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Gmail Drops Support for Connecting To Pop3 Servers With Self -Signed Certs

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the security-through-redefinition dept.

Google 299

DECula writes "In a move not communicated to its users beforehand, Google's Gmail servers were reconfigured to not connect to remote pop3 servers that have self-signed certificates, leaving folks with unencrypted connections, or no service when getting email from other services. Not good for the small folks. One suggestion was to allow placing the public keys on Google's side in the user configuration. That would be a heck of a lot better than just dropping users into never never land." Apparently, "valid" now means "paid someone Google approves to sign the certificate." It's not like commercial CAs have the best security track record either.

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Communications Breakdown (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320181)

In a move not communicated to its users before hand

In a move not communicated to you. I have a Google Apps account and received an email about this a few weeks ago.

Not good for the small folks.

A cert from BigNameInternetCompany costs next to nothing (although it might just be worth that much as well).

My guess is that this is mostly driven by the desire to minimize SPAM email servers using the Google network to abuse their victims.

One suggestion was to allow placing the public keys on Google's side in the user configuration. That would be a heck of a lot better than just dropping users into never never land.

Again, a cert that is acceptable to Google is so dirt cheap as to be inconsequential to anyone running a server that needs one. So, the only reason can be that those that object are the crusty RMS types â" everything must be free. Google is more concerned with the health of their network, not random non-paying non-customerâ(TM)s not really needy needs.

I know that sounds harsh, but Google is not a social services agency.

Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

IBitOBear (410965) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320253)

This cut at free flow of information, and this alligation that the cost is trivial in the parent poster's post, suggests that if it were such a nothing then google should offer a means to comply wihtout forcing people to go out and pay a third party.

If it's so cheap and such a nothing, then what's the problem wiht them providing what is needed to interract with their own service?

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320287)

Google can do what they want. This move improves security. Sometimes you have to force people to wake up so that they move their feet out of the fire.

Google can do what they want. (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320453)

Google can do what they want.

Sure, Google can always do what they want, but please tell us, the noname folks, whether or not we can download our email from our Gmail account, to our own computer, using POP3 protocol?
 
Thank you and to anyone who can provide us, the noname folks, the critically needed information !!
 

Re:Google can do what they want. (5, Informative)

ThatFunkyMunki (908716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320707)

Yes, you can. The only issue is that when you are using the gmail interface to download mail from an external POP3 server, if you want the connection to be encrypted, your SSL certificate cannot be self-signed. This does not affect anything to do with using regular gmail with a regular POP3 client.

Re:Google can do what they want. (4, Informative)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320709)

From my reading of the linked article, this has nothing whatsoever to do with fetching your email from Google over POP3 (or POP3S)

What this affects is if you are running a mailserver that uses a self-signed certificate, or if you're using another email account on a mailserver that uses a self-signed certificate, then you can no longer tell your gmail account to pull the email in from your second account over POP3S, as it can't verify the certificate.

You can still have gmail pull in your POP email via the non-secure protocol, or have the mail server administrator pay the $30 or so a year it costs to get a valid certificate signed by a recognissed CA.

You can still fetch your gmail via POP, using SSL or not, although why anyone would want to use POP if they're given any other option (such as IMAP) is beyond me.

Re:Google can do what they want. (0)

dririan (1131339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320715)

This has nothing to do with downloading mail to your own computer. This is for people that use Gmail's ability to download mail from other mail servers. Granted, it sucks that Gmail (not Google Apps) users weren't told in advance about it, but it's not like anyone suddenly lost their ability to get their e-mail.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (2)

vsync64 (155958) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320705)

So why can't they move their feet out of the fire by verifying the public key themselves and uploading it into their own Gmail account?

No registrar can beat the verification of me pasting the public key from my own server and verifying the fingerprint out-of-band.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321303)

As pointed out above, the point is most likely to help deflect spam servers using gmail.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (2)

dch24 (904899) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321531)

How does this deflect spam? Unless user accounts were getting hijacked just to add a POP3 server I fail to see how this helps.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320711)

This move improves security.

How does it do that?

This change only affects those people who configure Gmail to pop mail off of small company (or personal) Linux box which has a self signed certs so that the traffic is encrypted. It then puts this mail in your Gmail inbox. I fail to see any big security hole here. Who is going to run super secret mail on a self signed certificate?

The work around is to have the Linux box forward a copy to Gmail. At least they would then be using Googl's cert. I'm not seeing this as that much better for over all security.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320775)

"This move improves security."

No, it doesn't. According to Google:

you can disable using SSL in Gmail by unchecking 'Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail on the Accounts and Import tab in your Mail settings. However, this means that your password and email will not be protected while sent over the Internet, so we don't recommend disabling this.

so, instead of using SSL for it's encryption capabilities (Google is now forcing authentication as a bundle), some users will have to leave the connection wide open. Now, I realize that self-signed certs still leave an opportunity for MITM attacks, but something is better than nothing. Google could have cached self signed certs, and notified the user if they changed, which would have at least made MITM interception apparent. They could have made this level of SSL authentication configurable. They could allow users to upload a private CA cert, or the public side of an SS cert. But they didn't. They just changed to "all or nothing," which will push many users to "nothing."

