Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/7/2015
12:01 AM
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3 Of 4 Global 2000 Companies Still Vulnerable To Heartbleed

Largest companies on Earth might have patched, but haven't done their due diligence with revoking and issuing new certificates, says Venafi.

One year after the public disclosure of Heartbleed, 74 percent of Global 2000 organizations with public-facing systems are still vulnerable to the OpenSSL vulnerability, according to a new report by Venafi.

Unlike an average software vulnerability, Heartbleed could not be remediated by patching alone. Organizations also needed to revoke old SSL certifications, issue new ones, and generate new keys. Unfortunately, Venafi found via its TrustNet certificate reputation service that most organizations stopped before the job was done.

From the report:

Venafi has identified 580,000 hosts belonging to Global 2000 organizations that have not been completely remediated. These partially remediated hosts have been patched against Heartbleed. However, the organizations have either performed, as described by Gartner, “lazy” remediation, failing to replace the private key, or failed to revoke the old certificate.

Why have these organizations done such an inadequate job eradicating Heartbleed threats?

"It’s a combination of one, not knowing the correct steps to follow, two, not knowing where to find all keys and certificates, three, not having the knowledge or systems to be able to replace keys and certificates quickly and in large quantities," says Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi.

"We also know that most organizations don’t know where keys and certificates are located and how they’re used," says Bocek. "Recently, we released Ponemon Institute research that shows that 54% of organizations don’t know how many keys and certificates they have and where they are used."  

As Venafi points out in the report, Heartbleed-based attacks are not just theoretical. In August 2014, news hit of a breach at Community Health Systems which exposed identity information of 4.5 million patients. The Chinese APT 18 group breached the healthcare provider by exploiting a variety of security errors on CHS's part, including an incomplete Heartbleed remediation

Though highly publicized, the CHS breach news didn't seem to nudge many organizations into further securing themselves against Heartbleed. In August 2014, 76 percent were vulnerable; eight months later, after the CHS news, that number had only dropped to 74 percent, according to the report.

Despite the severity of the Heartbleed vulnerability, and with the exception of CHS, the news has not been flooded with reports of Heartbleed exploits in the past year.

"However, we should expect not to hear about exploits," says Bocek. "Heartbleed is a silent killer. With compromised data like keys and certificates, the subsequent use might not be attributed. For example, decryption traffic that leads to the theft of user names/passwords would be really hard to track by Heartbleed exploits." 

Country by country, the Global 2000 companies in Australia are furthest behind with remediation efforts at only 16 percent. The United States and Germany are doing best, but they're still only 41 and 42 percent remediated, respectively. 

"Overall, organizations need to do a better job of being able to change out keys and certificates," says Bocek. "Google has moved to three-month certificate lifetimes -- basically assuming that keys and certificates will be compromised at some point. Being proactive as well as being able to respond to incidents or vulnerabilities like Heartbleed faster is needed for the future. One thing is certain: we’ll only be using more encryption, more keys and certificates in the future." 

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
4/7/2015 | 10:53:38 AM
Attackers don't read this blog
Sounds like an open invitation for bad actors! Seriously, though the scale of this vulnerability is really scary. Especially for a "silent killer."
Crowdsourced vs. Traditional Pen Testing
Alex Haynes, Chief Information Security Officer, CDL,  3/19/2019
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