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History’s Biggest Software Fails: The Heartbleed Bug

Jul 3, 2015 | News & Infos, Software bugs & malfunctions

Previously on History’s Biggest Software Fails, we took the time to explore the World of Warcraft: Corrupted Blood Incidence. While the aforementioned software issue was more of a light-hearted inconvenience, today we take an in-depth look into a security bug that was so severe, that to this day its effects can still be felt:

The Heartbleed Bug

In April 2014 a ripple disrupted the vast waters of the online world as a single bug reigned high over an environment impregnated with mass hysteria. That bug was known as Heartbleed and it left nearly 17% or around 500,000 of the internet’s secure web servers vulnerable to severe breaches of privacy. The Canadian government was forced to take decisive action as 900 social security numbers were stolen. Mumsnet, a UK parenting site, had several accounts hijacked and their CEO impersonated. Some of the largest social media sites risked leaking the online population’s most private moments.

Heartbleed is a bug that allows a breach in security through exploiting a vulnerability in the Open SSL cryptography library. Improper input validation, which occurs because of a missing bounds check, in the implementation of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) heartbeat extension creates a “buffer-over-read” situation – or the ability for those with ill intentions to access more data than what should be allowed. Simply put:

heartbleed_bug_explanation

Explanation of the Heartbleed Bug


Soon after word got out, a majority of websites that were suspected to be susceptible to attacks due to Heartbleed began releasing patches to quickly fix the bug. Users all around were strongly encouraged to reset their passwords and the Tor Project of Silkroad infamy advised anyone seeking online anonymity to refrain from using the Internet until things settle and a sense of security is restored. Interestingly, Heartbleed does not only affect websites as certain operating systems such as Android 4.1.1 devices are known to use an outdated version of the OpenSSL library. Worse yet, updating phone software can be a tedious process as a majority of mobiles are controlled by the manufacturers or carriers rather than the creators themselves.

There were several repercussions to Heartbleed and the time that companies were forced to invest into developing patches, shutting down their websites and requiring users to change their passwords caused significant negative effects ranging from losses to the necessity of certificate renewals across the World Wide Web. In fact, the media has often referred to Heartbleed as “the worst vulnerability found (at least in terms of its potential impact) since commercial traffic began to flow on the Internet”. This makes it a true learning experience that highlights the importance of rigorous software testing and makes Heartbleed a strong addition into History’s Biggest Software Fails.

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About the author

Sahil Deva

Sahil Deva

PR & Marketing Manager

As a writer, Sahil spends his free time creating fiction in a number of different forms. Drawing upon that same creativity, he strives to make Testbirds synonymous with crowdtesting in the UK market.

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Testbirds specialises in the testing of software such as apps, websites and Internet of Things applications by using innovative technologies and solutions. Under the slogan, “Testing Reality”, the company offers various testing methods to its clients looking to optimise the user-friendliness and functionality of their digital products. With over 250,000 registered testers located in 193 countries, Testbirds is one of the world’s leading crowdtesting providers. In addition, the IT service provider utilises cloud based technologies to support customers in the optimisation of their digital products. The combination of the two testing methods delivers a unique and extensive portfolio that takes the quality of software to the next level. Testbirds was founded in 2011 by Philipp Benkler, Georg Hansbauer and Markus Steinhauser. Today, the company has over 100 employees. Other than its headquarters in Munich, there are now offices in Amsterdam, London and Stockholm, franchises in Hungary and Russia and sales partners in Italy.

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