Re: CA's TLS Certificate Bundle in base = BAD

From: grarpamp <>
Date: Sun, 04 Dec 2022 01:26:16 UTC
Again, FreeBSD should not be including the bundle in base, if users
choose to, they can get it from ports or packages or wherever else.
Including such bundles exposes users worldwide to massive risks.
You need to do more gpg attestation, pubkey pinning [1], tofu, and
cert management starting from empty file... and quit trusting bundles of
hundreds of random CA's, all of which are entities who have zero duty
or care to the user, and often exist/corrupt/break to present evil [2] ...


FreeBSD pkg(8) (aka, and: fetch(3)) don't even support this simple option,
thus they're incapable of securely fetching packages, iso's, etc from
servers in re [2]. Nor does FreeBSD even post sigs over its servers pubkeys
for users to get, verify, and pin out of band. Even pubkeys were swapped out
on FreeBSD servers without announcing for users if any exploit or loss occurred
there or for some other reason. That's all bad news :( But can be fixed :)


Major Web Browsers Drop Mysterious Authentication Company After Ties
To US Military Contractor Exposed

TrustCor Systems vouches for the legitimacy of websites. But its
physical address is a UPS Store in Toronto.

Mysterious company with government ties plays key internet role

An offshore company that is trusted by the major web browsers and
other tech companies to vouch for the legitimacy of websites has
connections to contractors for U.S. intelligence agencies and law
enforcement, according to security researchers, documents and
Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow
the company, TrustCor Systems, to act as what’s known as a root
certificate authority, a powerful spot in the internet’s
infrastructure that guarantees websites are not fake, guiding users to
them seamlessly.
The company’s Panamanian registration records show that it has the
identical slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware maker
identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet
Forensics, which public contracting records and company documents show
has sold communication interception services to U.S. government
agencies for more than a decade.
One of those TrustCor partners has the same name as a holding company
managed by Raymond Saulino, who was quoted in a 2010 Wired article as
a spokesman for Packet Forensics.
Saulino also surfaced in 2021 as a contact for another company, Global
Resource Systems, that caused speculation in the tech world when it
briefly activated and ran more than 100 million previously dormant IP
addresses assigned decades earlier to the Pentagon. The Pentagon
reclaimed the digital territory months later, and it remains unclear
what the brief transfer was about, but researchers said the activation
of those IP addresses could have given the military access to a huge
amount of internet traffic without revealing that the government was
receiving it.
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on TrustCor.
TrustCor also did not respond to a request for comment.
[Minutes before Trump left office, millions of the Pentagon’s dormant
IP addresses sprang to life]
TrustCor’s products include an email service that claims to be
end-to-end encrypted, though experts consulted by The Washington Post
said they found evidence to undermine that claim. A test version of
the email service also included spyware developed by a Panamanian
company related to Packet Forensics, researchers said. Google later
banned all software containing that spyware code from its app store.
A person familiar with Packet Forensics’ work confirmed that it had
used TrustCor’s certificate process and its email service, MsgSafe, to
intercept communications and help the U.S. government catch suspected
“Yes, Packet Forensics does that,” the person said, speaking on the
condition of anonymity to discuss confidential practices.
Packet Forensics counsel Kathryn Temel said the company has no
business relationship with TrustCor. She declined to say whether it
had had one previously.
The latest discovery shows how the technological and business
complexities of the internet’s inner workings can be leveraged to an
extent that is rarely revealed.
Concerns about root certificate authorities, though, have come up before.
In 2019, a security company controlled by the government of the United
Arab Emirates that had been known as DarkMatter applied to be upgraded
to top-level root authority from intermediate authority with less
independence. That followed revelations about DarkMatter hacking
dissidents and even some Americans; Mozilla denied it root power.
In 2015, Google withdrew the root authority of the China Internet
Network Information Center (CNNIC) after it allowed an intermediate
authority to issue fake certificates for Google sites.
With Packet Forensics, a paper trail led to it being identified by
researchers twice this year. Mostly known for selling interception
devices and tracking services to authorities, the company is four
months into a $4.6 million Pentagon contract for “data processing,
hosting and related services.”
In the earlier spyware matter, researchers Joel Reardon of the
University of Calgary and Serge Egelman of the University of
California at Berkeley found that a Panamanian company, Measurement
Systems, had been paying developers to include code in a variety of
innocuous apps to record and transmit users’ phone numbers, email
addresses and exact locations. They estimated that those apps were
downloaded more than 60 million times, including 10 million downloads
of Muslim prayer apps.
Measurement Systems’ website was registered by Vostrom Holdings,
according to historic domain name records. Vostrom filed papers in
2007 to do business as Packet Forensics, according to Virginia state
records. Measurement Systems was registered in Virginia by Saulino,
according to another state filing.
After the researchers shared their findings, Google booted all apps
with the spy code out of its Play app store.
Tremel said that “a company previously associated with Packet
Forensics was a customer of Measurement Systems at one time” but that
there was no ownership stake.
When Reardon and Egelman looked deeper at Vostrom, they found it had
registered the domain name, which directed visitors to the
