Cybersecurity

DHS: 'Nefarious actors' moving to exploit Heartbleed

Placeholder Image for Article Template

"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 staff writer at FCW.

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.


FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group