Widely used encryption standard is insecure, say experts

XML encryption, used to secure communications between Web services, can be exploited so that sensitive information is decrypted

A weakness in XML Encryption can be exploited to decrypt sensitive information, researchers say.

XML Encryption is used for securing communications between Web services by many companies, including IBM, Microsoft and Red Hat. Researchers Juraj Somorovsky and Tibor Jager from the Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB) in Germany, devised an attack that decrypts data secured with the DES (Data Encryption Standard) or the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) in CBC (cipher block chaining) mode. They plan to present their findings in more detail at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security later this year.

According to Jörg Schwenk who teaches of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at RUB, all data encryption algorithms recommended in the XML Encryption standard are affected by this attack, which relies on sending modified ciphertexts to the server and analyzing the errors for clues.

The same technique was by used security researchers Juliano Rizzo and Thai Duong in their ASP.NET Framework padding oracle attack, which earned them this year's Pwnie award for best server-side bug. More recently, the researchers demonstrated a separate attack against SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transfer Layer Security) implementations that use CBC mode, much like this one.

"All of these algorithms are vulnerable to the attacks since they use the CBC mode. So all implementations of the standard should be affected," Schwenk said, referring to the XML Encryption recommendations.

The RUB researchers notified affected vendors through the mailing list of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organization that drafted the standard. The attack was successfully tested against many implementations used by companies that responded to the researchers' report.

"Microsoft is aware of research concerning an industry-wide issue affecting certain implementations of the XML encryption standard. We continue to evaluate our products to determine which applications, if any, use the implementation approach in question," a company spokesman said.

The software giant doesn't yet have any recommendation to make. "We will provide guidance concerning Microsoft's XML implementation to third-party developers as appropriate," the spokesman added.

The researchers claim that there is no simple fix for the problem and the standard needs to be changed. Nevertheless, they will try to summarize some countermeasures in an upcoming paper.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftIBMRed HatRuhr University

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucian Constantin

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?