Announcements & Articles : All Posts

  • March 24, 2017

    Firstly, key note is that Certificates today require no action – there is no security issue nor any issues with issuance !! Google’s unilateral changes to the Chrome browser do not require any action immediately. Enough is Enough.

    On behalf of Symantec, we want you to note that Symantec is proud to be one of the world’s leading certificate authorities. Symantec strongly objects to the action Google has taken to target Symantec SSL/TLS certificates in the Chrome browser. This action was certainly unexpected, and Symantec believes the blog post was irresponsible! Symantec hopes that this was not calculated to create uncertainty and doubt within the Internet community about our SSL/TLS certificates.

    Google’s statements about Symantec’s  issuance practices and the scope of Symantec’s  past mis-issuances is exaggerated and misleading. For example..

    • Google’s claim that Symantec has mis-issued 30,000 SSL/TLS certificates is not true. In the event Google is referring to, 127 certificates – not 30,000 – were identified as mis-issued, and they resulted in no consumer harm as they were for test purposes .
    • While all major CAs have experienced SSL/TLS certificate mis-issuance events, Google of recent has singled out the Symantec Certificate Authority in its proposal even though the mis-issuance event identified in Google’s blog post involved several CAs.

    Symantec has taken extensive remediation measures to correct this situation, immediately terminated the involved partner’s appointment as a registration authority (RA), and in a move to strengthen the trust of Symantec-issued SSL/TLS certificates, announced the discontinuation of our RA program. This control enhancement is an important move that other public certificate authorities (CAs) have not yet followed.

    Symantec operates our CA in accordance with industry standards and maintains extensive controls over our SSL/TLS certificate issuance processes and Symantec works to continually strengthen their CA practices. Symantec has substantially invested in, and remain committed to, the security of the Internet.  Symantec has publicly and strongly committed to Certificate Transparency (CT) logging for Symantec certificates and is one of the few CAs that hosts its own CT servers.  Symantec has also been a champion of Certification Authority Authorization (CAA), and has asked the CA/Browser Forum for a rule change to require that all certificate authorities explicitly support CAA. Symantec’s most recent contribution to the CA ecosystem includes the creation of Encryption Everywhere, our freemium program, to create widespread adoption of encrypted websites.

    Note that Symantec wants to reassure their customers and all consumers that they can continue to trust Symantec SSL/TLS certificates.

    Symantec will continue to vigorously defend the safe and productive use of the Internet, including minimizing any potential disruption caused by the proposal in Google’s blog post. Symantec is currently open to discussing the matter with Google in an effort to resolve the situation in the shared interests of our joint customers and partners.

    “We suggest and strongly recommend that you continue as normal with your procurement of Symantec SSL Certificates as we are working to clarify Google’s statement. You can expect an update soon once we assess if changes are necessary.” –  COO, Acmetek Global Solutions, Kevin S Naidoo

  • February 22, 2017

    We want to inform you about new industry requirements that were announced by the Certificate Authority Security Council (CASC) for Code Signing certificates on 8th December 2016 and that comes into effect on the 1st of February 2017.

    The new requirements address four key areas within our Code Signing products and provide a safer experience and minimize the risk of Code Signing attacks.

    To reduce the chance of issuing certificates to malicious publishers the guidelines require that Symantec:

    • Follow a strict and standardized identity verification process to authenticate publishers
    • Check all Code Signing orders against lists of suspected or known malware publishers
    • Check all Code Signing orders that were previously revoked by Symantec where the certificates were used to sign suspect code.Code Signing Important

    Symantec has also introduced a ‘Certificate Problem Reporting’ system for both Symantec and Thawte Code Signing certificates which will allow third parties like malware organisations and software suppliers to report issues relating to key compromise, certificate misuse and possible fraud. Under the new arrangement, once Symantec receives a request, we will either revoke the certificate within forty eight hours, or alert the requestor that we have started an investigation.

    Symantec has enhanced their timestamping services for their Code Signing customers to meet the new requirements. More information can be found in the following KB articles for Microsoft Signing and Java Signing.

    The main benefit of using a timestamp is that the signature does not expire when the certificate does, which is what happens in normal circumstances. Instead, the signature remains valid for the lifetime of the timestamp, which can be as long as 135 months.

    Symantec has published a set of guidelines on private key protection best practices for Symantec and Thawte Code Signing certificates which must be reviewed and accepted by subscribers as part of the enrollment process. These guidelines makes recommendations regarding the secure storage of private keys to mitigate against the risk of potential vulnerabilities, however it is important to call out that Code Signing minimum requirements published in December stop short of mandating that an OV Code Signing certificate must be stored on a FIPS 140-2 Level 2 HSM or equivalent on premise hardware.

    Lastly, any pending Symantec or Thawte Code Signing orders placed before the 25th of January 2017 and not issued before the 1st of February 2017 will be cancelled by Symantec and respective customers asked to re-enroll.

    If you want any further clarification about this announcement, or have any questions feel free to get in touch your Certificate Authority who issued your Code Signing Certificate.

    Dominic Rafael, Lead Tech Engineer

  • February 14, 2017

    WhatsApp Enables Two Factor Authentication Strengthening it’s Security.

    WhatsApp is a widely popular free to use cross platform smart phone messaging application that allows users to use their phone service and wifi internet to make voice/video calls, send text messages, documents, images, gif’s, user locations, etc. Its popularity is primarily due to where data rates or roaming charges can cost an arm and a leg.

    WhatsApp Inc., based in Mountain View, California, was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for ridiculous $19.3 billion US Dollars. By February 2016, WhatsApp has a user base of over one billion, making it the most popular messaging application at the time.

