Bulletproof TLS Newsletter #50
DarkMatter from the United Arab Emirates operates a certificate authority
28 February 2019
Author: Hanno Böck

This issue was distributed to 49,416 email subscribers.

Bulletproof TLS Newsletter is a free periodic newsletter bringing you commentary and news surrounding SSL/TLS and Internet PKI, designed to keep you informed about the latest developments in this space.

In this issue:

  1. DarkMatter from the United Arab Emirates operates a certificate authority
  2. Short news

DarkMatter from the United Arab Emirates operates a certificate authority

DarkMatter, a controversial company from the United Arab Emirates, now raises questions about trust in certificate authorities.

According to a report by Reuters, DarkMatter is behind an operation called Project Raven, in which former NSA employees performed offensive hacking operations for the UAE. This project also involved spying on human rights activists—specifically including, according to Reuters, spying operations against Ahmed Mansoor, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Claudio Guarnieri, who works as a technologist for Amnesty International, pointed out that DarkMatter has applied for Mozilla’s certificate root store. Shortly afterward, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked Mozilla to reject that request and also mentioned that DarkMatter already had a working intermediate certificate capable of issuing browser-trusted TLS certificates.

The DarkMatter intermediate certificate is signed by QuoVadis, a certificate authority that was recently purchased by DigiCert.

Mozilla’s Wayne Thayer started a discussion on the Mozilla security policy list asking for opinions on how to handle this issue. “The purpose of this discussion is to determine if Mozilla should distrust DarkMatter by adding their intermediate CA certificates that were signed by QuoVadis to OneCRL, and in turn deny the pending root inclusion request,” Thayer writes.

Short news


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