Microsoft revokes trust in certificate authority operated by the Indian government

A security breach at India's National Informatics Centre resulted in at least 45 rogue digital certificates for Google and Yahoo domains

Microsoft updated the Certificate Trust List in Windows to revoke trust for a certificate authority operated by the Indian government after it improperly issued at least 45 SSL certificates for domains owned by Google and Yahoo.

"These SSL certificates could be used to spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks against web properties," Microsoft said Thursday in a security advisory.

The security incident came into the public spotlight Tuesday when security engineers from Google revealed that on July 2 they identified several certificates for Google domains that had been issued without authorization by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), a branch of the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

As part of its mandate to develop and host official government websites, the NIC operated a digital certificate authority (CA) that was subordinated to the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA), the Indian government's primary CA.

India's CCA is included in Microsoft's Trusted Root Certification Authorities Store, which means that any SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates issued by itself or its subordinates -- like the NIC -- are trusted by default by many Windows programs, including the Google Chrome and Internet Explorer Web browsers.

An investigation by India's CCA concluded that the NIC's digital certificate issuance process was compromised, resulting in four SSL certificates being improperly issued for Google and Yahoo domains, Google reported Wednesday. However, the company is aware of more than four rogue certificates signed by the NIC, suggesting that the true scope of the breach is unknown.

India CCA and the NIC did not respond to requests sent Thursday for more information about the security breach, but Microsoft's advisory sheds a bit more light on what happened.

According to the company, the NIC improperly issued a subordinate CA certificate and that certificate was then misused to issue SSL certificates for multiple Google and Yahoo sites.

It's not clear to whom and under what circumstances the NIC issued the powerful subordinate CA certificate. Microsoft warns that "the subordinate CA certificate may also have been used to issue certificates for other, currently unknown sites," exposing their users to possible attacks.

The Microsoft update blacklists the NIC's CA certificates, essentially revoking trust in all SSL certificates the NIC has ever issued, including legitimate ones used on some Indian government websites.

The Certificate Trust List (CTL) will be updated automatically on systems running Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows RT, Windows RT 8.1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, as well as on devices running Windows Phone 8 or Windows Phone 8.1.

Systems running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 need to have installed an older update called KB2677070 in order to receive automatic updates for revoked certificates.

There is currently no CTL update available for Windows Server 2003 that resolves this issue, but Microsoft plans to release one at a later time.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags online safetyGoogleMicrosoftsecurityNational Informatics CentreencryptionController of Certifying AuthoritiespkiCompliance monitoringYahoo

More about GoogleMicrosoftNICTechnologyYahoo

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 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

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place