HTTPS is a protocol widely used for securing communication over the Internet. Having HTTPS, the site protects the privacy of the exchanged data.
Organizations that apply some kind of financial transaction or that ask for personal info on their website, have enabled HTTPS encryption since users trust HTTPS more that HTTP sites for these kind of services.
HTTPS encryption is not 100% safe
Recently a Dutch security researcher Guido Vranken revealed that even HTTPS sites are no longer 100% safe since hackers can exploit a vulnerability they found by using a ‘HTTPS Bicycle Attack.’
The danger behind this kind of attack is that they can pass security controls without being noticed due to its passive nature. Moreover, it can extract some sensitive information from HTTPS data streams.
HTTPS Bicycle Attack, using a side-channel attack, has the capability to determine the length of specific parts of the plain-text data underneath captured TLS packets.
Main points of HTTPS Bicycle Attack:
• Must have a package that has HTTPS (TLS) traffic from a browser to a website
• TLS traffic must use a stream-based cipher
• Finds and decrypts unknown data as far as the rest of the data is known such us passwords, GPS data and IP addresses
Even though this sounds quite dangerous there are few hard prerequisites that the attacker has to fulfil in order to breach data.
How can this kind of Attack be Mitigated?
As it is always advised, users should have strong password that can help a lot in avoiding these attacks. For sites on the other hand, just like Twitter has, two-factor authentication will definitely decrease the possibility of data breach through this attack.
In order to protect yourself from HTTPS Bicycle Attack, Mr. Vranken, researcher who revealed it, suggest to webmaster to turn off support for TLS stream-ciphers, to always use the latest version of the TLS protocol and add padding to any info or data sent via HTTPS, to cover its actual length.
If you want to find out more, click here to read the full research paper.