Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been? I've been to London and saw the Queen.
Yesterday, I went to the opening of the National Cyber Security Centre by Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. This was a more exclusive event than I had expected, and guests outside the NCSC were royalty, ministers, senior civil servants & people running NCSC partner companies.
The NCSC showed our countermeasures system to disrupt malware, phishing and advance fee fraud to guests, though I don't know whether the Queen saw it, as she & Prince Philip had a private viewing of the demonstrations.
I was introduced to the Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh, which I hadn't anticipated, and there's a picture from the Royal Family's twitter feed of me telling the Queen (sadly out of the picture to the left) and the Duke of Edinburgh what we do & how it works. I sensed that they liked the notion of counterattacking and disrupting attacks as opposed to passively blocking them. And, although our business is spread all around the world, it felt good to be contributing to something that makes the UK a safer and better place.
I must say how impressive the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are and how good they were with people at the event. At 90 & 95 respectively, few, if any people can have had more experiences and in a world where some of the most powerful elected politicians seem completely frazzled, how urbane & reasonable our monarch appears by contrast.
Posted by Mike Prettejohn in Netcraft Services
The SSL/TLS protocol — used to protect sensitive communication across the internet — combines encryption with authentication, providing a private connection to the intended recipient. To achieve this, SSL certificates bind together a cryptographic key and a domain name, and are digitally-signed by a trusted certificate authority (CA). Commercial CAs compete to sell certificates to the general public and account for the bulk of the SSL certificates seen on the internet.
Netcraft's SSL Server Survey has been running since 1996 and has tracked the evolution of this marketplace from its inception — there are now more than one thousand times more certificates on the web now than in 1996. As CAs issue certificates, and most charge (or not charge) accordingly, the number of certificates issued becomes the natural unit of measurement. Our survey therefore counts valid, trusted SSL certificates used on public-facing web servers, counting each certificate once, even if used on multiple websites.
Two types of certificates make the distinction between counting sites and certificates most apparent: multi-domain certificates and wildcard certificates. These two types now account for almost a quarter of all certificates found.
- Multi-domain certificates (or UCC certificates) use the Subject Alternative Name extension to specify additional hostnames for which this certificate is valid — CloudFlare uses this technique heavily, having dozens of unrelated sites share the same certificate.
- Wildcard certificates are valid for all possible subdomains of a domain, for example *.netcraft.com would be valid for www.netcraft.com, host-a.netcraft.com, host-b.netcraft.com, etc. Our methodology counts a wildcard certificate once, no matter the number of sites for which it is valid.
Netcraft also counts certificates used by subdomains. For example, if foo.example.com, bar.example.com and baz.example.com are all using different SSL certificates, Netcraft will count all three certificates that have been issued.
Although the global SSL ecosystem is competitive, it is dominated by a handful of major CAs — three certificate authorities (Symantec, Comodo and GoDaddy) account for three-quarters of all issued SSL certificates on public-facing web servers. The top spot has been held by Symantec (or VeriSign before it was purchased by Symantec) ever since the survey began, with it currently accounting for just under a third of all certificates. To illustrate the effect of differing methodologies, amongst the million busiest sites Symantec issued 44% of the valid, trusted certificates in use — significantly more than its overall market share.
However, nothing ever stays still forever — Let's Encrypt could shake up the market for SSL certificates later on this year by offering free certificates with a simplified installation process. Whilst free certificates and automated tools are nothing new, the open approach and the backing of Mozilla, IdenTrust, the EFF, and Akamai could change the SSL ecosystem forever.
Beyond counting certificate numbers, Netcraft's SSL Survey also tracks the list and reseller prices of the most popular certificate authorities. This provides another useful market share metric, as it allows us to estimate the total monthly and annual revenue of each certificate authority attributable to public SSL issuance.
As each type of certificate — multi-domain, wildcard, or Extended Validation for example — is available at a distinct price point, the estimated revenue of a CA can vary significantly, despite initially appearing similarly sized by the total number of certificates. For example, GlobalSign comes in third-place when considering its estimated annual revenue (by list price) in 2014, despite accounting for approximately 6% of all currently valid publicly-visible SSL certificates.
The Netcraft Extension: Heartbleed and phishing protection rolled into one
The Heartbleed bug affected around 17% of all trusted SSL web servers when it was announced a week ago. The critical vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic library has the potential to allow attackers to retrieve private keys and ultimately decrypt a server's encrypted traffic or even impersonate the server. This is not a theoretical problem: practical attacks have actually succeeded in stealing private keys, yet despite the potential dangers, many of the affected sites have yet to take remedial action.
Even if heartbeat support has been disabled, or OpenSSL upgraded to the latest version, a website that was previously vulnerable to Heartbleed is not necessarily secure today. If the vulnerability had been exploited prior to the upgrade, the certificate's private key could have been compromised. If the certificate has not yet been replaced and the old one revoked, an attacker could impersonate the site and carry out man-in-the-middle attacks against the site's visitors.
Netcraft's updated extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera now allow you to see whether the sites you visit are still using potentially compromised certificates. The extensions use data from Netcraft's SSL Survey to determine whether a site offered the heartbeat TLS Extension prior to the Heartbleed disclosure. If this is the case, the extension will also check to see if the site's SSL certificate has been replaced; if it has not, then the site is considered to be unsafe, as the certificate's private key could have been compromised. Even if the certificate has been replaced, it does not guarantee that the site cannot still be impersonated with a copy of the old certificate unless the old certificate has been revoked – and even then, the revocation checking done by browsers is not infallible.
