How Heartbleed Affects Your Security Certifications

Much has been in the news over the past couple of months about the security vulnerability known as Heartbleed. It is of vital interest to businesses and consumers, but especially so for businesses with products intended to provide security for their users. There are some specific and unique impacts to companies who are planning or are in the midst of obtaining a security certification for any of their products. Here is a quick summary of what the issue is and how it potentially affects your certification activities.

What is Heartbleed?

Heartbleed is a vulnerability that allows an attacker to access a server’s memory, where sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, encryption keys and other sensitive data may be stored. It does so by exploiting a weakness in OpenSSL, a widely used open-source software used to encrypt web communications. This vulnerability is one of the most significant and disruptive in recent years.

How long has Heartbleed been an issue?

Even though the issue only came to public attention via media reports in April 2014, the Heartbleed bug dates back to December 2011. It affects OpenSSL version 1.0.1 (released in March 2012) and all subsequent versions to and including 1.0.1f (released Jan. 6, 2014). Beta versions of OpenSSL, version 1.0.2, are also vulnerable. Earlier versions of OpenSSL (0.9.8, 1.0.0) are not affected, nor is OpenSSL 1.0.1g.

How widespread is the effect of Heartbleed?

OpenSSL is commonly used on servers running Apache and nginx. It’s been estimated that up to half of the active Internet servers in the world use Apache, with another 14 percent using nginx. Websites that were affected by Heartbleed include such prominent names as Yahoo!, OK Cupid, Imgur and Eventbrite. Unaffected were Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and Dropbox, among others.

Beyond https servers, Heartbleed could affect anything that has an OpenSSL dependency, such as VPN implementations, instant messaging clients, email and more.

If we are seeking a security validation, do we need to assure evaluators that our product or system is not vulnerable to Heartbleed?

Yes, if your product or system uses an affected version of OpenSSL, and your certification work is In Process or In Evaluation. If you determine that it is vulnerable, you will need to mitigate or fix the issue before the evaluation effort can move forward. Each validation process has a different set of requirements for addressing Heartbleed. You will need to check with your specific certification authorities as to how they want you to handle the issue from an engineering standpoint, document the changes you have made, if required, or demonstrate why no changes were needed, if applicable.

We have already completed certification for our product. Do we need to recertify?

If your product uses an affected version of OpenSSL and it has already been certified or validated, you are not required to recertify. However, we would strongly urge you to demonstrate to your customers, potential customers and other stakeholders that you are committed to information security, and have thoroughly reviewed if your product or system is vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. You should be prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to remediate the situation, up to and including recertification.

If you want direct assistance from Corsec in determining if your product(s) is vulnerable to Heartbleed, we are more than happy to help. Please click here, or email us at to request an assessment.

For continual updates on how Heartbleed is affecting your products’ security certifications, please follow us on Twitter at @CorsecSecurity, visit us on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our blog.

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