That in no way improves security.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321493)

instead of using SSL for it's encryption capabilities (Google is now forcing authentication as a bundle)

Because an encrypted communication using only an IP address for authentication is no encryption at all. Any attacker reasonably capable of intercepting your communications to read them is also capable of undetectably executing a man-in-the-middle attack on the SSL connection.

This increases security because it encourages people who actually want encrypted POP connections to use an approach that actually provides that rather than using an approach that appears to provide it but doesn't.

It would be nice to have the ability to upload the signer's cert and use that for verification, though. That enables secure use of self-signed certificates.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321569)

Nice selective quoting there, Bunky.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

tqk (413719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321075)

Google can do what they want.

Certainly they can, and so can we; including not using them. My ISP's IMAP server is happy letting me (encouraging me even) use SSL and TLS with mutt + OfflineIMAP. What's wrong with Google? Actually, I don't really care. As others have mentioned, commercial CAs hardly have a reputation to crow about, and that's where Google's really being foolish. I generally expect them to come up with better solutions than this. No skin off my nose though, as I never intend to use them. This may be good for Google, but (as usual) not for users of its "services."

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

spcebar (2786203) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320303)

Agreed. The problem is not the levity of the price, but the existence of the price itself.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321471)

Agreed. The problem is not the levity of the price, but the existence of the price itself.

Right, because everything should be free as in beer right? Even if it costs someone else something to provide it to you, it shouldn't cost you a thing, right?

A lot of geeks here need to start to realize that all that stuff Out There(tm) isn't produced for free, and won't be free as in beer to you forever. Don't like what Google did? Use another solution or roll your own. *That* is freedom.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (4, Interesting)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320327)

Will it work with STARTSSL free personal certs?

http://www.startssl.com/?app=1 [startssl.com]

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

morcego (260031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320463)

Will it work with STARTSSL free personal certs?

http://www.startssl.com/?app=1 [startssl.com]

If they offer a valid certificate chain, it should.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320649)

Anyone can make a valid certificate chain.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (4, Informative)

IVI4573R (614125) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320821)

Yes. My dovecot server is configured with a Class 1 from STARTSSL and Gmail is happy with it. You just have to remember to use the "Server Certificate Bundle with CRLs" provided by STARTSSL in the ssl_ca option so that the chain to CA is complete.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (-1, Troll)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320331)

Life costs money, get used to it

Your parents pay mortgage on the basement you live in, they pay taxes to the county for your right to an education and utilities so you can download every nasty porn scene from bit torrent

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320483)

I don't know what the price is, or really why it's needed (I don't see how a self-signed cert is a problem in this context, as long as it flags a changed cert), but I can completely see how a trivial price could thwart nefarous behavior without interfering with legitimate behavior.

If it cost $.001 to send a email, I bet we'd see a lot less spam (I'd probably receive less updates I want too, or need to subscribe to a lot more RSS).

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320589)

Perhaps a $50/year cert is the equivalent of paying $0.001 per email. I for one am VERY happy with the free email services provided by google and their ability to filter out spam.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320807)

If it cost $.001 to send a email, I bet we'd see a lot less spam (I'd probably receive less updates I want too, or need to subscribe to a lot more RSS).

The problem is that a certificate is a fixed cost. Its only $0.001 per email if you send X emails. If you only send 0.001X emails, then its $2.00 per email.

So logic suggests that if this is a deterrent to email activity, then its more of a deterrent to non-spammers than it is to spammers.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321481)

If it cost $.001 to send a email, I bet we'd see a lot less spam (I'd probably receive less updates I want too, or need to subscribe to a lot more RSS).

The problem is that a certificate is a fixed cost. Its only $0.001 per email if you send X emails. If you only send 0.001X emails, then its $2.00 per email.

So logic suggests that if this is a deterrent to email activity, then its more of a deterrent to non-spammers than it is to spammers.

Except that spammers are not going to pay for certs for each and every account they use, since they often use hundreds of throwaway accounts it would rapidly become cost prohibitive.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (4, Informative)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320595)

You're right, they're not cheap. Actually they're free [startssl.com] .

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (2, Interesting)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320759)

The paying to get a SSL certificate only affects people running a mail server, not people using a mail server.
If you're running a mail server, you should really get a recognised SSL certificate if you want to offer SSL protected services, otherwise you're only getting half the benefit of SSL connections - you get encryption but not authentication.

From my reading of the linked article, this has nothing whatsoever to do with fetching your email from Google over POP3 (or POP3S)

What this affects is if you are running a mailserver that uses a self-signed certificate, or if you're using another email account on a mailserver that uses a self-signed certificate, then you can no longer tell your gmail account to pull the email in from your second account over POP3S, as it can't verify the certificate.

You can still have gmail pull in your POP email via the non-secure protocol, or have the mail server administrator pay the $30 or so a year it costs to get a valid certificate signed by a recognissed CA.

