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4 big plans to fix internet security

Fahmida Y. Rashid | May 16, 2016
Internet security is in crisis. These four proposals offer tangible solutions -- including one scheme to change the Internet's workings from top to bottom.

When the attacks are against UDP-based servers such as DNS, multicast DNS, the Network Time Protocol, the Simple Server Discovery Protocol, or the Simple Network Management Protocol, the effects are amplified.

Many ISPs are not aware of different attacks that take advantage of common routing problems. While some routing issues can be chalked up to human error, others are direct attacks, and ISPs need to learn how to recognize potential issues and take steps to fix them. “ISPs have to be more responsible about how they are routing traffic,” Webb says. “A lot of them are susceptible to attack.”

ISOC had nine network operators participating in the voluntary program when it launched in 2014; now there are more than 40. For MANRS to make a difference, it needs to expand so that it can influence the market. ISPs that decide not to bother with the security recommendations may find they lose deals because customers will sign with MANRS-compliant providers. Or smaller ISPs may face pressure from larger upstream providers who refuse to carry their traffic unless they can show they’ve implemented appropriate security measures.

It would be great if MANRS became a de facto standard for all ISPs and network providers, but scattered safe neighborhoods are still good enough. “If you require everyone to do it, it is never going to happen,” Webb says.

2. Strengthen digital certificate auditing and monitoring

There have been many attempts to address the issues with SSL, which protects the majority of online communications. SSL helps identify if a website is the site it claims to be, but if someone tricks a certificate authority (CA) into fraudulently issuing digital certificates for a site, then the trust system breaks down.

Back in 2011, an Iranian attacker breached Dutch CA DigiNotar and issued certificates, including ones for Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. The attacker was able to set up man-in-the-middle attacks with those certificates and intercept traffic for the sites. This attack succeeded because the browsers treated the certificate from DigiNotar as valid despite the fact that the sites had certificates signed by a different CA.

Google’s Certificate Transparency project, an open and public framework for monitoring and auditing SSL certificates, is the latest attempt to solve the man-in-the-middle problem.

When a CA issues a certificate, it's recorded on the public certificate log, and anyone can query for cryptographic proof to verify a particular certificate. Monitors on servers periodically examine the logs for suspicious certificates, including illegitimate certificates issued incorrectly for a domain and those with unusual certificate extensions.

Monitors are similar to credit reporting services, in that they send alerts regarding malicious certificate usage. Auditors make sure the logs are working correctly and verify a particular certificate appears in the log. A certificate not found in the log is a clear signal to browsers that the site is problematic.

 

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