The race is on to restore trust in the very security tools that are used to ensure online trust. Websites, applications, and services are hastening to patch Heartbleed, a flaw in the OpenSSL library.
As described on Dark Reading, "If exploited, the bug leaks the contents of the memory from the server to the client and vice versa, potentially exposing passwords and other sensitive data and, most alarmingly, the SSL server's private key." More than a half-million servers are exposed to the vulnerability and it can be used to compromise clients too.
So, read all the documents I linked to. Then update to OpenSSL version 1.0.1g, which was issued April 7 with the bug fixed. Install any updates issued by applications or services that use OpenSSL (open-source operating systems, email services, VPNs, websites that use SSL, Google apps, Amazon Web services, and more). Talk to your SSL certificate authorities about replacing your SSL certs. Change encryption keys. Change passwords. Once you're done doing that, there are a few other broader issues to ponder:
1. Online trust is not trustworthy. I have raged about my quarrels with SSL many times before on E2. It's been hacked, cracked, falsified, and circumvented. The entire process of issuing SSL certificates is, in my opinion, a bit loosey-goosey. And perhaps worst of all, people seem to put more trust in it than it ever deserved. Heartbleed is just another hit on an already beaten and bloodied tool. To be fair, this is not a vulnerability in the SSL/TLS protocol itself, but rather an implementation error in the OpenSSL library. Regardless, it is another busted piece of the whole broken down online trust machine.
2. Open-source does not necessarily equal vulnerability free. There has always been a debate in the security community over whether proprietary software or open-source software are more secure. The argument for open-source is that when everyone has a chance to look at the code, it's far more likely that all vulnerabilities in the code will be found early and fixed quickly. Heartbleed is an example of the open-source community being slow on the uptake. From The Register:
"This issue is a timely reminder that all software can contain security vulnerabilities," wrote Brian Honan, the infosec consultant who founded and heads up the Republic of Ireland's Computer Security Incident Response Team, in an edition of the SANS Institute NewsBites newsletter. "Simply because the source code of Open Source software can be reviewed by anyone does not mean they will know how to look for security vulnerabilities or indeed detect them."
3. Proof-of-concept exploit code might do more harm than good. Maybe it makes no difference. Maybe bad guys are so good and quick at writing exploits that a proof-of-concept written by a good guy only saves them a few minutes. Maybe PoCs are really valuable to security professionals, because vulnerable organizations won't take vulnerabilities seriously if they aren't shown hard proof that they can be compromised.
Maybe, maybe not. We do know that proof-of-concept exploits of Heartbleed were made public and we know that attacks are already underway. Were organized criminal organizations and nation-states already quietly exploiting this vulnerability for the past two years with exploit code they wrote all by themselves? It's hard to say, because unfortunately, exploitation of the bug leaves no traces. (Security companies only know that attacks are happening now, because they're detecting malicious actors scanning for the flaw and conducting brute-force attacks.) Nevertheless, security companies are advising customers to assume that this bug has been exploited before.
What do you think? Does Heartbleed change your opinions on the security of open-source tools? Do you think that publishing proof-of-concept exploit code is ethical? Do you still feel safer using SSL than you do without it? Do you feel safe now, knowing that Google and Amazon have patched their systems? Let us know in the comments below.