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What is SSL? Is it possible to hack an SSL certificate?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

SSL is secure as it is a two-way encryption method that ensures that the two parties, the site visitor and the website itself, are the only ones participating in the conversation.

It is unlikely that SSL gets hacked. it's possible though! The chances that SSL certificates get hacked are slim. There is no guarantee that a website with SSL installed doesn't get hacked.

Let's start with what SSL is.


What is SSL?


SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, is a technology that can encrypt data transferred between end-users and the server. This prevents hackers from being able to access or “eavesdrop” on your activities. Websites protected by SSL start with “https://” in the address bar. SSL certificates are most useful in e-commerce sites or any site that requires users to provide personal information such as an address, payment details, etc. An SSL certification can ensure that these details cannot be stolen by malicious parties.


How does SSL/TLS work

It's very important to understand what Asymmetric and symmetric encryption are before we can understand SSL certificates working logic.

What kinda cryptography does SSL Certificates use?

There are two types of cryptography.

  1. Symmetric Cryptography

  2. Asymmetric Cryptography

Symmetric Cryptography

Symmetric Cryptography works in a way both parties use the same key to encrypt and decrypt data to be secured. This means both parties should have the same key.

It's the fastest encryption method right now. as both parties have the same key. it doesn't take long to encrypt and decrypt data.

SSL also uses the symmetric cryptography method specifically for the session proceeding with the initial handshake. Conventional symmetric cryptography methods use for this are AES specifically ES-128, AES-192, and AES-256

The problem with symmetric Cryptography is the same key. parties have to find a way to send keys securely without any third-party getting hands-on. The very same thing that makes it very insecure.


Asymmetric Cryptography

Public-key cryptography, or asymmetric cryptography, is a cryptographic system that uses pairs of keys: public keys (which may be known to others), and private keys (which may never be known by any except the owner). The generation of such key pairs depends on cryptographic algorithms which are based on mathematical problems termed one-way functions. Effective security requires keeping the private key private; the public key can be openly distributed without compromising security(1)

A perfect example of this kinda encryption is the mailbox.

Everyone knows about his mailbox, but only the owner with the right key can open the mailbox.


Positives:

It's very secure


Negatives:

It's very slow



This is how Asymmetric and Symmetric Encryption is used in SSL/TLS certificates

In SSL/TLS and other digital certificates, both methods – Symmetric and Asymmetric – are employed.

First, when two parties (browser and server in the case of SSL) come across each other, they validate each other’s private and public keys through Asymmetric Encryption. Once the verification is successful and both know whom they’re talking to, the encryption of the data starts – through Symmetric Encryption. Thereby saving significant time and serving the purposes of confidentiality and data protection. This entire process is called an SSL/TLS handshake. If you want to learn more about this handshake,



It's a 4 Step Verification process that helps make the client and server communicate securely without any chances for eavesdropping.


  1. The client sends a hello message to the server with a request for setting up an SSL session

  2. The server answers back with Hello and at the same time sends his SSL certificate. The client checks certificates' validity with VA(validation Authority). Client Creates a session key with server's Public key client just got with SSL certificate.

  3. The client sends an encryption key(session key) to the server

  4. The server decrypts the session key using its private key and establishes a secure session


Advantages of using SSL/TLS digital certificates.

  • Trust – If you get a Digital certificate that shows the green address bar in the browser, you’re going to be giving your visitors a sense of trust. And when they know you’re taking their security seriously, they’re going to be appreciative.

  • Verification – It verifies to your visitors that you are who you say you are.

  • The integrity of Data – With SSL, you can guarantee the integrity of data. For example, without SSL, it’s possible to not only intercept data going to and from the web server but to change it as well!

  • SSL Boost Website SEO Rankings – Last but not least, you have to take into consideration the recent announcements by Google that they’re going to be using whether or not a server uses SSL as a ranking signal.

  • Encryption The main idea is that all information is encrypted before being submitted, and only the web server and website visitor have personal keys to decrypt and recognize it. Encryption prevents eavesdropping and tampering information by hackers and identity thieves.

  • Authentication It is important to know that a website you would like to visit and where you want to make a payment is authentic and trustworthy. To ease identification, the website server sends an SSL certificate to your web browser for verification

Disadvantages of SSL/TLS certificates

  • They cost money – SSL/TLS encryption can guard your website from data security threats obviously costs a bit of money. However, considering the benefits like SEO ranking, security, and customer trust it delivers, this cost should not be a cause for concern.

