The FREAK vulnerability refers to a weakness in the Secure Sockets Layer ( SSL ) /Transport Layer Security ( TLS ) protocols caused by the consumption of ‘ export-grade ’ encoding. The name stands for ‘ Factoring RSA Export Keys ’ .
The terror allows an attacker to make a vulnerable node use a weaker encoding cipher — weaker key switch over cipher — and in this way gain entree to the datum traffic. This is due to the fact that when using 512 or fewer bits, the RSA encoding can be easily broken .
In the sections below, you can find out the essentials about the FREAK vulnerability and how you can make sure you ’ rhenium protected against it .

What Is the FREAK Attack?

The FREAK vulnerability is a major security SSL/TLS failing that has its roots in the 1990s.

back then, the U.S. government required that software, which was to be used outside of the nation needed to employ cipher suites that contain less than 512 bits. They were called ‘ export zero suites. ’ The determination of this meter was to regulate the practice of hard encoding protocols for export software, so it had to employ weaker encoding .
The rules were changed in 2000 when the U.S. export laws were updated. however, the 1990s-era ‘ export-grade ’ cryptanalysis stayed in many software solutions. While the protection such keys provided in the 1990s was solid, today they can be cracked in a couple of hours and with minimum fiscal investment. This makes millions of users vulnerable to a classic attack scenario — the Man-in-the-Middle attack .
Explanation and Prevention for FREAK Vulnerability - Crashtest Security

How Do FREAK Vulnerabilities Work?

In effect, the FREAK vulnerability allows hackers to gain access to a web site ’ mho individual key by intercepting HTTPS connections between clients and vulnerable servers. This, in turn, means they can decrypt login cookies, passwords, recognition card information, and other vulnerable data from HTTPS connections .
The reason for the weakness is that the customer is forced to use an ‘ export-grade ’ key or 512-bit export RSA keystone — which is much easier to track and break than contemporary encoding standards, practically jeopardizing plug connections .
How precisely does this work ? An attacker can ask for ‘ export RSA ’ rather of the standard RSA cipher suites through the client ’ second Hello message. The server then answers with a 512-bit-long export cipher key rather of today ’ s high-security keys. The response is signed with its long-run key .
The web site client takes in the decrepit ‘ export-grade ’ key, allowing the Man-in-the-Middle attacker to get the RSA decoding key and use the ‘ pre-master mysterious ’ to gain entree to the TLS ‘ victor secret ’, which is employed for symmetrical encoding of messages in the connection. Afterward, the attacker can inject malicious code into the plaintext file — the perfume of command injection risks .

Discovery of the Vulnerability

As history shows, the seeds for the FREAK attack were sow three decades earlier by the U.S. government ’ randomness requirements for export software. however, the security system community didn ’ thymine notice the FREAK vulnerability until it was identified in 2015 by security researchers — security technical Karthikeyan Bhargavan from the french Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation ( INRIA ) and researchers from miTLS, a articulation center between Microsoft Research and INRIA. The IMDEA Software Institute besides contributed to the research of the threat. The vulnerability was called CVE-2015-0204 .
The FREAK assail is found to be similar to the POODLE attack, or ‘ Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption ’. The POODLE vulnerability allows attackers to force the solid SSL/TLS security cortege to use the weakest protection. however, the FREAK threat impacts only SSL/TLS implementations which allow ‘ export-grade ’ insecure ciphers using RSA encoding .
The vulnerability is thought by some cyber security experts to be intentionally created by governments in order to ensure a surveillance ‘ back door ’ for authorities.


After the discovery, researchers found out that the FREAK vulnerability has exposed millions of users for decades. It affects both Apple and Android vulnerable devices — through OpenSSL versions 1.01k and earlier and Apple ’ s Secure Transport .
The scale of the vulnerability was thus significant, making it an industry-wide consequence with goodly potential for harmful cyber attacks. OpenSSL is used by Android browsers and many other applications. Apple ’ s Secure transportation, on the early hand, is used in both io and OS X applications, affecting iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Microsoft Windows was besides found to be vulnerable through the Secure Channel, besides known as Schannel, a security system corroborate provider ( SSP ) .
In general, a few conditions had to be met to make a arrangement vulnerable to the FREAK proficiency :

  • The server has to support RSA cipher suits that were deemed ‘export-grade’ encryption;
  • The client has to offer export-grade insecure cipher suites, use an OpenSSL version that is vulnerable, use Apple SecureTransport, or use Windows Secure Channel/Schannel. 

Through a scan of 14 million websites, researchers Alex Halderman, Zakir Durumeric, and David Adrian at the University of Michigan found out that 36 % of SSL websites were vulnerable to the terror. These included the FBI, Bloomberg, Nielsen, Business Insider, and many more .

Post-Discovery Action

OpenSSL, Google and Apple cursorily reacted with patches that address the FREAK vulnerability .
Apple intersection security teams deployed patches that fixed the return in both computer and mobile devices. The Safari browser was found to not be vulnerable to the threat .
Google distributed an Android patch and updated the Chrome browser for Mac. It besides encouraged all vulnerable websites to stop hold for ‘ export-grade ’ certificates .

FREAK Vulnerability Security Assessment

Security Assessment Prevent SSL FREAK CVSS Vector : ab : N/AC : M/Au : N/C : N/I : P/A : N

How to Prevent the FREAK Vulnerability in Your Systems

In the consequence of the discovery, it was advised to disable patronize for export versions of cipher suites and all other ciphers whose security is questionable. There was besides specific shape steering for nonpayment configurations, american samoa well as advice for cipher suite enforcement policies .
You can use our in-depth resource on Secure TLS Configuration to make sure you use only firm cipher suites which are not susceptible to the FREAK threat .
Is your network app or API truly protected ? With Crashtest Security ’ second brawny Vulnerability Testing Software, you can check for the FREAK vulnerability and exchangeable threats — to determine if your systems are safe .

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