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Heartbleed Remediation: Replace ALL Keys and Certificates

Heartbleed Remediation: Replace ALL Keys and Certificates

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April 13, 2014 | Kevin Bocek

Response is not complete until trust is re-established

By now most organizations have responded to the Heartbleed vulnerability by patching vulnerable systems. Good. The next step must be to replace ALL keys and certificates. Successful private key extraction exploitation in just hours shows keys and certificates must be assumed comprised. The urgency to replace keys and certificates is even more important as details emerge about exploits being used in the wild for months and possibly years. As a result, experts all agree — from Bruce Schneier, to Gartner’s Erik Heidt, to CloudFlare — the message is: replace keys and certificates.

Underestimating our adversaries and taking no action is not an option. Gartner’s advice to enterprise IT security teams is very clear:

"Because this attack enables the recovery of the private key itself, certificate rotation alone will not protect you! New private keys must be generated."

Following successful private key exploitation in its Heartbleed Challenge, CloudFlare turned from skeptical to genuinely concerned: “Our recommendation based on this finding is that everyone reissue and revoke their private keys.”

Unfortunately, I’ve observed some response teams either 1) assuming that patching is enough 2) patching and reissuing certificates without generating new keys. Unless private keys are replaced, attackers can still spoof websites and decrypt encrypted communication.

CISOs and CIOs should not report to their CEOs, board of directors, and customers that they are safe until they’ve replaced all keys and certificates. Doing so is ill advised as we learn more about new exploits and the likelihood that Heartbleed exploits occurred in 2013 and before.

Furthermore, enterprises must assume, just as they are with userid and passwords, that ALL keys and certificates are compromised, not just those that secured vulnerable Heartbleed systems. Kill Chain Analysis helps us understand that attackers will look to expand their attacks using similar methods and targets as their first intrusion. Further infiltration of networks means that SSL keys and certificate and SSH keys, even though not running vulnerable OpenSSL, should be assumed targets and compromised.

Respond & Remediate Now Before It's Too Late

  • Know where all keys and certificates are located
  • Generate new keys and certificates
  • Replace new keys and certificates, revoke old ones
  • Validate remediation to ensure new key and certificates are in place

To help organizations respond, Venafi has prepared more guidance on remediation steps. Venafi customers have already remediated keys and certificates in hours. And in the last few days, we’ve been helping many new customers start to respond quickly. Please contact Venafi’s Incident Response and Remediation team to help your enterprise.

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About the author

Kevin Bocek
Kevin Bocek

Kevin is Vice President of Security Strategy & Threat Intelligence at Venafi. He is recognized as a subject matter expert in threat detection, encryption, digital signatures, and key management, and has previously held positions at CipherCloud, PGP Corporation and Thales.

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