You can still fetch your gmail via POP, using SSL or not, although why anyone would want to use POP if they're given any other option (such as IMAP) is beyond me.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321195)

"you should really get a recognised SSL certificate if you want to offer SSL protected services, otherwise you're only getting half the benefit of SSL connections - you get encryption but not authentication."

No, it's perfectly reasonable to run your own CA, as an individual or an organization, distribute your CA cert to those using the service, and go merrily on your encrypted and authenticated way.

Except for Google, who provides no mechanism to associate a private CA cert, or the public side of a self signed one, with a gmail account.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Interesting)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321263)

No, it's perfectly reasonable to run your own CA, as an individual or an organization, distribute your CA cert to those using the service, and go merrily on your encrypted and authenticated way.

For $30 per year to get a real cert (or even less, a little googling will quickly product things like 80% off at GoDaddy etc), your time has to be of quite a low value if it's easier/cheaper to run your own CA and distribute certificates (unless, of course, you're doing it all for the fun of it)

Where self-signed certs are no good is when you need to access your SSL protected service from someone else's machine, or a machine you've not used to access the service from before, and you have to take it on blind faith (or remember a long and complicated fingerprint) that the cert you're getting is the correct one.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321379)

"your time has to be of quite a low value if it's easier/cheaper to run your own CA and distribute certificates"

Or, you're a large organization and running your own CA means saving $30 x (large number N) per year. Or, you're aware that getting a "real" cert is no guarantee of security.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321479)

If you're a large organisation, you still don't have a large number N of web-facing servers that need real SSL certificates. You might have a huge number of internal servers, and then absolutely you'll have your own internal CA, but for internet-facing servers that have incoming SSL connections to them, $30 for a cert on a $5-10k Exchange box is a drop in the ocean.

Anyway, for the case of what this thread was originally about, which is Google being able to connect to your mail server over POP3 secured with SSL and retrieve email, having a proper SSL cert absolutely is better security than it blindly accepting self-signed certificates when downloading your POP email into your gmail mailbox.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321517)

Or, you're a large organization and running your own CA means saving $30 x (large number N) per year. Or, you're aware that getting a "real" cert is no guarantee of security.

Or you're a large organization that trusts yourself more than you trust any CA. Like, for example, the US military, which runs its own CA.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320825)

This cut at free flow of information

How is the free flow of information being cut? It's not like they turned off those POP servers. Go get some fresh air.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

kimvette (919543) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321007)

So, you want the free app and email service, and free certs? It seems like someone here has an entitlement mentality.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321027)

This cut at free flow of information, and this alligation that the cost is trivial in the parent poster's post, suggests that if it were such a nothing then google should offer a means to comply wihtout forcing people to go out and pay a third party.

If it's so cheap and such a nothing, then what's the problem wiht them providing what is needed to interract with their own service?

They'd probably charge you for it still. I don't know why anyone thinks a certificate management system is free.

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321489)

alligation

What do Google and certificate signing have to do with alligators?

Re:Google should then provide signed certs (4, Funny)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321587)

alligation

Is that like an allegation that hides beneath the surface of the river, biding its time?

Re:Communications Breakdown (4, Insightful)

morcego (260031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320407)

My guess is that this is mostly driven by the desire to minimize SPAM email servers using the Google network to abuse their victims.

Ok, hold on a moment. What does POP3 access over SSL has to do with spam ?

Re:Communications Breakdown (3, Interesting)

js33 (1077193) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320815)

A cert from BigNameInternetCompany costs next to nothing

In fact it costs nothing from StartSSL [startssl.com] , like several commenters have pointed out, but people forget that the commercial x.509 PKI is for convenience, not security.

A self-signed cert is highly secure as long as you can verify through independent means that it is in fact the same cert installed on your server, and as long as the private key has not been compromised. In fact this is really the only way you can really get this level of security from even a commercial cert --- to verify independently that it is in fact the cert you think it is, and you have not been subject to a man-in-the-middle-attack [pcworld.com] .

It's not as though Google previously made any effort to verify the authenticity of those self-signed certs, or if accepting those self-signed certs as they did before would give their users anything but a false sense of security. Surely it is not a money issue for the "small guy". Commercial certs can be had, if not free from the one provider I already mentioned, for a very minimal price from many different providers, on the order of what the "small guy" is already paying for his domain registration. Why is it that the "small guy" always seems to choose the most expensive, heavily advertised vendors of some service or product and then proceed to complain about the price?

I have to agree (mostly) with Frosty here. No, the mainstream commercial PKI is not the most highly secure thing in the world, but you're trying to authenticate your server to a big commercial company---you need a commercial cert. And if you're trusting such a big commercial company as Google, then you may as well trust the whole commercial PKI, because you're extending your trust far and wide in either case, which there is nothing wrong with, as long as you be mindful of what you are entrusting to the "big boys."

Re:Communications Breakdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321101)

In fact it costs nothing from StartSSL [startssl.com], like several commenters have pointed out, but people forget that the commercial x.509 PKI is for convenience, not security.

