posted March 2015
If you're up to date on crypto news you will tell me I'm slow. But here it is, my favorite explanation of the recent Freak Attack is the one from Matthew Green here
TLS uses a cipher suite during the handshake so that old machines can still chat with new machines that use new protocols. In this list of ciphers there is one called "export suite" that is a 512bits RSA public key. It was made by the government back then to spy on foreigners since 512bits is "easy" to factor. The vulnerability comes from the fact that you can still ask a server to use that 512bits public key (even though it should have been removed a long time ago). This allows you to make a man in the middle attack where you don't have to possess a spoofed certificate. You can just change the cipher request of the client during the handshake so that he would ask for that 512bits key. 36% of the servers out there would accept that and reply with such a key. From here if we are in the middle we can just factor the key and use that to generate our own private key and see all the following exchange in clear.