Overall, though, the transition should be more of an annoyance than anything else, Pironti says. As certificates issued to businesses expire, they are generally replaced with certs using longer keys, he says, so there might not be so many that remain in use.
There are commercial tools for finding and automatically replacing certificates that are too short, Pironti says. Among them is Director made by Venafi, which contributed to the latest NIST Information Technology Laboratory bulletin on certificate authority compromise and fraudulent certificates.
NIST currently has set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2013 for when entities ought to stop using 1,024-bit RSA and DSA encryption. "However, since such keys are more and more likely to be broken as the 2013 date approaches, the data owner must understand and accept the risk of continuing to use these keys to generate digital signatures," according to a special publication called "Transitions: Recommendation for Transitioning the Use of Cryptographic Algorithms and Key Lengths" published in 2011.
Microsoft is updating its operating systems in the wake of the Flame malware used to spy on networks in Iran. Flame exploited Micrsoft's use of the MD5 hashing algorithm in authenticating Windows Update. Microsoft officially disallowed its use in 2009 but failed to weed it out of its own products, particularly Terminal Server Licensing Service. Researchers figured out how to compromise MD5 using what they call collision attacks to obtain fraudulent certificates that are accepted as real.
Since Flame was publicized, Microsoft has started a campaign not only to shut down use of MD5 but also beef up other areas that have not fallen victim to attackers.
The August update will follow on yesterday's security advisory revoking trust for 28 certificates that fail the company's own recently upgraded security standards for the public key infrastructure underpinning Windows Update.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)
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