The security of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols widely used for ecommerce has been questioned again after a delegate at the Black Hat computer security conference showed how the system could be easily bypassed.
In his presentation, called "New Techniques for Defeating SSL in Practice," to the conference, a researcher calling himself Moxie Marlinspike demonstrated a number of ways that the SSL system could be subverted by software he had written called sslstrip.
The software forms part of a ‘man in the middle’ attack which identifies HTTPS traffic and inserts itself between incoming data and the end user.
While this attack does mean the user will see HTTP rather than HTTPS in their browser none of the test subjects noticed according to Marlinspike. The software can even leave the padlock icon displayed to further fool users.
Part of the problem lies in that people don’t type in full URLs with the HTTP or HTTPS tag, rather just use www. and let the browser do the rest.
In a 24 hour test run he gathered 16 credit card numbers, the login information for 117 email accounts, 16 credit card numbers, seven PayPal logins and 300 other miscellaneous secure logins.
“I’ve explained a couple of things you might do but really there’sa whole ecosystem of attacks out there,” said Marlinspike in a video interview.
He plans to release the code at the end of the week.
SSL is under constant attack as it provides malware writers with the most financially valuable information possible. Last month, VeriSign said it was taking steps to beef up security on the standard.