Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

This is actually the subject of some debate, believe it or not, there is a good argument against it.

Here is the crux of the issue, many TLS middleware providers install their own root certificate for network monitoring, data loss prevention, security scanning and so on. I personally would like them to stop doing that or at least make it obvious to end users it's happening. However, in order to modify the root store, they must have been authorized to do so by the Administrator, and it's their network or hardware.

If we try to make it obvious to users that this inspection is happening, these providers will switch to using alternative methods, such as using Microsoft Detours - which would be even worse, now you have random vendors patching security critical code in such a way that is not discoverable for end-users. This cannot be prevented, because they must already have Administrator access or they wouldn't have been able to modify the root certificate store in the first place.

In this Kazakhstan scenario, imagine if adding the government certificate put a red dot that said "You are being monitored". If the government didn't like that, they could instead require you to install monitor.exe that had the exact same effect, but didn't show the dot by patching and hooking all the crypto APIs. I find this argument against adding an obvious indicator quite compelling.

In this case though, it seems like the government has no problem with telling people they're being monitored. The fact that they're willing to tell people to install a TLS certificate is indicative of that.

I think companies in the US are legally required to provide similar disclosure when monitoring their employees, so I don't see why they'd have a problem with a persistent indicator like that.

In this case though, it seems like the government has no problem with telling people they're being monitored

Not at all. They spin it as providing security:

"Due to frequent cases of theft of personal and credential data, as well as money from bank accounts of Kazakhstan, a security certificate was introduced that will become an effective tool for protecting the country’s information space from hackers, Internet fraudsters and other types of cyber threats.


What is a security certificate?

A security certificate is an electronic certificate that allows to protect Internet users from content that is prohibited by the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as from malicious and potentially dangerous content. The security certificate is intended to provide subscribers of cellular communication in Kazakhstan with Internet access in the most secure manner."

(source: https://www.kcell.kz/ru/product/3585/658 -- but this text seems to be coming from government, since it's quoted by all providers).

I'm curious how many people would realise that installing a root certificate implies the government wants to spy on their traffic.

It's going to be a lot fewer than the people who'd be able to understand they'd need to do X to keep the internet working.

This is a silly argument. You might as well say that Firefox should include an option to silently submit all your keystrokes to a designated endpoint, because after all if you have access to set that option you have access to install a keylogger.

So what if they could, in theory, work around the indicator by asking users to install some dubious live-patching executable? Firstly, the users wouldn't have to do so - the enforcement mechanism here is ultimately the MITM itself, so as long as the users just installed the certificate they could continue to access sites (they would have to make the certificate available separately, for installation on iOS / Android / ChromeOS etc). Secondly, the security implications of live-patching the executable are mostly irrelevant, because the only people installing this have already lost the security game. Thirdly, there is a benefit in making the bastards work for it - keeping that live-patcher up-to-date and working against a range of target executable versions is going to be bitter work.

Companies will typically want their employees to know they are being monitored for legal reasons (as well as deterrence), so it seems like they'd have no reason to want to hide this?

Maybe clicking on the red dot could show a page with company policy.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact