Interview  Back in late 2010,

Curious tale of broken VPNs, the Year 2038, and certs that expired 100 years ago

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2024-02-10 08:30:03

Interview Back in late 2010, "Zimmie" was working in IT support for a vendor that made VPN devices and an associated operating system. He got a call on a Monday from a customer – a large specialty retailer in the US – about its VPN hardware that had stopped working over the weekend.

After looking into the report, the problem appeared to be the result of a certificate validation failure, as he described in a recent post on Mastodon.

"My then-employer's VPN devices are managed by a central server," explained Zimmie to The Register. "This server runs its own certificate authority (CA) which it uses to sign certificates for all the devices. The VPN endpoints then use these to authenticate to the management server (eg, when sending logs) and to each other (mostly for VPNs). The CA is a core part of the management software."

Zimmie told us he preferred not to publicly identify himself, the vendor, or its customer so as not to embarrass anyone. But he was okay with The Register recounting his tale.

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