Earlier this week, numerous sites reported on a paper published by researchers from Project-Team Prosecco describing an attack method that can compromise cryptographic keys used in some of the leading authentication and access control products available on the market today.
The paper, scheduled to be presented by the team at the upcoming CRYPTO 2012 conference in August, claimed to demonstrate how an exploit can successfully expose the encryption keys from RSA's SecurID 800 product, among others.
RSA has responded to the research, and their conclusion is that the findings are incorrect - or at least were presented in such a way as to allow for faulty conclusions.
"This week, RSA has received many inquiries, press pickups, blog entries, and tweets regarding an alleged “crack” by scientific researchers of the RSA SecurID 800 authenticator. This is an alarming claim and should rightly concern customers who have deployed the RSA SecurID 800 authenticator. The only problem is that it’s not true," writes RSA's Chief Technology Officer Sam Curry.
"Much of the information being reported overstates the practical implications of the research, and confuses technical language in ways that make it impossible for security practitioners to assess risk associated with the products they use today accurately. The initial result is time wasted by product users and the community at large, determining the true facts of the situation," Curry said.
Project-Team Prosecco claimed that they were able to "show how to exploit the encrypted key import functions of a variety of different cryptographic devices to reveal the imported key."
RSA maintains that while the research into a known vulnerability in PKCS #1 v1.5 is useful in general, the researchers conclusions that the research team offered do not represent a true compromise of the SecurID 800 product.
"RSA’s position is that what has been reported in the press can be highly misleading. Some report a “crack” of the RSA SecurID 800 authenticator. In fact, the researchers in the study are noting a known vulnerability in the widely used PKCS #1 v1.5 padding mechanism, a standard utilized by five vendors named in the research: Aladdin, Gemalto, RSA, Safenet and Siemens," Curry explained.
"The vulnerability outlined by the researchers makes it possible (however unlikely) that an attacker with access to the user’s smartcard device and the user’s smartcard PIN could gain access to a symmetric key or other encrypted data sent to the smartcard. It does not, however, allow an attacker to compromise private keys stored on the smartcard," Curry stated.
Curry offered up a bulleted summary of RSA's position regarding some of the reported findings from Team Prosecco:
- This research is only related to the smartcard functionality of the RSA SecurID 800 token. This does not impact the One-Time Password (OTP) functionality of the token in any way.
- This does not impact the RSA SecurID 700 or any other RSA SecurID authenticators, including software tokens, apart from the smartcard functionality of the RSA SecurID 800 token as mentioned above.
- This is not a useful attack. The researchers engaged in an academic exercise to point out a specific vulnerability in the protocol, but an attack requires access to the RSA SecurID 800 smartcard (for example, inserted into a compromised machine) and the user’s smartcard PIN. If the attacker has the smart card and PIN, there is no need to perform any attack, so this research adds little additional value as a security finding.
- This vulnerability does not yield the private key stored on the smartcard. The specific vulnerability – if carried to its logical conclusion – cannot lead to successful harvesting of the private key corresponding to the public key in a user’s certificate.
"In our view, more care must be taken by all parties involved in this process to ensure accurate, useful information is provided to practitioners and the security community at large," Curry concluded.