Boneh Publications: The most dangerous code in the world: validating SSL certificates in non-browser software

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the de facto standard for secure Internet communications. Security of SSL connections against an active network attacker depends on correctly validating public-key certificates presented when the connection is established. We demonstrate that SSL certificate validation is completely broken in many security-critical applications and libraries. Vulnerable software includes Amazon's EC2 Java library and all cloud clients based on it; Amazon's and PayPal's merchant SDKs responsible for transmitting payment details from e-commerce sites to payment gateways; integrated shopping carts such as osCommerce, ZenCart, Ubercart, and PrestaShop; AdMob code used by mobile websites; Chase mobile banking and several other Android apps and libraries; Java Web-services middleware - including Apache Axis, Axis 2, Codehaus XFire, and Pusher library for Android - and all applications employing this middleware. Any SSL connection from any of these programs is insecure against a man-in-the-middle attack. The root causes of these vulnerabilities are badly designed APIs of SSL implementations (such as JSSE, OpenSSL, and GnuTLS) and data-transport libraries (such as cURL) which present developers with a confusing array of settings and options. We analyze perils and pitfalls of SSL certificate validation in software based on these APIs and present our recommendations.

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