Superfish proves certs are useless for identification

Saturday, February 21, 2015 

Can we please, please stop with the stupid certificate verification warnings?

superfish logo

Dear security developers, your model is broken. It never worked. Stop warning people about certificate errors. Now. Forever.

Certificate errors serve two purposes:

  1. They make developers uncomfortable with using perfectly secure self-signed certs, and since commercial certs cost money, much of the web that could be encrypted remains unencrypted. That’s harm done to the public. Thanks.
  2. They happen so often, so relentlessly, for such trivial reasons (not even Google can keep their certs up to date) that users learn to ignore them, which makes an actual man-in-the-middle attack almost certain to succeed with most people, despite the warnings.

The Certificate Authority system is predicated on the idea that Certificate Authorities are flawless and trustworthy. They are neither. The Lenovo/Superfish problem shows another obvious flaw: hardware vendors (and actually any trusted software installer) has to be trustworthy too or client-side MITM is easy. And CA’s simply can’t verify against that.

This whole idiocy creates massive problems for something so basic as LAN administration. Even before wireless became pervasive, LAN coms should always be encrypted when passwords or any meaningful data is moving. Current security settings create a massive avalanche of useless errors for “untrustworthy certs” on one’s own network (the obvious fix is to automatically trust all certs on private networks, duh).

This is an issue that bothers me a lot. It gets in my way constantly and makes real security and encrypted communications way harder and way more complicated than it needs to be and the only beneficiaries at all are the certificate Mafiosi. This is just stupid. Superfish proves, again, how broken it is. Can we stop pretending now?

Also, this most recent of many certificate flaws comes with a bonus feature: the MITM cert Superfish uses is apparently really pathetically insecure, aside from using broken crypto, their software had their passwords in it, making it easy for crackers to develop tools to harvest additional data from the victims of the Superfish/Lenovo attack.It probably hurts more to find out your vendor hacked you, but the penalty is that the hack also destroyed the security of all of your communications. Thanks. This is why we can’t have nice things. It is also why any back door, no matter what the motive, compromises security.


Update: Superfish is, apparently, out of business.  While that sucks for the people at the company, who were probably very happy with their Lenovo OEM deal and instead got a big sock of coal, one might naively hope for an upside that companies considering a model based on stealing people’s data might take notice of the cautionary tale of superfish.

Unfortunately – that won’t happen, not in the current valley climate. While it is economically advantageous to hire cheap kids who have no life and will work long hours for meagre pay, they come with a downside: they are all ignorant idiots. I don’t mean they’re not smart or capable (though the smart barrel was long ago drained and the vast majority of brogrammers sauntering around SF really are stupid), rather that they are foolish as in the opposite of ‘wise.”  Wisdom comes from experience, and experience only comes with time, an immutable dimension.  This superfish debacle was only from Feb 2015, but this year’s batch of idiot brogrammers weren’t around to see it and as they gather in self-congratulatory clusters in posh, VC-funded collaborative spaces, company barrista-brewed latte in one hand and social-media-distraction feeding portable device in the other, they’ll be high-fiveing and fist-bumping the brilliance of their brand-new idea for getting around SSL so they can collect marketing data and better target advertising.  Yay.


How to fix Superfish:

Install Perspectives. And support them.

Also, this bugs the crap out of me:

Overthrow the Cert Mafia!

SSL for Authentication Sucks

Unbreaking Firefox SSL Behavior

The CA System is Intractably Broken

Posted at 02:45:41 UTC

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