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German Health Insurance Card CA Loses Secret Key

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the your-replacement-papers-please dept.

Security 174

Christiane writes "The SSL Root CA responsible for issuing the German digital health insurance card lost its secret private key during a test enrollment. After their Hardware Security Module (HSM) dutifully deleted its crypto keys during a power outage, it was all 'Oops, why is there no backup?' All issued cards must be replaced: 'Gematik spokesman Daniel Poeschkens poured scorn on the statement that Gematik had insisted on the service provider carrying out a test without backing up the root CA private keys. "We did not decide against a back-up service. The fact of the matter is that the service provider took over the running of the test system, so it also has to warrant its continuous operation. How it fulfills this obligation is its own responsibility."'"

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Oh c'mon, be fair! (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691533)

Not even a month ago you chided them because there were too many copies (some of them even offsite, they just didn't know who had them now), now you chew them out for having too few. Make up your effing mind!

Germans still outperform Africans. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691675)

Losing a cryptographic key is a serious mistake, but it is -- after all -- just a mistake. No one is perfect.

Now, compare that behavior to 100 of years failure and brutality in Africa. Africans -- in country after country -- exhibit violent behavior and lack the ability to contribute significantly to science and engineering. Look at what happened to South Africa. The Africans took control and wrecked the society.

Now, look at Germany. The Germans co-invented calculus (with an Englishman), invented the jet aircraft, built part of the foundation of quantum physics, etc. Here, "Germans" include those of the Jewish religion. German achievements in science (pure, applied, and social) is astounding.

What have the Africans accomplished? Nothing.

Before you start bitching about "oppression", look at the Japanese. They are not "White". Yet, they far surpass the Africans in intellect. The Japanese transformed a barren rock into the 2nd richest nation in the world.

What the FUCK is the problem with the Africans?

Re:Germans still outperform Africans. (1)

beefnog (718146) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691857)

The next time you have a thought, just let it go.

Re:Germans still outperform Africans. (1)

black6host (469985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691989)

Undoing moderation in error....

Re:Germans still outperform Africans. (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692705)

They can have my copy, I hacked their servers last week ;)

Re:Germans still outperform Africans. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692323)

And please don't forget to flush.

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (3, Funny)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691819)

"too many copies" ... "having too few"

This kind of organisation usually has a backup somewhere, they just have to find it. Its usually backed up on a post-it note somewhere. Maybe they should ask all of us to look for it, on the sides of our monitors.

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (5, Funny)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692197)

My Day 1:

I actually found the administrator password on a post-it note on the back of the server's CRT monitor while cleaning the server room.

"Fucking amazing" I said out loud, and as I pulled it off, on the back was the AmEx credit card number, expiration date, and 3digit pin for our organization to order IT stuff.

Then I noticed on the left underside of the CRT there was another post-it that said Ctrl Shift Alt Num+....so I pressed that and up came a hidden menu of hidden apps running (SysTrayX + a sketchy prog to hide services in TaskManager), 90% of them illegal. Also uTorrent was running, seeding about 50 anime series buried deep within the network and using about half of the T3 connection's throughput.

And to top it all off, I deduced that the server had never had a fresh install of Windows. It used to have NT Server, then they used software to upgrade it to 2000 Server, and software again to upgrade it to Server 2003. ......

Day 7:

I get a call from the old IT guy asking me whats wrong with the connection, and I told him I reinstalled Server 2003, deleted his anime cache, changed the WPA-PSK keys from 1111111111 to something way more secure, reported the AmEx card as stolen to get a new one, changed the admin password and set password age limits on all accounts, and replaced the rootkit infected SCSI drives with new ones that would last longer. Also, I told the managers that his 5000$ quote for network-wide unlimited antivirus was utter bullshit and that he only got a cracked key for Norton 2003 and installed it only on the server, and prolly pocketed the money.

Damn dude was like "BUT I DIDNT BACK UP THE ANIME TO DVD YET!!!". Now I love anime as much as the next person, but I think he has other stuff to worry about at this point.

But you know what got me the most mad and prompted all of this? The server was named Odie, and the computers were all garfield characters.

CALVIN AND HOBBES FTW!!!!

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (3, Funny)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692217)

Oh, and his DAT72 backups had been failing for the last 2 years and he had never checked the logs.

Good thing he left to start his own business! /shudder

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692761)

Day 8:
You got fired, and the system got "restored" because your "fixes" halted the whole "business".
It was a sad day.

