The Risks Of Expired SSL Certificates

The Risks Of Expired SSL Certificates

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SSL certificates grant authentication to your websites or domains, and are critical for ensuring proper encryption of internet traffic and verified server  identity. Without these certificates, end users will have no way of knowing if the website they are currently browsing is who it claims to be.

A change in policy in 2020 by Apple, Google and Mozilla mandated that SSL certificates operate  for a period of no longer than 398 days, after which they expire. If not renewed on time, expired SSL certificates leave your organization exposed to a range of both cyber and business risks.

The shorter certificate validity period facilitates algorithm upgrades, and faster certificate and key replacements, especially during malicious cyber-attacks. The less time required to deploy changes and updates, the lower the security risk. The purpose of digital certificates, like TLS/SSL certificates, is to verify the identity of the website or website owner and encrypt the connection between client (browser) and server (website). A longer certificate lifespan means long expiration of validation, which fuels the exposure to security lapses due to obsolete encryption protocols.

There is no lack of tools which are supposed to help IT and security teams to manage these certificates and renew them on time. Nevertheless, domains with expired certificates are prevalent and becoming increasingly common due to recent updates to certificates expiration periods.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

Your website cloud be less secure

Once an SSL certificate expires, other clients (users with browsers) cannot verify your website authenticity. In addition, it may not comply with the latest security standards, leading to vulnerability in encryption mechanisms down the line.

Expired SSL Certificate
Customers’ trust and revenue is at stake

SSL certificates are a cornerstone in building a trust-based relationship between your business and customers. You want to provide a safe and secure environment for your website users, ensuring their comfort when they provide personal data, such as home address or credit card info. The padlock on the top left corner of the browser is a fundamental component in the chain of trust.

Once your SSL certificate expires, the browser will immediately flag your website and warn any visitor wanting to access your website. This will dramatically reduce the traffic to your website.

In addition, expired SSLs can lead to service outages which in turn damage both your reputation, customer trust, and revenue stream.An Azure 2014 outage was due to an expired SSL certificate, while2020 witnessed several high-profile cases of online services disruption caused by expired SSL certificates. GitHub’s CDN SSL Certificate expired and led to several malfunctions of its site, leaving millions of its users confused. Spotify’s SSL certificate has expired and resulted in a major downtime in their music streaming services and many disappointed users.

Expired SSL Certificate
Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attack

A man-in-the-middle attack is a type of cyberattack where the attacker secretly relays — and possibly alters — the correspondence between two parties who believe that they are directly communicating with each other. One example of a man-in-the-middle attack is active eavesdropping, where the attacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messages between them to make them believe they are talking directly to each other over a private connection, when in fact the entire conversation is controlled by the attacker.

The POODLE Attack

POODLE Attacks are actually a vulnerability of SSL V3.0 Protocol, defined as “Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption”, AKA POODLE Vulnerability. SSL 3.0 vulnerability stems from the way blocks of data are encrypted under a specific type of algorithm within the SSL protocol. The POODLE attack takes advantage of the protocol version negotiation feature built into SSL/TLS to force the use of SSL 3.0 and then leverages this new vulnerability to decrypt select content within the SSL session. The decryption is done byte by byte and will generate a large number of connections between the client and server. In simpler words – the POODLE attack is a type of Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack which allows sensitive data such as user information to be exposed to malicious attackers. This alarming situation happens when using the SSL version 3.0 for communicating encrypted transactions back and forth through the website server to the user’s browser. 

But don’t worry, executing POODLE attacks are not that simple – for that to happen an attacker must first perform a MITM attack from start to end, then hope the server uses the SSL V3.0 or persuade the server to use it by performing connection dropouts. This then indicates if the user  is able to use the same TLS protocol, forcing the server to try and use the previous version (SSLV3.). If both the MITM attack and the forces protocol were to succeed, now they are vulnerable to the Poodle attack which the hacker can take advantage of and come after the information communicated between the parties.

The BEAST Attack

BEAST attacks exploit a vulnerability in the Transport-Layer Security (TLS) 1.0 and older SSL protocols, using the cipher block chaining (CBC) mode encryption. It allows attackers to capture and decrypt HTTPS client-server sessions and obtain authentication tokens. It does so by combining a MITM, along with a record splitting and chosen boundary attack. The theoretical vulnerability for the BEAST attack was described by Phillip Rogaway as early as 2002. A proof of concept for the attack was demonstrated in 2011 by security researchers Thai Duong and Juliano Rizzo. The BEAST attack has some similarities to protocol downgrade attacks, such as POODLE, in that it also uses a MITM approach and exploits vulnerabilities in CBC. The Exploit was fixed in TLS 1.1 and later, but at the time of discovery, there was no browser support for TLS 1.1 and newer TLS versions. 

The CRIME Attack

CRIME is a security vulnerability that allows an attacker to perform session hijacking on an authenticated web session. This is done by compression, which can leak the content of secret web cookies. CRIME was assigned CVE-2012-4929. CRIME was developed by two security researchers, Juliano Rizzo and Thai Duong. It decrypts the session cookies from the hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) connections by means of brute force. CRIME attack induces a vulnerable web browser into percolating a cookie authentication, created when a user starts a HTTPS session with a website. The obtained cookie can be used by hackers to log in to the victim’s account on the site.

IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO RENEW SSL CERTIFICATES ON TIME?

In theory, no. There are plenty of accessible certificate management tools that solve this problem. Yet, the rising number of headlines relating to cyber incidents resulting from expired SSL certificates are suggesting that this may not be that simple.

 IT and security teams at  large-scale organizations must keep track of hundreds, if not thousands, of websites and domains and make sure their certificates are renewed on time.

The problem? Teams are often unaware of all websites and domains that belong to their organization and its subsidiaries. Some of these sites and domains might have been created without their knowledge, while others may have been forgotten or abandoned.

Even when using the most convenient automated tool you can only track the SSL certificates for websites and domains you are aware of.

HOW CAN REPOSIFY HELP?

Reposify’s External Attack Surface Management automatically creates an organization’s internet-facing asset inventory and analyzes them for a wide range of security issues including SSL about to expire or recently expired, abandoned subdomains that are susceptible to hostile takeover.

The platform alerts you when SSL certificates are about to expire, either in your organizations or subsidiaries, so your team can remediate the issue in real-time.

Contact our cyber experts today to get a comprehensive analysis of your external attack surface to discover all your internet-facing assets including domains and expired SSL certificates.

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Shlomi has been an information technology professional for over fifteen years with extensive experience with roles spanning across Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), IT infrastructure, cryptography, security architecture, operations security, business continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP), legal, regulations, investigations and compliance, design DevOps (CI-CD process) to cloud platforms. Shlomi has worked on large complex InfoSec projects worldwide. He brings the expertise of defensive & offensive methodologies in cybersecurity. Shlomi is focused on excellence in all aspects of business and life and contributes his knowledge in technical documentation including Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).

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