Cyber Security

POODLE (Padding Oracle on Downgrade Legacy Encryption)

The POODLE attack (which stands for “Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption”) is a man-in-the-middle exploit which takes advantage of Internet and security software clients’ fallback to SSL 3.0.

If attackers successfully exploit this vulnerability, on average, they only need to make 256 SSL 3.0 requests to reveal one byte of encrypted messages. Bodo Möller, Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz from the Google Security Team discovered this vulnerability; they disclosed the vulnerability publicly on October 14, 2014 (despite the paper being dated “September 2014” ). On December 8, 2014 a variation of the POODLE vulnerability that affected TLS was announced.

The CVE-ID associated with the original POODLE attack is CVE-2014-3566. F5 Networks filed for CVE-2014-8730 as well, see POODLE attack against TLS section below.

POODLE exemplifies a vulnerability that succeeds because of a mechanism designed for reducing security for the sake of interoperability. When designing systems in domains with high levels of fragmentation, then, extra care is appropriate. In such domains, graceful security degradation may become common.


To mitigate the POODLE attack, one approach is to completely disable SSL 3.0 on the client side and the server side. However, some old clients and servers do not support TLS 1.0 and above. Thus, the authors of the paper on POODLE attacks also encourage browser and server implementation of TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV, which will make downgrade attacks impossible.

Another mitigation is to implement “anti-POODLE record splitting”. It splits the records into several parts and ensures none of them can be attacked. However the problem of the splitting is that, though valid according to the specification, it may also cause compatibility issues due to problems in server-side implementations.

A full list of browser versions and levels of vulnerability to different attacks (including POODLE) can be found in the article Transport Layer Security.

Opera 25 implemented this mitigation in addition to TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV.

Google’s Chrome browser and their servers had already supported TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV. Google stated in October 2014 it was planning to remove SSL 3.0 support from their products completely within a few months. Fallback to SSL 3.0 has been disabled in Chrome 39, released in November 2014. SSL 3.0 has been disabled by default in Chrome 40, released in January 2015.

Mozilla disabled SSL 3.0 in Firefox 34 and ESR 31.3, which were released in December 2014, and added support of TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV in Firefox 35.

Microsoft published a security advisory to explain how to disable SSL 3.0 in Internet Explorer and Windows OS, and on October 29, 2014, Microsoft released a fix which disables SSL 3.0 in Internet Explorer on Windows Vista / Server 2003 and above and announced a plan to disable SSL 3.0 by default in their products and services within a few months. Microsoft disabled fallback to SSL 3.0 in Internet Explorer 11 for Protect Mode sites on February 10, 2015, and for other sites on April 14, 2015.

Apple’s Safari (on OS X 10.8, iOS 8.1 and later) mitigated against POODLE by removing support for all CBC protocols in SSL 3.0, however, this left RC4 which is also completely broken by the RC4 attacks in SSL 3.0.. POODLE was completely mitigated in OS X 10.11 (El Capitan 2015) and iOS 9 (2015).

To prevent the POODLE attack, some web services dropped support of SSL 3.0. Examples include CloudFlare and Wikimedia.

Network Security Services version 3.17.1 (released on October 3, 2014) and (released on October 27, 2014) introduced support for TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV, and NSS will disable SSL 3.0 by default in April 2015. OpenSSL versions 1.0.1j, 1.0.0o and 0.9.8zc, released on October 15, 2014, introduced support for TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV. LibreSSL version 2.1.1, released on October 16, 2014, disabled SSL 3.0 by default.

Related Articles