Damn right, now why wouldn't Google avail themselves of it?

Are you suggesting they provide a certificate signing system of their own to these people, or have an out of bound interface to upload self signed certs to a BIGASS trust store on their end?

Why? One would generate certificates that ONLY Google trusts, and the other would be a maintenance nightmare.

The whole point of the commercial x.509 system is to prove someone owns the domain name used to contact a service. I think it is appropriate for this.

Re:Communications Breakdown (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321001)

Again, a cert that is acceptable to Google is so dirt cheap as to be inconsequential to anyone running a server that needs one. ... Google is more concerned with the health of their network, not random non-paying non-customers not really needy needs.

I know that sounds harsh, but Google is not a social services agency.

No, they aren't , but if they want people to us their services they will need to make their services suit their users' needs and wants.

And nothing is more secure than a self-signed cert distributed out-of-channel.

Re:Communications Breakdown (1)

Ariven (256118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321011)

I have two apps accounts, and manage 4 more.. and didn't receive an email about this.. I suspect notification was spotty... :)

Re:Communications Breakdown (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321397)

> So, the only reason can be that those that object are the crusty RMS types

fuck you and your ad hominem straw man true scotsmanism. really, fuck the hell off

Re:Communications Breakdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321459)

"crusty RMS types"

Oh man, I got a good chuckle out of that.

Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure responses. (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320227)

I know this will get 400 replies about how self-signed certificates don't provide complete security.

I'd buy that argument if Google configured their servers to only accept connections over SSL with trusted certificates, and then refused to connect at all otherwise.

However, they're still allowing unencrypted connections as well. There isn't a single attack you can mount on an SSL connection with a self-signed certificate that you can't also mount on an unencrypted connection.

Trusted vs untrusted SSL is a false dichotomy - it neglects the most commonly used option of not using SSL at all, which is completely insecure.

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320315)

But self-signed-certs are insecure.

Self-signed certs have bad cost:benefit for Google (1, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320501)

I know this will get 400 replies about how self-signed certificates don't provide complete security. I'd buy that argument if Google configured their servers to only accept connections over SSL with trusted certificates, and then refused to connect at all otherwise. However, they're still allowing unencrypted connections as well.

Self-signed certs don't provide any security advantage in the Gmail use case over no SSL, and SSL takes processing power on both ends (self-signed certs can be useful in security if both endpoints of prior shared knowledge of each other); so it is literally costing Google money to provide you with nothing at all (except perhaps a false sense of security), so it makes sense that Google would discontinue spending money to deceive you with security theater.

Admittedly, there are ways that the POP-over-SSL support in Gmail could be changed to actually be useful in the case of self-signed certs (allowing self-signed certs only if the user has provided the corresponding public key through an authenticated connection to the Web UI, for instance), and one might argue that that would be better. OTOH, its quite likely that the cost of making changes to support that wouldn't be justified by the number of people that would benefit.

But its better -- for Google and users -- for Google not support self-signed certs than to support them in a way which provides illusory security, which is what Google was doing before it discontinued support for them.

You are wrong. (5, Insightful)

Kludge (13653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320833)

But its better -- for Google and users -- for Google not support self-signed certs than to support them in a way which provides illusory security, which is what Google was doing before it discontinued support for them.

That is wrong. Here is the hierarchy.
1. No security (OK)
2. Encryption (Better)
3. Encryption and Authentication (Best)
Saying that 1 is better than 2 is wrong. After Google connects to a server just once and stores the key, all subsequent connections can be encrypted and verified that they are made to the same server. This fear of encryption without authentication is very ignorant.

Re:You are wrong. (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321077)

But its better -- for Google and users -- for Google not support self-signed certs than to support them in a way which provides illusory security, which is what Google was doing before it discontinued support for them.

That is wrong. Here is the hierarchy.
1. No security (OK)
2. Encryption (Better)
3. Encryption and Authentication (Best)
Saying that 1 is better than 2 is wrong. After Google connects to a server just once and stores the key, all subsequent connections can be encrypted and verified that they are made to the same server. This fear of encryption without authentication is very ignorant.

Disagree. Encryption doesn't matter if the encryption is to the enemy. Anyone in a position to snoop on the traffic is in a position to redirect the traffic to themselves and provide their own self-signed cert in place of yours (give me an example of where this isn't true - there might be some but there won't be many!). From a security point of view, 1 and 2 are equal, but then SSL is extra overhead and a false sense of security, so 1 is better.

Re:Self-signed certs have bad cost:benefit for Goo (4, Informative)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320859)

Self-signed certs don't provide any security advantage in the Gmail use case over no SSL

There is an important difference in the use of SSL provides protection against passive easedropping where an attacker may only be able to listen to but not alter the contents of transmitted data.

Re:Self-signed certs have bad cost:benefit for Goo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321453)

> Self-signed certs don't provide any security advantage in the Gmail use case over no SS

That's complete nonsense. They don't provide robust protection against stolen certificates, but neither does having a valid signature authority these days: they're too easy to steal or purchase through a third party's rootkitted server, or sign with a recently stolen signature authority. All of these have happened and been publicized, right here on Slashdot.

