It's been a while since there was a computer security bug we all had to worry about.Unfortunately, it seems like we may all have been facing one for two years and not even realized it.
Yesterday, security researchers announced a security flaw in OpenSSL, a popular data encryption standard, that gives hackers who know about it the ability to extract massive amount of data from the services that we use every day and assume are mostly secure.
This isn't simply a bug in some app that can quickly be updated - the vulnerability is in on the machines that power services that transmit secure information, like Facebook and Gmail.
What is the Heartbleed bug?
Heartbleed is a flaw in OpenSSL, the open-source encryption standard used by the majority of sites on the web that need to transmit data users want to keep secure. It basically gives you a "secure line" when you're sending an email or chatting on IM.
Encryption works by making it so that data being sent looks like nonsense to anyone but the the intended recipient.
Occasionally, one computer might want to check that there's still a computer at the end of its secure connection, so it will send out what's known as a "heartbeat," a small packet of data that asks for a response.
Due to a programming error in the implementation of OpenSSL, the researchers found that it was possible to send a well-disguised packet of data that looked like one of these heartbeats to trick the computer at the other end of a connection into sending over data stored in its memory.
How bad is that?
It's really bad. Web servers can keep a lot of information in their active memory, including user names, passwords, and even the content that user have uploaded to a service. But worse even than that, the flaw has made it possible for hackers to steal encryption keys, the codes used to turn gibberish encrypted data into readable information.
With encryption keys, hackers can intercept encrypted data moving to and from a site's servers and read it without establishing a secure connection. This means that unless the companies running vulnerable servers change their keys, even future traffic will be susceptible.
Am I affected?
Probably, though again, this isn't simply an issue on your computer or phone itself - it's in the software that powers the services you use.
What are we doing ?
We have already updated all our Hosting Servers with the latest patch by OpenSSL.
So what can I do to protect myself? My site is vulnerable. What should I do ?
Since the vulnerability has been in OpenSSL for approximately two years and utilizing it leaves no trace, assume that your accounts may be compromised. You should change passwords immediately, especially for services where privacy or security are major concerns. Its also advisable to reissue all the certificates in case your website uses one.
For more information regarding the Vulnerability, an extensive FAQ is available through the site : www.heartbleed.com