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Fixing OpenSSL's Heartbleed flaw will take MONTHS, warns Secunia

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Expunging the Heartbleed bug from vulnerable computers and gadgets is likely to take months, according to a leading vuln research firm. The cautionary assessment by Secunia comes as more and more products are judged to be vulnerable to the infamous OpenSSL security flaw.

Heartbleed most obviously affected secure web servers but also hit routers and other networking equipment, as well as a wide array of other enterprise technology.

And the bundling of the faulty OpenSSL library means applications vulnerable to Heartbleed include everything from VPN software, messaging and VoIP apps, among others. A large number of smartphones (specifically those running Android 4.1) are also on the danger list.

Kasper Lindgaard, Secunia head of research, told El Reg that other items vulnerable to Heartbleed include switches and servers.

The messy vulnerability disclosure process that went with the discovery of Heartbleed means "everybody is now playing catch-up", according to Lindgaard. Smaller vendors will have only a small number of products to deal with but for IT giants the process poses a huge challenge.

The info-security world has changed over recent years because of the rise of exploit brokerages and other developments, and this could have negatively affected the disclosure process with Heartbleed – and perhaps in other cases, according to Lindgaard.

"Researchers will start to think 'how long before we dare to wait' and this will push them towards issuing an advisory earlier," he explained.

Lindgaard credited Cisco and Oracle (a vendor rarely praised by security researchers) as both being transparent about their progress in addressing the Heartbleed bug. Cisco's progress in resolving Heartbleed, more than a week after the discovery of the mega-vuln, is slow but steady.

"Cisco have identified around 44 of their products to be vulnerable and are still investigating around 68 products," Lindgaard told El Reg. "And it currently looks like there are only patches available for four of them."

Secunia had at that time issued Heartbleed-related advisories for 46 different vendors, spanning a total of 218 products. In contrast to Cisco, some vendors are failing to come clean about their exposure to Heartbleed, instead relying on the discredited tactic of "security through obscurity".

“Most vendors have been doing a great job on creating a good overview of affected/unaffected products and any potential patches but other vendors are hiding this information in small notices on their download page or even in password protected pages," Lindgaard explained. "This is rather unfortunate as this provides less openness about how widespread the vulnerable Heartbleed landscape actually looks, and makes it subsequently harder for people to properly assess risk in their environments, as they might not have noticed the hidden information."

"The vendors are gaining nothing but in increased risk to their customers by hiding this information, as malicious persons will test for Heartbleed anyway,” he added.

Secunia rates Heartbleed as "moderately critical", or 9 out of 10 on its own scale. It doesn't get a maximum severity rating because it doesn't give rise to a remote execution of malicious code risk. "Major vendors are in the process of rolling out patches but the whole process will take more than weeks. Probably months," Lindgaard concluded.

"The vulnerability will have a long time impact," he added. ®

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