" Dell laptops come preinstalled with a root certificate and a corresponding private key. That completely compromises the security of encrypted HTTPS connections. I've provided an online check, affected users should delete the certificate. "
It seems that Dell hasn't learned anything from the Superfish-scandal earlier this year: Laptops from the company come with a preinstalled root certificate that will be accepted by browsers. The private key is also installed on the system and has been published now. Therefore attackers can use Man in the Middle attacks against Dell users to show them manipulated HTTPS webpages or read their encrypted data.
The certificate, which is installed in the system's certificate store under the name "eDellRoot", gets installed by a software called Dell Foundation Services. This software is still available on Dell's webpage. According to the somewhat unclear description from Dell it is used to provide "foundational services facilitating customer serviceability, messaging and support functions".
The private key of this certificate is marked as non-exportable in the Windows certificate store. However this provides no real protection, there are Tools to export such non-exportable certificate keys. A user of the plattform Reddit has posted the Key there.
For users of the affected Laptops this is a severe security risk. Every attacker can use this root certificate to create valid certificates for arbitrary web pages. Even HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP) does not protect against such attacks, because browser vendors allow locally installed certificates to override the key pinning protection. This is a compromise in the implementation that allows the operation of so-called TLS interception proxies.
It is currently unclear which purpose this certificate served. However it seems unliklely that it was placed there deliberately for surveillance purposes. In that case Dell wouldn't have installed the private key on the system.
Affected are only users that use browsers or other applications that use the system's certificate store. Among the common Windows browsers this affects the Internet Explorer, Edge and Chrome. Not affected are Firefox-users, Mozilla's browser has its own certificate store.
Users of Dell laptops can check if they are affected with an online check tool. Affected users should immediately remove the certificate in the Windows certificate manager.
The certificate manager can be started by clicking
"Start" and typing in "certmgr.msc"
The "eDellRoot" certificate can be found under "Trusted Root Certificate Authorities".
You also need to remove the file Dell.Foundation.Agent.Plugins.eDell.dll, Dell has now posted an instruction and a removal tool.
This incident is almost identical with the Superfish-incident. Earlier this year it became public that Lenovo had preinstalled a software called Superfish on its Laptops. Superfish intercepts HTTPS-connections to inject ads. It used a root certificate for that and the corresponding private key was part of the software. After that incident several other programs with the same vulnerability were identified, they all used a software module called Komodia. Similar vulnerabilities were found in other software products, for example in Privdog and in the ad blocker Adguard.
This article is mostly a translation of a German article the author wrote for Golem.de.
Image source and license: Wistula / Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons by 3.0.