)

The site itself was closed down pretty quickly. For added spice beyond the normal, it also had a ChoicePoint unique Identifier in it! Over on SANS - something called the Internet Storm Center - Handler investigates why malware became a problem and chooses phishing. He has the Choicepoint story nailed:

I asked about the ChoicePoint information and whether it was used as verification and was surprised to learn that ChoicePoint wasn't a "source" of data for the transaction, but rather was a "recipient" of data from Equifax/GeoTrust. According to Equifax/GeoTrust, "as part of the provisioning process with QuickSSL, your business will be registered with ChoicePoint, the nation's leading provider of identification and credential verification services."

LOL... So now we know that the idea is to get everyone to believe in trusting trust and then sell them oodles of it. Quietly forgetting that the service was supposed to be about a little something called verification, something that can happen when there is no reason to defend the brand to the public.

Who would'a thunk it? In other news, I attended an informal briefing on Microsoft's internal security agenda recently. The encouraging news is that they are moving to put logos on the chrome of the browser, negotiate with CAs to get the logos into the certificates, and move the user into the cycle of security. Basically, Trustbar, into IE. Making the brand work. Solving the MITM in browsers.

There are lots of indicators that Microsoft is thinking about where to go. Their marketing department is moving to deflect attention with 10 Immutable Laws of Security:

Law #1: If a bad guy can persuade you to run his program on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #2: If a bad guy can alter the operating system on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #3: If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #4: If you allow a bad guy to upload programs to your website, it's not your website any more
Law #5: Weak passwords trump strong security
Law #6: A computer is only as secure as the administrator is trustworthy
Law #7: Encrypted data is only as secure as the decryption key
Law #8: An out of date virus scanner is only marginally better than no virus scanner at all
Law #9: Absolute anonymity isn't practical, in real life or on the Web
Law #10: Technology is not a panacea

Immutable! I like that confidence, and so do the attackers. #9 is worth reading - as Microsoft are thinking very hard about identity these days. Now, on the surface, they may be thinking that if they can crack this nut about identity then they'll have a wonderful market ahead. But under the covers they are moving towards that which #9 conveniently leaves out - the key is the identity is the key, and its called psuedonymity, not anonymity. Rumour has it that Microsoft's Windows operating system is moving over to a psuedonymous base but there is little written about it.

There was lots of other good news, too, but it was an informal briefing, so I informally didn't recall all of it. Personally, to me, this means my battle against phishing is drawing to a close - others far better financed and more powerful are carrying on the charge. Which is good because there is no shortage of battles in the future.

To close, deliciously, from Brian (who now looks like he's been slashdotted):

I put a call in to the Geotrust folks. Ironically, a customer service representative said most of the company's managers are presently attending a security conference in Northern California put on by RSA Security, the company that pretty much wrote the book on SSL security and whose encryption algorithms power the whole process. When I hear back from Geotrust, I'll update this post.

That's the company that also ditched SSL as a browsing security method, recently. At least they've still got the conference business.

Posted by iang at February 14, 2006 06:21 AM | TrackBack

Of course, if Windows followed POLA, Microsoft's 1st so-called immutable law would be bogus. I'm pretty sure that Ka-Ping Yee first noticed that one.

Posted by: Toby Murray at February 14, 2006 06:31 PM
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