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One in every 172 active RSA certificates are vulnerable to attack

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A vulnerability has been discovered in RSA certificates that could compromise one in every 172 certificates currently in active use. 

On Saturday at the First IEEE Conference on Trust, Privacy, and Security in Intelligent Systems and Applications in Los Angeles, Calfornia, a team of researchers from Keyfactor presented their findings into the security posture of digital certificates. 

RSA certificates are public key certificates that use cryptographic algorithms to encrypt data and protect information being sent from devices or services to servers. 

These systems are used to protect Internet traffic and software communications, as well as information generated by Internet of Things (IoT) and medical products, among many other devices.

In a paper shared with ZDNet ahead of publication on Monday, “Factoring RSA Keys in the IoT Era,” the researchers outline how it is possible to compromise the security of RSA keys with “minimal computing resources.”

The team built a database of 75 million active RSA keys, later augmented with 100 million certificates made available through certificate transparency logs. The dataset was then analyzed using an algorithm and Microsoft Azure virtual machine.

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Keyfactor mined the 175 million keys to identify common factors in random number generation and found that one in every 172 active keys online shares a factor with one another. The security of RSA, however, relies on the inability to determine two prime numbers from which the RSA public key is derived.

Discovery of these “prime factors” can be used to compromise certificates, the team says, potentially risking the security of devices using RSA certificates. 

Over 435,000 certificates were found to have a shared factor, allowing the researchers to rederive private keys.

“In a real-world attack scenario, a threat actor with a rederived private key for an SSL/TLS server certificate could impersonate that server when devices attempt to connect,” said JD Kilgallin, senior integration engineer and researcher at Keyfactor. “The connecting user or device cannot distinguish the attacker from the legitimate certificate holder, opening the door to critical device malfunction or exposure of sensitive data.”

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In comparison, only five in 100 million certificates from Certificate Transparency (CT) logs share the same prime factors.

According to the paper, the discrepancy is caused by IoT and power-restricted devices that can only manage low rates of entropy due to design constraints. 

“Entropy in a device is required to prevent the random number generation from being predictable,” the paper reads. “Researchers were able to find deterministic “random” output when removing entropy. Lightweight IoT devices are particularly prone to being in low entropy states due to the lack of input data they might receive, as well as the challenge of incorporating hardware-based random number generation economically.”

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The higher the entropy state possible, the more difficult it is for attackers to extract private keys. In cases where devices have an inherent inability to support high entropy states, security may suffer.

 “The widespread susceptibility of these IoT devices poses a potential risk to the public due to their presence in sensitive settings,” the researchers say. “We conclude that device manufacturers must ensure their devices have access to sufficient entropy and adhere to best practices in cryptography to protect consumers.”

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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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