Multivendor power council formed to address digital certificate issues

With cyber-criminals increasingly exploiting digital certificates to undermine security the vendors with the most influence as certificate authorities have banded together to try and speak as an industry group to advocate for security best practices.

[ALSO: Symantec SSL certificates feature cryptography 10K harder to break than RSA-bit key]

Their newly created organization is known as the Certificate Authority Security Council (CASC) and members include Comodo, DigiCert, Entrust, GlobalSign, GoDaddy, Symantec and Trend Micro which comprise virtually the entire public digital certificate market today. As a steering committee member, Dean Cochin, director of business development at Symantec, said the intent is to advocate how to use SSL certificates "to maximum benefit." But the group acknowledged it can't avoid tackling unpleasant realities such as cyber-criminals also trying to undermine digital certificates for maximum benefit, too.

A case in point is the admission this week by security vendor Bit9 that hackers stole a digital code-signing certificates off its network and dropped malware in the systems of three of its customers.

According to the admission of Bit9 chief executive Patrick Morley in a blog post, Bit9, which makes software to lock-down computers, failed to follow its own best practices by making sure its own product was on all its physical and virtual machines. Attackers managed to break into the Bit9 network and steal digital code-signing certificates which they then used to sign their malware and install it on three Bit9 customers. As part of cleaning up its operation, Bit9 said it revoked the certificates and acquired new ones. It also said it's "monitoring the Bit9 Software reputation Service for hashes from the illegitimately signed malware."

This kind of serious problem has been occurring in part because the code-signing certificate can be moved about, and one idea is to instead use a cloud-based code-signing certificate service in which a certificate is used only once while maintaining an audit trail. Coclin said except for Microsoft Windows Mobile which uses something along these lines, this kind of cloud-based service doesn't exist in general today but could well come in the future.

For today's launch as a group, CASC officially took up the banner to advocate what's called "OCSP Stapling," which is an alternative to the Online Certificate Status Protocol for checking the revocation of X.509 digital certificates.

Ryan Hurst, CTO at GlobalSign, and a member of CASC, described this as a method to have the site server, rather than the visitor's browser, initiate and complete the process to check the validity of the site certificate. The goal is to improve SSL performance, he said.

Beyond this type of technical recommendation, CASC plans educational sessions oriented toward the public and in particular Web server administrators, software vendors, browser developers and end-users through online posts and conference presentations.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Comodosymantectrend microsecurityBit9Wide Area Network

More about ComodoEntrustGlobalSignIDGMicrosoftRSASymantecTrend Micro Australia

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ellen Messmer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place