Google Completes Upgrade of its SSL Certificates to 2048-Bit RSA

Google announced today it has completed upgrading all of its SSL certificates to 2048-bit RSA or better, up from 1024.

Google announced today that it has completed the upgrade of all its SSL certificates to 2048-bit RSA or better, coming in more than a month ahead of schedule.

“We have completed this process which will allow the industry to start removing trust from weaker 1024-bit keys next year,” Google security engineer Dan Dulay said today.

Google announced in May that it had begun work on changing all its key lengths and that it wanted to do so before the end of 2013. That was a little more than two weeks before the first Edward Snowden leaks and bombshell revelations about NSA surveillance on Americans in the name of national security.

By choosing the longer key lengths, Google makes cracking the SSL connections that encrypt and secure banking transactions, email communication and more online that much tougher.

“The hardware security module that contained our old 1024-bit intermediate certificate has served us well,” Dulay said. “Its final duty after all outstanding certificates were revoked was to be carefully destroyed.”

Google’s Dulay also said that its intermediate certificate authority, the Google Internet Authority, will issue 2048-bit certificates for its websites and online services going forward.

Google has had SSL on by default in Gmail since 2010 and has been encrypting searches for logged-in users by default since October 2011. This September, Google instituted SSL by default for all searches.

Google was scheduled to start switching over to 2048-bit certificates in August, as well as changing the root certificate signing all of its SSL certificates. It also advised there could be some configurations that could cause an issue with the new certificates, in particular with embedded devices.

In particular, Google said clients must have the ability to support the normal validation of a certificate chain, along with including a properly extensive set of root certificates. There are a number of things that could cause certificate validation issues after the change, Google said, including clients that use hashes to match certificates exactly. Also, clients with hard-coded root certificates, such as those with certificates embedded in firmware, may run into problems.

The SSL protocol has stood up well to hackers, who have had to find success breaking SSL implementations or finding holes in certificate authorities to exploit. The NSA, meanwhile, has also had to get creative in beating the protocol. The most recent Snowden revelations have the NSA tapping the unecrypted fiber cables between data centers in order to siphon data on web searches, email messages and other information.

“The deprecation of 1024-bit RSA is an industry-wide effort that we’re happy to support, particularly light of concerns about overbroad government surveillance and other forms of unwanted intrusion,” Dulay said.

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