Security team successfully cracks SSL using 200 PS3's and MD5

Brian Keefer chort at
Sat Jan 3 07:20:52 UTC 2009

On Jan 2, 2009, at 3:29 PM, Joe Greco wrote:

>> * Joe Greco:
>>> It seems that part of the proposed solution is to get people to  
>>> move from
>>> MD5-signed to SHA1-signed.  There will be a certain amount of  
>>> resistance.
>>> What I was suggesting was the use of the revocation mechanism as  
>>> part of
>>> the "stick" (think carrot-and-stick) in a campaign to replace MD5- 
>>> based
>>> certs.  If there is a credible threat to MD5-signed certs, then  
>>> forcing
>>> their retirement would seem to be a reasonable reaction, but  
>>> everyone here
>>> knows how successful "voluntary" conversion strategies typically  
>>> are.
>> A CA statement that they won't issue MD5-signed certificates in the
>> future should be sufficient.  There's no need to reissue old
>> certificates, unless the CA thinks other customers have attacked it.
> That would seem to be at odds with what the people who documented this
> problem believe.

I do not wish to be rude, so don't think that's my intent--however,  
clarification is required here I believe.

 From section 7 of :
"An interesting question is whether CAs should revoke existing  
certificates signed using MD5. One may argue that the present attack  
scenario has in principle been possible since May 2007, and that  
therefore all certificates (or all CA certificates) signed with MD5  
that have been issued after this date may have been compromised.  
Whether they really have been compromised is not relevant. What is  
relevant is that the relying party who needs to trust the certificate  
does not have a proper way of checking whether the certificate is to  
be trusted or not. One may even argue that all older certificates  
based on MD5 should be revoked, as for an         attacker  
constructing rogue certificates it is easy to backdate them to any  
date in the past he likes, so any MD5-based certificate may be a  
forgery. On the other hand, one may argue that the likelihood of these  
scenarios is quite small, and that the cost of replacing many MD5- 
based certificates may be substantial, so that therefore the risks of  
continued use of existing MD5-based certificates may be seen as  
acceptable. Regardless, MD5 should no longer be used for new  

Note that they aren't actually recommending that all certs with MD5  
signatures be replaced.  The authors present two sides of the  
argument.  The only absolute statement is that MD5 should not be used  
to sign _new_ certificates.

This is because the attack doesn't allow the impersonation of the  
vulnerable CA; the attack merely creates a new intermediate CA that  
maintains the "chain of trust", so that certificates issued by the  
rogue intermediate CA will be trusted by most browsers.  The weakness  
isn't that the vulnerable CA root certificate is signed by MD5, the  
weakness is that it uses MD5 to sign CSRs.  Since I'm probably not  
explaining this very well, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Additionally, from second 8:
"Question. Are all digital certificates/signatures broken?
Answer. No. When digital certificates and signatures are based on  
secure cryptographic hash functions, our work yields no reason to  
doubt their security. Our result only applies when digital  
certificates are signed using the hash function MD5, which is known to  
be broken. With our method it is only possible to copy digital  
signatures based on MD5 between two specially constructed digital  
certificates. It is not possible to copy digital signatures based on  
MD5 from digital certificates unless the certificates are specially  
constructed. Even so, our result shows that MD5 is NOT suited for  
digital signatures. Certification Authorities should stop using the  
known broken MD5 and move to the widely available, more secure  
alternatives, such as SHA-2."


"Question. What should websites do that have digital certificates  
signed with MD5?
Answer. Nothing at this point. Digital certificates legitimately  
obtained from all CAs can be believed to be secure and trusted, even  
if they were signed with MD5. Our method required the purchase of a  
specially crafted digital certificate from a CA and does not affect  
certificates issued to any other regular website."

My apologies if you were commenting on some other aspect, or if my  
understand is in some way flawed.

CA cert:

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