New Attack Steals Cryptographic Keys Protecting SSH Connections for the First Time

Researchers have made a startling discovery that could compromise the security of data protection in computer-to-server SSH traffic. It has been found that a significant number of cryptographic keys used to safeguard this traffic are vulnerable to compromise, which has serious implications for the privacy and security of users.

Through their research, the experts were able to determine the private portion of almost 200 unique SSH keys. The vulnerability stems from errors during the signature generation when a client and server establish a connection. This flaw specifically affects keys that utilize the RSA cryptographic algorithm, which was found in approximately one-third of the SSH signatures analyzed.

Out of the staggering 3.2 billion signatures examined, it was found that around 1 billion RSA signatures exposed the private key of the host. This poses a major risk as it grants unauthorized access to sensitive information and potentially compromises the integrity of the server.

It is worth noting that most SSH software incorporates a countermeasure that checks for signature faults before transmitting a signature over the internet. However, until now, researchers believed that signature faults only affected RSA keys utilized in the TLS protocol. This new research demonstrates that SSH traffic is equally susceptible.

To address this vulnerability, researchers are advocating for other protocols to adopt similar additional protection measures as the TLS protocol. By doing so, the risk of key compromise could be significantly reduced, thereby enhancing the overall security of data transmitted through SSH connections.

While the majority of SSH connections are unaffected by this vulnerability, experts emphasize the importance of defending against such failures. As stated, it only takes one flawed signature to expose the key and potentially compromise the entire system’s security.

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These findings are documented in a paper titled “Passive SSH Key Compromise via Lattices” and significantly contribute to the existing knowledge base derived from the past two decades of research. The implications of this research should not be taken lightly, and it is essential for users and organizations to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate steps to mitigate them.

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