Heartbleed, OpenSSL and Perfect Forward Secrecy

If you want to know the quick and easy way to understand what Heartbleed is, How the Heartbleed Bug Works and what it means to you in very simple and elegant terms, there’s this wonderful xkcd cartoon today:

Heartbleed Explanation: How the Heartbleed Bug Works - xkcd.com - Click on image to go to the site to see it larger

Heartbleed Explanation: How the Heartbleed Bug Works – xkcd.com – Click on image to go to the site to see it larger

And that my friends is pretty much it in the nutshell.

Due to this ‘bug’ or what could be commonly called in days gone by as a type of buffer overflow condition causing leaking of information, sometimes serious and important information.

You will or at least you should be hearing from secure websites where you have made purchases and have accounts, as well as banks you use, and many more secure websites as they update their SSL Certificates.

Many have been working on this and many have already taken care of this on their servers.

Once it is taken care of, then you want to change your password but not before.

If the website was vulnerable, they should be contacting you, or when you login you will see a notice about it. Soundcloud.com was a good example. When I logged in today, they presented a banner across the top about the Heartbleed vulnerability.

When/If a secure website was vulnerable, they will be contacting you when they get this fixed on their website server, so you can change your password.

The sad thing is that this bug has been out there for at least 2 years!

Here’s a really good article about this in layman’s terms and there are several sites for testing supposedly secure websites for your banks, credit card companies, email, etc.:

Heartbleed OpenSSL Bug FAQ for Mac iPhone and iPad users – Intego.com Blog

What CERT and others are recommending to these websites that are vulnerable is to implement Perfect Forward Secrecy like StartPage.com and ixquick.com where they have this knowledge base article:
“Heartbleed” is a security vulnerability in OpenSSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption that permits eavesdropping on communications and access to sensitive data such as passwords. Heartbleed gives read access to the memory of the encryption functions of vulnerable servers, allowing attackers to steal the private keys used to encrypt data transmissions.StartPage’s vulnerability to this attack was limited, since we had implemented a more secure, upgraded form of SSL known as Perfect Forward Security (PFS) in July 2013. PFS is generally supported by most recent browser versions. Since PFS uses a different “per-session” encryption key for each data transfer, even if a site’s private SSL key is compromised, past communications are protected from retroactive decryption.

Security is a moving target, and we work hard to stay ahead of the curve. Immediately after the Heartbleed security advisory, StartPage’s encryption modules were updated and encryption certificates were changed.

In independent evaluation, StartPage and Ixquick outscore other search engines on encryption standards, earning an A+ rating. See Qualys’ SSL Labs evaluation of StartPage’s encryption features here:
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=startpage.com&s=69.90.210.72

This problem is serious and needs to be addressed, but don’t panic. Secure websites that are vulnerable are working on the problem that was discovered this week.

Wait to hear from companies about whether they were vulnerable and that they have fixed the vulnerability on their secure webservers before changing any passwords.

Some good things to note, Apple and Microsoft have already notified that their services are not vulnerable. Here’s the Hit List from Mashable:

The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now – Mashable

Some big names that you might be happy to hear were not affected according to the Mashable article:

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Target, Walmart, LinkedIn, Hulu, AOL email, Hotmail/MSN/Outlook.com emails and more.

All the Google servers have been updated:

You may have heard of “Heartbleed,” a flaw in OpenSSL that could allow the theft of data normally protected by SSL/TLS encryption. We’ve assessed this vulnerability and applied patches to key Google services such as Search, Gmail, YouTube, Wallet, Play, Apps, and App Engine.Google Chrome and Chrome OS are not affected. We are still working to patch some other Google services. We regularly and proactively look for vulnerabilities like this — and encourage others to report them — so that that we can fix software flaws before they are exploited.

More in the article.

More information on Heartbleed:

EDIT: Please check the comments for some additional links that are very helpful and informative about the Bleeding Hearts Club by EFF.org, the vulnerable routers from Cisco/Juniper Networks as well as some additional VPN  and other products. And some good news about 1Password.
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MS Word users warned of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug

Microsoft warns Word users of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug – Computerworld

Biggest worry, says expert, is that exploits are triggered just by previewing malicious messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013

Microsoft today warned users of Word 2010 that in-the-wild attacks are exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in the software.

The company also published an automated tool to protect customers until it issues a patch.

An attacker could cause remote code execution if someone was convinced to open a specially-crafted Rich Text Format (RTF) file or a specially-crafted mail in Microsoft Outlook while using Microsoft Word as the email viewer,” said Dustin Childs, group manager and spokesman for Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group in a blog Monday.

BOLD in the quote is mine.

Microsoft put out a Security Advisory 2953095 as Corrine noted on her Security Garden Blog including Fix it buttons for enabling and disabling reading email messages in plain text format.

This is one of the things for which both Microsoft in Outlook and Apple in Mail have massively fallen down on the job. This would not be happening if you could easily toggle various view options such as HTML or Plain Text for reading emails, as well as allowing and disallowing images inline.

This is something that I am very thankful that Mozilla Thunderbird got right from the very beginning. Mozilla Thunderbird gives very granular control regarding the various ways to Display email messages such as in PLAIN TEXT, SIMPLE HTML (simple html with javascripting disabled), or ORIGINAL HTML.

You also have control over how images are displayed or not in several ways and differentiating between attached images and remote images.

You can also close to enable do not track in emails. There are Security Add-ons like Adblock PlusEnigmail (OpenPGP), more. As well as lots of specialized Add=ons. One of these that I like is QuickText and a few others. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

There is also a pay to play $9.95 I think, but also has a free trial. It was originally for Macs and now there is a Windows version as well. It was created by the original developers of Thunderbird called Postbox. It has some but not all the Add-ons that Thunderbird has.

/rant on

I am not saying everyone should move to Mozilla Thunderbird. What I am saying is that Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail should give their users these types of granular control so people can choose how they wish emails to be viewed. Both do some things but they stop way short of what is really needed in this day and age with emails.

HTML is like a venetian blind. It hides what is behind it. You can’t see what is behind all that HTML. You can’t decide to see HTML only if you trust the email after viewing what is in that email. This makes it way too easy for phishing emails to look like your bank, PayPal, your credit card company, etc. It also allows companies to track you with web beacons, transparent gif images and other remotely loaded images so they know if and when you view their email.

Something needs to be done about all this. Mozilla Thunderbird makes it so easy for folks to be able to toggle images so they can’t track you, use SIMPLE HTML to keep the ‘form’ of an email message without the more dangerous javascripting. Or allows you to totally view the email in plain text so you can see that that link that appears to be going to your bank actually goes to some strange URL that has nothing to do with your bank or a store you may or may not do business with.

People need these tools. Some may or may not realize it, but they really do.

I have heard so many people say that the email look just like it was from their bank and they fell for it. Or a store they frequent and gave up their login credentials by clicking on the link rather than going to the website because it looked like it was the store’s promotion.

Sure, no one should click on links in email, but if it looks legit, many do. Sure, if you like something in a promotion for a store, it might be better to just go to the store’s website but some stores really don’t have a page on their website that is clickable to get you there, unless you click on the link in an email. Also, the links are often obfuscated by third party trackers and campaign tracking sites, etc. This all makes life very difficult for email users to know what’s good and what’s not.

OK, I will get off my soap box now.

/rant off