Go here to download the Netcraft Extension for Chrome, Firefox or Opera.
The extension will indicate when a site is potentially unsafe by displaying a bleeding heart icon. Additionally, in the Google Chrome and Opera versions of the Extension, a warning triangle will be displayed on top of the Netcraft icon.
As well as indicating which sites are using a certificate potentially compromised using Heartbleed, the Netcraft Extension also helps protect you from phishing attacks, displays the hosting location and risk rating of every site you visit, and lets you help to defend the internet community against fraudsters.
Netcraft's site report pages can also be used to determine whether a website might still be affected by the fallout from the Heartbleed bug. For example, our site report for https://www.linkedin.com shows that it no longer supports the TLS heartbeat extension and is using a new certificate.
In contrast, the site report for https://www.fedex.com currently shows that the server previously supported TLS heartbeat and the SSL certificate has not been replaced. Even though TLS heartbeat is now disabled, the certificate could still be used to impersonate the site if it had been compromised prior to heartbeat being disabled. Fedex's website is hosted by Akamai, a popular Content Distribution Network, which was potentially vulnerable to Heartbleed. Akamai is in the process of rotating its customers' SSL certificates and stated that "some require extra validation with the certificate authorities and may take longer".
Heartbleed indicator in the Netcraft Site Report
We incentivise phishing reports from our community of reporters. The current list of prizes is as follows:
|Netcraft USB Flash Drive||after 100 validated phishing reports|
|Netcraft Mug||after 250|
|Netcraft Polo Shirt||after 500|
|Targus Laptop Backpack||after 1,000|
On reaching 5,000 validated reports you become eligible for a monthly competition to incentivise large reporters.
The Netcraft Extension, which is available for Firefox, Google Chrome™ and Opera, serves as a giant neighbourhood watch scheme for the Internet. Members who encounter a phishing site can act to defend the larger community of users against the attack. Once the first recipients of a phishing mail have reported the attack URL, it is blocked for community members as they subsequently access the URL. Widely disseminated attacks simply mean that the phishing attack will be reported and blocked sooner.
Netcraft’s phishing site countermeasures service helps organisations targeted by phishing attacks remove the fraudsters’ forms as quickly as possible.
Recently we became aware that our median times for takedowns are very much better than the industry average calculated by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) in its most recent Global Phishing Survey. The APWG found that phishing attacks have a median lifetime of 5 hours and 45 minutes. In contrast, banks and other companies using our countermeasures service have experienced a median phishing attack availability of 2 hours and 12 minutes calculated over our most recent 100 takedowns, with the attacks removed in just 38% of the industry average time.
The graph below shows the availability times of our most recent 100 phishing attacks.
The difference between the first and final outages reflect the fact that phishing attacks will sometimes fluctuate up & down on compromised hosts where the fraudster may still have access to the system and be able to replace his content after the site owner removes it. In this scenario it is important to continue monitoring sites for some time after they go offline and restart takedowns if & when the phishing content reappears. For example, 87% of phishing attacks we attended to had their first outage within 24 hours, and 90% had their final outage within 48 hours.
Takedown times do vary significantly from country to country. For example, all of our last 100 takedowns in the US were completed within three days, and 90% had their first outage within 12 hours. In contrast, takedown times in Russia are rather longer, albeit with 90% going down within three days, and 70% having their first outage within twelve hours.
Russia and the US are by no means the long and short of phishing attacks. Phishing attacks we dealt with in the UK & Ireland have a shorter median lifetime than those hosted in the US, whilst phishing attacks we have taken down in Iran have a median lifetime of just under 30 hours, around five times longer than Russia.
In addition to providing fast takedown of the fraudulent content, the countermeasures service is also linked to our phishing site feed, which is licensed by all of the main web browsers, together with many of the largest anti-virus and content filtering products, firewall and network appliance vendors, mail providers, registrars, hosting companies and ISPs. Consequently, as soon as the phishing attack is verified, access to it will be blocked for hundreds of millions of people shortly afterwards, significantly reducing the effectiveness of the attack even before it has been removed.
More information regarding our countermeasures service can be found here.
A version of the Netcraft Anti-Phishing Extension for the Google Chrome™ web browser is now available. The Netcraft Anti-Phishing Extension is a tool allowing easy lookup of information relating to the sites you visit and providing protection from Phishing.
The Extension runs on any operating system supported by Google Chrome and displays the hosting location, country, longevity, popularity, and an abstracted risk rating for each site visited. In particular its key features are:
- Detailed site reports — simply click the Netcraft logo to access a wealth of information about the sites you visit, helping you to make informed choices about their integrity.
- Risk Ratings — we evaluate the characteristics of the site compared against those depicted by fraudulent sites. The result is a simple visual summary displayed on the site report.
- Protection against phishing sites — The Netcraft anti-phishing community is effectively a giant neighbourhood watch scheme, empowering the most alert and most expert members to defend everyone within the community. As soon as the first recipients of a phishing mail report it, we can block it for all users of the extension providing an additional level of protection from Phishing.
- Protection against cross site scripting (XSS) — The extension optionally traps XSS and other suspicious URLs which contain characters with no purpose other than to deceive.
- Conveniently report suspected phishing & fraudulent sites — At the click of the button you can report suspected web forgeries to Netcraft, helping to protect the community. Netcraft operates an incentive scheme for Phishing site submissions, including iPads, backpacks, mugs, and more... Over five and a half million phishing sites have been detected and blocked by Netcraft since the anti-phishing service was launched.
Customized versions with corporate branding and navigation are also available.
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