Heartbleed flaw described as 'catastrophic' by experts: 'On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11'
Damage from the recently discovered flaw is impossible to assess, although most major companies have already secured their websites
A software bug that has gone unnoticed for two years has exposed sensitive data in as many as two out of every three web servers, say researchers.
The ‘heartbleed’ bug is a flaw in the widely-used web encryption software known as OpenSSL. Google, Facebook and Yahoo are some of the major companies that use SSL technology – most recognisable to users as the padlock that appears in the address bar of your browser.
Bruce Schneier, a security expert who has been covering the industry for years, described the flaw as 'catastrophic': "On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11," wrote Schneier in a blog post.
Since the flaw was discovered by researchers from Google and Finnish security group Codenomicon, webmasters have scrambled to update their software and protect users’ data, although some researchers warn that it is already too late.
The bug allowed attackers to pull random chunks of information from the memory of a server, meaning that everything from passwords and usernames to credit card numbers and home addresses could have been taken. As many as half a million websites are thought to have been affected.
The padlock in browser used to signal that HTTPS encryption is being used has been unsafe for more than two years.
The scale of the damage might never be known but the bug is thought to be the most serious uncovered in recent years. Some websites are encouraging users to change their passwords while others are advising that until they have confirmed that the bug has been fixed, changing passwords will do nothing.
Other security researchers have given more practical advice: “If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the Internet, you might want to stay away from the Internet entirely for the next few days while things settle.”
Google says that it has already “applied patches to key Google services” while Yahoo says that it has “made the appropriate corrections across the main Yahoo properties”. Facebook too, says that it has addressed the issues
Unfortunately, there’s not much that individual users can do to protect against ‘heartbleed’ – the responsibility is with the companies tasked with operating individual websites.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...