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In our days the Internet holds great importance for the economy, education, business, and probably all other aspects of our society, therefore becoming an irreplaceable tool for work and for staying informed, therefore we need to better understand what is SSL Vulnerability in Computer Network Science?

With companies all around the world organizing all their business communications, distribution, purchase, sale, marketing, and servicing of products via the Internet, a lot of data gets sent over an Internet infrastructure. The data in question often contain confidential and sensitive information like credit card number, user credentials, personal data, all of which require an extra layer of protection, therefore most companies rely on SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) protocol for data protection, this being the most common data protection tool at hand.

What is SSL?

SSL comes from the Secure Sockets Layer, which is an encryption method to ensure the safety of the data sent and received from a user to a specific website and back. Encrypting this data transfer ensures that no one can snoop on the transmission and gain access to confidential information, such as card details in the case of online shopping.

Legitimate websites use SSL (start with HTTPS) and users should avoid inputting their data in websites that don’t use SSL.

This protocol is being used for data protection on the transport layer, and it’s located between the transport and application layer of the ISO/OSI reference model providing security services to any application-based protocols, like HTTP, FTP, LDAP, POP3.

The SSL protocol is used in any client/server environment, being able to provide a series of features for the parties involved in the communication process:

How does the SSL/TLS protocol work?

The SSL/TLS protocol is made out of two layers and several protocols. A lower layer is located next to the transport level in the OSI/ISO reference model consists of SSL/TLS Record protocol. The higher layer located immediately above the Record protocol consists of the SSL/TLS Handshaking protocols: the handshake protocol, ChangeCipherSpec protocol, and Alert protocol.

Most Common Attacks on the SSL/TLS Protocol.

SSL/TLS protocol is a widely used protocol for data protection. However, because of that, it is very interesting for discovering and exploiting security flaws that harm the integrity and security of data.

Advanced Persistent Malware.

Moreover, malware is being designed to steal SSL/TLS keys and certificates to use in further communications fraud and data exfiltration.

The APT operators that are exploiting Heartbleed malware stole digital keys and certificates that resulted in a breach of 4.5 million Community Health System patient records, with the Heartbleed exploit being used against a system firewall.

Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks.

Successful MITM attacks work by gaining the trust of communicating parties by impersonating a trusted website and eavesdropping on secure conversations.
A bad actor can break the trust that SSL/TLS establishes and launch a MITM attack in several ways, like stealing a website’s server key, allowing the attacker to appear as the server, or it can be even a client’s failure to validate the certificate against trusted CAs.

Self-Signed and Wildcard Certificates.

Server administrators sometimes create self-signed “wildcard” certificates on-demand using free, OpenSSL resources.
This method might be quick and easy but it can significantly erode the trust as no trusted third-party CA ever verifies these certificates.
By using this tactic, the risk that cybercriminals will use the server to host malicious websites in phishing campaigns increases.

Unknown, Untrusted, and Forged Certificate Authorities.

Maintaining the trust required for today’s global business demands a known and reputable CA that both parties can rely upon to authenticate the conversation.

Attacker Encrypted Communications.

Encryption is a new tool used by cybercriminals to attack organizations, with SSL/TLS being turned against enterprises to deliver malware undetected, listen in on private conversations, disrupt secured transactions, and exfiltrate data over encrypted communication channels. With more and more encrypted traffic, this trend is likely to expand rapidly.

Expired SSL/TLS Certificates.

Expired certificates can either cause unplanned system outages or open a door for the hackers to enter your network or both.

Phishing Scams.

In phishing, malicious actors trick people into going to a website and entering private information into a form.  They might impersonate a major company, like a bank or PayPal.

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How can you protect yourself?

  • Always make sure that your web browser shows “HTTPS” in the address bar;
  • Pay close attention to any certificate warnings;
  • Take advantage of your antivirus application;
  • Be careful with your data especially when using public Wi-Fi;
  • Be careful when downloading free software that may have advertising software.

Wrapping up…

For over 20 years, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates have been available for our use, and by having an SSL you can make sure that your sensitive data will be transferred over a secure network.

Author Profile

Dora Tudor

Cyber Security Enthusiast

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Dora is a digital marketing specialist within Heimdal™ Security. She is a content creator at heart - always curious about technology and passionate about finding out everything there is to know about cybersecurity.

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