SSL encryption does cost computational money, but signed SSL certificates also have to be signed by a signature authority that holds your billing certificate. This move is aimed squarely at making individuals traceable to all SSL traffic, and serves the desire of customer tracking and government hacking equally well. It does not service end user privacy in the slightest.

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320551)

With respect, YOU'RE the one with the false dichotomy.

Allowing unencrypted connections is a problem and should be fixed. Allowing self-signed certificates is a problem and should be fixed.

Why does the fact that they haven't solved one problem mean they're wrong to fix the other?

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321145)

Agree completely, they took a step in the right direction. Otherwise China can man-in-the-middle of someone retrieving email over a connection with a self-signed cert, and then find and arrests activists retrieving their email that way. It might be misleading to use Gmail in the "Only SSL" mode, not reallizing that the connection from Gmail to third party pop3 is not secure at all.

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (4, Insightful)

Burning1 (204959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320577)

This misses the point that trusting self signed certificates significantly reduces the security of CA signed certificates.

In order to protect against Man in the Middle and other identity based attacks, Google needs a way of certifying that the remote machine is who they say they are. If the service trusts an self-signed certificate, there's nothing preventing a 3rd party from performing a MITM attack by intercepting your traffic and re-signing it with their own key. The only workaround would be to use a known_hosts based system, similar to SSH. This however increases the costs of administration, and still provides avenues of attack.

I generally agree with Google's move. I think it's a bad thing to compromise the security of CA certs in order to support self-signed certs.

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320813)

Seeing as how I don't trust any god damn CA to get it right - remember the CA That was hacked (DigiNotar?). How about the false MS Certs that were issued by Malware recently? Do you really think any god damn chain of trust is worth a damm? I sure as hell don't. Thus I see no problem with using Self-Signed certs for email or other elements. The only purpose of a cert is to ensure you're talking to the right person. Otherwise they're as usefull as a square wheel on your charriot. It may work but makes the job more difficult then it actually needs to be.

Fast Turtle

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (2)

Burning1 (204959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321005)

It's up to you to determine which CA's you trust. I don't consider that part of the infrastructure to be terribly broken. Certificate revision on the other hand, is an area where we need to improve significantly. I'd like to see compromised root certificates revoked, and infrastructure for for distributing those revocation lists more widely available.

I trust self signed certificates for my own purposes. For internal websites, it makes a lot of sense to maintain my own CA, and sign my own certificates, and distribute my own public keys. This provides additional flexibility internally, and helps keep costs down. It's also handy if I want to proxy SSL encrypted sessions.

When dealing with 3rd parties, I still want a certificate signed by a major CA. It might not be perfect, but if you don't go to the efforts to complete the process, I'm going to assume you haven't bothered with a lot of other security measures as well.

Re:Cue the self-signed-certs are insecure response (5, Insightful)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321115)

It is a big deal for a CA to be compromised, I agree on that. However, to use that to then say signed certs are completely useless is not just an exaggeration, it is completely wrong and inaccurate. You sir, are an alarmist

You threw the baby out with the bathwater... oh the horror. Someone go get the baby back.

The incidents you describe did not compromise the vast majority of SSL connections. Only a tiny fraction, and only for a limited time span, since the beauty of the CA system is they are able to revoke cert's once discovered to be invalid. Although that can take some time to trickle down since many OS's cache the CA's public key, and is only changed via a system update.

Self signed certs are far more insecure. At least with CA certs you have a 99.9%+ chance of having a secure connection. With self signed certs, you have 0% guarantee unless you've been communicating public keys out of channel.

I'm not sure what "job" you are referring to is more difficult. There is a vast wealth of libraries and applications that support SSL, making any "job" involving supporting SSL easy. If that is difficult for you, maybe you should get a different job.

If you want to take the lead on implementing a new system that provides the same level of security then be my guest. Otherwise all I hear is a bunch of CA bashing non-sense that has no root in statistics.

 

Since you need FCRDNS to send mail these days (5, Informative)

Vekseid (1528215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320275)

That means you have to control at least one IP address.

It's also really hard to send e-mail without at least one domain of your own.

Reseller pricing of low-end certificates is about the same cost as a domain. From Namecheap and elsewhere.

That said, I didn't know about this, and forgot to set up SSL at one of my domains. I didn't much care, but my reaction to this is pretty much "Oh, so that's what Google is bitching about. Okay."

This is much ado about rather little.

Re:Since you need FCRDNS to send mail these days (2)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320313)

Do STARTSSL certs work? They are free.

http://www.startssl.com/?app=1 [startssl.com]

Stupid IPv4 addresses and old clients like XP (and others) can make SSL a pain in the ass.

Re:Since you need FCRDNS to send mail these days (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320747)

The "everything must be free" folks will bitch about anything, as they pick the fleas out of their neck-beards, while sitting in their mom's basements, viewing Japanese tentacle porn while swilling a Mountain Dew and a bag of Cheetos.

