Hackers prepping for OpenSSL Heartbleed attacks

While security pros hustle to patch Web sites affected by the widespread OpenSSL flaw nicknamed Heartbleed, there are indications that cybercriminals are hoping to beat them to the punch.

A list of more than 10,000 domains that were vulnerable, patched or unaffected by the bug was found on Pastebin by Easy Solutions. The fraud prevention company believes hackers are most likely behind the list.

"A lot of time what these guys will do is dump a list of inventory on Pastebin, cut that link and then share the link with their friends on a (underground) forum," Daniel Ingevaldson, chief technology officer for Easy Solutions, said. "So, it's essentially a billboard for a service."

Wide-scale scanning for vulnerable sites is underway across the Internet, Ingevaldson said. Much of the scanning is being done for legitimate reasons, while the rest is by hackers looking for potential victims.

"We're seeing a systematic canvassing of the entire Internet right now to see what's vulnerable and what isn't," Ingevaldson said. "It's a bit of a gold rush."

Many free scanning tools are available on the Web to test sites for the flawed OpenSSL library, which has been in use for about two years. OpenSSL is the open source implementation of Secure Sockets Layer, which is used to encrypt communications between a web browser and server. The vulnerability makes it possible to read the memory of the server and steal credentials, passwords and other data.

At least a half million servers, or 17 percent of secure websites, were reportedly vulnerable, presenting a large target for cybercriminals who reach the sites before their operators can apply the freely available patch.

However, finding a vulnerable site is much easier than exploiting the flaw, experts say. But while it may be fairly difficult now, hackers share information and toolkits, which may make the task easier in the future.

Websites are not the only entities vulnerable to an OpenSSL attack. Cloud-based apps are also potential targets. Netskope, a cloud app analytics company, has a running tally of vulnerable apps that are used by enterprises. The company's list had reached 100 as of Thursday.

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Tags hackersOpenSSLapplicationsHeartbleedvulnerabilitysoftwarePastebindata protection

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