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GlobalSign stops issuing certificates after DigiNotar hacker boast


Certificate authority GlobalSign has stopped issuing new security certificates after a hacker who claimed responsibility for last week’s breach of DigiNotar claimed to have access to four more certificate authorities—specifically naming GlobalSign. As a precaution, GlobalSign as temporarily stopped issued new security certificates until it can complete an investigation; the company also announced it has hired Dutch cyber-security firm Fox-IT to assist—Fox-IT just helped out with the investigation of the DigiNotar breach.

“GlobalSign takes this claim very seriously and is currently investigating,” the company wrote.

GlobalSign’s move comes after an anonymous post surfaced on Pastebin, claiming to be from the attacker who recently issued several hundred bogus security certificates from DigiNotar (including one for Google). The Pastebin account was the same one used someone claiming to have previously breached the Comodo certificate authority. The attacker has also given interviews, and claims to be a 21 year-old Iranian.

In theory, the bogus certificates could be used to intercept secured communications with a Web site via a man-in-the-middle attack. Both Fox-IT and Trend Micro have noted that a large number of IP addresses connecting to Google and authenticating via DigiNotar after the breach were from Iran.

In the meantime, Dutch telecommunications firm KPN says its Getronics unit is picking up new business from former DigiNotar customers. Major desktop Web browsers have issued updates invalidating all security certificates issued by DigiNotar in order to protect users from possible security threats.

However, smartphone users may still be at risk: no smartphone or mobile OS makers (including Google and Apple) have announced plans to revoke DigiNotar certificates on devices running their operating system. This means those devices are, in theory, still susceptible to man-in-the middle attacks that would enable others to spy on communications. Given that one of the bogus certificates was issued for Google, the threat to Android users could be significant.

Apple, Google, and other smartphone OS makers must work with carriers to get updates to their users, even in the case of serious security issues like the DigiNotar breach.

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