Understanding the Pitfalls of SSLv2
With all the elements of a secure connection — cryptography, authentication, secure key exchange and message authentication — it should be a simple matter to put it all together securely, right? Well, as it turns out, even when all the pieces are in place, it's surprisingly easy to get subtly wrong. Just ask the original Netscape engineers who released SSLv2. On paper, they did everything right, but the protocol was found to have subtle, but fatal flaws after it had been widely released. To the credit of the Netscape protocol designers, everybody else thought that they had gotten everything right the first time around as well. It wasn't until the protocol had been intensively studied in action that the chinks in the armor began to show.
Because SSLv2 was widely disseminated before it was found to be flawed, it's interesting to start by examining exactly how it worked, and then move on to see what's wrong with the protocol. SSL was specified fairly rigorously and submitted as an IETF draft (http://www.mozilla.org/projects/security/pki/nss/ssl/draft02.html), but its flaws were discovered before it was accepted, so it's never been officially blessed by the IETF. Although SSLv2 has been deprecated, there are pockets of support for it, so you can easily find the protocol details.