    Over the recent years Privacy and Security has been a focus on the popular message app. In 2014 WhatsApp implemented end to end https encryption scrambling the information between communicating users. The latest Security implementation is the coming of Two-Step Verification.

    What is Two-Step Verification?

    Two-step verification is an optional feature that adds more security to your account. The technology is not new, and it has been in use for quite some time. Blizzard Inc. creator of the biggest online MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game World Of Warcraft implemented two factor authentication back in 2008 to protect gamers accounts from being hacked. Two-step, or Two-Factor Authentication protects your accounts by requiring you to provide an additional piece of information after you give your password In the most common implementation, after correctly entering your password, an online service will send you a text message or an email with a unique string of numbers that you’ll need to punch in to get access to your account.

    Implementing Two Step Verification on WhatsApp:

    To enable two-step verification, open WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable.

    Upon enabling this feature, you can also optionally enter your email address. This email address will allow WhatsApp to send you a link via email to disable two-step verification in case you ever forget your six-digit passcode, and also to help safeguard your account. WhatsApp will not verify this email address to confirm its accuracy. You will want to provide an accurate  email address so that you’re not locked out of your account if you forget your passcode.

    How it works..

    After implementing Two-Step Verification if you receive an email to disable two-step verification, or receive a pass-code request but did not request this, do not click on the link! Someone could be attempting to verify your phone number on WhatsApp elsewhere. Meaning that someone is attempting to gain access to your account! Stay secure.

    Lead Tech Engineer: Dominique Rafael


  • January 27, 2017

    GoDaddy last week has begun the process of re-issuing SSL certificates for more than 6,000 customers after a bug was discovered with there DV (Domain Validated) automated registrar’s validation process. This automated process of getting a certificate is one of the fastest ways of getting a validated digital certificate used to encrypt and validate websites or networks.

    “GoDaddy inadvertently introduced the bug during a routine code change intended to improve our certificate issuance process. ” “The bug caused the domain validation process to fail in certain circumstances.” Thayer VP and General Manager of Security Products at GoDaddy said in a statement.

    When we hear terms such as “Improve Certificate Issuance Process” it usually means make things faster, or more automated. Keep in mind that GoDaddy is not a security company they are into hosting. Being a Certificate Authority (CA) is just a by product of the service they provide. The issue exposed sites running SSL certs from GoDaddy to spoofing where a hacker could gain access to certificates and pose as a legitimate site. Enabling a hacker the spread of malware, or steal personal information such as Banking login credentials. This move to “Improve” a certificate issuance comes from fear from a new free CA that has debut called Let’s Encrypt.

    Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open CA brought to you by the non-profit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). The move for this free automated process is to help the industry migrate to enable HTTPS(SSL/TLS) for websites in the most user friendly way possible. It is meant to significantly lower the complexity of setting up and maintaining TLS encryption.

    Features of Let’s Encrypt.

    • Let’s Encrypt issues Only domain-validated certificates, since they can be fully automated. Organization Validation and Extended Validation Certificates are not available.
    • Let’s Encrypt issues certificates valid for 90 days. Their reason is that these certificates “limit damage from key compromise and mis-issuance” and encourage automation. The official certbot client and most of the third-party clients allow automation of the certificate renewal.
    • Only Open Source Linux systems are capable with Lets’Encrypt automation.
    • No wildcard functionality (currently).
    • Elimination of payment, web server configuration, validation email management and certificate renewal tasks.

    The Ugly/Disadvantages:malvertising

    • One disadvantage that makes big companies Not consider Let’s Encrypt is that visitors that connect to the site can’t be sure that it is the actual company that hosts the site. This is because Let’s Encrypt issues DV certificates for a domain free of charge without identity validation (personal or corporate)
    • Automatic renewal of these certificates tends to lead IT admins to neglect security upkeep’s on there systems. Majority of the time when an admin is made to visit a system due to a certificate needing an update they discover that they are out of compliance with needed patches and configurations. This can lead to backdoor hacking due to dated software and standards if left untouched.
    • The free cost of these certificate allows hackers to achieve a certificate. The potential for Let’s Encrypt being abused by those who can freely get these certificates are very present. Hackers tend to not want to spend money to achieve their goals.

    Any technology that is meant for good can be abused by cyber criminals, and digital certificates like those of Let’s Encrypt’s are no exception. This trust system can be abused. There is one reported case where an attacker/malvertiser was able to perform a technique called “domain shadowing.” Domain shadowing is when the attacker is able to create sub domains under the legitimate site. With an embedded advertisement on a website an end user could click on a malicious add thinking that they are visiting an alternate page. In reality though they have been lead to the hackers malvertising server which could download a trojan or Randsomeware into that users system. A certificate authority that automatically issues free certificates specific to these sub-domains may inadvertently help cyber criminals, all with the domain owner being unaware of the problem and unable to prevent it.

    Domain-validation certificates only confirm that the relevant domain is under the control of the site recipient. In theory, this will not validate the identity of the recipient. End users that visit these sites are unaware of the nuances of certificates may miss the differences, and as a result, these DV certificates can help the hacker gain legitimacy with the public. There is nothing wrong with the procurement of a DV certificate. Depending on the circumstances DV is advised for internal networks when there is a need for a quick cost effective resolution. Security is always is a Pro-Active industry. Cutting corners and making things easy for the sake of convenience is a double edge sword, and could lead to a loss of business and good reputation. Needless to say approach with caution.

    Posted by:
    Dominic Rafael
    Lead Tech Solutions Engineer
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