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (4, Funny)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693729)

Heh...I'm actually just doing a paid internship at a non-profit after their full-time guy left. It was supposed to end on May 1st, but hey I guess they love what I've done.

Got them a cheap dedicated backup system, updated all the systems and reinstalled an NLite-ed XP on every computer, and moved them from Exchange to Google. Oh, and the lab computers run Ubuntu.

They also loved it when I found the IT guy's secret paypal business account with 3000$ sitting in it that was supposed to be used for something else (battery backup replacement batteries). Putting passwords in a file on the administrator's desktop called "passwords for everything.txt" is sooooo helpful for when you're trying to be sneaky.

Seriously, this shit is a soap opera of IT-isms.

Re:Oh c'mon, be fair! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692259)

If everything fails, keep browsing through various pages trading in that stuff, you'll eventually find it...

An HSM That Requires Continuous Power? (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691543)

Even when accessing key material? C'mon! The Confidentiality, INTEGRITY, ASSURANCE triangle seems to be missing a couple of legs, in this instance.

That's really amateur. Sounds like someone swapped the Smart Cards with Dumb Cards...

Re:An HSM That Requires Continuous Power? (3, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691575)

Don't blame the cards for the stupidity of their administrators.

Re:An HSM That Requires Continuous Power? (1)

rindeee (530084) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691649)

For the record, the CIA triad is "Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability", which is actually more applicable in this case. Just sayin'.

Wrong Title, Wrong summary (3, Informative)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691551)

Once again, misleading title to a different summary.
For fuck's sake, the Germans didn't lose the key.
The SSL Root CA lost that.
Get the facts right.
For a second i was wondering how Germans could that stupid. That is unlike the Germany i know. And exactly as i suspected, the German insurer had been insisting the root CA for backup while the CA thought it was unnecessary.
Is it the German company's fault?

 

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691605)

After all, we all know Germans are exact and punctual, Poles are thieves, Russians are drunk and Fins are even more so. Oh, and Mexicans are lazy and US people are simple minded. Any stereotype missing?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (4, Informative)

MancunianMaskMan (701642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691651)

Any stereotype missing?

yes.

we British are all of the above.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691717)

Not only that, they have really weird tastes, too. In food and bed. Sometimes at the same time.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692749)

A fact is not a stereotype.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691859)

And how exactly do you pull off being exact and punctual while being sloppy and unable to figure out what time it is from being drunk?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691917)

And how exactly do you pull off being exact and punctual while being sloppy and unable to figure out what time it is from being drunk?

Because we can handle our drink!

Free +5 funny for whoever follows up with a comment about US beer....

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

George Beech (870844) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691935)

And how exactly do you pull off being exact and punctual while being sloppy and unable to figure out what time it is from being drunk?

Practice... lots and lots of practices. Speaking of which it's time for me to do some practicing.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

johnw (3725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693085)

Speaking of which it's time for me to do some practicing.

That should be "practising" - oh, and we're good at pedantry too.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692537)

how exactly do you pull off being exact and punctual...

They tattoo the pub opening time and location on their arms.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692889)

Well "exact" could mean "accurate" or it could mean "precise".

I take it to mean it to mean that Brits in their inebriated state have a gift for putting their fingers and other assorted appendages in precisely the wrong place.

That's easy. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693051)

When they kick you out of the pub it's time to be at the curry house.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693223)

Did anybody notice the parent is modded as Informative, not Funny?

I take it at least 50% of the current mods are French?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691667)

I've noticed Canadians make everything a question, eh?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0, Flamebait)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691739)

Duh! The blacks are on the corner smacking their cracked out hoe baby mama, while smoking a blunt and drinking a 40 that they got from the 7-11 that Indian Mr Habib and his wife Shanti own.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691907)

FYI...'Habib' is an Arabic, not Indian, name. It means, roughly, 'sweetheart'. I would suggest 'Mr. Sharma' for the Indian name.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693335)

There are a number of Indians with the name Habib. This should not be surprising as there are many Indians who are muslims or whose forefathers were muslims.

