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An Illustrated Guide to the BEAST Attack...

Teddy Rogers

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An Illustrated Guide to the BEAST Attack


Recently, I was working on a security implementation for a system that didn't support TLS 1.1+. Of course, we know that being behind the times is always a Bad Thing in security circles; TLS 1.2 was officially published nearly six years ago, and the TLS working group has already begun formulating 1.3. Yet TLS 1.0 persists and is pretty much the default in most cases. Qualys labs reports that as of January, 2014, only 23% of websites support TLS 1.1. (25% support TLS 1.2; it's unclear how much overlap there is between the two, but since all known TLS 1.2 implementations also support TLS 1.1, I think it's safe to assume that the majority of these are the same sites). So, what's the danger?


TLS 1.1 was, in fact, a relatively minor upgrade to TLS 1.0; the only really significant change was in the way initialization vectors were computed for CBC mode. This must have been pretty important for the TLS working group to have created an entirely new specification just to change the way they were presented. So, what are these initialization vectors and just what do they do?





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The recommendations published Friday by two-factor authentication service PhoneFactor, suggest websites use the RC4 cipher to encrypt SSL traffic instead of newer, and ironically cryptographically stronger, algorithms such as AES. Google webservers are already configured to favor RC4, according to this analysis tool from security firm Qualys. A Google spokesman says the company has used those settings "for years."


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