Prevent Spying- In a move to protect its users based in Kazakhstan from government surveillance, Google, Apple and Mozilla finally today came forward and blocked Kazakhstan’s government-issued root CA certificate within their respective web browsing software.
Starting today, Chrome, Safari and Firefox users in Kazakhstan will see an error message stating that the “Qaznet Trust Network” certificate should not be trusted when attempting to access a website that responds with the government-issued certificate.
As The Hacker News reported last month, all major Kazakh Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are forcing their customers into installing a government-issued root certificate on their devices in order to regain access to their Internet services.
The root certificate in question, labeled as “trusted certificate” or “national security certificate,” if installed, allows ISPs to intercept, monitor, and decrypt users’ encrypted HTTPS and TLS connections, helping the government spy on its 18 million people and censor content.
Once installed, the certificate allowed the Kazakh government to decrypt and read anything a user visiting popular sites—Facebook, Twitter, and Google, among others—types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.
“When a user in Kazakhstan installs the root certificate provided by their ISP, they are choosing to trust a CA that doesn’t have to follow any rules and can issue a certificate for any website to anyone,” Mozilla explained in a blog post published today.
“This enables the interception and decryption of network communications between Firefox and the website, sometimes referred to as a Monster-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack.”
Making installation of the custom root CA certificate not just allow the government to surveil its citizens’ online activities, but also leaves them at risk of social engineering attacks as an opportunity for hackers to trick users into installing a malicious root cert from unofficial websites and sources.