Google distrusts “widely trusted” Symantec root certificate

Google has removed trust for a Symantec root certificate that could be used to intercept web communications from the search company’s users.

Google’s trust issues for Symantec’s digital certificates have cropped up again following it putting Symantec on notice over 23 mis-issued test certificates for Google domains in October.

This time Google says it’s taking “proactive measures” to address Symantec’s “Class 3 Public Primary Certification Authority (CA)” in response to Symantec retiring its “VeriSign G1 roots” for issuing certificates for encrypting connections between websites and browsers (SSL/TLS) on December 1. Symantec acquired VeriSign's certificate business in 2010.

Symantec has told Google that it will continue using the CA to support enterprise customers’ private networking needs.

Still, the the roots don’t comply with rules under the the CA/Browser Forum’s Baseline Requirements for certificates trusted publicly by browsers.

As a result, Google said it will distrust one of several CA root certificates Symantec holds in its Chrome browser, Android mobile operating system and other Google products.

“Failure to comply with these represents an unacceptable risk to users of Google products,” said Google software engineer Ryan Sleevi.

Google put Symantec on notice in October after detecting mis-issued certificates, that could be used to spoof Google sites. In this case however the search company is responding to Symantec’s cautionary advice.

“As Symantec is unwilling to specify the new purposes for these certificates, and as they are aware of the risk to Google’s users, they have requested that Google take preventative action by removing and distrusting this root certificate,” said Ryan Sleevi, a Google software engineer.

There may also be an impact to non-Google platforms, including Chrome and rival browsers on Microsoft Windows and Apple’s OS X for Mac desktops.

“This step is necessary because this root certificate is widely trusted on platforms such as Android, Windows, and versions of OS X prior to OS X 10.11, and thus certificates Symantec issues under this root certificate would otherwise be treated as trustworthy,” said Sleevi.

That issue may already have been addressed by major browser makers like Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple and Opera.

A Symantec spokeswoman told CSO Australia that it had notified major browsers in November, including Google, “that they should remove or untrust a legacy root certificate from their lists”.

“We advised this action because this particular root certificate is based on older, lower-strength security that is no longer recommended, hasn’t been used to generate new certificates in several years, and will now be repurposed to provide transition support for some of our enterprise customers’ legacy, non-public applications,” she said.

“By announcing that they will be blocking this root certificate, Google has indicated that they intend to do exactly as we requested, a step that other browsers started taking in 2014.”

Google has published public key and fingerprint details of the affected root in a blog post.

Read more: Territoriality, denial confounding chances at IT-security improvement, risk expert warns

Symantec has posted a technical note highlighting the affected roots are used in certificates for encrypting connections between websites and browsers (SSL/TLS) and are also used for signing code in applications.

“Browsers may remove TLS/SSL support for certificates issued from these roots… For Code Signing, it has not yet been determined when platforms will remove or untrust these roots,” the security company said.

It’s likely users of Google product won’t be affected when connecting to a site that has been secured with a Symantec root. According to Sleevi, Symantec has assured Google it does not believe the chance will impact people who attempt to access sites secured with Symantec certificates.

Security ALERT!

Need help making the right choice for you business? Need to update your system but don't know where to start? CSO can help, check out our security hub today.

Gigamon Transform Security Zone

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Certification Authority (CA)symantecGoogleCSO AustraliaWeb communicationsSymantec root certificate

More about AppleClassCSOGigamonGoogleMicrosoftMozillaSymantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Liam Tung

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