Heartbleed bug

Someone’s finally found a serious bug in OpenSSL. It allows a remote attacker to snoop around in the processes memory, and this is seriously bad news because this is where you will find the private keys its using. They’re called “private keys” because, unlike public keys, they need to remain private.

This is going to affect most web sites using https, and secure email (if you’re using it – most aren’t). But before user’s rush off to change their passwords (which are different for each site, aren’t they?) – there’s no point in doing this if an attacker is watching. The popular press reckons your passwords are compromised; I don’t. If I understand it correctly, this exploit theoretically allows an attacker to intercept encrypted traffic by pretending to be someone else, and in doing so can read everything you send – including your password. So don’t log in until the server is fixed. They can’t read your password until you use it.

To cure this bug you need a new version of OpenSSL, which is going to be a complete PITA for server operators who aren’t on-site. Hell, it’ll be a PITA even if you are on-site with the servers. Once this is done you’ll also need new certificates, and the certificate authorities aren’t geared up for everyone in the world changing at once.

But the big fun one is when you can’t update OpenSSL. It’s used everywhere, including in embedded systems for which there was never any upgrade route. I’m talking routers, smart TVs – everythign.

I believe that SSH isn’t affected by this, which is one good thing, but I’m waiting for confirmation. Watch this space.

But, if you’re using a secure web site to log in over SSL, consider the password compromised if you’ve used it in the last few days and be prepared to change it soon.

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