SSL3 broken as heck


SSLv3 is older than my daughter, but is still supported by all major browsers. The latest crypto bug is a MITM (man in the middle) attack that could allow anyone with a network device (WiFi router) sitting between browser users and the destination SSLv3 server (https “secure” bank site, for instance) to snoop on the connection in plain text.

SSLv3 server stats and steps to fix your browser
POODLE attack details
#POODLE on twitter

This POODLE bites: exploiting the SSL 3.0 fallback

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Today we are publishing details of a vulnerability in the design of SSL version 3.0. This vulnerability allows the plaintext of secure connections to be calculated by a network attacker. I discovered this issue in collaboration with Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz (also Googlers).

SSL 3.0 is nearly 18 years old, but support for it remains widespread. Most importantly, nearly all browsers support it and, in order to work around bugs in HTTPS servers, browsers will retry failed connections with older protocol versions, including SSL 3.0. Because a network attacker can cause connection failures, they can trigger the use of SSL 3.0 and then exploit this issue.

Disabling SSL 3.0 support, or CBC-mode ciphers with SSL 3.0, is sufficient to mitigate this issue, but presents significant compatibility problems, even today. Therefore our recommended response is to supportTLS_FALLBACK_SCSV. This is a mechanism that solves the problems caused by retrying failed connections and thus prevents attackers from inducing browsers to use SSL 3.0. It also prevents downgrades from TLS 1.2 to 1.1 or 1.0 and so may help prevent future attacks.

Google Chrome and our servers have supported TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV since February and thus we have good evidence that it can be used without compatibility problems. Additionally, Google Chrome will begin testing changes today that disable the fallback to SSL 3.0. This change will break some sites and those sites will need to be updated quickly.

In the coming months, we hope to remove support for SSL 3.0 completely from our client products.

Thank you to all the people who helped review and discuss responses to this issue.

Posted by Bodo Möller, Google Security Team

[Updated Oct 15 to note that SSL 3.0 is nearly 18 years old, not nearly 15 years old.]

POODLE attacks on SSLv3 (14 Oct 2014)

My colleague, Bodo Möller, in collaboration with Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz (also Googlers), just posted detailsabout a padding oracle attack against CBC-mode ciphers in SSLv3. This attack, called POODLE, is similar to the BEAST attackand also allows a network attacker to extract the plaintext of targeted parts of an SSL connection, usually cookie data. Unlike the BEAST attack, it doesn’t require such extensive control of the format of the plaintext and thus is more practical.

Fundamentally, the design flaw in SSL/TLS that allows this is the same as with Lucky13 and Vaudenay’s two attacks: SSL got encryption and authentication the wrong way around – it authenticates before encrypting.

Consider the following plaintext HTTP request, which I’ve broken into 8-byte blocks (as in 3DES), but the same idea works for 16-byte blocks (as in AES) just as well:

The last block contains seven bytes of padding (represented as •) and the final byte is the length of the padding. (And I’ve used a fictional, 8-byte MAC, but that doesn’t matter.) Before transmission, those blocks would be encrypted with 3DES or AES in CBC mode to provide confidentiality.

Now consider how CBC decryption works at the receiver, thanks to this public domain diagram from Wikipedia:

block cipherdecryptionKeyPlaintextCiphertextInitialization Vector (IV)block cipherdecryptionKeyPlaintextCiphertextblock cipherdecryptionKeyPlaintextCiphertextAn attacker can’t see the plaintext contents like we can in the diagram, above. They only see the CBC-encrypted ciphertext blocks. But what happens if the attacker duplicates the block containing the cookie data and overwrites the last block with it? When the receiver decrypts the last block it XORs in the contents of the previous ciphertext (which the attacker knows) and checks the authenticity of the data. Critically, since SSLv3 doesn’t specify the contents of the padding (•) bytes, the receiver cannot check them. Thus the record will be accepted if, and only if, the last byte ends up as a seven.

An attacker can run Javascript in any origin in a browser and cause the browser to make requests (with cookies) to any other origin. If the attacker does this block duplication trick they have a 1-in-256 chance that the receiver won’t reject the record and close the connection. If the receiver accepts the record then the attacker knows that the decryption of the cookie block that they duplicated, XORed with the ciphertext of the previous block, equals seven. Thus they’ve found the last byte of the cookie using (on average) 256 requests.

