Skip to content

Gone in 30 seconds: New attack plucks secrets from HTTPS-protected pages – Ars Technica


Exploit called BREACH bypasses the SSL crypto scheme protecting millions of sites.

The HTTPS cryptographic scheme, which protects millions of websites, is susceptible to a new attack that allows hackers to pluck e-mail addresses and certain types of security credentials out of encrypted pages, often in as little as 30 seconds.

The technique, scheduled to be demonstrated Thursday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, decodes encrypted data that online banks and e-commerce sites send in responses that are protected by the widely used transport layer security (TLS) and secure sockets layer (SSL) protocols. The attack can extract specific pieces of data, such as social security numbers, e-mail addresses, certain types of security tokens, and password-reset links. It works against all versions of TLS and SSL regardless of the encryption algorithm or cipher that’s used.

It requires that the attacker have the ability to passively monitor the traffic traveling between the end user and website. The attack also requires the attacker to force the victim to visit a malicious link. This can be done by injecting an iframe tag in a website the victim normally visits or, alternatively, by tricking the victim into viewing an e-mail with hidden images that automatically download and generate HTTP requests. The malicious link causes the victim’s computer to make multiple requests to the HTTPS server that’s being targeted. These requests are used to make “probing guesses” that will be explained shortly.

“We’re not decrypting the entire channel, but only extracting the secrets we care about,” Yoel Gluck, one of three researchers who developed the attack, told Ars. “It’s a very targeted attack. We just need to find one corner [of a website response] that has the token or password change and go after that page to extract the secret. In general, any secret that’s relevant [and] located in the body, whether it be on a webpage or an Ajax response, we have the ability to extract that secret in under 30 seconds, typically.”

It’s the latest attack to chip away at the HTTPS encryption scheme, which forms the cornerstone of virtually all security involving the Web, e-mail, and other Internet services. It joins a pantheon of other hacks introduced over the past few years that bear names such as CRIME, BEAST, Lucky 13, and SSLStrip. While none of the attacks have completely undermined the security afforded by HTTPS, they highlight the fragility of the two-decade-old SSL and TLS protocols. The latest attack has been dubbed BREACH, short for Browser Reconnaissance and Exfiltration via Adaptive Compression of Hypertext.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: