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One to Watch: Google vs. Symantec

There’s a storm brewing in the security world.  Google is blaming Symantec for failing to properly validate certificates.

In a Google Group post (one of those Google places most never see), Primary engineer, Ryan Sleevi, has delivered a blistering review of Symantec’s failure to protect customers.

Ryan says…

Since January 19, the Google Chrome team has been investigating a series of failures by Symantec Corporation to properly validate certificates. Over the course of this investigation, the explanations provided by Symantec have revealed a continually increasing scope of misissuance with each set of questions from members of the Google Chrome team; an initial set of reportedly 127 certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 certificates, issued over a period spanning several years. This is also coupled with a series of failures following the previous set of misissued certificates from Symantec, causing us to no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec over the past several years. To restore confidence and security of our users, we propose the following steps:

  • A reduction in the accepted validity period of newly issued Symantec-issued certificates to nine months or less, in order to minimize any impact to Google Chrome users from any further misissuances that may arise.
  • An incremental distrust, spanning a series of Google Chrome releases, of all currently-trusted Symantec-issued certificates, requiring they be revalidated and replaced.
  • Removal of recognition of the Extended Validation status of Symantec issued certificates, until such a time as the community can be assured in the policies and practices of Symantec, but no sooner than one year


Symantec has stated that the situation is overblown, but truly that’s CYA. Of course, Google security has not been the kindest of industry patrons – constantly outing flaws publicly for non-Google vendors.

This will definitely heat up before it cools down and should provide some great industry drama for the next few weeks.

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