Just a search for Habib India will give you many Indians with that name e.g.:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habib_Tanvir [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693845)

I thought Mr Patel was the guy who has kept very quiet his monopoly on every corner shop everywhere.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0, Offtopic)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692829)

Have you ever been to a 7-11 in Seattle? My buddy and I stopped in to about 4 or 5 7-11's looking for directions (we were just passing through and very unfamiliar with Seattle). The very first 7-11 we stopped at I was like "Holy shit, no way!" it was an Indian immigrant at the counter, barely spoke english, naturally didn't know jack about where anything was. So we drove and found another. It was being run by another Indian who also didn't know jack about the town (we were looking for a Walmart, apparently there was one a couple miles away, but we kept missing it). By the third 7-11 with an Indian who didn't know jack about the town it became a combination of realizing that sometimes the stereotype is not an exaggeration by any stretch and wondering how the hell they get by on a gas station attendant's salary without knowing where frickin walmart is. When we saw that the fourth 7-11 was also being run by an Indian, we decided to forget it and just head out of town. We managed to find a Walmart off the highway after not too long.

Here I thought it was just an over-exageration because the only 7-11 near where I live is run by hippies, oddly enough. Turns out the stereotype came about because it can be very, very true.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693229)

In my experience, when you see an indian behind the counter at 7-11, they are part of the family of the owner.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691757)

I must take issue with your sweeping nationalistic statement. Poles aren't theives - that's Romanians. Poles are honest. Crap at plumbing, but honest.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692295)

The "crap at plumbing" is due to a little known fact. Namely that Poland invested zero into the infrastructure in the western areas they got after WW2, fearing they'll eventually return it to Germany. Until not too long you could find pipes dating back to pre-1940.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692493)

>Until not too long you could find pipes dating back to pre-1940.

The ability to keep a system like that working is the mark of a *good* plumber.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693027)

Yeah, but the Plumbers that did those pipes weren't Polish...

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691933)

.... and US people are simple minded. Any stereotype missing?

Simple minded? I thought we were just fat and lazy.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692543)

No, we're also loud, obnoxious, and generally socially clueless.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693891)

You're fat and lazy because you're simple minded. And if you weren't so simple minded, you'd be able to figure that out.

Me, I'm Canadian with British parents. So apparently I'm exact and punctual while stealing booze, but I apologize politely to the shopkeeper for swiping it.....

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692115)

The French where too rude with their heads too far up their asses to care.

The Spanish... well, no one expected the SPANISH INQUISITION!

The Swiss will be glad to service you, but they'll be damned to let you live in their country.

Italians have their own racket going for Health Insurance... it's called pay and you won't get shot.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692305)

Yeah, you forgot that the French throw up their arms in surrender every time they hear a cork pop.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692827)

Cork pop? They keep their arms in the air just in case.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (2, Insightful)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692647)

After all, we all know Germans are exact and punctual

Well, we DO know that they are awfully good at writing numbers down. Sometimes even up the arm.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693313)

Does this qualify as the thread getting Godwinned?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693245)

Not all stereotypes are without foundation: I can confirm from personal experience that Germans tend to be punctual and expect the same of others, Finns tend to be hard drinkers and tough as old boots and, for what it's worth, never go drinking with Icelanders.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (2, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691627)

The summary even states that Gematik insisted on a back-up less operation, and then provides a quote explicitly stating that they did no such thing! Slashdot: doing for editorial accuracy what Fox does for editorial neutrality.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (2, Informative)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691779)

The summary even states that Gematik insisted on a back-up less operation, and then provides a quote explicitly stating that they did no such thing!

Gematik commissioned D-Trust to provide the root CA as a service. D-Trust managing director Matthias Merx stated "Gematik decided to 'do without a back-up'. As a service provider, we have to accept that."

From the article and summary:

"Gematik spokesman Daniel Poeschkens poured scorn on the statement that Gematik had insisted on the service provider carrying out a test without backing up the root CA private keys. "We did not decide against a back-up service ..."

Slashdot: doing for editorial accuracy what Fox does for editorial neutrality.

Indeed. Two sides claiming different things. Must be Slashdot's fault.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692781)

I'm guessing that our self-evidently poor (well, my self-evidently poor) reading ability is to blame somewhere.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691943)

At least a little, they apparently made the mistake of trusting the root CA.

Reading comprehension - you fail it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692043)

Once again, misleading title to a different summary.

How's that again?

For fuck's sake, the Germans didn't lose the key.
The SSL Root CA lost that.

Hmm.. I wonder if that's why the title reads "German Health Insurance Card CA Loses Secret Key"?

What are you ranting about? The title says exactly what you say it should say, and then rant about how it's wrong...

