How Heartbleed Is Changing Security

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Information at risk

According to Baumgartner, several types of data are really at risk because of the vulnerability:

  1. Private keys maintained by OpenSSL secured online services.
  2. In turn, the content of most encrypted communications secured by those keys.
  3. Any and all content maintained in memory on the vulnerable servers (webmail, PII, etc.) that should be encrypted and handled securely.
  4. In-memory characteristics of the online service, whether it's application characteristics, etc. This data may further other attacks on the service.

The immediate risk with Heartbleed was that attackers could continue to expose the vulnerability and access any data being submitted via OpenSSL. The long-term risk, said Gross, is that consumers entering a username and password into a high-traffic, low-security site that has not been fully patched will expose that data to attackers who can exploit it anywhere the same username and password are used across the Web:

Most consumers have dozens (if not hundreds) of online profiles and likely share just a handful of passwords across those sites, so the risk remains that one "lowest common denominator" gap could expose every other organization in the user's laundry list of online accounts.

Few cybersecurity issues have people talking, and worried, like the Heartbleed bug.

As Chester Wisniewski explained in a CNN article:

The bug itself is a simple, honest mistake in the computer code that was intended to reduce the computing resources encryption consumes. The problem is that this bug made it past the quality assurance tests and has been deployed across the Internet for nearly two years.

Heartbleed hit in ways that we once naturally assumed were secure. It affected OpenSSL, an open source code, and the open source community has long prided itself on its high levels of security. And it affected encryption, which every security expert recommends when asked how to best transmit data. Mike Gross, director of professional services and risk management at 41st Parameter, stated:

Heartbleed exposed a major gap in security that will have significant downstream effects on consumers for years. While the Heartbleed flaw itself had a relatively simple fix on the surface and consumer-facing sites and Web portals, the big unknown is whether all known servers and mobile apps affected by the flaw have been patched across large and complex enterprises. That's a very difficult undertaking and a single gap could expose consumers to the same data compromise risk and organizations to a repeat of the recent scramble.

What is most worrisome to many computer users is the widespread reach of Heartbleed. This isn’t a simple breach of one company or a vulnerability that has touched one software application. It affects the financial industry, small businesses, firewalls, printers, machinery in power plants. The list is seemingly endless.

How will enterprise security react to Heartbleed? Is this the push needed to finally re-evaluate passwords and other ineffective methods of network security?


Related Topics : Unisys, Stimulus Package, Security Breaches, Symantec, Electronic Surveillance

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