Heartbleed and the Internet of Things

01 May 2014

Semiconductor Engineering, By Ernest Worthman

Heartbleed is not a country and western song, but many wish it were. It’s a programming glitch with the potential to cause disastrous and widespread compromises on seemingly secure data.

By some estimates, the flaw in the heartbleed code has allowed hackers to collect personal data, including passwords, undetected, for as long as two years. Exactly how much data has been breached, and what the total damage will be, is still under assessment, but the media hype suggests it is substantial. Moreover, one has to wonder if this glitch may be connected to the recent data compromises at Target and other organizations. Fortunately, the fix is out, but it may take a while for everyone to apply it to their systems.

What makes this “bug,” for lack of a better term, so dangerous is that it is not some super-complex, self-morphing, Mensa-level, mega virus. In fact, it is not really a virus or bug at all. It simply exploits a somewhat overlooked programming mistake in the “heartbleed” part of certain versions of OpenSSL.

In this case the code vulnerability allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems running vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. The fix, according to Dmitry Bestuzhev, head of the research center, Kaspersky Lab Latin America, is quite simple and is included in the OpenSSL 1.0.1g version. Read more.

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