Echoes of Heartbleed: A New OpenSSL Exploit

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — With adult webmasters still reeling from unexpected vulnerabilities in OpenSSL that were exploitable by Heartbleed, a new threat has emerged, adding to the concerns over Internet safety.

Heartbleed targeted the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol that underpins “secure” online exchanges, allowing malicious users and government agents to steal usernames and passwords, to infiltrate online banking accounts, and to gain access to data and websites thought to be well under lock and key.

While the Heartbleed exploit was quickly addressed, it was not the end of the woes for SSL, with the OpenSSL Foundation recently revealing another security problem when it issued a warning about the newly exposed SSL/TLS MITM vulnerability:

“An attacker using a carefully crafted handshake can force the use of weak keying material in OpenSSL SSL/TLS clients and servers. This [is exploitable] by a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack where the attacker can decrypt and modify traffic from the attacked client and server,” the organization warns. “The attack can only be performed between a vulnerable client *and* server. OpenSSL clients are vulnerable in all versions of OpenSSL.”

Currently, only those servers that are running OpenSSL 1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta1 are vulnerable, but users of OpenSSL servers earlier than 1.0.1 should upgrade anyways, as a precaution.

According to Remik Kolodziejs, Red Apple Media CTO and co-founder, this latest issue is not nearly as serious as the recent Heartbleed exploit.

“Web browsers used by regular Internet users are not vulnerable to this,” Kolodziejs explains. “Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera on the desktop, and Safari on iOS devices do not use OpenSSL and are thus not affected.”

This vulnerability only affects server-to-server connections using OpenSSL on both ends to generate a secure handshake, and seems aimed at Android.

“As of right now, only Google’s Chrome on Android devices use OpenSSL and may be vulnerable to this exploit,” Kolodziejs advises, adding that “Apple’s iOS devices are not vulnerable.”

Kolodziejs says that this newly discovered vulnerability affects only server communications with other servers, and even then, the attacker must be in a privileged network position to manipulate data between servers — something not easily done from the public Internet.  These possible attacks also need a man-in-the-middle position between the victim and non-OpenSSL clients

“In other words, this is good news,” Kolodziejs offers. “Nonetheless, all OpenSSL users should be updating their server-side OpenSSL packages to protect their servers from possible hacking attempts and break-ins.” 

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