The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is one of the world’s most important forms of commercial encryption. It is the public key system generally employed by e-commerce websites like Amazon, in order to prevent payment details from being intercepted by third parties. At this week’s Black Hat security conference in Washington, details were released on an exploit that takes advantage of the weak way in which SSL is implemented in secure (HTTPS) websites.
The tool – called ‘SSL strip’ – is based around a man-in-the-middle attack, where the system for redirecting people from the insecure to the secure version of a web page is abused. By acting as a man-in-the-middle, the attacker can compromise any information sent between the user and the supposedly secure webpage. The author of the exploit claims to have used it to steal data from PayPal, GMail, Tickermaster, and Facebook – including sixteen credit card numbers and control of more than 100 email accounts.