Reading comprehension - you fail it!

Although I must laugh about how your post demonstrates exactly what you are claiming is wrong with the article's summary and title.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692183)

Hmm. The CA was D-Trust. Care to guess what country D-Trust operates out of?

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692743)

For a second i was wondering how Germans could that stupid. That is unlike the Germany i know.

Don't confuse regular German companies and engineering with German public projects like these. The latter is usually a competition in who has got the best government connections and who can deliver the cheapest crap. The combination of corruption and the fact that you can sell any piece of crap to imcompetent officials often has hilarious results like these. You could call it the most expensive entertainment tax payer money can buy.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (0)

garry_g (106621) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692947)

For a second i was wondering how Germans could that stupid. That is unlike the Germany i know

You don't seem to know much about politically motivated, government-initiated IT projects in Germany, do you? Overfunded, and staffed with f@cking idiots unable to do their work, much less keep the project organized with PM ...

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (2, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693087)

The title/summary are not necessarilly incorrect, just ambiguous. English can do that, and if you aren't paying attention your meaning can be taken in a way other than you intended.

In this case, there are a few ways to read "German Health Insurance Card CA":

1.) The Health Insurance Card CA of German origin
2.) The CA for the German Health Insurance Card
3.) The Card CA for German Health Insurance
4.) The Insurance Card CA for German Health

Obviously they aren't saying 3 or 4, those work gramatically but don't make a lot of sense in the context of health insurance and certificate authorities. 1 and 2 though, work pretty well either way. They should have used the unambiguous form, obviously with a small amount of research we can see that 2 is the correct meaning, but a number of people will read the sentance to mean 1 instead, as you did.

It's poor writing, not an attack or attempt to slight Germans. Remember the old saying: Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetance.

Lastly, while it was the CA's responsibility to ensure they have backups and the like, it is the client company's responsibility to ensure they can maintain their business. If the health insurance company never asked for or verified a disaster recovery plan, it's their ass that is in hot water if they cannot provide service.

Make no mistake, they WILL lose business over this, even if the failure isn't directly their fault.

Re:Wrong Title, Wrong summary (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693305)

Even so, this line struck me as all too familiar: "The fact of the matter is that the service provider took over the running of the test system, so it also has to warrant its continuous operation. How it fulfills this obligation is its own responsibility."

This is why managers (especially the MBA types) love outsourcing of everything. It is also in part because numbers and KPIs are so much more easy to manage than actual people. But mainly, by outsourcing a function you also get to outsource the responsibility for that particular function. If things go tits up, the worst you'll be blamed for is picking the wrong service provider, or perhaps not monitoring a particular KPI properly. Minor stuff.

I've seen plenty of managers like that, and I have heard a variation of that one line all too often.

NSA/CIA (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691591)

Maybe they should check with the NSA or CIA? They've got a backdoor into EVERY system, and may still have the key saved on a laptop lying around somewhere.

Re:NSA/CIA (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691721)

just let me google that for you ...

Could be worse (4, Insightful)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691609)

I'd rather the key be lost, than stolen, hacked, made-public, etc. At least it didn't breach security in the typical manner.

Re:Could be worse (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691691)

What's worst about it is that this is probably presumed to be worse. Had the key be stolen, they'd probably not even report it because business could continue as usual, maybe nobody finds out...

Re:Could be worse (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692355)

...or maybe the key was stolen and to cover their ass made up a convienent story that the key was lost to reissue new cards before the real shit hit the fan.

Re:Could be worse (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693093)

Fallacy: Stealing a (digital) key does not remove it from its original owner.

Re:Could be worse (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693679)

You don't understand what this "key" is for, do you?

Re:Could be worse (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691733)

Mod parent up. In the serious crypto world, this is a good thing, provided it doesn't happen too often. Sometimes you're going to lose a key, because, for security reasons, you don't keep extra copies. You have a procedure for issuing new keys when this happens, which you're routinely doing anyway.

Re:Could be worse (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692341)

It could be worse, but this incident exposes a design flaw: The loss of a private key should not stop them from issuing new cards which are compatible with the existing cards.

If a CA key is lost, then there should be a layer above it which can create a new CA key. Cards are checked against the top CA public key, so the old and the new cards can both be verified. Because the top CA is only used to create intermediate CAs, its private key can be kept safer than the key of a CA which is regularly used for signing certificates. Should it get lost anyway, at least the intermediate CA still exists and can continue signing new cards.

