When the issue of Lenovo’s pre-installed SSL-breaking Superfish adware first gained widespread media recognition, the company’s CTO Peter Hortensius tried to do some damage control and stated that the adware posed no security risk for users.
After being asked to comment on the fact that there is a huge disparity between this claim and that of security researchers saying that there are potential dangers created by the software’s use, he dismissed their concerns as “theoretical.”
“We have no insight that anything nefarious has occurred,” he said at the time.
But, as the days went by, evidence backing security researchers’ vision of things kept mounting, and Lenovo backtracked on those claims. It was discovered that Superfish is not the only app using the same SSL-busting code by Komodia, and that another piece of adware, Comodo’s PrivDog, is even worse than Superfish, as it makes the browser accept every HTTPS certificate, whether it’s been signed by a certificate authority or not.
EFF researchers Joseph Bonneau and Jeremy Gillula have shared on Wednesday the results of their search of the database compiled from the input collected via Firefox’ Decentralized SSL Observatory feature, and these results show that MITM attacks taking advantage of software using Komodia’s encryption libraries have probably been executed in the wild.
“We searched the Decentralized SSL Observatory for examples of certificates that Komodia should have rejected, but which it ended up causing browsers to accept, and found over 1600 entries,” they noted. “Affected domains included sensitive websites like Google (including mail.google.com, accounts.google.com, and checkout.google.com), Yahoo (including login.yahoo.com), Bing, Windows Live Mail, Amazon, eBay (including checkout.payments.ebay.com), Twitter, Netflix, Mozilla’s Add-Ons website, www.gpg4win.org, several banking websites (including mint.com and domains from HSBC and Wells Fargo), several insurance websites, the Decentralized SSL Observatory itself, and even superfish.com.”
They acknowledged that it’s likely that some of these domains had legitimately invalid certificates, but said that it seems unlikely that all of them did.
“Thus it’s possible that Komodia’s software enabled real MITM attacks which gave attackers access to people’s email, search histories, social media accounts, e-commerce accounts, bank accounts, and even the ability to install malicious software that could permanently compromise a user’s browser or read their encryption keys,” they pointed out.
They also discovered that the Decentralized SSL Observatory has collected over 17,000 different certificates from PrivDog users. Any of those certificates could have been used in an attack, but there is no way of knowing whether they actually were.