Oh, I'm sorry, that's a stereotype. Never mind...

Easy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320279)

My name is Google, and I approve this message.

yah hojam! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320289)


 

Let Google bashing begin... (-1, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320295)

nuff said.

last straw (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320479)

google constantly taking away functionality people use and even rely upon, for no real reason (and there isn't really one here), is starting to get a little old.

i'm not gonna buy certs every year to keep the mail flowing into the 'consolidated' inbox i've been using for the last six years, and i'm not gonna go plaintext either..

i'm done. last straw. google can suck it (by 'it' i mean schmitty-boy's schlong).

gonna migrate everything away and be done with it. so no more gmail, no more maps, no more adwords, no more checkout, no more anything.. not even searches. fuck 'em. i don't need this shit, i don't need to keep wondering what will go next....

You don't have to pay (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320511)

StartCom offers free basic signed certificates at their http://www.startssl.com/ web site. You don't have to pay. Enough with the FUD already.

Wait...what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320519)

Not treating self-signed certs as trusted is bullying the little guy?

Self-signed certs are for internal apps or testing only. Period. Expecting anyone else to take them seriously is to not understand what a security certificate is for.

Are the big CA's foolproof? No, but they're worlds better than letting any yahoo generate a private certificate and demanding it be trusted.

Re:Wait...what? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321021)

(Nods head in approval)

They are still very usable in server-to-server communications, or some client-server scenarios. You can provide the respective public key's manually out-of-channel so each server can identify the other securely, and benefit from the security of SSL without the need of a CA signed cert. A devil's advocate would say someone with access to the server could swap the public key maliciously, but the same is true of the CA's public key. (If someone with malicious intents has that level of access to your server, you are screwed in 100 other ways anyhow.)

There would be a bigger place for self signed certs if there were more user friendly means to manage public keys out-of-channel, but the majority of the public would not endure that minor annoyance without understanding the value. Additionally, they would be more vulnerable to social engineering attacks of the form "Share this public key with your friends, copy and paste to 10 friends and you could win $1000!" if the system wasn't designed thoughtfully.

Free service gets changed? (3, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320521)

You get what you pay for.

Startssl (1)

vanyel (28049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320529)

Free, trusted, certificates from https://www.startssl.com/ [startssl.com] - no excuse at all for using self signed, at least until DANE/TLSA [ietf.org] is deployed.

$13 per year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320547)

If you can't afford the $13 per year to get an official cert, you shouldn't be in business.

Also with SSL-SNI (supported by IE8+) you can use 1 IP with multiple SSL certs/ports.

Re:$13 per year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320611)

(supported by IE8+)

IE doesn't support SSL at all, it's all windows internal, and windows internal libraries only support SNI as of Windows Vista.

Re:$13 per year (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320949)

That's like saying the Nexus One doesn't support making phone calls, it's all the antennas and chips inside.

Re:$13 per year (1)

dririan (1131339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321213)

Except that the person specifically mentioned 1 IP hosting several SSL-enabled domains (which is SNI), which IE cannot do on Windows XP because IE doesn't provide its own cryptographic engine. The fact remains that IE doesn't do crypto, it uses the Windows crypto library, which is more limited (including lack of SNI before Vista).

It's like saying my tablet can't do LTE because the phone that's tethered to it doesn't support LTE. It's but weirdly stated, but true. If I upgraded my phone, my tablet would get LTE, but that's hardly the point because I still don't have LTE either way.

Re:$13 per year (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321317)

I didn't make the leap from "IE doesn't support SSL at all" to "IE doesn't support SSL at all with 1 IP hosting several SSL-enabled domains" since the "at all" part implied that he was throwing out the previous context and making a blanket statement about IE lacking SSL support.

Re:$13 per year (1)

dririan (1131339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321355)

There wasn't that leap to make. AC said "IE doesn't support SSL at all, it's all windows internal" which is a (possibly poorly phrased) way of saying that IE doesn't support SSL independently, it uses the SSL implementation built into Windows. Obviously IE works with SSL, it's just not actually a part of IE.

Re:$13 per year (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321477)

Exactly. To say "Obviously IE works with SSL" is the opposite of "IE doesn't support SSL at all", which was the point I was trying to make with the phone analogy.

I just tire of people taking the most extreme position they can on something, when they could have conveyed the same without the inflammatory fluff. Instead of contributing to the conversation by clarifying that SNI support is tied to the OS instead of IE version, he couldn't help but quote the OP and then state exactly the opposite regardless of how twisted the wording was:

"(supported by IE8+)/IE doesn't support SSL at all"

Re:$13 per year (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321093)

If you can't afford the $13 per year to get an official cert, you shouldn't be in business.

Agree. There is more money in the time it takes to go through the certificate generation process (self signed or csr) and installing it than in the cost of the cert.