Re:Could be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692573)

Once had a software vendor provide both their public and private SSL keys to 25 people at my company so we could connect to a SOAP interface they'd created for us. This wasn't just a soap.company.com cert, but the www.company.com.

Stupid is as stupid does.

The big question... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691635)

Is the cost of re-establishing the chain of trust (ie a new root and replacing all of the cards) higher than the value of the data that this system was protecting?

This would never happen in Britain (2, Funny)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691669)

It would easily be found be searching the nearest pub car park for USB keys, or checking the train that the relevant civil servant travelled home on.

Public Key Infrastructure (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691693)

The entire concept of PKI revolves around the inheritance of trust from the root CA. It seems pretty clear these guys can not be trusted. I would be worried about the people who have to use them.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (2, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691791)

That's just silly. They obviously take security seriously enough that they found re-issuing all of their certs preferable to adding a second storage place for the private key, thus doubling the possibility of the system being compromised.

If the key had been compromised, that would be a breach of trust. This is more an example of the fact that as security increases, usability decreases.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691879)

No, that is just silly. Of course there should be a backup kept in a physically secure location for events just like this. In a real environment when a root CA loses its private key they not only have to reissue all new keys to everyone, but to all the CAs below them and all the users and CAs they signed (and so on all the way down the chain). This cascades quickly into a huge mess that can easily cost millions upon millions to clean up.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692081)

Why do they have to issue new keys? I'd think that as long as their public key is still known, that all the issued signed keys would still be valid. They'd just have to use a new key pair for any new signed documents.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693189)

Damn good question. Losing a signing key doesn't mean the signatures can't still be checked.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (2, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693349)

Actually, I can think of a reason, after all. Since this CA no longer has the ability to revoke prior signatures made with that key, then that key can no longer be trusted as a signer. You can check to see if a CA has certified something, but there's no way to check to see if the CA changed their mind, because the CA no longer has a way to say that.

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692137)

Well, as far as the security of the backup is concerned, isn't splitting the secret [digital-scurf.org] an option? Like having seven different keys to the national crown jewels' safe. :-)

Re:Public Key Infrastructure (2, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692779)

PGP Desktop has this option. You can share a key and split it among people, where x amount of y pieces are needed to recover the original key, where both x and y are user selectable values.

However, if a key is a top root CA key, you would not be using it on a general purpose computer. You would have the key generated in a HSM and stored there, where someone can perhaps use the key to sign and decrypt stuff, but would have to go to a lot of trouble to get past all the hardware tamper evident stuff in the HSM to access the raw private key material.

Most newer HSM devices I've seen have a way to back up keys generated on the device (usually to USB flash drives), provided at key generation time you set a flag allowing the key to leave the device. If this "allow private key material to leave the HSM" flag isn't explicitly set, you are screwed when it comes to backups, and your best workaround is to create another key with the flag set, then do some cross signing. Depending on task, you might be able to get away with revoking the old key, but sometimes (especially if the old key signed a lot of code certificates), this may be almost impossible.

This lost key should be a lesson to people. Making sure the keys that are in the armored box are backed up can be just as important to security as keeping them in the armored box in the first place. Ideally, consider multiple HSM hardware at multiple locations, including an offline HSM stored in padded packaging that goes in the Iron Mountain tub, as well as the means to access the key inside the box.

You can fall off the road on either side (3, Interesting)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691709)

There are two fundamental ways to fail as a CA. There must be exactly one party in effective possession of the private key of the root cert. If the number of parties becomes less than or more than one, fail.

Mistakes happen, of course, and certificate infrastructures can be enormously complex. But if you're going to do any kind of risk mitigation, the absolutely most basic place to start would be with these two scenarios.

Re:You can fall off the road on either side (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692001)

There must be exactly one party in effective possession of the private key of the root cert. If the number of parties becomes less than or more than one, fail.

No. The number of parties must be effectively ZERO. This is why the key is stored inside an HSM. Signing is performed by the HSM at the request of no fewer than 2 parties (each party monitors the other for suspicious or inappropriate behavior).

Key backups (in case of HSM failure) are encrypted (strength >= key) and can only be decrypted inside another HSM at the request of the >=2 parties who created the backup.

Breaking the HSM and having no backups of the root key ... fail.

Re:You can fall off the road on either side (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692691)

certificate infrastructures can be enormously complex.

