Researchers devise undetectable phishing attackDecember 30, 2008 – 11:49 AM
With the help of about 200 Sony Playstations, an international team of security researchers have devised a way to undermine the algorithms used to protect secure Web sites and launch a nearly undetectable phishing attack.
To do this, they’ve exploited a bug in the digital certificates used by Web sites to prove that they are who they claim to be. By taking advantage of known flaws in the MD5 hashing algorithm used to create some of these certificates, the researchers were able to hack Verisign’s RapidSSL.com certificate authority and create fake digital certificates for any Web site on the Internet.
Hashes are used to create a “fingerprint” for a document, a number that is supposed to uniquely identify a given document and is easily calculated to verify that the document has not been modified in transit. The MD5 hashing algorithm, however, is flawed, making it possible to create two different documents that have the same hash value. This is how someone could create a certificate for a phishing site having the same fingerprint as the certificate for the genuine site.
Using their farm of Playstation 3 machines, the researchers built a “rogue certificate authority” that could then issue bogus certificates that would be trusted by virtually any browser. The Playstation’s Cell processor is popular with code breakers because it is particularly good at performing cryptographic functions.