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Three of the most common myths about SSL encryption

By Ashton Young
Thu 7 Jul 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

In a previous article, Blue Coat Labs pointed out that a growing number of security professionals are overconfident about the ability to handle security threats hidden in Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) communications.

The 2016 Cyberthreat Defense report from CyberEdge found that 85% of security professionals believe their organisations have this issue covered, but at the same time only 20% of next-gen firewalls (NGFWs) and unified threat management solutions (UTMs) actually inspect SSL traffic, according to a report from Gartner. Meanwhile, Blue Coat Labs found dramatic increases in malware using SSL in the last two years.

In fact, between January 2014 and September 2015, more than 500 samples of malware families were seen to be using SSL each month. In the remaining three months of 2015 this figure soared to nearly 29,000 samples. A similar trend was observed in C&C servers: in Q3 2014, Blue Coat observed approximately 1,000 C&C servers using SSL, shooting up to over 200,000 observed in Q3 2015

Some of the myths that persist about SSL traffic as well as the SSL blind spot are as follows:

  • Myth #1: Traffic protected by SSL is safe traffic. In reality, hackers love hiding threats in SSL, and the use of SSL for exploits is growing faster than SSL itself. According to a study from Gartner, by 2017, more than 50% of network attacks targeting enterprises will use SSL.
  • Myth #2: The use of SSL/TLS is holding steady. Wrong. NSS Labs3 predicts 20% growth in SSL traffic per year, and corporate adoption of cloud services and mobile apps are expected to accelerate this growth. Customers and partners in every industry segment supported by SSL also confirm its pervasiveness and rapid growth.
  • Myth #3: All we have to do is block access to unsavoury websites. Most threats actually come from legitimate websites—and many threats penetrate from inside the organisation. It’s important to selectively check both inbound and outbound SSL traffic, not just block access, to ensure secure communications and maintain continuity of operations.

There are a lot of interesting stats and figures that will assist when dealing with the SSL blind spot.

To find out more about this topic, check out this Top 10 myth buster’s interactive guide.
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