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April 8, 2014

Heart Bleed Bug Could Compromise Large Part of the Internet

Image courtesy of (renjith krishnan) /

There is a major flaw in the security of the World Wide Web — one that has even Internet security firms feeling a little panicked.

A massive vulnerability has been found in OpenSSL, the open-source software package broadly used to encrypt Web communications. The flaw allows attackers to steal the information that is normally protected by SSL/TLS encryption, which is used to protect Web applications, e-mail communications, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs).

Essentially, that means a lot of Internet users are affected. And potentially, passwords, private communications and even credit card information could be available to hackers courtesy of this newly-discovered bug.

heartbleedDubbed the Heart Bleed Bug, the flaw was jointly discovered by a team of security engineers at Codenomicon and Neel Mehta of Google Security.

“The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software,” reads a Web page devoted to explaining the massive bug.

“This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.”

The security researches added that they tested their own services to see how bad the flaw is — and it is BAD.

“We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving a trace,” the post reads. “Without using any privileged information or credentials we were able steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, e-mails and business critical documents and communication.”

The security experts say the Internet will remain vulnerable as long as the flawed version of OpenSSL is in use. Although Fixed OpenSSL has been released, it must be deployed.

“Operating system vendors and distribution, appliance vendors, independent software vendors have to adopt the fix and notify their users,” the post says. “Service providers and users have to install the fix as it becomes available for the operating systems, networked appliances and software they use.”

The following is an excerpt from the website’s Q&A on the Heart Bleed Bug and how it affects the average user:

Q: Am I affected by the bug?

A: You are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. Your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL. Many of online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.

Q: Can I detect if someone has exploited this against me?

A: Exploitation of this bug leaves no traces of anything abnormal happening to the logs.

Q: Is there a bright side to all this?

A: For those service providers who are affected this is a good opportunity to upgrade security strength of the secret keys used. A lot of software gets updates which otherwise would have not been urgent. Although this is painful for the security community, we can rest assured that infrastructure of the cyber criminals and their secrets have been exposed as well.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.