Bad News VPN Users – SHA-1 is Dead!

The breakthrough

SHA-1 is dead, from a security point of view, but has been a long time coming. A combined research collaboration between CWI and Google, published a paper on 23th of February 2017 that proved deliberate collisions can be created for SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm -1). The researchers managed to forge a PDF doc so I have the same SHA-1 value as completely different document (aka collision).

OK, why is that such a big deal?

Background information and the risk

Hash functions are widely used in the cryptography and hence in the VPN world. They are used to verify the presence of a piece of information on the other peer (for example a pre-shared-key) that matches perfectly with yours (that is authentication) and to confirm that data has not been tampered with during transit (integrity), hash functions are used in the Public Key Infrastructure to verify integrity and sign the certificates (aka to verify that certain a person with a certain name has a certain public key).

The ability for someone to create a forged data string so that it matches the computed hash of another data string nullifies the security and the idea of using hash functions in cryptography.

Widespread

SHA-1 is still widely used for integrity/signing in IPsec IKEv1 (and sometimes IKEv2) and some PKI still support it so there are a multitude of certificates using it.

Furthermore, why is that important for Cisco VPN users?

IPsec IKEv1 does not support newer SHA algorithms (SHA-2) and the predominance of IPsec VPN is still built on IKEv1.

Even if you are using IKEv2 there could also be hardware restrictions preventing you from using modern hash functions (SHA-2) – legacy Cisco ASA devices (5505, 5510, 5520, 5540, 5550) cannot support newer hash functions in hardware and Cisco has not implemented the functionality into their software.

Recommendations

If your company is using a VPN and you need to audit them then ensure they are not using SHA-1 anymore. For expert VPN Security advice, contact 4CornerNetworks today.

Sources of Information:

https://shattered.io/static/shattered.pdf

https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/02/at-deaths-door-for-years-widely-used-sha1-function-is-now-dead/

http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/security/asa/asa91/configuration/vpn/asa_91_vpn_config/vpn_ike.html#pgfId-1042794

2 replies
  1. Fried
    Fried says:

    Thanks for sharing this and I hope this will not make that much impact on users of VPNs. I think VPN providers will manage something to overcome this issue.

    Reply
    • Jason King (BA) Hons Cert DMP
      Jason King (BA) Hons Cert DMP says:

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Like you say, I’m sure in time the evolution of the security and VPN providers will indeed find a solution.

      Reply

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