DigiNotar SSL certificate hack amounts to cyberwar: the Guardian

On September 5th, 2011, the Guardian reported that the Dutch government announced that hackers had broken into the web security firm DigiNotar and issued hundreds of bogus security certificates.  The fake security certificates could be used to access the websites of the CIA, Israel's Mossad, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.  The fake certificates would allow a hacker to monitor users' communications without them noticing. 

Roel Schouwenberg of the security company Kaspersky warned that the long-term effects of the DigiNotar hack could be more serious than Stuxnet.  Mr. Schouwenberg noted on the Securelist blog that "The attack on DigiNotar will put cyberwar on or near the top of the political agenda of western governments.  I remain with my stance that a government operation is the most plausible scenario."  He further added: "The damage sustained to the Dutch (government) IT infrastructure is quite significant. A lot of services are no longer available. Effectively, communications have been disrupted. Because of this one could make an argument the attack is an act of cyberwar."

The Dutch government revoked all digital certificates issued by DigiNotar, which until then had been used for all online tax returns filed in the Netherlands.  Furthermore, browser companies like Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome are now rejecting all security certificates issued by the hacked firm. 

Iran's government has been suspected of involvement in the hack; a handful of Iranian Gmail users were affected by the faked certificates.  Security experts noted that Iran had announced it was changing the setup for its domain name servers (DNS) used to make connections to sites – which would give it the ideal opportunity to insert faked certificates into the system.

The Guardian source article can be found here.

[UPDATE:  The New York Times did a story on 9/11/2011 about the hacker involved here.  Note that he says he shares what he steals with the Iranian government but that he is "totally independent."  This is the "patriotic hacker" problem, making it very difficult to justify retaliation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/technology/hacker-rattles-internet-security-circles.html ]

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Authors

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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