Edition: Global Global Select Region
Email: Passwd: or sign up free
One News Page
One News Page > US >
Open news article

Heartbleed and the NSA


The online community is still reeling from the discovery of what might just be the biggest security flaw in the history of the Internet.  It's been around for years, thousands of websites may have been compromised, it's very difficult to tell if an attacker has exploited the bug... and, according to one news outlet, the National Security Agency learned of its existence at least two years ago, but they didn't tell anyone, leaving American citizens vulnerable to identity and data theft while the NSA exploited flaw for its own purposes.

The NSA flatly denies the latter accusation, which was made in a Bloomberg News report on Friday.  The security flaw itself, now known as "Heartbleed," was by all accounts introduced by accident through the work of a single programmer at the end of 2011... literally one minute before midnight on New Year's Eve, to be precise.  He was one of many programmers contributing to an "open source" project - a popular method for developing free or inexpensive software through volunteer collaboration, although open-sourcing might grow considerably less popular because of the current crisis. 

Heartbleed is such a big deal that it has its own website, dedicated to explaining how it works and providing suggestions for how to deal with it.  Heartbleed is not a virus - it's a security vulnerability in a crucial bit of Internet software known as SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.  It's the software that encrypts Web traffic from secure sites, including banks, credit card companies, online merchants, and online email systems such as Gmail.  SSL connections essentially establish a secure, private "phone call" between your computer and sensitive websites.

If you placed such a secure phone call to someone, you wouldn't want the phone to automatically hang up if there were a few moments of silence during your conversation.  SSL handles that with code that establishes a "heartbeat" to keep the connection open between systems, even if one of the systems goes idle for a little while.  The security flaw is part of this heartbeat code, which is why it earned the memorable nickname "Heartbleed."

Hackers who understand how the Heartbleed vulnerability works can use it to pull very small chunks of data out of targeted systems, like a heart that leaks a few drops of blood every time it thumps.  The problem is that a hacker can keep harvesting these little bits of data, over and over again, until a sizable amount of information has been poached from secure communications.  The information intercepted in this manner can include the names and passwords of people using the system.  In other words, if the Heartbleed flaw is used to attack an email server, the names and passwords of all the email users might eventually be compromised.  The attacker might even be able to intercept the administrative passwords for the targeted system, potentially granting unlimited access to its data.  It's just like tapping into a phone line and listening to a sensitive conversation.

Unfortunately, the affected SSL code is used by a huge number of online systems - some estimates say over half a million.  A new version of SSL that fixes this vulnerability has been distributed, but it will take time to implement.  Meanwhile, it's very difficult to tell which systems might have been raided for passwords, because these attacks don't leave much evidence in their wake.  And changing your passwords as a precaution might not help, because if you're dealing with a system that has come under Heartbleed assault, the hackers might quickly steal your new password, too.  

There is more information about which systems may have been compromised, and security precautions that can be taken, at the Heartbleed.com website.  The problem may also have migrated into the firmware of some computer networking hardware, and the Droid smartphone operating system.  There's no compelling evidence that any data has been stolen through Heartbleed yet.  It wasn't discovered by researchers until last week, after running on some affected systems for two years.  It's possible hackers never found it... but today came allegations that the U.S. government did.

According to sources for the controversial Bloomberg News report from Friday, the NSA found Heartbleed shortly after it was introduced, but decided to keep it a secret, and may have used it for their own purposes, rather than issuing a warning to the public.  Although Bloomberg quotes a few cyber-security experts and claims to have several inside sources, the bombshell paragraph in the article is not directly sourced: "Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers."

The agency categorically denied this report in a statement: "NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cybersecurity report.  Reports that say otherwise are wrong."
Share on FacebookShare on Twitter Comment
Source: Newsy - on April 12, 2014

News video: Heartbleed Runs Deeper Than We Thought

Heartbleed Runs Deeper Than We Thought 02:25

Researchers have discovered Heartbleed can compromise clients visiting servers and leaves private SSL keys vulnerable.

Recent related news

Open news article

NSA: Samsung Knox Devices Safe for Classified Info

Several Galaxy devices (and the Boeing Black phone) received NSA approval to carry classified information.
PCMag.com 19 minutes ago - Computer IndustryAlso reported by •PC World
Open news article

India closely monitoring IS, Al Qaeda activities: NSA

New Delhi, Oct 21 : National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, in his very first public interaction, Tuesday said the government is "closely monitoring" the...
newKerala.com 2 hours ago - India

Open news article

Securecom’s app keeps day-to-day conversations safe from unwanted eyes

Securecom Mobile (CSE:SCE) is offering an alternative to email that promises to keep private communications away from the hands of untrusted third parties,...
Proactive Investors 3 hours ago - Business

Open news article

NSA Ajit Doval calls for collective global convergence against terrorism

New Delhi: India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, in his first public interaction, called Tuesday for a collective global convergence on terrorism and...
Firstpost 4 hours ago - India

Open news article

The state wants to spy on us but is it up to the job?

In the wake of the Snowden affair, finding a balance between national security and our right to privacy raises questions not only of trust but competence and...
guardian.co.uk 3 days ago - UK

Open news article

Privacy in the Internet of Things era: Will the NSA know what’s in your fridge?

Privacy in the Internet of Things era: Will the NSA know what’s in your fridge?
Wojtek Borowicz, community evangelist at Estimote, freelance writer and a strong believer in the Internet of Things. We’ve already entered the Internet of...
The Next Web 3 days ago - InternetAlso reported by •Digital Trends
Open news article

The Vogue Guide to Avoiding the NSA: $2,500 Fur Vests

Fleeing for your life is the new staycation, and no one has made it look as fabulous as adopted Muscovites Edward Snowden and his state-sanctioned girlfriend,...
Gawker 4 days ago - USAlso reported by •Digital Trends
Open news article

Lawmakers probing NSA face German secrecy hurdles

The top Republicans and Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees are privy to many of the deepest American secrets, which is not always true of...
SeattlePI.com 4 days ago - Business

You Might Like

Other recent news in US

Tucson POLICE arrest man in woman's deathOSCAR de la Renta dies; designed fashions for stars, socialites
Drunk WOMAN mistakes police station for a barCelebs, Fashion World Mourn Death Of Legendary Designer OSCAR DE LA RENTA
INDIANA Suspect Hints at More Killings, Say PoliceReeva Steenkamp: OSCAR PISTORIUS can be Jailed for 15 Years
Men caught selling drugs to 13-year-old outside Nutley High SCHOOL, police saySupreme COURT to take up police hotel searches
Oscar PISTORIUS, Olympic runner, sentenced to 5 years in prison for killing girlfriend Reeva SteenkampSuspect in abduction of Virginia woman charged with 2005 rape, attempted MURDER in DC area



Environmentally friendly: One News Page is hosted on servers powered solely by renewable energy
© 2014 One News Page Ltd. All Rights Reserved.  |  About us  |  Disclaimer  |  Press Room  |  Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Content Accreditation
One News Page - Top Headlines RSS Feed RSS  |  News for my Website  |  Free news search widget  |  Advertise  |  Help  |  Contact us  |  DMCA / Content Removal
How are we doing? Send us your feedback  |  One News Page on Facebook LIKE us on Facebook  One News Page on Twitter FOLLOW us on Twitter  One News Page on Google+ FIND us on Google+