The cyber threat landscape has changed drastically in recent years, but unfortunately for the worse. The attackers and hackers have become pros in refining their tactics. According to the Cybersecurity Ventures analysis, there will be a new attack every two seconds and ransomware costs are expected to reach $265 billion by 2031.
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are popular cryptographic protocols, which help ingrain web communications with integrity and security against unauthorized tampering. SSL, the predecessor of TLS, the standardized online security, encrypts data sent over the Internet between a server and a client, thus preventing data compromises.
Invading the SSL/TLS encrypted traffic is multiplying in full swing, making enterprises vulnerable to data breaches, unauthorized accesses, failed audits, and system outages. As TLS/SSL certificates are primarily responsible to secure data in transit, expired certificates can be the gateways for attackers.
Common Mistakes leading to SSL Attack
Digital certificates like TLS/SSL certificates are crucial in making websites easily recognizable to users as trusted and secure pages. Let’s look at some of the common mistakes leading to SSL attacks.
- Implementing deprecated and outdated protocols: Many organizations fail to embrace the newer versions of TLS/SSL certificates, like TLS 1.3. Without complete visibility into your network infrastructure, you will not know which certificate or protocol requires to be updated. The deprecated SSL versions like TLS 1.0 do not meet the requirements to comply with Data Security Standards (DSS). The users continue to be at risk of exposure to vulnerabilities like Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) and downgrade attacks. Migrating to newer and updated TLS/SSL protocols allows the organizations to ensure all connections to the website are secured.
- Using self-signed and overly long-spanned certificates: A self-signed certificate does not bear the level of trust and authenticity that comes when the certificate is signed by the Certificate Authority (CA). When you use a self-signed SSL certificate on your website, the web servers prompt a security warning to your users as the certificate is not approved by any CA. This alert makes the users abort browsing on the page for security concerns. Although self-signed certificates are known to reduce cost, the initial convenience disappears fast. Often teams lose count of the number of these certificates and where the keys are installed and hosted, thus creating a blind spot in the company’s security policies. The shorter the lifespan of the certificates, the more secure they are. Capping the certificate lifespan to one year allows periodic verifications and tighter security.
- Having incomplete certificate inventory in place: Manual tracking of certificates using spreadsheets is not only risky but also a cause of persistent headaches for cybersecurity professionals. It is nothing less than a nightmare to track every individual certificate with innumerable variables, like varying expiration dates, multiple certificate authorities, and unique system vulnerabilities. Limited visibility into certificate inventory and manual certificate tracking is not only error-prone and time-consuming but also susceptible to dangerous security slip-ups.
SSL Vulnerabilities to Watch Out For
- Expired certificates: Most popular browsers, like Chrome and Safari, are configured to identify and access websites having valid TLS/SSL certificates. Before displaying the requested website to the end-user, the browser verifies the certificate status, by the process of TLS/SSL handshake. If it detects that the certificate of the website is expired, the browser issues a security warning, like ‘Your connection is not private’ to the user. Webpages with valid certificates will have ‘HTTPS’ preceding the name of the website in the search bar, thus authenticating the connection. Accepting expired certificates makes users open to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and leads to outages.
- MITM attacks: As the term suggests, a MITM attack is when a cybercriminal positions himself in the conversation between an application and a server. This type of eves-dropping attack interferes with the data transfer, allowing the perpetrator to intercept confidential data and inject malicious links in such a way that it seems legitimate to the application and server. Unauthorized access to TLS/SSL certificates triggers MITM attacks and data theft. Several MITM attacks comprise malware to redirect users to fake websites for extracting sensitive information. There are cases when root CA is compromised, enabling the actors to steal the keys and forge certificates using the stolen root keys and initiating MITM attacks.
- FREAK and Raccoon attack: Factoring RSA Export Keys (FREAK) is a TLS/SSL vulnerability, which gives access to attackers to intercept HTTPS connection between server and client by using export-grade cryptography, which includes out-of-date key lengths that can be easily decrypted. Some servers, browsers, and SSL implementations still use weaker export-grade cryptographic suites empowering the MITM to compel clients for using export-grade keys.
Raccoon attack, supported by the TLS 1.2 and prior versions, is a timing attack where a malicious third-party measures the approximate time needed to perform cryptographic operations for uncovering parts of the algorithm. The prime target of a Raccoon attack is a cipher suite containing a key. If the attacker is successful in decrypting the connection, he can lay his hands on sensitive information, like emails and credit card numbers. To mitigate the Raccoon attack, you can use TLS 1.3 as it does not have DHE in cipher suites.
Securing Machine Identities from SSL Attack
Digital certificates like X.509 certificates are the most widely used machine identity certificates, and they also lay the foundation for PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). X.509 certificates promote server-client authentication over the HTTPS protocol (TLS/SSL) and in digitally signing the offline applications.
- Embrace Zero Trust Security Model: In Zero Trust environments, as the term suggests, trust no one. For anyone trying to access the network, any device, or any entity, multifactor authentication and verification protocols are a ‘must’. Identity is the new network perimeter and you need to validate every machine’s identity irrespective of their location. To achieve zero trust approach at scale, monitor and manage cryptographic keys and digital certificates which are used to establish machine identity.
- Gain holistic visibility into certificate infrastructure: Invest in a tool that can automatically build an inventory for discovering certificates across all devices in the infrastructure, regardless of the certificate authority (CA) or device type. Information such as locations, associated applications, expiry dates, and signatures should be automatically captured. In addition, users need to schedule periodic discoveries to keep inventory updated with new information on undocumented and rogue certificates.
- Set up role-based access and audit trails: Access prevention and granular control of who gets to access the workings of your PKI is an excellent way of administering policy and maintaining compliance. There is a reason for this: when there’s no cap on the number of personnel allowed to add to the certificate count, there’s a higher probability of certificates being provisioned and then going undocumented. This translates to the risk of it not getting renewed on time. As we have mentioned before, all it takes for an outage to kick in is one faulty certificate, and a thorough audit trail is the best way to avoid it.
- Embrace automation: Installing and operating an automated certificate lifecycle management ensure security and compliance in the corporate network. Automated well-in-time certificate renewals using native integration with all major CAs, flexible definition and enforcement of cryptographic policies, and secured key generation and key management safeguard machine identities.
AppviewX can Help!
AppViewX CERT+ helps you in managing certificates and keys across various technologies in varied hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployment environments. Certificate lifecycle management (CLM) in CERT+ simplifies all certificate operations between CA and the applications where certificates are to be used.