main TrustCor site. TrustCor has the same president, agents and
holding-company partners listed in Panamanian records as Measurement
A firm with the same name as one of the holding companies behind both
TrustCor and Measurement Systems, Frigate Bay Holdings, filed papers
to dissolve this March with the secretary of state in Wyoming, where
it was formed. The papers were signed by Saulino, who listed his title
as manager. He could not be reached for comment.
TrustCor has issued more than 10,0000 certificates, many of them for
sites hosted with a dynamic domain name service provider called No-IP,
the researchers said. That service allows websites to be hosted with
constantly changing Internet Protocol addresses.
Because root authority is so powerful, TrustCor can also give others
the right to issue certificates.
Certificates for websites are publicly viewable so that bad ones
should be exposed sooner or later. There have been no reports so far
that the TrustCor certificates have been used inappropriately, for
example by vouching for impostor websites. The researchers speculated
that the system is only used against high-value targets within short
windows of time. The person familiar with Packet Forensics’ operations
agreed said that was in fact how it has been used.
“They have this position of ultimate trust, where they can issue
encryption keys for any arbitrary website and any email address,”
Egelman said. “It’s scary this is being done by some shady private
The leadership page of the TrustCor’s website lists just two men,
identified as co-founders. Though that page does not say so, one of
them died months ago, and the other’s LinkedIn profile says he left as
chief technology officer in 2019. That man declined to comment.
The website site lists a contact phone number in Panama, which has
been disconnected, and one in Toronto, where a message had not been
returned after more than a week. The email contact form on the site
doesn’t work. The physical address in Toronto given in its auditor’s
report, 371 Front St. West, houses a UPS Store mail drop.
TrustCor adds another layer of mystery with its outside auditing firm.
Instead of using a major accounting firm that rates the safety of
internet infrastructure companies, TrustCor selected one called
Princeton Audit Group, which gives its address as a residential
townhouse in Princeton, N.J.
In addition to TrustCor’s certificate power, the firm offers what
purports to be end-to-end encrypted email, But researchers
said the email is not encrypted and can be read by the company, which
has pitched it to a variety of groups worried about surveillance.
MsgSafe has touted its security to a variety of potential customers,
including Trump supporters upset that Parler had been dropped by app
stores in January 2021, and to users of encrypted mail service
Tutanota who were blocked from signing on to Microsoft services.
“Create your free end-to-end encrypted email today with over 40
domains to choose from and are guaranteed to work with Microsoft
Teams,” the company tweeted in August.
Reardon sent test messages over MsgSafe that appeared unencrypted in
transmission, meaning MsgSafe could read them at will. Egelman ran the
same test with the same result.
Jon Callas, a cryptography expert at the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, also tested the system at The Post’s request and said that
MsgSafe generated and kept the private key for his account, so that it
could decrypt anything he sent.
“The private key has to be under the person’s control to be
end-to-end,” Callas explained.
Packet Forensics first drew attention from privacy advocates a dozen years ago.
In 2010, researcher Chris Soghoian attended an invite-only industry
conference nicknamed the Wiretapper’s Ball and obtained a Packet
Forensics brochure aimed at law enforcement and intelligence agency
The brochure was for a piece of hardware to help buyers read web
traffic that parties thought was secure. But it wasn’t.
“IP communication dictates the need to examine encrypted traffic at
will,” the brochure read, according to a report in Wired that quoted
Saulino as a Packet Forensics spokesman. “Your investigative staff
will collect its best evidence while users are lulled into a false
sense of security afforded by web, e-mail or VOIP encryption,” the
brochure added.
The brochure told customers they could use a decryption key provided
by a court order or a “look-alike key.”
Researchers thought at the time that the most likely way the box was
being used was with a certificate issued by an authority for money or
under a court order that would guarantee the authenticity of an
impostor communications site.
They did not conclude that an entire certificate authority itself
might be compromised.
Obtaining trusted root certificate authority takes time and money for
the infrastructure and for the audit that browsers require, experts
Each browser has slightly different requirements. At Mozilla’s
Firefox, the process takes two years and includes crowdsourced and
direct vetting as well as an audit.
But all of that typically focuses on formal statements of
technological steps, rather than mysteries of ownership and intent.
The person familiar with Packet Forensics said the big tech companies
probably were unwitting participants in the TrustCor play: “Most
people aren’t paying attention.”
“With enough money, you or I could become a trusted root certificate
authority,” said Daniel Schwalbe, vice president of technology at web
data tracker DomainTools.
Mozilla currently recognizes 169 root certificate authorities,
including three from TrustCor.
The case gives new focus to problems with that system, in which
critical tech companies outsource their trust to third parties with
their own agendas.
“You can’t bootstrap trust, it has to come from somewhere,” Reardon
said. “Root certificate authorities are the kernel of trust from which
it is all built on. And it will always be shaky, because it will
always involve humans, committees and decision-making.”
Reardon and Egelman alerted Google, Mozilla and Apple to their
research on TrustCor in April. They said they have heard little back.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
Mozilla said it would say more after reviewing details from the researchers.

