Friday, April 11, 2014

Heartbleed bug leaves millions of users vulnerable

Web administrators and computer security researchers on Tuesday scrambled to fix a serious vulnerability in OpenSSL encryption used by thousands of web servers, including those run by email and web chat providers. The bug, dubbed Heartbleed, "allows anyone on the internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software".

In other words hackers or cyber criminals can use the Heartbleed bug to steal private encryption keys from a server that is using OpenSSL protocols of SSL/TLS encryption and then snoop on the user data, including passwords. There are reports that servers of Yahoo, Imgur and Flickr have been affected. However, this is around two-year-old bug and hence no one knows for sure how many people have exploited it at how many servers have been compromised.

The bug is so serious and widespread that Tor Project, which manages the anonymous Tor network, has advised web users to go offline for a while. "If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the internet, you might want to stay away from the internet entirely for the next few days while things settle," it said in a blog post.

OpenSSL Project has created a website called to inform web users and web masters about the bug."The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. 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 on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users," explained a note posted on the website.

In a separate note OpenSSL Project said that the bug was discovered by Neel Mehta, a security researcher working with Google. It also said the "affected users should upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g". The key bit to note here is that by users OpenSSL doesn't mean the web users but web server administrators who use OpenSSL protocols.
The reason why the Heartbleed bug has caused panic among server administrators and security researchers is because how it affects servers. "This bug has left large amount of private keys and other secrets exposed to the internet. Considering the long exposure, ease of exploitation and attacks leaving no trace this exposure should be taken seriously," explained the Heartbleed website. "Leaked (private) secret keys allow the attacker to decrypt any past and future traffic to the protected services and to impersonate the service at will."

In an answer to a question — Am I affected by the bug? — the OpenSSL website notes, "you are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly".

"OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS 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," noted the website.

To Consumers:

There are complex conditions as to whether your data may or may not have been retrieved, and you should assume details like passwords may have been stolen, but a blind reset of everything could actually make it more likely that you lose your details. You need to reset passwords once a provider has patched.

Attackers may soon start sending fake notifications and links pretending to offer help or magic solutions. Be extra cautious on the web, not just because of Heartbleed but also the cyber criminals tend to jump on hot topics to launch nasty code and secondary attack campaigns.

Fix / Solution:
Affected users should upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g. Users unable to immediately upgrade can alternatively recompile OpenSSL with -DOPENSSL_NO_HEARTBEATS

Mitigation Perspective:

From a technical mitigation perspective, check that your IT security team do the following. If you just apply the patch you haven’t really mitigated the risk. In some cases the vulnerability may have allowed attackers access to other sensitive security information or tokens, so additional steps may be required.

  • · Apply the patch
  • · Generate a new certificate and a new key (failure to do this and patch means attackers may still be able to intercept and man in the middle customers private content)
  • · Revoke the old certificate and key (important, many are forgetting this)
  • · Restart the service (many also forgetting this leaving the old secrets or version loaded)
  • · Validate you are no longer vulnerable with the numerous test scripts available.
  • · Check all your servers and services, not just the most obvious candidates. Backup servers, hot stand by and others may still be vulnerable.
  • · Check for any evidence of malpractice (though unlikely available) and instigate incident response procedures and customer notification as required. Perform a risk assessment too to identify any tokens or sensitive data that may have been lost which provide attackers with alternative channels.

Affected / Unaffected versions of Open SSL :

We are listing the affected / unaffected versions of Open SSL software’s as below:

Affected :

OpenSSL 1.0.2-beta

OpenSSL 1.0.1 - OpenSSL 1.0.

UnAffected :

OpenSSL 1.0.2-beta2 (upcoming)

OpenSSL 1.0.1g

OpenSSL 1.0.0 (and 1.0.0 branch releases)

OpenSSL 0.9.8 (and 0.9.8 branch releases)

Vulnerable OS:

Ubuntu Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS i386
Ubuntu Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS amd64
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor for RHEL 6 0
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation Optional 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Optional 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux HPC Node Optional 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux HPC Node 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop Optional 6
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 6
Oracle Enterprise Linux 6.2
Oracle Enterprise Linux 6
OpenSSL Project OpenSSL 1.0.1c
OpenSSL Project OpenSSL 1.0.1a
OpenSSL Project OpenSSL 1.0.1
Gentoo Linux
Debian Linux 6.0 sparc
Debian Linux 6.0 s/390
Debian Linux 6.0 powerpc
Debian Linux 6.0 mips
Debian Linux 6.0 ia-64
Debian Linux 6.0 ia-32
Debian Linux 6.0 arm
Debian Linux 6.0 amd64
Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Server (VCS) 0
Cerberus Cerberus FTP Server
CentOS CentOS 6

Cisco Vulnerable Products: 

Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client for iOS [CSCuo17488]
Cisco Desktop Collaboration Experience DX650
Cisco Unified 7800 series IP Phones
Cisco Unified 8961 IP Phone
Cisco Unified 9951 IP Phone
Cisco Unified 9971 IP Phone
Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Server (VCS) [CSCuo16472]
Cisco IOS XE [CSCuo19730]
Cisco Unified Communication Manager (UCM) 10.0
Cisco Universal Small Cell 5000 Series running V3.4.2.x software
Cisco Universal Small Cell 7000 Series running V3.4.2.x software
Small Cell factory recovery root filesystem V2.99.4 or later
Cisco MS200X Ethernet Access Switch
Cisco Mobility Service Engine (MSE)
Cisco TelePresence Conductor
Cisco WebEx Meetings Server versions 2.x


  1. The risk is widely sensationalized and is largely over-rated. The bug reads up to 64k bytes of data from a vulnerable server and returns it to the attacker. This is definitely a problem and needs to be fixed but does not directly expose passwords. That depends upon the passwords being present in vulnerable memory in cleartext form. That is possible but is not a good security practice as it makes the system vulnerable to unforeseen attacks. Passwords are usually stored as hash values wich are safe from exposure if secure collision resistant hashes are used.

    If your business partner even knows the cleartext value of your password, you should probably find a new business partner.

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