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Code Signing Certs Traded for $1000+ on Darknet

Digital code signing certificates are being traded on the dark web for over $1000, undermining trust in the entire authentication system on which the internet is based, according to new Venafi research.

The cybersecurity vendor teamed up with the Cyber Security Research Institute in a six-month project to peel back the curtain on the shadowy underground markets used to buy and sell illegal goods and services.  

It found code signing certificates available for purchase for up to $1200, making them more expensive than some counterfeit passports, handguns and stolen credit cards.

Attackers can use these certificates to hide the malware used for attacks in encrypted channels, making them highly sought-after.

Venafi chief security strategist, Kevin Bocek, explained that the certs could be sold many times over before losing their value, ensuring they are a major money-maker for cyber-criminals.

He described the research as a “rude awakening” for the system which essentially defines trust on the web.

“With no knowledge of which certificates should really be trusted, IT teams will have to either assume they can’t trust their applications and software, or risk criminals using their certificates to slip past defenses undetected to distribute malware. Neither option is acceptable,” he told Infosecurity.

“The only way organizations can effectively protect themselves is by having complete intelligence and control over every single certificate in use and trusted. But since firms have an average of more than 16,000 certificates they’re unaware of, this is no small feat. This is why it’s so important to automate the discovery, inventory and reputation scoring of every digital certificate, and for every code signing certificate in use, it’s key must be protected and every use controlled and audited.”

The researchers claim they only scratched the surface of the illegal darknet trade in code signing certificates, explaining they believe TLS, VPN and SSH key and certificate trading is also rife.

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