This is the problem: simplicity is the key to security. A complex system is just one with more places to hide exploits.

Re:You can fall off the road on either side (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692935)

So, it's kind of like the optimist/pessimist thing, right?

As an optimist, I'd say that least they didn't fail in the worst possible way.

The pessimist in me thinks I should get a bit more than "not failing in the worst possible way" when I pay somebody a barrel of cash to hash a couple numbers for me.

Re:You can fall off the road on either side (2, Informative)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693099)

As an optimist, I'd say that least they didn't fail in the worst possible way.

The pessimist in me thinks I should get a bit more than "not failing in the worst possible way" when I pay somebody a barrel of cash to hash a couple numbers for me.

No, that's also the optimist in you.

Cheers. :)

Re:You can fall off the road on either side (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693861)

How about backups on heavy steel punch-cards sealed and stored in some sort of vault? No serious risk of erasure, and much more difficult to walk off with than any sort of digital backups.

Rootkeylosin! (2, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691729)

Q: How do you learn every German swear word in about 20 seconds?
A: Tell the German admin that you lost the root key.

Re:Rootkeylosin! (2, Insightful)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692599)

The best part is it will all be contained in a single, monstrously large word. Ah, german efficience.

Let me see your SLAs (1)

geomobile (1312099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691759)

Gematik spokesman Daniel Poeschkens poured scorn on the statement that Gematik had insisted on the service provider carrying out a test without backing up the root CA private keys. "We did not decide against a back-up service. The fact of the matter is that the service provider took over the running of the test system, so it also has to warrant its continuous operation. How it fulfils this obligation is its own responsibility."

...at that moment someone handed him the SLAs at which point he turned white, muttered something about an important meeting and was never heard of since.

I'm confused (4, Insightful)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691793)

card lost its secret private key during a test enrollment

I'm confused, isn't this sort of problem exactly why you carry out system tests?

Sending out new cards to card testers during a systems test is hardly extraordinary.

Re:I'm confused (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692391)

I don't think that is the extraordinary part. The part we are focused on is the fact that they specifically refused any sort of backup before testing, knowing full well that all sorts of things can and do happen during testing. And these are the people who will be in charge of this system when it goes live.

Re:I'm confused (3, Informative)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693629)

See I read that part differently.

Matthias Merx, the firm's managing director, told heise online that following a voltage drop, something happened in D-Trust's "Trustcenter" that does occasionally occur. "The HSM independently deleted the data because it suspected an attack."

Translation? "Someone unplugged the backup power supply before setting the proper mode in the card because we didn't fully understand how sensitive the card is for root CA certs"

Merx explained that "Gematik decided to 'do without a back-up'. As a service provider, we have to accept that,"

Translation? "We asked Gematik that it might be a good idea to back it up and they said its fine its just for testing." or "We recommended to Gematik to back up the card before shipping it to us. They shipped it to us and we just shrugged our shoulders." Bonus points if you guessed they asked a low level manager at Gematik who thinks CA is the first two letters of a cat.

Gematik spokesman Daniel Poeschkens poured scorn on the statement that Gematik had insisted on the service provider carrying out a test without backing up the root CA private keys. "We did not decide against a back-up service. The fact of the matter is that the service provider took over the running of the test system, so it also has to warrant its continuous operation. How it fulfils this obligation is its own responsibility."

Traslation? "Gematik is taking NO RESPONSABLITY WHATSOEVER for doing any safty checks before giving our root ca to an outside vendor."

All in all its not a big deal though. It looks like they just lost the issuing CA and not the revoke keys. It looks like they can still authenticate too. Now if this was the MAIN system germany with 80+ million plus medical cards? I think people are going to be shot:P

didn't the Germans learn anything from Bushie? (0, Offtopic)

swschrad (312009) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691949)

(1) outsourced government works even less well.

(2) exceptions are covered under rule #1.

Re:didn't the Germans learn anything from Bushie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28692501)

They just got their shoulders inappropriately groped.

A drop in voltage? (1)

yogibaer (757010) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691999)

"the firm's managing director, told heise online that following a voltage drop, something happened in D-Trust's "Trustcenter" that does occasionally occur" You cannot even say what's worse: A voltage drop even reaching the HSM or the HSM going suicidal and loosing the key. And all of that "occasionally"? Everytime they make popcorn in the microwave? As a german I am quite flabbergasted by this lack of german engineering, in one of the countries largest trust-centers.

