[cryptography] yet another certificate MITM attack

ianG iang at iang.org
Sat Jan 12 04:27:12 EST 2013

On 11/01/13 02:59 AM, Jon Callas wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> Others have said pretty much the same in this thread; this isn't an MITM attack, it's a proxy browsing service.
> There are a number of "optimized" browsers around. Opera Mini/Mobile, Amazon Silk for the Kindle Fire, and likely others. Lots of old "WAP" proxies did pretty much the same thing. The Nokia one is essentially Opera.
> These optimized browsers take your URL, process it on their server and then send you back an "optimized" page.

Oh, I see.  So basically they are breaking the implied promise of the 
https component of the URL.

In words, if one sticks https at the front of the URL, we are 
instructing the browser as our agent to connect securely with the server 
using SSL, and to check the certs are in sync.

The browser is deciding it has a better idea, and is redirecting that 
URL to a cloud server somewhere.

(I'm still just trying to understand the model.  Yes, I'm surprised, I 
had never previously heard of this.)

> That can be converted pictures, edits to the HTML proper, and so on.
> The security characteristics are a mixed bag. They can send smaller pictures, scan for malware, but obviously they can't process your SSL connections. So they send the URL to the cloud server, make the SSL connection, and then send you the optimized page over SSL.

One could interpret the browser as being a combined service between the 
client on the phone, and the cloud support services, sure.

I think this interpretation would be unusual to any ordinary user.  At a 
contractual level, it would also need to be agreed by both ends.  We can 
easily ensure the end-users' agreement by means of the phone agreement, 
but it is less easy to imply the banks' agreement.

And, if a security case were to result in a bank being held for damages, 
it could easily expand to Nokia.  Given the complexity of modern day 
online banking sites (that's a kind description) I can't see how they 
could be agile enough to avoid making mistakes.

> Some of these browsers let you turn off the "optimizations" for SSL pages. The Amazon Silk browser does.
> You can find information about Opera at:
> <http://www.opera.com/mobile/specs/>
> Here's articles with various concerns about Silk:
> <http://www.zdnet.com/blog/networking/amazons-kindle-fire-silk-browser-has-serious-security-concerns/1516>
> <http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2203964/amazon-confirms-kindle-fires-silk-browser-tracks-users>
> They're not doing certificate hinkiness. They are straightforward cloud services, or perhaps more formally proxy services. Heck, Google Reader is more or less the same thing, itself, albeit as an RSS reader than a web browser.


> If one wants to get upset about them, there's plenty to grumble over. There's the explicit security concerns, concerns about tracking, concerns about misrepresentation to the users about what's really going on, and so on. The meta concern that smart people like us are even discussing it is also a security concern.
> But they provide services that some people find valuable. I don't use them, but I wouldn't even call them a MITM, myself. When we say "MITM" we're eliding the word "attack." It's not an attack.

Yes, ok, it's not an attack if there isn't an attacker.  Or more 
generally, is it an attack when the attack is done by self?  "We have 
met the enemy, and he is us."

So more properly, it might be a breach-of-contract issue, where the 
contract to provide a browser that does the 'right thing' has been 
breached (in the view of the outraged).

Nokia will argue that their contract is clearly expressed, they can do 
this and they claim so in their contract.  OK.

Question remains -- what to make of a vendor that does tricksy things 
with the implied secure browsing contract?

If Nokia can do this, can the other vendors?  Why can't Firefox and 
Chrome start clouding the https connection?


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