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Security Encryption Government Privacy

NSA Allegedly Exploited Heartbleed 149

squiggleslash writes: "One question arose almost immediately upon the exposure of Heartbleed, the now-infamous OpenSSL exploit that can leak confidential information and even private keys to the Internet: Did the NSA know about it, and did they exploit if so? The answer, according to Bloomberg, is 'Yes.' 'The agency found the Heartbeat glitch shortly after its introduction, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, and it became a basic part of the agency's toolkit for stealing account passwords and other common tasks.'" The NSA has denied this report. Nobody will believe them, but it's still a good idea to take it with a grain of salt until actual evidence is provided. CloudFlare did some testing and found it extremely difficult to extract private SSL keys. In fact, they weren't able to do it, though they stop short of claiming it's impossible. Dan Kaminsky has a post explaining the circumstances that led to Heartbleed, and today's xkcd has the "for dummies" depiction of how it works. Reader Goonie argues that the whole situation was a failure of risk analysis by the OpenSSL developers.
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NSA Allegedly Exploited Heartbleed

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  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:07PM (#46729811) Homepage Journal
    I have to say I'm even less confident in the plan to couple it to DNSSEC.
  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:17PM (#46729873)

    Then it is analyzed by genius hackers who are paid top dollar for the job.

    "Top dollar"? This is a government agency. They pay based on the GS scale. Even if the NSA's security hackers were classified at GS-15 (the highest rate), that's about $120K a year to begin – if they really are "geniuses" then they could do better in Silicon Valley, and probably feel better about their jobs as well.

    In general, the GS scale pays somewhat more than typical private-sector rate for low-end jobs, but considerably less for high-end jobs.

    Government contractors rake in the dough, but that money goes to politically-connected businessmen, not rank-and-file employees.

  • Re:It's not a bug (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arker ( 91948 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:25PM (#46729929) Homepage
    Maybe, of course we cannot just believe them after seeing them repeatedly lying to Congress, but it strikes me likely in this particular case they are telling the truth. This bug, unless I am misunderstanding, essentially lets you read from a small contiguous pseudo-random block of memory. That's obviously not acceptable from a defender point of view - it could potentially expose any and all information so it's a severe flaw - but from an attackers point of view it seems less impressive.

    You could probably try this thousands of times without actually obtaining any information of value. Sure, you might luck out and get the keys to the kingdom, but it seems like a crapshoot. From an attackers point of view, this might be better than nothing, but unless they have pretty near nothing to start from, it does not seem exciting.

    And we know they have a lot more than nothing to start from. With Total Surveillance in effect on the net, with rootkits and zero-day exploits to deliver them, it's just really hard to see how this would add anything substantial to their toolkit.

    No, I suspect this is exactly what it appears to be - a critical bug resulting from too much emphasis on fast and not enough on good. That's hardly unique to OpenSSL, it's a chronic problem across the industry as a whole.
  • by JKAbrams ( 3613353 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:43PM (#46730053)
    Actually I wrote this yesterday but was unable to publish it:
    I have not yet grasped the full scope of the implications of this bug, but if you take the stance that things that could have been done also has been done (imho the only safe assumption), is this a good characterization? Or are there any limiting factors that makes this impossible? Like for example the amount of memory that could be leaked while the application is running (as servers aren't restarted often) is certain information that is stored statically in memory potentially not reachable?

    During the last two years:
    1. Any/all certificates used by servers running openssl 1.0.1 might have been compromized and should be revoked (the big cert-reset of 2014?)
    2. Because of 1, any/all data sent over a connection to such servers might now be know by a bad MITM (i.e. for large scale: the various security services/hostile ISPs, local scale/targeted attacks: depends on who else happened to know, and this person/organization happened to be your adversary, looks unlikely, but who knows...)
    3. Any/all data stored in SSL-based client applications might have been compromised.

    From a users perspective - change all passwords/keys that has been used on applications based on openSSL-1.0.1? How to know what services? To be safe, change them all? Consider private data potentially sent over SSL to be open and readable by the security services?

    Thinking about the large-scale:
    For how long has the NSA been picking up information leaked by Heartbleed (assuming that they have at least since late evening the 7:th or early morning the 8:th seems a given)?
    -Not in the Snowden documents that has been revealed so far (absence of proof != proof of absence, but language might give a hint)
    -No report of unusual heartbeat streams being spotted in the wild (was anyone looking?)

    Let's assume for the sake of argument the NSA does not have people actually writing the OpenSSL code in the first place.
    When did they know about it's existence?

    time_to_find_bug = budget * complexity_of_bug / size_of_sourcecode * complexity_of_sourcecode * intention_to_find_bugs

    budget = manpower * skillset
    time_to_find_bug < inf.
    skillset >= complexity_of_bug

    Heartbeat bug:
    complexity_of_bug = low

    size_of_sourcecode = 376409 lines of code (1.0.1 beta1)
    complexity_of_sourcecode = high

    intention_to_find_bugs = 1
    budget = $20 * 10^9 ?
        => manpower = 30k ?
           skillset = high

    Guesstimate: one to a few months -> early 2012 to go through the changes made to 1.0.1 building on earlier work already done on the 0.8.9 branch...
    Or to say it another way, I think it is safe to assume that, given the simplicity of the bug, NSA knew about Heartbleed in early on. The anonymous comments to Bloomberg gives nice confirmation of this.
  • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:04PM (#46730177) Homepage Journal

    This patch was submitted at 7pm on Dec 31st, 2011, so the only people looking at it were the ones expecting it. I guess they were not disappointed.

    http://git.openssl.org/gitweb/... [openssl.org]

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:31PM (#46730341)

    It was discovered and fixed so quickly *because* it's open source

    For crikessakes, the heartbleed vulnerability existed for over 2 years before being discovered and fixed!

    Sorry my bad, that sentence was confusing -- I meant the fix was fast, not finding the bug.

    An exact timeline for Hearthbleed is hard to find, but it looks like there was some responsible disclosure of the bug to some large parties about a week before public disclosure and release of the fixed SSL library.

    In contract, Apple learned of its SSL vulnerability [nist.gov] over a month [theguardian.com]before they released an IOS patch and even after public disclosure of the bug, it was about a week before they released the OSX patch. And just like the OpenSSL bug, Apple's vulnerability was believed to have been in the wild for about 2 years before detection. (of course, since the library code was opensourced by Apple, several unofficial patches were released before Apple's official patch).

  • by xvx ( 624327 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:49PM (#46731135)
    Welp, that didn't take long. Looks like someone solved CloudFlare's Heartbleed Challenge [cloudflarechallenge.com] and got their private server key...

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan