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

From: Tomoaki AOKI <>
Date: Sun, 04 Dec 2022 06:33:33 UTC
IMHO, bundling certs on base should be mandatory, at least for ones.

Without them, how can users download initial certs from ports safely,
and without annoying warnings?

Maybe limiting initially-bundled certs for ones only on
base itself, and forcibly install pkgs ones on install (bundled in all
install media, and upgradable later with pkg or rebuilding with ports)
could be better.

On Sat, 3 Dec 2022 20:26:16 -0500
grarpamp <> wrote:

> 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] ...
> [1]
> 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 :)
> [2]
> 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
> interviews.
> 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
> terrorists.
> “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
> Systems.
> 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
> company.”
> 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
> customers.
> 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
> say.
> 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
> websites.
> "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
> concerns."
> 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!"

Tomoaki AOKI    <>