The attack surface expansion has topped the chart, as per Gartner’s report on the Cybersecurity Trends in 2022. With remote and hybrid work culture, proliferation of cloud applications, connected supply chains and the greater use of cyber-physical systems, new attack surfaces have been exposed.
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is one of the most common and widely used protocols for securing and encrypting communication channels between network devices. Digital certificates, like SSL certificates, contain the key pairs (private and public keys) which ensure security of the data transmitted via communication channels, and prevent attackers from tampering or altering.
However, by exploiting the vulnerabilities of third-party applications, hackers can access stolen certificates. Security breaches and sudden outages take heavy toll on the businesses, with respect to both financial and reputational losses. Let’s look at the attacks that SSL helps prevent, and how certificate lifecycle management (CLM) can tighten the security posture of the organization.
Attacks that SSL prevents
- SSL Renegotiation Attack: An SSL/TLS client-initiated renegotiation is a feature, which allows the client to renegotiate parameters required for an SSL/TLS connection within a single Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection. Enabling a client-side renegotiation allows the attacker to initiate a denial of service (DoS) attack against the server by triggering multiple TLS handshakes in a single TCP connection. The malicious attacker manages to exploit the vulnerability during the renegotiation procedure and inject plaintext into the victim’s request during client-server communication and successfully intercepts the HTTP connection.
- SSL Downgrade Attack: In a downgrade attack, also known as bidding-down attack, a connection protocol or a cryptographic algorithm is dropped intentionally to an older and less secure version, thus allowing attackers to perform data theft, like stealing financial data and sensitive medical records. The attack is enabled by backward compatibility, which is based on the concept of establishing interoperability with legacy servers. A downgrade attack is typically a part of a much larger attack scenario and paves the roadmap for launching several other kinds of cryptographic attacks.
- Truncation Attack: A truncation attack is one where the user’s logout request is blocked, and the user unknowingly continues to be logged into the web service. When the user sends the sign-out request, an unencrypted TCP FIN message is injected to close the connection, and the logout request fails to reach the server. This attack works like man-in-the-middle attack where the intruder places himself on the same network with the victim, and gains access into the critical data.
- SSL Stripping Attack: In SSL stripping attack, the bad actor intervenes in the redirection process of HTTP to HTTPS protocol and intercepts request between user and server. The attacker will act as a bridge between the user and server and establish an insecure HTTP connection with the user. After a successful implementation of the stripping attack, the victim’s sensitive information is transformed into plaintext format and hence easily accessible to the attacker. Websites that use both HTTP and HTTPS connections and encrypt only their login pages are vulnerable to SSL stripping attacks.
- SSL Hijacking Attack: Session hijacking, also referred to as cookie hijacking, occurs when the attacker gains unauthorized access to the session key/ID information of a valid session. The hacker manages to obtain the client’s ID information by using malicious ways; such has tricking the user to click on a link containing a pre-configured session ID. The attacker then takes over the ongoing session by using the stolen/maliciously obtained session ID, making the server believe that the hacker’s session is same as the session of the legitimate user.
- Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MITM): The primary aim of MITM attack is to extract personal information of the users, such as login credentials, credit card details, etc. With such sensitive information, attackers can manipulate the users’ online activities or blackmail for ransom. Because the attackers disguise themselves as legitimate communicating parties, most of the times the users themselves are unaware that they have fallen victims of such dangerous cyberattacks. Unauthorized access to TLS/SSL certificates triggers MITM attacks and data theft.
SSL certificates can help prevent attacks, but managing them efficiently is equally critical to keep your organization secure. The certificate lifecycle is a long and complex process – from discovering certificates in your network to provisioning them on endpoints and revoking or renewing them when their validity ends. With thousands of certificates spread across multiple endpoints, environments, certificate authorities (CAs), and geographies, efficiently managing all of them manually is a herculean task.
Certificate lifecycle management tools come with modules to manage each aspect of the process. From auto-scanning environments to detecting and maintaining certificate inventory to automatically renewing expired certificates and revoking rogue ones, the entire lifecycle can be centrally managed from the tool’s interface. They are also equipped with functionalities that permit custom workflow definition, dynamic network monitoring, granular access control, policy enforcement, and auditing. With key security and vendor integration capabilities thrown in, they allow administrators to manage their public key infrastructure (PKI) with minimal effort and maximize their return on investment. Stay proactive with an end-to-end certificate lifecycle automation solution.