More Enlightenment on POODLE Attack

Anything that causes a security breach of users’ data is a major flaw and needs to be taken seriously. One such potential exploitation is the POODLE attack.

Several websites belonging to individuals, government agencies, and financial institutions are exposed to this computer bug. And many of them are oblivious to it. So what is a POODLE attack?How does it work? And how can you prevent being targeted by these hackers?

What Is the POODLE Attack?

POODLE means Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. It’s an attack strategy used to steal confidential information from secured connections using the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol. This vulnerability allows an attacker to eavesdrop on encrypted HTTPS communication with the use of the SSL 3.0 protocol.

The POODLE vulnerability was discovered by the research team at Google in 2014 and was assigned the ID, CVE-2014-3566.

Web servers that are vulnerable to POODLE attacks still support the SSL 3.0 protocol despite the introduction of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol in 1999. And it opens up many security weaknesses for end-users.

SSL and TLS are simply cryptographic protocols that help you to securely validate and move your data on the internet. For instance, if you’re processing payments on a website with your credit card, the SSL and TLS protocols will help to secure your payment processing so cybercriminals won’t be able to lay hands on your credit card information.

Cybersecurity

TLS 1.3, released in 2018, is the main protocol in use today and doesn’t have known vulnerabilities yet.

But older versions of the TLS protocol are vulnerable to POODLE attacks as well. Unfortunately, many website owners aren’t aware of this.

The older TLS protocol goes through what is called a downgraded or version roll-back attack. Here, the attacker tricks the server and the client to abandon the high-quality encrypted connection (older versions of TLS) and go for a lower quality (SSL) protocol to encrypt information.

Once the attacker succeeds, they try to intercept the information by exploiting the weaknesses in the older SSL protocol.

Why are web servers still supporting old protocols? It could be that the admins of such servers want to make sure users can access the webserver with old browsers. On the other hand, it could be that the websites are unpatched and badly configured.

How Risky Is the POODLE Attack?

The POODLE attack poses a threat to individuals, corporate bodies, and other users who transmit sensitive data online. This vulnerability allows an attacker to step in as the man-in-the-middle of the client and server, and then encrypt communications.

Once the attacker has access to the communication, they can steal your sensitive data that has been exposed including session cookies, passwords, or login details, and go on to use it to impersonate a user.

This always has huge consequences like users losing their money or losing control of their websites. And for corporate agencies, there will be a case of data theft and loss of the organization’s intellectual property.

How Does the POODLE Attack Work?

Ecommerce on Mobile

A POODLE attack is not always easy to carry out but the key requirement here is that the attacker tricks you into sending a random request to the server to make the server fall back to old protocols like the SSL 3.0.

Here’s how it works.

The attacker tricks you into sending a request on a website server that supports TLS 1.0 protocol. When you send the request with your browser, the attacker interrupts the secured connection between the browser and the server. This results in you reloading the request and your browser falls back to using the lower vulnerable protocol (the SSL 3.0) to reestablish the connection.

When this happens, the attacker goes on to exploit the weakness in the SSL 3.0 protocol. For a hacker to do this successfully, they must be on the same website server or your network. The hacker must know how to perform malicious JavaScript attacks to pull this off successfully.

How Can You Protect Yourself From POODLE Attacks?

Hacker

The quickest and most viable way to protect yourself against POODLE attacks is to disable the SSL 3.0 support in your web servers and browsers. However, you should know that if you disable the SSL 3.0 protocol on the webserver, some old browsers may not be able to connect to the server.

And if you disable the SSL on the browser, you may not be able to connect to some of the web servers that only support the SSL version. You should ensure that your system is updated to enable it to support newer and more secure protocols.

When using the TLS version, the newer TLS 1.3 is favored over the older TLS protocols that are vulnerable.

The Google research team that discovered the POODLE vulnerability recommends an interim solution.

The team advocates the use of TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV. It’s a mechanism that helps fix the issues caused by a user retrying a failed connection and stops attackers from triggering browsers to use the SSL 3.0 protocol. It also guides against downgrade attacks of TLS protocol, from TLS 1.2 to TLS 1.1.

Presently, Google Chrome and its servers support the TLS protocol, while other free and open-sourced web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Opera Mini have taken similar security measures against POODLE attacks.

Prevent the POODLE Attack

The POODLE attack is a major flaw that every internet user is prone to. To effectively guide against it, you have to be proactive by tightening the security of your web server and browser beforehand.

The SSL 3.0 protocol should be disabled from both ends. If your website still supports old browsers, you are putting your entire network at risk. You need to update to newer versions of protocols.

Major open-sourced browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft, and Mozilla Firefox are now blocking access to sites using the older TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 protocols. If you don’t move with the times, you’ll be left behind.

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