Re:A drop in voltage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693251)

"the firm's managing director, told heise online that following a voltage drop, something happened in D-Trust's "Trustcenter" that does occasionally occur" You cannot even say what's worse: A voltage drop even reaching the HSM or the HSM going suicidal and loosing the key. And all of that "occasionally"? Everytime they make popcorn in the microwave? As a german I am quite flabbergasted by this lack of german engineering, in one of the countries largest trust-centers.

THe voltage-drop and the deletion of the key were both part of the tests they did. The HSM deletes the key because it thinks that the drop in voltage is a precursor to a physical attack (basically it thinks that it is being carried out of the datacenter). Everything worked as expected; they simply did not remember to make a backup...

Place blame (4, Funny)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692007)

Poeschkens claimed, "I know nothing! noth-thing!" and proceeded to blame the problem on a man he would only identify as "Hogan."

What is "CA"? (5, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692133)

For those of you who are wondering what CA is, it stands for Certificate Authority. You see, the Germans have a hard time functioning without a constant stream of praise, so they have this authority in place that prints and sends certificates to people. Every day thousands of Germans get congratualted for crossing the street, for finding their car keys or for eating their 1000th potato of the month. You know you've walked into a German household when you see the wallpaper of framed certificates.

The problem here is that the company deleted the certificate-printing program since they thought someone was trying to hack in and print more certificates for themselves- no one is THAT special so they had to stop him. They forgot to have another program ready to print more certificates, so now Germany is under threat of entering a depression since they no longer get certificates telling them how special they are.

On a serious note: I don't follow this article very well with all the acronyms being spelled out but not explained, and no background knowledge of anything going on here. If someone would care to explain what is going on here to someone that has never heard the term CA, you should get a +5 informative easily.

Re:What is "CA"? (5, Informative)

Ritorix (668826) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692669)

I will simplify, but basically a CA (Certificate Authority, that much of the parent wasnt a joke) is a server that creates encryption certificates. In this case, SSL certificates. For example, when you goto https://mail.google.com/ [google.com] that SSL certificate was created by the Thawte SGC CA. Thawte is one of many companies that you can pay to create you an SSL cert, so your users can communicate with your server via https.

The CA itself also has an encryption key, which is stored on hardware. In some cases its a PCIe board, others its a removable PCMCIA card, etc. This particular CA used an add-on board which lost power during operation, wiping out its only key. The board seems to have been working as intended, preventing attack (removal of board, which would cause power loss) by wiping itself.

Without that key, the CA can no longer create revocation lists (CRLs, lists of certs a CA has created that have since been revoked or expired) or any new certs. They are dead in the water, also causing every cert they have ever made to become invalid as they can no longer be checked against a recent CRL. They have to start from scratch, recreating every_single_cert.

This was only a test system, but if this happened in reality 80 million Germans would have invalid health cards. At least they discovered the value of a backup during testing.

Best practices (2, Informative)

Shulai (34423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692651)

Best practices about CA management says you should have your secret key in a (physical) safe. Better yet, divide it in two pieces and put it along the passphrase in three different safes (part1+pass,part2+pass,part1+part2), so you can't lose key access even if you lose one safe, and nobody can take the key by opening a single safe.

What does the colonel do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693465)

Perhaps they could save their private key in the same place KFC and Coke do for their secret recipes. These guys know security!

My advice in the past (2, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693355)

In talking with people (or company representatives) about their security regarding passwords and keys, I always told them two things.

First, all security experts will tell you that you should not keep copies of that stuff around.

Second, that's not a realistic expectation, stuff happens. The IT guy goes on vacation, has an accident, or dies. (Seen all 3 numerous times.) You fire the Admin for some reason. This building burns down. Etc.

A reasonable thing to do, is keep a password/key log with that critical information that is kept up to date at all times. You have two copies of it. Both are kept secure in good quality safes (not a $200 lockbox).
Both safes are in different physical locations, at least separate buildings, preferably miles apart.
The reason for this is pretty easy. Once again, things happen. I've seen buildings burnt down, flooded, inaccessible due to chemical hazards from a truck wreck, etc. You don't know what will happen, but if you have them stored at separate physical locations, you at least know you will be able to get to one of them if you need to, assuming nobody uses a nuke.

It all falls under that old techie saying, "So, when did your data become important to you? Before or after you lost it...".
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