27 Feb, 2023

Cryptographic Key Management Issues

Vulnerability Assessment as a Service (VAaaS)

Tests systems and applications for vulnerabilities to address weaknesses.

Cryptographic key management issues refer to the challenges and concerns associated with securely generating, storing, distributing, and revoking cryptographic keys used for encryption, decryption, and authentication purposes. Cryptographic keys are used in various applications, such as secure communication, digital signatures, and access control. Proper key management is essential to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data protected by cryptographic keys.

Some of the key management issues include:

  • Key generation: Cryptographic keys must be generated using a strong and random process to prevent attackers from guessing or predicting the keys.

  • Key storage: Cryptographic keys must be stored securely to prevent unauthorized access, theft, or loss. Physical and logical access controls must be implemented to protect the keys.

  • Key distribution: Cryptographic keys must be distributed securely to authorized users or systems. Key exchange protocols such as Diffie-Hellman, RSA, or Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) can be used to establish secure communication channels and distribute keys.

  • Key revocation: Cryptographic keys must be revoked when they are compromised, lost, or no longer needed. Key revocation protocols such as Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) or Certificate Revocation List (CRL) can be used to inform users or systems that a key is no longer valid.

  • Key backup and recovery: Cryptographic keys must be backed up regularly to prevent data loss in case of hardware or software failure. Key recovery procedures must be in place to restore keys in case of a disaster.

Example of vulnerable code on different programming languages:


in Java:

				
					import java.security.Key;
import javax.crypto.KeyGenerator;

public class KeyGenExample {
   public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
      KeyGenerator keyGen = KeyGenerator.getInstance("AES");
      keyGen.init(128); // weak key size
      Key key = keyGen.generateKey();
      System.out.println(key);
   }
}

				
			


This Java code generates an AES key with a weak key size of 128 bits, which can be easily brute-forced by an attacker. A stronger key size of 256 bits should be used instead.

• in Python:

				
					from Crypto.Cipher import AES

key = 'mysecretkey' # hardcoded key
cipher = AES.new(key, AES.MODE_CBC, 'This is an IV456')
plaintext = 'Hello, world!'
ciphertext = cipher.encrypt(plaintext)
print(ciphertext)

				
			


This Python code uses a hardcoded key, which is a security vulnerability. Hardcoded keys can be easily discovered by attackers and used to decrypt data. Instead, the key should be securely generated and stored in a secure location, such as a key vault.

• in C++:

				
					#include <openssl/rsa.h>

int main() {
   RSA *rsa = RSA_generate_key(512, RSA_F4, NULL, NULL); // weak key size
   return 0;
}

				
			


This C++ code generates an RSA key with a weak key size of 512 bits, which is easily breakable by attackers. A stronger key size of 2048 bits or higher should be used instead.

• in Ruby:

				
					require 'openssl'

key = OpenSSL::PKey::RSA.generate(1024) # weak key size
puts key

				
			


This Ruby code generates an RSA key with a weak key size of 1024 bits, which is vulnerable to attacks. A stronger key size of 2048 bits or higher should be used instead.

Examples of exploitation Key Management Issues

Weak Key Size:

Suppose an application uses a weak key size of 128 bits for encryption. An attacker can easily break the encryption by performing a brute force attack, which involves trying all possible combinations of keys until the correct one is found. With modern computing power, this can be done relatively quickly, and the attacker can gain access to sensitive data.

Hardcoded Keys:

Suppose an application uses hardcoded keys for encryption. An attacker who gains access to the application’s code can easily discover the key and use it to decrypt the data. This can be particularly damaging if the key is used to protect sensitive information such as passwords or financial data.

Key Storage:

Suppose an application stores cryptographic keys in plain text on a server. An attacker who gains access to the server can easily steal the keys and use them to decrypt data. This can be prevented by storing the keys in a secure location, such as a hardware security module (HSM) or a key vault.

Key Distribution:

Suppose an application distributes keys over an insecure channel. An attacker who intercepts the key exchange can obtain the key and use it to decrypt data. This can be prevented by using secure key exchange protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Shell (SSH).

Key Revocation:

Suppose an application fails to revoke a compromised key. An attacker who gains access to the compromised key can continue to use it to decrypt data even after the key should have been revoked. This can be prevented by implementing proper key revocation procedures, such as using Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) or Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to inform users or systems that a key is no longer valid.