Why would I have to pay? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320549)

Why would I have to pay?
I could just get a free cert from StartSSL, which is trusted by most mayor OS, browsers, and mobile devices.
It's also trusted by chrome on *nix (in windows it uses the OS certificates - which include StartSSL).

Setup your own? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320575)

Hi. How hard is it to setup your own email server at home, for receiving emails? I'm kind of tired of being dependent on others, but even though I'm on Slashdot I may lack the necessary ability to set one up right.

Re:Setup your own? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320921)

There are distributions of Linux and Windows Server that make it pretty easy to setup. The hardest part will be configuring DNS, and the possibility that your ISP won't allow it. If they did allow it, they'd have trouble with their IPs getting blacklisted on account of people spamming from their home email servers.

Missing the point (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320967)

Hi. How hard is it to setup your own email server at home, for receiving emails?

A little bit harder now, if you want to use Gmail as your mail client and use SSL on the connection to Google (though its not any harder if you want the use of SSL on the connection to provide any actual security.) This change, after all, only affects what kind of certificate a server has to have to Gmail to make POP3+SSL connections to it.

Re:Setup your own? (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321225)

Which is exactly the situation in which a self-signed certificate is appropriate. But it doesn't really matter in this case, since your reason for setting up your own mail is to take control of your own data, not hand it over to Google.

Re:Setup your own? (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321349)

It's quite challenging these days, mainly due to the various anti-spam measures that are deployed around the internet which you need to understand and configure your server appropriately to avoid being blocked. Also, you need to keep up with security updates (this goes for any server open to the internet) as script kiddies will be hitting you dozens of times per day.

An alternative is just to aggregate your mail from other servers using fetchmail + dovecot, and take control of storage and backup yourself.

Are they validating identity? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320609)

The link only says they are validating the certificate chain... are they actually checking the identity of the remote POP3 server as well?

If not this system is no more secure than an unknown self-signed cert as anyone can legitimatly obtain a valid SSL certificate.

Re:Are they validating identity? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320897)

A signed cert is tied to a domain. Google will not accept a signed cert when connecting to domain X.com if the cert presented is for Y.com. Signed the cert is signed by the CA, it is cryptographically secure from being tampered with, such that the person holding the cert cannot manipulate the domain attribute to a different value.

Please Explain (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320685)

Gmail servers were reconfigured to not connect to remote pop3 servers that have self-signed certificates, leaving folks with unencrypted connections, or no service when getting email from other services.

Sorry for the ignorance, but I don't understand this. Why would I be getting email from a "remote POP3 server" or "other service"? Why wouldn't I just have my email client connect directly to Gmail's POP3 server?

pop.gmail.com port 995 using SSL. I'm using Thunderbird and it works fine.

Re:Please Explain (3, Informative)

Wingman 5 (551897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320817)

This is if you want GMail to query another POP3 server and pull it in to GMail, this allows you to do things like use the GMail Web UI for servers that only support POP3.

Re:Please Explain (2)

tizan (925212) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320829)

It is the reverse they are talking about..
Using gmail to check your other e-mails on other servers using POP-3 (as an individual user you are allowed 5 different of such connections)...This is not about reading your gmail mail in your favorite e-mail program.

 

Re:Please Explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320871)

For some folk, Google Mail is their "email client". Google Mail will happily consume any POP3 accounts which you want to feed to it from other providers. It is completely insane, of course, but that's how some people are.

So which provider do you recommend? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320731)

I am setting up a few certs for various things here and there, what is the reliable cheap choice of the IT community these days?

Re:So which provider do you recommend? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321223)

Startcom is good. They offer free class 1 signed certificates.

DNSSEC & TLSA (1)

GreyFish (156639) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320733)

You can store certificate fingerprints in dns, and if the dns zone is signed with dnssec you can use it as a trust authority and avoid the whole root CA crazyness. See: http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6698 [ietf.org] I suspect google dosn't support it tho :(

Self-signed vulnerabilities (3, Insightful)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320865)

I like self-signed certs because they are away to leverage SSL support for encrypted connections, but they are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Hence the suggested workaround of providing the public key in the Google account so that Google can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. IMO that is a reasonable suggestion, but many tools for creating self signed certs don't give you an easy way to separate the public key without opening the file and being knowledgeable of it's format. It would be a feature used by probably a tiny percentage of users, and be a point of what-the-heck-is-that-option for the rest. The lack of user understanding would also be a vulnerability, where people might be duped into providing a different public key with malicious origins.

This has nothing to do with the inflammatory "valid" vs. "paid" statement. There are CAs that provide free certificates, and thus are not vulnerable to man-in-middle-attacks because of the verifiable chain. So they are indeed valid in a sense that there is the trust chain, yet not paid, making the summary's inflammatory statement INVALID. No one is trying to claim self signed certs are invalid, they just leave users vulnerable.

The last statement about CA's being compromised is somewhat irrelevant to the subject at hand. They seem to be trying to make the point of Google unfairly favoring CA signed certs over self signed certs. So they either feel that Google should also do away with CA signed cert support, or not do away with self signed certs on the basis that CA signed certs are no more secure(as a result of CA's being compromised). I will address both of these possibilities.

