‘FREAK’ — New SSL/TLS Vulnerability, Apple and Android users exposed

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Another new widespread and disastrous SSL/TLS vulnerability has been uncovered that for over a decade left Millions of users of Apple and Android devices vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks on encrypted traffic when they visited supposedly ‘secured’ websites, including the official websites of the White House, FBI and National Security Agency.

CVE-2015-0204

Dubbed the “FREAK” vulnerability (CVE-2015-0204) – also known as Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys – enables hackers or intelligence agencies to force clients to use older, weaker encryption i.e. also known as the export-grade key or 512-bit RSA keys.

The FREAK vulnerability discovered by security researchers of French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria) and Microsoft, resides in OpenSSL versions 1.01k and earlier, and Apple’s Secure Transport.

How it works.

Assistant Research Professor Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute in Maryland summarizes the FREAK vulnerability in a blog post detailing how a hacker could perform MitM attack:
  • In the client’s Hello message, it asks for a standard ‘RSA’ ciphersuite.
  • The MITM attacker changes this message to ask for ‘export RSA’.
  • The server responds with a 512-bit export RSA key, signed with its long-term key.
  • The client accepts this weak key due to the OpenSSL/Secure Transport bug.
  • The attacker factors the RSA modulus to recover the corresponding RSA decryption key.
  • When the client encrypts the ‘pre-master secret’ to the server, the attacker can now decrypt it to recover the TLS ‘master secret’.
  • From here on out, the attacker sees plain text and can inject anything it wants.

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