We measure the prevalence and uses of Man-in-the-Middle TLS proxies using a Flash tool deployed with a Google AdWords campaign. We generate 15.2 million certificate tests across two large-scale measurement studies and find that 1 in 250 TLS connections are intercepted by proxies. The majority of these proxies appear to be benevolent, however we identify over 3,600 cases where eight malware products are using this technology nefariously. We also find thousands of instances of negligent, duplicitous, and suspicious behavior, some of which degrade security for users without their knowledge. Distinguishing these types of practices is challenging in practice, indicating a need for transparency and user awareness. We also report the results of a survey of 1,976 individuals regarding their opinions of TLS proxies. Responses indicate that participants hold nuanced opinions on security and privacy trade-offs, with most recognizing legitimate uses for the practice, but also concerned about threats from hackers or government surveillance. There is strong support for notification and consent when a system is intercepting their encrypted traffic, although this support varies depending on the situation. A significant concern about malicious uses of TLS inspection is identity theft, and many would react negatively and some would change their behavior if they discovered inspection occurring without their knowledge. We also find that a small but significant number of participants are jaded by the current state of affairs and have lost any expectation of privacy.
College and Department
Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
ONeill, Mark Thomas, "The State of Man-in-the-Middle TLS Proxies: Prevalence and User Attitudes" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 6180.
SSL, TLS, Proxy, MITM, man in the middle, measurement, survey, AdWords, security, malware, firewall, censorship