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The Weekend of Discontent

The vulnerability and the totality of the hole forced many of us to change passwords on many sites

This past weekend, like many of you, I started getting the blood curdling password resets from a bunch of OpenSSL affected sites. I also got a few emails from sites indicating that I had nothing to worry about. Bad news, good news. Probably the biggest security story thus far for 2014 is Heartbleed, the OpenSSL vulnerability which potentially allows attackers to extract 64 kilobyte batches of memory at random without being noticed and leaving no trace. Sounds like the perfect crime.

It also got me thinking.

First, I wondered if this was a new era of security by force. The vulnerability and the totality of the hole forced many of us to change passwords on many sites. What a pain. It was a huge reminder that no matter how many ‘experts’ urge regular password rotation, it is a real time consuming, frustrating task. It’s no wonder that so many keep the same password for years or use the same password across multiple sites. With so many sites requiring some authentication or verification for either resources or customization, people can have hundreds username/password combinations. Sure there are password keepers but part of me is reluctant to put all my web identities with one entity. What if that gets hit? There are just some sites that I chose not to save and auto-fill but enter it every time. Then, of course, I’m susceptible to key loggers. Great.

Then there are the developers. I imagine that this past weekend was the most worked ever by the entire coding community. Administrators across many sectors were working to patch vulnerable systems all over the globe to reduce the security threat. A massive undertaking to help fix over two-thirds of the internet. The weekend work of many fingers plugging dikes was probably only surpassed by the marketers and PR folks maneuvering their stories around what it is, what’s at risk, what you should do and other FAQs surrounding this security superstar. @LanceUlanoff speculated on twitter, ‘Is Heartbleed the first Internet bug with its own Web site? http://t.co/M9u976X9ui’

With so many sites and so many people affected along with the massive media coverage, will things change? Or will this be like Y2K with a bunch of dire warnings only to have nothing major occur? Is this a wake up call or will it dissolve into yesterday’s news as new ‘breaking’ stories grab our attention? I think (and hope) that this is so critical that many organizations will be taking a more detailed look at their security infrastructure even if they are not vulnerable to Heartbleed. It forces many, if not all internet users, including the administrators themselves, to take a look at how we are protecting ourselves. It’ll be interesting to see if ’12345678′ or ‘qwertyui’ or even ‘password’ continues to be the most popular pass codes after this massive reset.

If you need assistance with your Heartbleed crisis, click here to learn how F5 can help.

ps

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More Stories By Peter Silva

Peter Silva covers security for F5’s Technical Marketing Team. After working in Professional Theatre for 10 years, Peter decided to change careers. Starting out with a small VAR selling Netopia routers and the Instant Internet box, he soon became one of the first six Internet Specialists for AT&T managing customers on the original ATT WorldNet network.

Now having his Telco background he moved to Verio to focus on access, IP security along with web hosting. After losing a deal to Exodus Communications (now Savvis) for technical reasons, the customer still wanted Peter as their local SE contact so Exodus made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. As only the third person hired in the Midwest, he helped Exodus grow from an executive suite to two enormous datacenters in the Chicago land area working with such customers as Ticketmaster, Rolling Stone, uBid, Orbitz, Best Buy and others.

Bringing the slightly theatrical and fairly technical together, he covers training, writing, speaking, along with overall product evangelism for F5’s security line. He's also produced over 200 F5 videos and recorded over 50 audio whitepapers. Prior to joining F5, he was the Business Development Manager with Pacific Wireless Communications. He’s also been in such plays as The Glass Menagerie, All’s Well That Ends Well, Cinderella and others. He earned his B.S. from Marquette University, and is a certified instructor in the Wisconsin System of Vocational, Technical & Adult Education.