1) Doing away with self signed certs prevents vulnerabilities that most users are probably unaware exist. Thus avoiding more shenanigans like Chinese activists getting arrested when the government snoops their communications using man-in-the-middle attacks. So this is definitely a step in the right direction(although perhaps alternatively could have supported providing public keys out of channel as summary suggests).

2) Doing away with support for CA signed certs to close the potential vulnerability of relatively rare forged certs? That's like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The system in place significantly improves security for the vast majority of connections. It allows certs to be revoked when found to be forged, and provides a secure connection that cannot be snooped(with the exception of the tiny fraction of invalid certs, which that get revoked anyhow). Self signed certs cannot offer either of these features transparently(without requiring users to setup public keys).

Self-signed certs can be "forged" in the sense that a man-in-the-middle can present a completely different cert. as the original, and there is no third party verification that would allow that cert to be revoked. Even if it were revoked("hey bob, just calling to tell you to look at the cert on that connection when you get your email and if the key read f0a135... then disconnect" I kid, I kid), the malicious snooper would just create a new self-signed cert for another man-in-the-middle the next time a connection is initiated. For those same reasons, connections made with self-signed certs have very little guarantee of security.

Usually I'm not concerned about man-in-the-middle attacks, since if someone has gained that level of access to the network I'm connecting over, then things are looking bad already. In places like China though, where the people who control the network are the people who want to snoop on you, it is a ever present danger.

If there were more user friendly systems in place for managing/retrieving public keys, then self signed certs would be great. Even when I know a cert. is valid, some make it very hard to permanently add the public key as trusted, and thus prompt me with an extra step every time I restart my browser and try to access a page using one.

Re:Self-signed vulnerabilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321291)

but many tools for creating self signed certs don't give you an easy way

openssl lets you, trivially, do anything to pretty much any cert in pretty much any format, and covert between pretty much any format. I regularly convert between normal certs where separate file for pub and private, and pkcs12 containers with both combined that the folks on the windows side of the shop use.

Re:Self-signed vulnerabilities (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321371)

There are two ways to verify a client that is connecting with some private key. The more commonly known method involves the client providing its signed public key, and verifying the signature (a use of the signer's private key) against its known and trusted public key. Then it is assumed if the trusted signer signed this user public key, then the signer trusted the user, and so the server can trust the user as well. The less commonly known method involves the server having a copy of the user public key, and keeping that copy in the context of users it trusts. Signatures are not involved. The server simply checks if the two keys it has are corresponding pairs.

There are two examples of the latter method being used. The lesser well known is "mode 3" verification in the "stunnel" program. The more well known is the "authorized_keys" list per user in "ssh".

The first method is more appropriate for web access where it is not practical for each user to keep a list of trusted web sites given the vast numbers user may access. But it is possible to do that. You do that by accepting the site key the first time you visit. Future visits verify keys using the stored public key that was previously trusted.

The second method is actually more appropriate for services where all users must be trusted enough to connect, such as ssh. The server needs to trust the client (but trust the other way is good, too). However, the second method should already have been in use for services like POP3 and IMAP.

The second method is done simply by providing you own public key through a channel which the server can verify the user by another means (login by password over HTTPS for example), and keep that public key as part of the user credentials. It, like a password, can also be changed at any time. Signed certificates are not needed. Signatures are not involved.

Re:Self-signed vulnerabilities (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42321549)

SSH comes to mind quite often when thinking about these kinds of things. In most places, users see prompts about accepting a public key so often that it becomes second nature. No one goes to the IT admin and is like "Hey, did something change on the server that would cause me to see this message today, or is someone intercepting my connection and providing their own public key?". Maybe not in that wording, but the point being, even savvy users in a computer science department generally ignore these messages and happily accept the key even when they've connected to the server before.

As a user... (1)

sixshot (878181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320889)

I use Hotmail/Outlook and Verizon at random... however, for importing these into Gmail as POP3, they both support SSL. So there's not much issue on this part. With email being so easily accessible, is this really an issue? I guess the big question should be: Is there an email provider that doesn't provide SSL connection when retrieving via POP3?

Re:As a user... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321023)

Yes. My personal one. Well, it does supply SSL but I didn't pay anybody that Google trusts to get the cert. I'll switch to a cert from StartSSL and it'll be good, from what I'm reading here.

This is NOT about Hotmail or Verizon or a random ISP. This will mostly affect people that have their own mail servers at their own domain that prefer, for one reason or another, to read that email through Google. Personally I don't want to get rid of the old domain and email addresses, there is some sentimental attachment and they're some of my oldest surviving online contact info. So I'll switch to a cert that Google likes. Failing that, I'll just connect directly. Or perhaps replace the POP3 with something a little more modern.

TL;DR; This doesn't affect you, ignore it.

Perspectives for mail (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320973)

The Perspectives [perspectives-project.org] notary system could be updated to include mail servers. Then everyone, including organizations like Google, could check notaries to make sure they weren't getting MITM'd.

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