In early April, the vulnerability known simply as “Heartbleed” became the latest rage. During the first week after discovery, the mainstream media aggressively reported on Heartbleed, stirring up a tornado of fear, uncertainty, and doubt amongst all Internet users. Never thought I’d see “Fox and Friends” talking about OpenSSL, two-factor authentication, and digital certificates, but it happened daily only 7 short weeks ago.
This “Heartbleed Tornado” subsequently led to enterprise security professionals receiving email inbox loads of offers claiming to help you remediate. For many, especially those in the executive suites and board rooms, it was the first time they understood the true power and importance of private encryption keys and digital certificates, as well as the imperative need to protect them. Finally, I thought, the world is waking up and understanding the need to secure and protect its most valuable assets, which provide the backbone of a trustworthy Internet—encryption keys and digital certificates.
Unfortunately, as loud as the Heartbleed Tornado roared, the lions’ share of the remediation advice related to Heartbleed was simply the following:
Check and see if websites you use are vulnerable (and have been patched), and
Emphasize the importance of changing your passwords.
Patching OpenSSL and changing user-credential passwords are two of the steps to remediation. But the elephant in the room, the exposure of private encryption keys and certificates (and thus the need to revoke and reissue them ALL), was only consistently reported on by those media outlets and bloggers in the security space itself.
Any hot media story has a shelf life, and there’s only so many Heartbleed stories that will continue to draw readers in. So once the clicks died down, the mainstream all but forgot it. And those mainstream stories that remain, only touch upon the surface of the vulnerability, such as NBC’s cosmetic piece on “How Major Websites Rank on Password Security.”
But the important thing to realize is this: The threat against a trustworthy digital universe did not begin with Heartbleed. And it certainly does not end with it either. Heartbleed was simply the latest in a growing mountain of threats that continue to evolve against encryption keys and digital certificates, and thus trust online.