Google Rolling Out SSL Encrypted Search for International Users

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2012 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged: SSL, search, international, google, encryption

Google recently announced on their Inside Search blog that the company would be rolling out the default SSL encrypted search option for users signed in with a Google account internationally. Previously, the company made SSL encryption the default setting for Gmail and provided an alternative encrypted.google.com webpage for users that wanted to opt in to encrypted search. Earlier this year, they began testing SSL encrypted search and search results pages for users signed into Google in the US, and they are now ready to expand the default setting to international users.

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They announced that over the next few weeks, they will begin introducing an SSL (secure socket layer) encrypted search page for localized international google pages such as google.co.uk (United Kingdom) and google.fr (France) among others. Further, they hope that their increased SSL commitment will encourage other websites to enable SSL on their domains to protect users from MITM (man in the middle) attacks and to ensure their sessions stay private.

More encryption is a good thing, and international users will be pleased to finally get a taste of it for their google search queries, especially now that the big G has enabled personalized search results.

Source: Google

Still hope for SSL, the web ain't dead yet

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2011 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, SSL

SSL and secure data transfer are wounded, but not dying quite yet if you use an elderly encryption protocol called RC4 or ARC4.  Current AES is suggested as the preferred way of encrypting data transfers, but the BEAST (Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS) attack is capable of defeating AES encryption.  Unfortunately there are attack methods which are able to defeat RC4, specifically as it is implemented for WPA and WES in wireless networks.  Google informed The Register that they have been using RC4, although clients that attempt to connect which don't support that encryption method are offered the vulnerable AES method.  Google also pointed out the latest developer version of Chrome protects against the BEAST attack but don't mention when the main version of Chrome will protect users.

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"The recommendations published Friday by two-factor authentication service PhoneFactor, suggest websites use the RC4 cipher to encrypt SSL traffic instead of newer, and ironically cryptographically stronger, algorithms such as AES. Google webservers are already configured to favor RC4, according to this analysis tool from security firm Qualys. A Google spokesman says the company has used those settings "for years."

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Source: The Register

Sort of secure socket layer

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2011 - 12:02 PM |
Tagged: fud, SSL, tls, security

The good news about the discovery that the encryption procedure behind Secure Socket Layer and Transport Layer Security has been compromised is that the newest versions of both SSL and TLS are still safe and they have been available for a while now.  The bad news is that not only do only a tiny handful of websites utilize TLS 1.1/1.2 and SSL 3.0, most browsers don't even support the updated protocols.  Oddly Internet Explorer and Internet Information Services both support the newer protocols, though they are not enabled by default; the only one that does have TLS 1.2 enabled by default is Opera.  

You don't have to immediately switch browsers, in order for your secure connection to be compromised the attacker first has to compromise your browser or machine in order to get JavaScript code to run in your browser before they can start the decryption process.  It is not the quickest peice of programming either ... yet.  In the proof of concept that The Register references a 1000-2000 character long cookie will take about a half hour to crack, which is most likely longer than the average connection to your PayPal account will last, which is the site they used as an example.   Of course if you throw a dozen Tesla cards at it and it will probably decrypt the packets at a much quicker pace.

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"Researchers have discovered a serious weakness in virtually all websites protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently decrypt data that's passing between a webserver and an end-user browser.

The vulnerability resides in versions 1.0 and earlier of TLS, or transport layer security, the successor to the secure sockets layer technology that serves as the internet's foundation of trust. Although versions 1.1 and 1.2 of TLS aren't susceptible, they remain almost entirely unsupported in browsers and websites alike, making encrypted transactions on PayPal, GMail, and just about every other website vulnerable to eavesdropping by hackers who are able to control the connection between the end user and the website he's visiting."

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Source: The Register

A quick guide to SSL and what its major maladjustment is

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2011 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: SSL, black hat 2011, CA, Comodo

While the boys were having fun at an event in Texas, TechwareLabs were at a show of a completely different colour.  Black Hat 2011, the yearly computer security convention was also taking place in Las Vegas, bringing to light the discoveries of the past year when it comes to vulnerabilities and how to protect yourself against them.  One of the topics for discussion was how the Secure Socket Layer works, by assuming that a Trusted Authority is behind a security certificate which requires them to provide a secure connection between yourself and their servers.  Over the past year we saw a hack at Comodo, who are a major Certificate Authority, which lead to nefarious people getting their hands on certificates assigned to Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, which allowed them to easily fool even a computer using SSL. 

Taking that as an example of the failure of the idea of single, large CAs as the way to implement SSL.  If you were to no longer trust Comodo and its certificates then about 1/4 of the secure sites on the net would never allow you to connect.  Instead a programmer detailed a FireFox extension called Convergence as an alternative.  This distributed way of dealing with Certificate authentication would allow you to switch between trusting and untrusting certain CAs without damaging your ability to connect to secure sites on the web.

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"This interesting presentation concerns a security protocol that you probably use everyday. It is in your browser, on the server you connect to, and bought together by a “Certificate Authority”. The idea behind SSL is to provide a secure connection between you, the client browser, and the server providing the sensitive data to you. For instance a Bank website is designed to provide the client with convenient access to account details, transactions, etc. But there is a major issue with a pivotal player in this process. The Certificate Authority or CA is charged with certifying the organizations to which it provides certificates. The CA is supposed to be a trustworthy entity working on behalf of us, the end users, to ensure that any organization it issues a certificate to is credible and trustworthy. After all many users depend on the CA’s, SSL protocol, and issued certificates to enforce authentication and integrity in the online space. You have little choice but to trust the CAs and expect them to provide a high quality level of authentication services."

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