mailing list archives
Re: The Outgoing Traffic Problem --
From: "Paul D. Robertson" <paul () compuwar net>
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 09:52:24 -0400 (EDT)
On Tue, 11 Jul 2006, Marcus J. Ranum wrote:
"After the State Department break-ins, many employees were instructed to
change their passwords. The department also temporarily disabled a
technology known as secure sockets layer, used to transmit encrypted
information over the Internet. Hackers can exploit weaknesses in this
technology to break into computers, and they can use the same technology
to transmit stolen information covertly off a victim's network.
It'd be interesting to know if it was protective or reactive blocking --
it may just be that the IPS couldn't deal with that traffic so they
decided to punt it, or it may be they finally have the authority to block
something they've wanted to block-- we used to have a state.gov poster, if
he's still around it'd be nice to know if we're at the event horizon
Many diplomats were unable to access their online bank accounts using
government computers because most financial institutions require the
security technology to be turned on."
So, reading between the lines, it would appear that the bad guys were
using SSL egress as a conduit. Some of us (me, Paul, Fred..) were
predicting back in the mid-1990's that this would eventually be a problem.
I hate it when we're right...
So perhaps a bit of this message is "I told you so!" but it does raise an
interesting question. Once you've got a user base that is accustomed
be being able to send arbitrary encrypted streams out through your firewall,
what ARE you going to do when the bad guys start tunnelling in with your
IDS! No IPS! No SSL Firewalls!!!!!
We're way beyond the generic protection mechanism stage, simply because
HTTP tunnels have driven us there. SSL tunnels won't change that, so
here's your next big great market opportunity...
In Marcus-land, it seems an act of insanity to allow
(anyone inside) -> (anyplace outside)
SSL connectivity. For exactly the reasons that State appears to be
in the process of discovering.
What are most organizations doing about this?? Do most security
managers have their heads still firmly in the sand on this topic?
I trust that everyone realizes that it's going to get worse, not better,
Most security managers have their heads firmly planted somewhere- normally
it's in a vendor's sandpile ;)
As far as I can see, the endgame is going to be one of two
- Organizations are going to try to add signature-style
controls to SSL transactions and are going to rely on "man
in the middle" style interception tricks and (call 'em what
you want) signatures to detect malicious traffic
- Organizations are going to have to positively identify
sites with which it is necessary/appropriate to do SSL
I don't see a lot of future in EITHER of those options. The first
one falls apart really fast if anyone ever fixes SSL's certificate
trust model (not highly likely) but since it's signature-based
it'll fail when the hackers add superencryption to their command
streams. The second option would have worked if it had been
approached 10 years ago but ironically there's finally enough
SSL being used that it's probably too late. And reining it in
would be bad, anyhow. So what happens? Is the long term
prognosis as bad as I think it is? I'm just afraid that the
hackers, malcode-writers, and botnetters of the world are going
to have an impact on the entire Internet that is comparable to
the impact that the spammers have had on Email systems:
namely, they have degraded the value and raised the costs
of the system to the point where it's worth 1/100th of what it
should be. As many of you have noticed, this boils my
Someone, please - tell me I am wrong and that somehow
it'll get fixed soon.
I dunno- wanna form a software start-up? I've got a couple of ideas. Our
motto could be "We sell you expensive stuff because your were too stupid
to listen to us when it was a cheap problem to fix."
Paul "I should probably be running to the patent office" Robertson
Paul D. Robertson "My statements in this message are personal opinions
paul () compuwar net which may have no basis whatsoever in fact."
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