SSL use

Anne & Lynn Wheeler lynn at
Fri May 2 15:34:19 EDT 2008

I've periodically posted that certain assumptions were made about "safe" 
SSL deployment for electronic commerce that were almost immediately 

The original assumptions assumed that the enduser knew the binding 
between the webserve that they thot they were talking to and the 
corresponding URL ... which they would then type into the browser. Then 
SSL would provide the assurance that the webserver that was actually 
being talked to corresponding URL. The two pieces together than provided 
that the enduser thot they were talking to was, in fact, the webserve 
that they were talking to.

Almost immediately merchants invalidated the assumptions when they found 
that SSL represeted 4-5 times degradation in webserver thruput ... and 
dropped back to just using SSL for payment/checkout portion of the 
electronic commerce. Now a web "button" was clicked, providing an URL. 
Now the only thing going on was that SSL would verify that whatever 
webserver, the webserver claimed to be, was the webserver it claimed.

This button clicking operation invalidated the original safety 
assumptions regarding the use of SSL for electronic commerce. The URL 
supplied by the button can be anything. Some amount of 3rd party payment 
processing outsources appeared to have taken advantage of this feature. 
A lot of phishing email also takes advantage of the paradigm also.

I was recently invited to resister at a website with a non-US country 
domain. My registration would not even closely work since it appeared to 
require IE ... and since I don't have any windows machines ... I also 
don't have any IE browser. However in the process I thot I would poke 
around a little.

I prefixed the URL with https (instead) of http. This got me a warning 
that the certificate was not for the indicated domain. When i looked at 
the certificate, it came from a certification authority that my browser 
recognized but was for a ".com" domain associated with some NIGERIAN 
payment processing operation.
I then check the ip-address of the original (non-US country) domain and 
found it mapped to some US-based webhosting company. I then check the 
ip-address of the NIGERIAN payment processing operation and found it 
mapped to some other US-based webhosting company.

I can only speculate that the first webhosting operation has some sort 
of default configuration for electronic commerce ... where SSL gets 
mapped to payment processing operation of this NIGERIAN payment 
processing operation.

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