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Heartbleed vs. Startcom / StartSSL

09.04.2014 by tg@
Tags: bug debian news rant security work

First of all, good news, MirBSD is not vulnerable to The Heartbleed Bug due to my deliberate choice to stick to an older OpenSSL version. My inquiry (in various places) as to what precisely could leak when a vulnerable client connected to a nōn-vulnerable server has yet to be answered, though we can assume private key material is safe.

Now the bad news: while the CA I use¹ and a CA I don’t use offer free rekeying (in general), a CA I also use occasionally² refuses to do that. The ugly: they will not even revoke the certificates, so any attacker who gained your key, for example when you have been using a certificate of theirs on a Debian system, will be able to use it (e.g. to MITM your visitors traffic) unless you shell over lots of unreasonable money per certificate. (Someone wrote they got the fee waived, but others don’t, nor do I. (There’s also a great Twitter discussion-thingy about this involving Zugschlus, but I won’t link Twitter because they are not accessible to Lynx users like me and other Planet Debian authors.)

① I’ve been using GoDaddy privately for a while, paid for a wildcard certificate for *.mirbsd.org, and later also at work. I’ve stopped using it privately due to current lack of money.

② Occasionally, for nōn-wildcard gratis SSL certificates for HTTP servers. Startcom’s StartSSL certificates are unusable for real SSL as used in SMTP STARTTLS anyway, so usage isn’t much.

Now I’ve got a dilemma here. I’ve created a CA myself, to use with MirBSD infrastructure and things like that – X.509 certificates for my hosts (especially so I can use them for SMTP) and possibly personal friends (whose PGP key I’ve signed with maximum trust after the usual verification) but am using a StartSSL certificate for www.mirbsd.org as my GoDaddy wildcard certificate expires in a week or so (due to the aforementioned monetary issues), and I’d rather not pay for a limited certificate only supporting a single vhost. There is absolutely no issue with that certificate and key (only ever generated and used on MirBSD, only using it in Apache mod_ssl). Then, there’s this soon-to-be tax-exempt non-profit society of public utility I’m working with, whose server runs Debian, and which is affected, but has been using a StartSSL certificate for a while. Neither the society nor I can afford to pay for revocation, and we do not see any possible justification for this especially in the face of CVE-2014-0160. I expect a rekey keeping the current validity end date, and would accept a revocation even if I were unable to get a new certificate, since even were we to get a certificate for the society’s domain from someplace else, an attacker could still MITM us with the previous one from Startcom.

The problem here is: I’d really love to see (all of!) Startcom dropped from the global list of trustworthy CAs, but then I’d not know from where to get a cert for MirBSD; Globalsign is not an option because I will not limit SSL compatibility to a level needed to pass their “quality” test… possibly GoDaddy, ISTR they offer a free year to Open Source projects… no idea about one for the society… but it would solve the problem of not getting the certificates revoked. For everyone.

I am giving Startcom time until Friday after $dayjob (for me); after that, I’ll be kicking them off MirBSD’s CA bundle and will be lobbying for Debian and Mozilla to do the same.

Any other ideas of how to deal with that? I’d probably pay 5 € for a usable certificate accepted by people (including old systems, such as MSIE 5.0 on Win2k and the likes) without questioning… most of the time, I only serve public content anyway and just use SSL to make the NSA’s job more difficult (and even when not I’m not dealing with any payment information, just the occasional login protected area).

By the way, is there any way to access the information that is behind a current-day link to groups.google.com with Lynx or Pine? I can’t help but praise GMane for their NNTP interface.

ObFunfact: just when I was finished writing this wlog entry, I got a new eMail “Special offer just for you.” from GoDaddy. Sadly, no offer for a 5 € SSL certificate, just the usual 20-35% off coupon code.

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