Cybersecurity

DHS: 'Nefarious actors' moving to exploit Heartbleed

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"Nefarious actors" were making moves to exploit the Heartbleed OpenSSL flaw in the first few days after the problem was discovered, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo.

In an advisory issued by DHS' National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center on April 10 just as the Heartbleed flaw was uncovered, the department warned that a trusted third party had seen exploit code written in Python script on publicly available online outlets. A number of underground forums were also discussing the vulnerability, "which indicated interest from nefarious actors," the memo states.

Heartbleed is a vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL library that provides cryptographic services such as Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security to applications and services. Computer security experts have said the resulting damage is difficult to gauge because the error leaves no log files or other traces of access gained via the exploit.

The DHS memo posted on the Public Intelligence open-source website says the security flaw has potentially enormous reach, and that although the initial code to take advantage of Heartbleed was potent, but there was no evidence it was being used.

"Internal trusted third-party assessments reveal that the code is 100 percent effective against the specific versions of SSL protocol noted above," the memo states. "However, at this time it has not been observed having the capability to compromise all SSL protocols. It is also important to note that at this time there have been no reported malicious attacks that exploit this vulnerability."

The memo contains an extensive list of vendors and products that could include vulnerable versions of OpenSSL within their product distributions but added that most have already begun issuing patches and have posted information on their websites with plans for addressing the vulnerability.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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