September 04, 2011, 5:50 PM — The tally of digital certificates stolen from a Dutch company in July has exploded to more than 500, including ones for intelligence services like the CIA, the U.K.'s MI6 and Israel's Mossad, a Mozilla developer said Sunday.
The confirmed count of fraudulently-issued SSL (secure socket layer) certificates now stands at 531, said Gervase Markham, a Mozilla developer who is part of the team that has been working to modify Firefox to blocks all sites signed with the purloined certificates.
"Now that someone (presumably from Iran) has obtained a legit HTTPS cert for CIA.gov, I wonder if the US gov will pay attention to this mess," Christopher Soghoian, a Washington D.C.-based researcher noted for his work on online privacy, said in a tweet Saturday.
Soghoian was referring to assumptions by many experts that Iranian hackers, perhaps supported by that country's government, were behind the attack. Google has pointed fingers at Iran, saying that attacks using an ill-gotten certificate for google.com had targeted Iranian users .
All the certificates were issued by DigiNotar, a Dutch issuing firm that last week admitted its network had been hacked in July .
The company claimed that it had revoked all the fraudulent certificates, but then realized it had overlooked one that could be used to impersonate any Google service, including Gmail. DigiNotar went public only after users reported their findings to Google.
Criminals or governments could use the stolen certificates to conduct "man-in-the-middle" attacks, tricking users into thinking they were at a legitimate site when in fact their communications were being secretly intercepted.
Google and Mozilla said this weekend that they would permanently block all the digital certificates issued by DigiNotar, including those used by the Dutch government.