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Deprecation Denial: Why Are 35% of Websites Still Using SHA-1?

Deprecation Denial: Why Are 35% of Websites Still Using SHA-1?

November 17, 2016 | Scott Carter

Either a third of websites are frantically scrambling to replace their SHA-1 certificates or they are blissfully unaware that they may still have SHA-1 certificates they have not yet located. I doubt that many of these websites are still unaware of the consequences. Major browsers have been relatively upfront about deprecation deadlines. And those deadlines are looming. 

One would think that almost all websites would have completed their migrations by now. However, the Venafi Labs research team recently analyzed data on over 11 million publicly visible IPv4 websites. They found that 35% of the websites analyzed are still using insecure SHA-1 certificates. With January deadline for SHA-2 migration just 45 days away, many of these websites could face major disruptions in the New Year.

Leading browser providers such as Microsoft, Mozilla and Google, have publicly stated they will no longer trust sites that use SHA-1 from early 2017. By February 2017, Chrome, Firefox and Edge, will mark websites that still rely on certificates that use SHA-1 algorithms as insecure.

As a result, web transactions and traffic may be disrupted in a variety of ways:

  • Browsers will display warnings to users that the site is insecure, prompting users to look for an alternative site.
  • Browsers will not display the ‘green padlock’ on the address line for HTTPS transactions; consumers rely on this icon as an indication that online transactions are secure and private.
  • Sites may experience performance problems; in some cases, access to websites may be completely blocked.

How big is the impact? According to Walter Goulet, cloud solutions ‎product manager at Venafi, “The results of our analysis clearly show that while the most popular websites have done a good job of migrating away from SHA-1 certificates, a significant portion of the Internet continues to rely on SHA-1 certificates. According to Netcraft’s September 2016 Web Server Survey, there are over 173 million active websites. Extrapolating from our results, as many as 61 million websites may be using such certificates.”

Certificate security is critical to a website’s success. All web browsers use certificates to determine what can and can’t be trusted during online transactions. This is particularly critical in transactions that include sensitive data such as eCommerce and online banking. The SHA-1 cryptographic hash function used by many certificates is weak and can be easily manipulated. For example, SHA-1 certificates are vulnerable to collision attacks that allow cyber criminals to forge certificates and perform man-in-the-middle attacks on TLS connections.

“Our whole online world is predicated on the system of trust that is underpinned by these certificates; organizations have an obligation to ensure that this is fixed,” commented Kevin Bocek, chief security strategist at Venafi. “Leaving SHA-1 certificates in place is a like putting up a welcome sign for hackers that says, ‘We don’t care about security of our applications, data, and customers.”

Bocek also points out, “The average organization has over 23,000 keys and certificates and most organizations don’t have the tools or visibility to find all the SHA-1 certificates in their environment. This means migration to SHA-2 can be complex and chaotic, and, as a result, many businesses have just stuck their heads in the sand. Unfortunately, in January there will be nowhere for these businesses to hide. My advice is to get a plan in place now because it will be even more difficult to fix after the deprecation deadline when things start to break.”

If you don’t know if your website still uses SHA-1 certificates, now is the time to be sure. It’s going to be a lot harder to find them when you are dealing with consequences at the same time.  

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About the author

Scott Carter
Scott Carter

Scott Carter writes for Venafi's blog and is an expert in machine identity protection.

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