Privilege escalation techniques for Key Management Issues

Exploiting Weak Key Sizes:

An attacker can use a brute-force attack to break the encryption by trying all possible combinations of keys until the correct one is found. If the key size is weak, the attacker can perform this attack relatively quickly, and once they have obtained the correct key, they can use it to decrypt data or perform other malicious activities.

Stealing Hardcoded Keys:

An attacker who gains access to the application’s code can discover hardcoded keys and use them to decrypt data. To prevent this, the keys should be securely generated and stored in a secure location, such as a key vault.

Stealing Keys from Memory:

An attacker who gains access to a system’s memory can search for keys that are stored in memory and use them to decrypt data. To prevent this, the keys should be stored in a secure location, such as a hardware security module (HSM).

Intercepting Key Exchange:

An attacker who intercepts a key exchange can obtain the key and use it to decrypt data. To prevent this, secure key exchange protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Shell (SSH) should be used.

Exploiting Weak Key Management Procedures:

An attacker can exploit weak key management procedures, such as improper key revocation or weak key storage. For example, if a compromised key is not revoked, an attacker who gains access to the key can continue to use it to decrypt data even after it should have been revoked. To prevent this, proper key management procedures should be implemented, such as using Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) or Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to inform users or systems that a key is no longer valid.

General methodology and checklist for Key Management Issues

Methodology:

  1. Identify the cryptographic keys used by the system or application under test: Identify the types of keys used, including symmetric and asymmetric keys, key exchange keys, and other types of cryptographic keys.

  2. Verify the key generation process: Verify that the cryptographic keys are generated using a secure random number generator and that the key length is appropriate for the application’s requirements.

  3. Check the key storage location: Verify that cryptographic keys are stored in a secure location, such as a key vault or hardware security module (HSM), and that they are protected against unauthorized access.

  4. Check the key distribution process: Verify that cryptographic keys are distributed securely, using appropriate protocols, such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Shell (SSH).

  5. Verify key revocation procedures: Verify that proper key revocation procedures are in place, such as Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) or Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP), to inform users or systems that a key is no longer valid.

  6. Test for key extraction: Test for key extraction by attempting to extract the cryptographic keys from the system or application under test. This can involve memory dumping, network traffic analysis, and other techniques.

  7. Verify that key management policies and procedures are followed: Verify that key management policies and procedures are in place and are followed by the organization, including policies for key generation, distribution, storage, revocation, and backup.

  8. Test for encryption and decryption: Test the system or application under test to verify that cryptographic keys are used properly for encryption and decryption.

  9. Perform penetration testing: Perform penetration testing to simulate an attacker’s attempt to exploit key management vulnerabilities.

  10. Document findings and make recommendations: Document all findings and make recommendations for improving key management practices to mitigate vulnerabilities and ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data protected by cryptographic keys.

Checklst:

  1. Identify the types of cryptographic keys used, including symmetric and asymmetric keys, key exchange keys, and other types of cryptographic keys.

  2. Verify that the cryptographic keys are generated using a secure random number generator and that the key length is appropriate for the application’s requirements.

  3. Verify that cryptographic keys are stored in a secure location, such as a key vault or hardware security module (HSM), and that they are protected against unauthorized access.

  4. Verify that cryptographic keys are distributed securely, using appropriate protocols, such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Shell (SSH).

  5. Verify that proper key revocation procedures are in place, such as Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) or Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP), to inform users or systems that a key is no longer valid.

  6. Test for key extraction by attempting to extract the cryptographic keys from the system or application under test. This can involve memory dumping, network traffic analysis, and other techniques.

  7. Verify that key management policies and procedures are in place and are followed by the organization, including policies for key generation, distribution, storage, revocation, and backup.

  8. Test the system or application under test to verify that cryptographic keys are used properly for encryption and decryption.

  9. Perform penetration testing to simulate an attacker’s attempt to exploit key management vulnerabilities.

  10. Document all findings and make recommendations for improving key management practices to mitigate vulnerabilities and ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data protected by cryptographic keys.

Tools set for exploiting Key Management Issues

Manual Tools:

  • OpenSSL – is a widely-used open-source toolkit implementing the SSL and TLS protocols, used for secure communication over the internet. It includes a set of command-line tools for creating and managing cryptographic keys.

  • Wireshark – is a network protocol analyzer used for capturing and analyzing network traffic. It can be used to analyze network traffic and extract cryptographic keys used for encryption and decryption.

  • Aircrack-ng – is a suite of tools used for testing wireless networks. It includes tools for sniffing wireless traffic, cracking encryption keys, and other tasks related to wireless security.