Now the attacker can increase the length of the requested URL and decrease the length of something after the cookies and make the request look like this:

Note that the Cookie data has been shifted so that the second to last byte of the data is now at the end of the block. So, with another 256 requests the attacker can expect to have decrypted that byte and so on.

Thus, with an average of 256×n requests and a little control of the layout of those requests, an attacker can decrypt n bytes of plaintext from SSLv3. The critical part of this attack is that SSLv3 doesn’t specify the contents of padding bytes (the •s). TLS does and so this attack doesn’t work because the attacker only has a 2-64 or 2-128 chance of a duplicated block being a valid padding block.

This should be an academic curiosity because SSLv3 was deprecated very nearly 15 years ago. However, the Internet is vast and full of bugs. The vastness means that a non-trivial number of SSLv3 servers still exist and workarounds for the bugs mean that an attacker can convince a browser to use SSLv3 even when both the browser and server support a more recent version. Thus, this attack is widely applicable.

SSL/TLS has a perfectly good version negotiation mechanism that should prevent a browser and server that support a modern TLS version from using anything less. However, because some servers are buggy and don’t implement version negotiation correctly, browsers break this mechanism by retrying connections with lesser SSL/TLS versions when TLS handshaking fails. These days we’re more aware of the fact that fallback behaviour like this is a landmine for the future (as demonstrated today) but this TLS fallback behaviour was enshrined long ago and we’re stuck with it. It means that, by injecting some trivial errors on the network, an attacker can cause a browser to speak SSLv3 to any server and then run the above attack.

What’s to be done?

It’s no revelation that this fallback behaviour is bad news. In fact, Bodo and I have a draft out for a mechanism to add a second, less bug-rusted mechanism to prevent it called TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV. Chrome and Google have implemented it since February this year and so connections from Chrome to Google are already protected. We are urging server operators and other browsers to implement it too. It doesn’t just protect against this specific attack, it solves the fallback problem in general. For example, it stops attackers from downgrading TLS 1.2 to 1.1 and 1.0 and thus removing modern, AEAD ciphers from a connection. (Remember, everything less than TLS 1.2 with an AEAD mode is cryptographically broken.) There should soon be an updated OpenSSL version that supports it.

Even with TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV, there will be a long tail of servers that don’t update. Because of that, I’ve just landed a patchon Chrome trunk that disables fallback to SSLv3 for all servers. This change will break things and so we don’t feel that we can jump it straight to Chrome’s stable channel. But we do hope to get it there within weeks and so buggy servers that currently function only because of SSLv3 fallback will need to be updated.

Chrome users that just want to get rid of SSLv3 can use the command line flag --ssl-version-min=tls1 to do so. (We used to have an entry in the preferences for that but people thought that “SSL 3.0” was a higher version than “TLS 1.0” and would mistakenly disable the latter.)

In Firefox you can go into about:config and set security.tls.version.min to 1. I expect that other browser vendors will publish similar instructions over the coming days.As a server operator, it is possible to stop this attack by disabling SSLv3, or by disabling CBC-mode ciphers in SSLv3. However, the compatibility impact of this is unclear. Certainly, disabling SSLv3 completely is likely to break IE6. Some sites will be happy doing that, some will not.

A little further down the line, perhaps in about three months, we hope to disable SSLv3 completely. The changes that I’ve just landed in Chrome only disable fallback to SSLv3 – a server that correctly negotiates SSLv3 can still use it. Disabling SSLv3 completely will break even more than just disabling the fallback but SSLv3 is now completely broken with CBC-mode ciphers and the only other option is RC4, which is hardly that attractive. Any servers depending on SSLv3 are thus on notice that they need to address that now.

We hardened SSLv3 and TLS 1.0 against the BEAST attack with 1/n-1 record splitting and, based on an idea by Håvard Molland, it is possible to do something called anti-POODLE record splitting this time. I’ll omit the details, but one can ensure that the last block in a CBC record contains at least fixed six bytes using only one split for AES and two for 3DES. With this, CBC is probably less bad than RC4. However, while anti-POODLE record splitting should be easy to deploy because it’s valid according to the spec, so was 1/n-1 and deploying that was very painful. Thus there’s a high risk that this would also cause compatibility problems. Therefore I’m not proceeding with anti-POODLE record splitting and concentrating on removing SSLv3 fallback instead. (There’s also the possibility that an attacker could run the attack on the server to client direction. If we assume that both the client and the server get patched then we might as well assume that they are patched forTLS_FALLBACK_SCSV, which makes record splitting moot.)




On Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Google released details on the POODLE attack, a padding oracle attack that targets CBC-mode ciphers in SSLv3. The vulnerability allows an active MITM attacker to decrypt content transferred an SSLv3 connection. While secure connections primarily use TLS (the successor to SSL), most users were vulnerable because web browsers and servers will downgrade to SSLv3 if there are problems negotiating a TLS session.

There are several excellent articles about the attack. Adam Langley (Google) has published technical details of the attack. Matthew Green (Johns Hopkins University) has also posted a less technical blog post on the attack and Google has released a security advisory.

This site includes several sections:


This report is maintained by computer scientists at the University of Michigan including Zakir Durumeric, David Adrian, James Kasten, Drew Springall, Michael Bailey, and J. Alex Halderman. The team can be contacted at

Who is Affected?

Websites that support SSLv3 and CBC-mode ciphers are potentially vulnerable to an active MITM attack (even if the site supports TLS). We have been performing scans of the Alexa Top 1 Million Domains and the full public IPv4 address space to measure (1) the highest TLS version that each site supports and (2) whether sites support SSLv3 at all. Servers that support SSLv3 (along with TLS) are vulnerable to the attack. Sites that only support SSLv3 (and do not support TLS) are not only vulnerable, but are holding back web browsers from removing support for the compromised protocol.

Alexa Top 1 Million Domains

As of October 12, 2014, nearly all (96.9%) of the HTTPS Alexa Top 1 Million websites supported SSLv3, and a small number (0.12%) did not support any version of TLS.

In order to check for SSLv3 and TLS support, we performed DNS lookups for each of the domains, and then connected to each IP address and recorded the highest version of TLS supported. We then performed a secondary SSLv3 handshake to determine whether each site supported SSLv3. The numbers represent which sites support SSLv3, not which sites support SSLv3 and also prefer a CBC-mode cipher suite. We will be posting updated numbers in the near future with this distinction.

We have posted a list of Alexa domains that support SSLv3, but not TLS at the bottom of the page. We have also posted our raw data for the Alexa domains.


Highest TLS Version Sites Percentage
HTTP Only 392,956 (41.2% of All Alexa)
SSLv3 1,186 (0.12% of Alexa, 0.02% of HTTPS Alexa)
TLS 1.0 229,001 (24.0% of Alexa, 40.9% of HTTPS Alexa)
TLS 1.1 3,820 (0.4% of Alexa, 0.7% of HTTPS Alexa)
TLS 1.2 326,479 (34.2% of Alexa, 58.3% of HTTPS Alexa)
SSLv3 Support Sites Percentage
SSLv3 Supported 542,902 (96.9% of HTTPS Alexa)
No SSLv3 Support 17,584 (3.1% of HTTPS Alexa)

Browser Trusted Certificates (Public IPv4 Address Space)

A slightly higher percentage (98.2%) of all sites with browser trusted certificates support SSLv3. In order to measure the deployment of SSL for the full IPv4 address space, we performed a port scan on port 443 for the entire public IPv4 address space using the ZMap Internet Scanner. We attempted to perform both a TLS handshake and SSLv3 handshake to determine both the highest version of TLS that each host supported and whether SSLv3 was supported at all. We then performed certificate validation using the golang TLS library and Mozilla NSS’s root certificate store. We have also posted our raw data for public IPv4 addresses which only support SSLv3.


Highest TLS Version Sites
SSLv3 0.8%
TLS 1.0 35.4%
TLS 1.1 0.4%
TLS 1.2 63.4%
SSLv3 Support Sites
SSLv3 Supported 98.1%
No SSLv3 Support 1.19%

All Certificates (Public IPv4 Address Space)

We also show the breakdown of support for all hosts on the public IPv4 address space, which was collected using the same methodology as Browser Trusted Certificates, but without any certificate validation.


Highest TLS Version Sites
SSLv3 2.8%
TLS 1.0 59.7%
TLS 1.1 0.6%
TLS 1.2 36.9%
SSLv3 Support Sites
SSLv3 Supported 96.9%
No SSLv3 Support 3.1%

Alexa HTTPS Sites Without TLS Support

The following websites in the Alexa Top 1 Million supported SSLv3, but did not support any versions of TLS in our last scan on October 14, 2014 at 10:00 PM EST. These sites are holding back web browsers from removing support for the compromised SSLv3 protocol. We urge these sites to deploy TLS.


Alexa Rank Domain