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Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed

Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this

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All over the world, systems administrators are scrambling to fix the OpenSSL “Heartbleed” bug.

At the same time, certificate sellers are preparing rub currency all over their bodies as Web admins virtually swipe the corporate Amex to revoke and renew their certs.

OpenSSL's history reaches back to Eric Young's SSLeay. While it might be derided as a “teach yourself Bignum division” project by Johns Hopkins' Matthew Green, we should also remember that before the Hudson/Young work, encryption was tightly controlled by the US government.

Age and familiarity are what lend OpenSSL its pervasiveness, and we're still only just scratching the surface of the bug's reach.

The home broadband modem/router, for example, is a special hell. Ask yourself:

  • Can I easily find out if my router is running OpenSSL, and if so what version? (Answer: probably no)
  • Can I easily upgrade to a secure version? (Answer: only if my vendor or the ISP that provided the hardware ships a firmware upgrade)
  • Will old devices get upgraded? (Answer: probably not in a hurry and almost certainly not automatically)
  • What can I do? (Answer: turn off remote management, if you can).

Justin Clacherty of Australian hardware developer Redfish said it's nearly impossible for the average end user to work out what version of software a consumer broadband router is running.

Ty Miller of Threat Intelligence agrees, telling The Register the end user would either have to work out how to retrieve the information from a command line connection to the device, or by testing one of the public Heartbleed exploit tests against it.

That leaves users entirely in the hands of vendors, Clacherty said: whether the vulnerability exists will depend on which embedded Linux is in the modem, which will affect whether the vulnerable OpenSSL version is the one that's been installed.

Miller notes that the information present in a home router can be just as sensitive as anywhere else, merely on a smaller scale: the 64 KB “exposed” memory block might still contain the user's banking passwords or WiFi passwords.

And even the option of “turning off remote management” isn't available to everyone, since some ISPs don't give customers that option.

There's also a lot of enterprise-level products and services that also use OpenSSL to protect connections, like VPN products and mail servers.

“This vulnerability is going to be around for ten years,” Miller said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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