This week, it came to light that a small error in the open-source OpenSSL implementation of the SSL encryption protocol opened a gaping hole in the security of hundreds of thousands websites and networking equipment across the Net—and that hole had been wide open and exploitable for years. Passwords could be easily grabbed. User names matching those passwords could be easily grabbed. Heck, userdata could be easily grabbed. The “Heartbleed” moniker attached to the devastating bug seemed all too apt.
And Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that the National Security Agency has been aware of and actively exploiting the Heartbleed bug for at least two full years, citing “two people familiar with the matter.”
Ironically, the report comes on the same day that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about Heartbleed, stating that “While there have not been any reported attacks or malicious incidents involving this particular vulnerability confirmed at this time, it is still possible that malicious actors in cyberspace could exploit un-patched systems.”
Nagging NSA concerns
The allegations are sure to cause an uproar in the security community, which is still struggling to come to terms with the revelations revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
While the security of open-source software has been debated in the wake of Heartbleed’s devastation, the Web is already recovering from the bug’s widespread mayhem. There’s already an OpenSSL fix for Heartbleed, which many website administrators are scrambling to implement.