Unanswered questions about the Flame certificate forgery (1/2)


1. Which enterprise was it?

The authors of Flame exploited a series of design flaws in the way MSFT operated terminal services licensing to obtain a code-signing certificate impersonating MSFT. This step involved interacting with some TS licensing server that was already setup to issue these licenses, which also double as code-signing certificate due to a blatant violation of least-privilege principle. Typically such licensing servers are operated by large enterprises, to simplify the problem of granting licenses to their users to connect to Windows server.

That raises an obvious question: which organization was it? While each licensing server receives a certificate with the same non-descript name Microsoft LSRA PA (that does not in fact identify the organization it belongs to, in yet another example of bad design)  they each have unique signing keys. As long as MSFT was keeping logs for the subordinate CA certificates issued, it is possible to identify conclusively which enterprise the forged certificate chains up through. So far MSFT has not publicly named the organization, nor have the implicated parties come forward of their own accord. It is entirely plausible that the organization did not realize it was their TS licensing infrastructure used to facilitate the Flame attack. This is similar to the pair of semi-conductor firms that had to be alerted their signatures were found on Stuxnet— how many organizations proactively checked their own CA against the forged Flame certificate chain?  But it is equally likely that MSFT or perhaps a law-enforcement agency would have reached out by now (keeping in mind this could be an organization anywhere in the world) and let these folks know they were the unlucky ones. So far this appears to be handled quietly, perhaps to protect the “guilty”– for most enterprises, having experienced a security breach is something to be swept under the rug. This is unfortunate, because it would have been possible to infer something about the modus operandi of the Flame creators based on why they picked that organization. That brings us to the second question.

[continued]

CP

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