  • They consume large resources If you miss any critical step while setting up SSL/TLS certificate like failing to give redirects, it will consume a lot of resources.

  • Reduces page-loading speed As the name says it reduces page speed. It takes time to establish a secure connection. It takes a bit more time than a webpage without SSL/TLS certificate webpage.


An Overview of the Various Types of SSL Certificate Available


EV SSL Certificate

Extended Validation (EV) certificates are the highest level of authentication. Issued through a very thorough verification process. Such a process gives the customer confidence in the e-commerce/ payment gateway website. Only EV SSL certificates show a green address bar.








OV SSL Certificate:

OV SSL certificates are also known as Organization Validated SSL Certificates. As the name suggests, these certificates have a stringent validation process. Certifying Authority (CA) verifies the business identity while issuing OV SSL certificates.


location is clearly mentioned with the organization name


DV SSL Certificate:

Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates are basic SSL Certificates to secure your website. DV SSL certificates are the Cheapest SSL Certificates in the market. They display a green lock in the browser to indicate the authenticity of the website.



In this SSL/TLS certificate, there is nothing more than just a domain verification.


Wildcard SSL Certificate:

Wildcard SSL certificate works in a similar way to a regular single domain certificate. However, they have the advantage of securing all and any sub-domains you may have in your network. This certificate saves money, and admin time.


Multi-Domain SSL Certificate:

Multi-Domain SSL Certificate is used to secure multiple domains and sub-domain with a single SSL certificate. A single certificate in most cases cheap and can secure up to 99 additional domains. The disadvantage with that is if your private key gets compromised. All of the domains become vulnerable.



SSL verification

I tested my own website to check if it has any weaknesses at Qualys SSL Server Test

You can also check your website or any website on Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner too.



not so bad for a blogging website.

SSL/TLS vulnerabilities

Ensuring everything in your back-end is up-to-date is key when it comes to avoiding SSL vulnerabilities. Many vulnerabilities you may have heard about regarding SSL (such as POODLE or Heartbleed) are usually due to badly configured servers, out-of-date software, or problems with older versions of TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol — the protocol your SSL uses to keep your connection encrypted. The most up-to-date TLS protocol is TLS 1.3. If your server or client supports older protocols, they may be at risk of cyber-attacks.

TLS 1.3 is faster and more secure than TLS 1.2, the previous version. TLS 1.3 shortens the process of the “SSL handshake” by a few milliseconds and it has also dropped support for the older cryptographic algorithms supported by 1.2, which made it more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

There is no guarantee that a website is safe even though your browser indicates a lock sign and secure website. Many phishing websites also buy a standard SSL/TLS certificate just to avoid Google SEO and Google warning regarding SSL/TLS certificate.

The best kind of SSL/TLS certificate is OV SSL Certificate. In this SSL Certifying Authority (CA) verifies the business identity while issuing OV SSL certificates.



With the growing availability of affordable or even free SSL certificates, it can be tricky to verify the identity of the person on the other side. This is why it’s important to actually click on the padlock to find out more information about the SSL itself and whether or not it was issued for a verified organization. When you click on the padlock and see the company name, this is usually a sign you can trust the site. However, if the identity (company) that purchased the SSL has not been verified, you should be cautious: double-check the spelling of the website domain and search for the valid site online. Typically, legitimate sites are at the top of search engine results, or at least higher than the fake ones.

Phishing sites and malicious sites are unlikely to purchase OV(Organization Validated SSL) or EV(Extended Validation) SSL certificates because they require extensive validation and background checks of the person or organization purchasing it. So, when you see the company name in the padlock bar, it means you are safe.



Wrap up


“If you spend more on coffee than IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked” Richard Clarke

To best protection always update your hardware and software. SSL is only one element of web security. Check these steps to avoid SSL vulnerabilities.

  • Check your site at vulnerabilities scanning websites.

  • Strengthen your server security.

  • Don't use an older version of TLS

  • Don't let your SSL certificate get expired.





References

  1. Stallings, William (3 May 1990). Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and Practice. Prentice Hall. p. 165. ISBN9780138690175.

  2. https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/the-pros-cons-of-ssl-certificates


#ssl #hack #computerlearning #digitalcertificate #ssl/tls-types




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