  • John the Ripper – John the Ripper is a password cracking tool used for testing the strength of passwords. It includes a set of pre-built modules for cracking different types of passwords, including cryptographic keys.

  • Hydra – is a password cracking tool used for testing the strength of passwords. It can be used to test the strength of passwords used for cryptographic keys.

  • Metasploit Framework – is a widely-used penetration testing tool used for testing the security of networks and applications. It includes a set of modules for testing cryptographic key management issues.

  • Nmap – is a network exploration and security auditing tool. It can be used to discover hosts and services on a network and test for key management vulnerabilities.

Automated Tools:

  • Burp Suite – is a web application security testing tool. It includes a set of modules for testing key management vulnerabilities in web applications.

  • SQLMap – is an automated tool used for testing SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities related to database encryption.

  • Nessus – is a vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • OpenVAS – is an open-source vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • Nikto – is a web application vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of web applications. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • ZAP – is an open-source web application security scanner used for testing the security of web applications. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • Retina – is a vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • Metasploit Pro – is a commercial version of the Metasploit Framework that includes additional features for testing the security of networks and systems, including key management vulnerabilities.

  • OpenSCAP – is an open-source security compliance tool used for testing the security of systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • GVM – is an open-source vulnerability management tool used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • AppScan – is a web application vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of web applications. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • Qualys – is a vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

  • Nexpose – is a vulnerability scanner used for testing the security of networks and systems. It includes modules for testing key management vulnerabilities.

The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)

CWE-320: Key Management Errors – This weakness refers to errors made in the handling, generation, storage, and use of cryptographic keys, which can lead to the compromise of the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data.

• CWE-326: Inadequate Encryption Strength – This weakness refers to the use of encryption algorithms or keys that are too weak to provide adequate protection against unauthorized access or tampering.

• CWE-327: Use of a Broken or Risky Cryptographic Algorithm – This weakness refers to the use of cryptographic algorithms that are known to be vulnerable or broken, which can result in the compromise of sensitive data.

• CWE-328: Reversible One-Way Hash – This weakness refers to the use of reversible one-way hash functions, which can be exploited by attackers to recover the original data from the hash.

• CWE-329: Not Using a Random IV with CBC Mode – This weakness refers to the use of the Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode of encryption without using a random Initialization Vector (IV), which can result in the compromise of sensitive data.

• CWE-330: Use of Insufficiently Random Values – This weakness refers to the use of insufficiently random values, such as predictable or static values, which can compromise the security of cryptographic keys and other sensitive data.

• CWE-331: Insufficient Entropy – This weakness refers to the use of insufficient entropy when generating cryptographic keys or other random values, which can make the keys or values more predictable and easier to guess.

• CWE-332: Insufficient Key Size or Strength – This weakness refers to the use of cryptographic keys that are too short or weak to provide adequate protection against brute-force attacks or other forms of cryptographic attacks.

• CWE-333: Use of Insecure Cryptographic Storage – This weakness refers to the insecure storage of cryptographic keys or other sensitive data, which can be exploited by attackers to steal the keys or data.

• CWE-334: Small Space of Random Values – This weakness refers to the use of a small space of random values when generating cryptographic keys or other random values, which can make the keys or values more predictable and easier to guess.

CVES related to Key Management Issues

CVE-2017-8332 – An issue was discovered on Securifi Almond, Almond+, and Almond 2015 devices with firmware AL-R096. The device provides a user with the capability of blocking key words passing in the web traffic to prevent kids from watching content that might be deemed unsafe using the web management interface. It seems that the device does not implement any cross-site scripting protection mechanism which allows an attacker to trick a user who is logged in to the web management interface into executing a stored cross-site scripting payload on the user’s browser and execute any action on the device provided by the web management interface.

Key Management Issues exploits

  • Heartbleed – A vulnerability in OpenSSL that allows attackers to read sensitive information from the memory of affected systems, including cryptographic keys and other sensitive data.

  • DROWN – A vulnerability in SSLv2 that allows attackers to decrypt TLS sessions using the same private key as the affected server.

  • POODLE – A vulnerability in SSLv3 that allows attackers to exploit the protocol’s padding oracle and decrypt SSL traffic, including sensitive data and cryptographic keys.

  • ROCA – A vulnerability in the implementation of RSA key pair generation in a cryptographic library, which can allow an attacker to factor the RSA private key and recover the corresponding public key.

