BOSTON, April 8 A newly discovered bug in widely
used Web encryption technology has made data on many of the
world's major websites vulnerable to theft by hackers in what
experts say is one of the most serious security flaws uncovered
in recent years.
The finding of the so-called "Heartbleed" vulnerability, by
researchers with Google Inc and a small security firm
Codenomicon, prompted the U.S. government's Department of
Homeland Security to advise businesses on Tuesday to review
their servers to see if they were using vulnerable versions a
type of software known as OpenSSL.
It said updates are already available to address the
vulnerability in OpenSSL, which could enable remote attackers to
access sensitive data including passwords and secret keys that
can decode traffic as it travels across the Internet.
"We have tested some of our own services from attacker's
perspective. We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving
a trace," Codenomicon said on a website it built to provide
information about the threat, heartbleed.com.
Computer security experts warned that means victims cannot
tell if their data has been accessed which is troubling because
the bug has existed for about two years.
"If a website is vulnerable I could see things like your
password, banking information and healthcare data, which you
were under the impression you were sending securely to your
website," said Michael Coates, director of product security for
Chris Eng, vice president of research with software security
firm Veracode, said he estimates that hundreds of thousands of
web and email servers around the globe need to be patched as
soon as possible to protect them from attack by hackers who will
rush to exploit the vulnerability now that it is publicly known.
The technology website Ars Technica reported that security
researcher Mark Loman was able to extract data from Yahoo Mail
servers by using a free tool.
A spokesperson for Yahoo Inc confirmed that Yahoo
Mail was vulnerable to attack, but said it had been patched
along with other main Yahoo sites such as Yahoo Search, Finance,
Sports, Flickr and Tumblr.
"We are working to implement the fix across the rest of our
sites right now," she said on Tuesday evening.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; additional reporting by Alexei
Oreskovic in San Francisco)