The security of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols widely used for e-commerce 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, titled 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 means 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 do not 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, Marlinspike gathered 16 credit card numbers, the log-in information for 117 email accounts, seven PayPal logins and 300 other miscellaneous secure log-ins.
“I’ve explained a couple of things you might do, but really there’s a whole ecosystem of attacks out there,” said Marlinspike in a video interview.
He plans to release the code at the end of the week.
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