In the continuing saga of website tinkering and people's love of update posts, I'm back with some backend configuration changes. Right now, things have been relatively quiet on the backend side of things. We've got some good news, and some bad news in this update. That being said, we've made a few small updates over the weekend. Rapid fire style, let's go through them:
CAA records define which certificate authorities (CAs) are allowed to sign your domains. They essentially act as a CA whitelist, and the most recent revisions of the Certificate Authority/Browser Baseline Requirements mandates that CAs check for CAA records and respect them. In line with this policy, we've white-listed Let's Encrypt and Gandi's CAs to issue certificates for SoylentNews for the time being as these are the two CAs currently in use here.
In a fun bit of fail, this is the second time I've tried to deploy CAA, and fortunately managed to succeed this go around. The problem stems from the fact that many versions of BIND except the very latest don't recognize the "CAA" record type, and cause the zone file to not process correctly if it's present. As we're still using an older version of BIND as our master server, I had to manually create TYPE257 records as seen below:
soylentnews.org. 3586 IN TYPE257 \# 16 0005697373756567616E64692E6E6574
soylentnews.org. 3586 IN TYPE257 \# 22 000569737375656C657473656E63727970742E6F7267
soylentnews.org. 3586 IN TYPE257 \# 35 0005696F6465666D61696C746F3A61646D696E40736F796C656E746E 6577732E6F7267
soylentnews.org. 3586 IN TYPE257 \# 12 0009697373756577696C643B
Both htbridge.com and ssllabs.com show that the CAA records are properly encoded, and show an additional green bar that they're in place.
Almost two years ago, the Logjam attack on the DH key exchange was discovered and publicized. As part of our general hardening of SoylentNews, we regenerated all the DH parameters to prevent logjam from being a viable attack vector. Unfortunately, we overlooked the mail STARTTLS services on mail.soylentnews.org, and only caught it when I was checking various security things. The DH parameter files have been regenerated. Under normal circumstances, Logjam can't be exploited unless the underlying SSL cipher is relatively weak. As part of previous hardening, we kicked SSLv3 and many insecure ciphers to the curb, but unfortunately RSA_CBC_IDEA was accidentally left in place as a valid protocol for STARTTLS transport. Based on my understanding of the logjam attack, 1024-bit ciphers like RSA_CBC_IDEA are still difficult to exploit, and its likely only a nation state could successfully have breached it.
Given only SN staff have mail accounts, and that users are encouraged to change their passwords after creating an account, I think its safe to assume that we're relatively OK as far as data security and integrity go since email in general at best is opportunistically encrypted, and should always be assumed to be monitor-able (via a STRIPTLS attack). That being said, if you haven't changed your password from account creation though, it's likely a good idea to do so now.
We discovered our IMAP server has been serving a self-signed certificate during this check as well. We'll be replacing this with a properly signed certificate within the near future. I have other things on this topic that will be noted in a future post, so keep a look out for that.
Disabling HTTP Methods
A routine check of the site's security headers showed that we were accepting HTTP TRACE and other methods we don't need on production. The configuration for nginx has been modified to put a bullet in this behavior. We're still checking to make sure we got this everywhere, but we should be good on at least the production servers for now. This has bumped the site security rating up to an A on the HTBridge; we're still missing the referral security header, but we need to check to make sure there's no user impact before deploying it.
3DES Put Out To Pasture
As always in the world of encryption, various algorithms eventually become insecure and weakened as cryptanalysis gets more and more advanced. A few months ago, the SWEET32 attack against 3DES was discovered which drastically weakens the security of 3DES via the birthday paradox problem. In practice, SWEET32 requires a second exploit to even be usable as SoylentNews only allowed 3DES connections as a last resort if AES wasn't supported. As every major browser has supported AES for years, we decided to put 3DES out to pasture and have removed it from the allowed list of ciphers for SN.
Not too much to note in this round of administration games, but we're working to make overhaul changes to the stack to allow the potential for HPKP key pinning in the near future, as well as deploying TLSA/DANE support for both HTTPS and SMTP on SN. As part of this process, we'll also be enabling HSTS across subdomains, and reissuing our SSL certificates to enable OCSP Must-Staple. We'll keep you guys updated as we move towards that goal!
There is one loophole to identify comment posters etc. and that is to monitor the connections to your server, their IP and the time of posting. You could thwart this by letting the server delay comment posting for some random number of minutes.
Of course let users select if they want this and for how long the post is to be delayed as a maximum.
Well we don't show second-level resolution on posts. The only way you could actually pull of that attack would be to constant scrape SN as a logged in user (to bypass parts of the static cache) second after second and hope that multiple users don't post at the same time. HTTPS prevents a third-party from seeing what you're doing in-line (you can see a connection to SN on 443, and a DNS lookup, but not the URLs posted to).
You'd also have to pwn our loadbalancer in which case you've already won since you'd have to break our Kerberos tree to get in there and that means you have superuser privileges on our entire domain. If the site ever got more traffic, this type of attack would be entirely impractical.
One can also measure the amount of encrypted data sent within a certain window of time to figure out which page was loaded or comment written. A little blunt but combined with other parameters it might make a difference.
There are email servers that let you send email to them which they will resend at a random point in time. Exactly to thwart these kind of actions. I think even Bitcoin has similar facilities.