  • Logjam – A vulnerability in the Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol that allows attackers to downgrade the encryption level of the session and potentially intercept or modify the encrypted traffic.

  • KRACK – A vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol used in Wi-Fi networks that allows attackers to intercept and decrypt network traffic, including sensitive data and cryptographic keys.

  • EFAIL – A vulnerability in the OpenPGP and S/MIME email encryption protocols that allows attackers to decrypt encrypted email messages by exploiting flaws in the implementation of the protocols.

  • Lucky13 – A vulnerability in the TLS protocol that allows attackers to exploit timing differences in the decryption of encrypted traffic and recover the plaintext of the message.

  • BEAST – A vulnerability in the implementation of the Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode of encryption in SSL/TLS, which allows attackers to decrypt sensitive data and cryptographic keys.

  • Sweet32 – A vulnerability in the 3DES cipher that allows attackers to exploit the use of a small block size and perform a birthday attack to recover the encryption key.

Practicing in test for Key Management Issues

Set up a test environment – Create a testing environment that closely resembles a production environment, including web applications, databases, servers, and other components. This will allow you to test for Key Management Issues in a controlled and safe environment.

Use vulnerable applications – Use intentionally vulnerable applications like DVWA, Mutillidae, and WebGoat to practice testing for Key Management Issues. These applications are designed to simulate common vulnerabilities, including Key Management Issues.

Use manual testing techniques – Practice manual testing techniques to identify Key Management Issues, such as using insecure cryptographic algorithms, weak keys, and insufficient entropy. You can use a variety of tools like Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, and Nmap to assist you in your testing.

Use automated testing tools – Use automated testing tools like Nessus, OpenVAS, and Qualys to scan your test environment for Key Management Issues automatically. These tools can help you quickly identify Key Management Issues and prioritize remediation efforts.

Practice exploiting vulnerabilities – Once you identify Key Management Issues, practice exploiting them to better understand the potential impact on your system. You can use tools like Metasploit and BeEF to test the effectiveness of your defenses against Key Management Issues.

Keep up-to-date with the latest trends – Stay current with the latest trends and techniques related to Key Management Issues. Attend training sessions, read blogs, and participate in online communities to stay informed about emerging threats and countermeasures.

For study Key Management Issues

Study cryptographic algorithms – Start by studying the different cryptographic algorithms and their strengths and weaknesses. You should be familiar with symmetric and asymmetric encryption, hashing, digital signatures, and key exchange protocols.

Study key management best practices – Learn about key management best practices, such as key generation, storage, distribution, and revocation. You should be familiar with different key management systems and their trade-offs, as well as different encryption standards and their requirements.

Read industry guidelines and standards – Review industry guidelines and standards, such as NIST SP 800-57, ISO/IEC 27001, and PCI-DSS. These documents provide guidance on best practices for key management, including cryptographic key generation, storage, and use.

Practice with vulnerable applications – Practice testing for Key Management Issues using intentionally vulnerable applications like DVWA, Mutillidae, and WebGoat. These applications are designed to simulate common vulnerabilities, including Key Management Issues.

Use testing tools – Use a variety of tools like Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, Nessus, and Metasploit to test for Key Management Issues. These tools can help you identify vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors.

Attend training sessions and conferences – Attend training sessions and conferences to learn about the latest trends and techniques related to Key Management Issues. These events provide opportunities to network with other professionals and learn from experts in the field.

Participate in online communities – Participate in online communities like Reddit’s /r/crypto and /r/netsec to discuss Key Management Issues and learn from other professionals in the field.

Books with review of Key Management Issues

“Cryptography Engineering: Design Principles and Practical Applications” by Bruce Schneier, Niels Ferguson, and Tadayoshi Kohno – This book provides a comprehensive overview of cryptography, including key management and related issues.

“Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C” by Bruce Schneier – This classic book covers the principles and practice of cryptography, including key management and other critical issues.

“Introduction to Modern Cryptography” by Jonathan Katz and Yehuda Lindell – This book covers the fundamentals of modern cryptography, including key management, and is suitable for both beginners and experienced professionals.

“Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems” by Ross Anderson – This book provides a comprehensive guide to building secure systems, including key management and other critical security issues.

“Handbook of Applied Cryptography” by Alfred J. Menezes, Paul C. van Oorschot, and Scott A. Vanstone – This book is a comprehensive reference on cryptography, including key management and related issues.

“The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography” by Simon Singh – This book provides a historical perspective on cryptography and covers key management and related issues.

