Google’s Chrome browser will stop trusting all digital certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Center following a major trust breach last week that led to the issuance of unauthorized credentials for Gmail and several other Google domains.
The move could have major consequences for huge numbers of Internet users as Chrome, the world’s second most widely used browser, stops recognizing all website certificates issued by CNNIC. That could leave huge numbers of users suddenly unable to connect to banks and e-commerce sites. To give affected website operators time to obtain new credentials from a different certificate authority, Google will wait an unspecified period of time before implementing the change. Once that grace period ends, Google engineers will blacklist both CNNIC’s root and extended-validation certificates in Chrome and all other Google software.
The unauthorized certificates were issued by Egypt-based MCS Holdings, an intermediate certificate authority that operated under the authority of CNNIC. MCS used the certificates in a man-in-the-middle proxy, a device that intercepts secure connections by masquerading as the intended destination. Such devices are sometimes used by companies to monitor employees’ encrypted traffic for legal or human resources reasons. It’s the one of the first times a certificate authority has faced such a banishment since the downfall of Netherlands-based DigiNotar in 2011. Other CAs, including US-based Trustwave, have also done what CNNIC did without getting the boot. While worldwide Chrome is the No. 2 most used browser, it had a commanding, 52-percent share in China last year, compared to 23 percent for IE.
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