CAPEC-459: Creating a Rogue Certification Authority Certificate
Attack Pattern ID: 459
An adversary exploits a weakness resulting from using a hashing algorithm with weak collision resistance to generate certificate signing requests (CSR) that contain collision blocks in their "to be signed" parts. The adversary submits one CSR to be signed by a trusted certificate authority then uses the signed blob to make a second certificate appear signed by said certificate authority. Due to the hash collision, both certificates, though different, hash to the same value and so the signed blob works just as well in the second certificate. The net effect is that the adversary's second X.509 certificate, which the Certification Authority has never seen, is now signed and validated by that Certification Authority. Alternatively, the second certificate could be a signing certificate. Thus the adversary is able to start their own Certification Authority that is anchored in its root of trust in the legitimate Certification Authority that has signed the attacker's first X.509 certificate. If the original Certificate Authority was accepted by default by browsers, so will the Certificate Authority set up by the adversary and any certificates that it signs. As a result, the adversary is able to generate any SSL certificates to impersonate any web server, and the user's browser will not issue any warning to the victim. This can be used to compromise HTTPS communications and other types of systems where PKI and X.509 certificates may be used (e.g., VPN, IPSec).
Likelihood Of Attack
This table shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
The adversary crafts two different, but valid X.509 certificates that when hashed with an insufficiently collision resistant hashing algorithm would yield the same value.
The adversary sends the CSR for one of the certificates to the Certification Authority which uses the targeted hashing algorithm. That request is completely valid and the Certificate Authority issues an X.509 certificate to the adversary which is signed with its private key.
The adversary takes the signed blob and inserts it into the second X.509 certificate that the attacker generated. Due to the hash collision, both certificates, though different, hash to the same value and so the signed blob is valid in the second certificate. The result is two certificates that appear to be signed by a valid certificate authority despite only one having been signed.
Certification Authority is using a hash function with insufficient collision resistance to generate the certificate hash to be signed
Understanding of how to force a hash collision in X.509 certificates
An attacker must be able to craft two X.509 certificates that produce the same hash value
Knowledge needed to set up a certification authority
Knowledge of a certificate authority that uses hashing algorithms with poor collision resistance
A valid certificate request and a malicious certificate request with identical hash values
This table specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Certification Authorities need to stop using deprecated or cryptographically insecure hashing algorithms to hash the certificates that they are about to sign. Instead they should be using stronger hashing functions such as SHA-256 or SHA-512.
The MD5 algorithm is not collision resistant, allowing attackers to use spoofing attacks to create rogue certificate Authorities.
Research has show significant vulnerabilities in PKI infrastructure. Trusted certificate authorities have been shown to use weak hashing algorithms after attacks have been demonstrated against those algorithms. Additionally, reliable methods have been demonstrated for generated MD5 collisions that could be used to generate malicious CSRs.
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
[REF-395] Alexander Sotirov, Marc Stevens, Jacob Appelbaum, Arjen Lenstra, David Molnar, Dag Arne Osvik
and Benne de Weger. "MD5 Considered Harmful Today: Creating a Rogue CA Certificate". Phreedom.org. 2008-12-30.