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SHA-1 Time Bomb: One Third of Websites Have Yet to Upgrade

Over a third (35%) of the world’s websites are still using insecure SHA-1 certificates despite the major browser vendors saying they’ll no longer trust such sites from early next year, according to Venafi.

The cybersecurity company analyzed data on over 11 million publicly visible IPv4 websites to find that many have failed to switch over to the more secure SHA-2 algorithm, despite the January deadline.

With Microsoft, Mozilla and Google all claiming they won’t support SHA-1 sites, those still using the insecure certificates from the start of 2017 will find customers presented with browser warnings that the site is not to be trusted, which will force many elsewhere.

In addition, browsers will not display the tell-tale green padlock on the address line for HTTPS transactions, while some might experience performance issues. There’s also a chance some sites will be completely blocked, said Venafi.

SHA-2 was created in response to weaknesses in the first iteration – specifically collision attacks which allow cyber-criminals to forge certificates and perform man-in-the-middle attacks on TLS connections.

However, migration to the new algorithm isn’t as simple as applying a patch, and with thousands of SHA-1 certificates in use across websites, servers, applications and databases, visibility is a challenge, warned Venafi vice-president of security strategy and threat intelligence, Kevin Bocek.

“The deadline is long overdue: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has called for eliminating the use of SHA-1 because of known vulnerabilities since 2006,” he told Infosecurity.

“Most organizations do not know exactly how many certificates they have or where they are being used, and even if they do, it is a time-consuming and disruptive process to update them all manually.”

Bocek recommended organizations first work out where their SHA-1 certificates are and how they’re being used, before building a migration plan.

“Here, you will need to work out where your priorities are, so that you can protect your crown jewels first – i.e. the sites and servers that hold sensitive data or process payments. This way the team can focus on migrating critical systems first to ensure they are better protected,” he explained.

“The best way to do this is through automation. By automating discovery of digital certificates into a central repository companies can upgrade all certificates to SHA-2 at the click of a button, where possible. And importantly you can track and report on progress to your board, executive leadership, and auditors. This allows businesses to migrate without interrupting business services or upsetting customers.”

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