RSA hits out at SecurID research

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RSA hits out at SecurID research

Media reports of 2fa 'crack' are misleading.

RSA has moved to pour cold water on research highlighting holes in its SecurID 800 authenticator.

Following the research paper by Team Prosecco, which looked at attack vectors against authentication tools and evaluated cryptographic hardware, RSA's CTO for the identity and data protection business unit, Sam Curry, said that RSA had received many inquiries, press pickups, blog entries and tweets regarding an alleged 'crack' by scientific researchers of the RSA SecurID 800 authenticator.

“This is an alarming claim and should rightly concern customers who have deployed the SecurID 800 authenticator. The only problem is that it's not true. Much of the information being reported overstates the practical implications of the research, and confuses technical language in ways that make it impossible for security practitioners to assess risk associated with the products they use today accurately.

“The initial result is time wasted by product users and the community at large, determining the true facts of the situation.”

He said that the research does not cover any meaningful new ground and in the specific case of RSA's products, does not highlight any practical risk to users of the SecurID 800 tokens (or any other RSA product).

“However, it is an attempt to continue to explore the potential implications of a fault in PKCS #1 v1.5, and that is always a beneficial exercise regardless of the potential results of the research,” he said.

“The vulnerability outlined by the researchers makes it possible (however unlikely) that an attacker with access to the user's smartcard device and the user's smartcard PIN could gain access to a symmetric key or other encrypted data sent to the smartcard. It does not, however, allow an attacker to compromise private keys stored on the smartcard.”

Curry said that rather than highlighting a ‘crack' of the RSA SecurID 800 authenticator, the researchers in the study are noting a known vulnerability in the widely-used PKCS #1 v1.5 padding mechanism, a standard utilised by five vendors.

RSA decribed the research as:

"... only related to the smartcard functionality of the RSA SecurID 800 token and does not impact the one-time password (OTP) functionality of the token in any way; this does not impact the RSA SecurID 700 or any other RSA SecurID authenticators, including software tokens, apart from the smartcard functionality of the RSA SecurID 800 token; this is not a useful attack, as the researchers engaged in an academic exercise to point out a specific vulnerability in the protocol, but an attack requires access to the RSA SecurID 800 smartcard (for example, inserted into a compromised machine) and the user's smartcard PIN. If the attacker has the smartcard and PIN, there is no need to perform any attack, so this research adds little additional value as a security finding.

Finally, RSA said that the vulnerability does not yield the private key stored on the smartcard, as the specific vulnerability – if carried to its logical conclusion – cannot lead to successful harvesting of the private key corresponding to the public key in a user's certificate.

“We welcome continued research into our products and third-party technologies that are used by us and other security companies, as we feel it helps to make our collective information security solutions better.

“But when the research leads to confusing or overstated claims and reports, the result is confusion and misplaced concern, not productive collaboration. In our view, more care must be taken by all parties involved in this process to ensure accurate, useful information is provided to practitioners and the security community at large.”

It has offered guidance to users to follow best practices for endpoint security and ensure that the RSA Authentication Client (RAC Client) is up-to-date.

This article originally appeared at

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