“Cryptography for Developers” by Tom St Denis – This book provides a practical guide to cryptography, including key management and related issues, specifically targeted at software developers.

“Network Security with OpenSSL” by John Viega, Matt Messier, and Pravir Chandra – This book provides a practical guide to network security, including key management using OpenSSL.

“Handbook of Elliptic and Hyperelliptic Curve Cryptography” by Henri Cohen, Gerhard Frey, Roberto Avanzi, Christophe Doche, Tanja Lange, Kim Nguyen – This book covers the theory and practice of elliptic curve cryptography, including key management and related issues.

“Secure Key Establishment” by Colin Boyd and Anish Mathuria – This book provides a comprehensive overview of secure key establishment protocols, including key management and related issues.

List of payloads Key Management Issues

  1. SQL Injection payloads – These payloads can be used to extract sensitive information, including keys and certificates, from a vulnerable database.

  2. XSS payloads – These payloads can be used to steal sensitive information from a vulnerable web application, including keys and certificates.

  3. Directory traversal payloads – These payloads can be used to access files outside of the web root directory, potentially allowing an attacker to access keys and certificates stored on the server.

  4. Brute force attack payloads – These payloads can be used to guess passwords or keys in order to gain access to a system or network.

  5. Padding oracle attack payloads – These payloads can be used to exploit padding oracle vulnerabilities in cryptographic protocols, potentially allowing an attacker to recover keys or other sensitive information.

  6. Certificate forgery payloads – These payloads can be used to generate fake certificates or manipulate existing certificates in order to bypass security controls or gain unauthorized access.

  7. SSL/TLS attack payloads – These payloads can be used to exploit vulnerabilities in SSL/TLS protocols, potentially allowing an attacker to intercept or manipulate encrypted traffic.

  8. Cryptographic protocol downgrade payloads – These payloads can be used to downgrade cryptographic protocols, potentially allowing an attacker to bypass security controls or intercept sensitive information.

  9. Hash collision attack payloads – These payloads can be used to exploit hash collision vulnerabilities, potentially allowing an attacker to generate a fake key or certificate.

  10. Man-in-the-middle attack payloads – These payloads can be used to intercept and modify traffic between a client and server, potentially allowing an attacker to steal keys or other sensitive information.

How to be protected from Key Management Issues

  1. Use strong and unique passwords for all keys and certificates, and rotate them regularly.

  2. Use multi-factor authentication to protect against unauthorized access to keys and certificates.

  3. Use a secure key management system that provides strong encryption, access controls, and auditing.

  4. Implement a secure key exchange protocol, such as Diffie-Hellman or Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman, to protect against key interception attacks.

  5. Use a trusted certificate authority to issue and manage certificates, and implement certificate revocation lists to quickly revoke compromised certificates.

  6. Regularly monitor and analyze key usage logs to detect any suspicious activity.

  7. Implement strict access controls to limit who has access to keys and certificates.

  8. Use hardware security modules (HSMs) to protect keys and certificates from physical attacks.

  9. Regularly update and patch software and firmware that implements cryptographic protocols to prevent known vulnerabilities.

  10. Train employees and users on best practices for key management and cryptography, including how to identify and report potential security incidents.

Mitigations for Key Management Issues

  1. Implement a robust key management system that includes strong encryption, secure storage, and proper access controls.

  2. Use trusted third-party services and vendors for managing keys and certificates.

  3. Regularly rotate keys and certificates, and ensure they are stored securely.

  4. Implement multi-factor authentication for access to key management systems.

  5. Monitor key usage logs and regularly audit key management systems for potential vulnerabilities.

  6. Use hardware security modules (HSMs) to protect keys and certificates from physical attacks.

  7. Implement strict access controls to limit who has access to keys and certificates.

  8. Use secure key exchange protocols, such as Diffie-Hellman or Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman, to prevent key interception attacks.

  9. Use trusted certificate authorities to issue and manage certificates, and implement certificate revocation lists to quickly revoke compromised certificates.

  10. Stay up-to-date on the latest vulnerabilities and best practices in key management and cryptography, and regularly update and patch software and firmware that implements cryptographic protocols.

Conclusion

Key Management Issues are critical security concerns for organizations that use cryptography to protect sensitive information. These issues can lead to the compromise of keys and certificates, which can result in unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security incidents.

Overall, addressing Key Management Issues is crucial for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information, and organizations should prioritize investing in robust key management systems and implementing best practices to mitigate these risks.

Other Services

Ready to secure?

Let's get in touch