Major Web Browsers Drop Mysterious Authentication Company After Ties
To US Military Contractor Exposed

This week several major web browsers quickly severed ties with a
mysterious software company used to certify the security of websites,
three weeks after the Washington Post exposed its connections to a US
military contractor, the Post reports.

TrustCor Systems provided 'certificates' to browsers to Mozilla
Firefox and Microsoft Edge, which vouched for the legitimacy of said

"Certificate Authorities have highly trusted roles in the internet
ecosystem and it is unacceptable for a CA to be closely tied, through
ownership and operation, to a company engaged in the distribution of
malware," said Mozilla's Kathleen Wilson in an email to browser
security experts. "Trustcor’s responses via their Vice President of CA
operations further substantiates the factual basis for Mozilla’s

According to TrustCor's Panamanian (!?) registration records, the
company has the same slate of officers, agents and officers as
Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which has sold communication
interception services to the U.S. government for over a decade.

    One of those contracts listed the “place of performance” as Fort
Meade, Md., the home of the National Security Agency and the
Pentagon’s Cyber Command.

    The case has put a new spotlight on the obscure systems of trust
and checks that allow people to rely on the internet for most
purposes. Browsers typically have more than a hundred authorities
approved by default, including government-owned ones and small
companies, to seamlessly attest that secure websites are what they
purport to be. -WaPo

Also of concern, TrustCor's small staff in Canada lists its place of
operation at a UPS Store mail drop, according to company executive
Rachel McPherson, who says she told their Canadian staffers to work
remotely. She also acknowledged that the company has 'infrastructure'
in Arizona as well.

McPherson says that ownership in TrustCor was transferred to employees
despite the fact that some of the same holding companies had invested
in both TrustCor and Packet Forensics.

Various technologists in the email discussion said they found TrustCor
to be evasive when it came to basic facts such as legal domicile and
ownership - which they said was not appropriate for a company
responsible for root certificate authority that verifies a secure
'https' website is not an imposter.

    The Post report built on the work of two researchers who had first
located the company’s corporate records, Joel Reardon of the
University of Calgary and Serge Egelman of the University of
California at Berkeley. Those two and others also ran experiments on a
secure email offering from TrustCor named They found that
contrary to MsgSafe’s public claims, emails sent through its system
were not end-to-end encrypted and could be read by the company.

    McPherson said the various technology experts had not used the
right version or had not configured it properly. -WaPo

In a previous case which illustrates the importance of trusting
root-level authorities - a security company controlled by the United
Arab Emirates, DarkMatter, applied in 2019 to have top-level root
authority from their status as an intermediate authority with less
independence. The request followed revelations that DarkMatter had
hacked dissidents and even some Americans - after which Mozilla denied
it root power.

"Received email from DDNS no-IP, they offering free TrustCor Standard
DV SSL certificate."
"Free, comes complete with spyveillance and exploit, lol."
"Imagine that even the most trusted CA's are actually rogue!"