Scramble on to fix flaw in SSL security protocolNovember 5, 2009 – 7:03 AM
Software makers around the world are scrambling to fix a serious bug in the technology used to transfer information securely on the Internet.
The flaw lies in the SSL protocol, best known as the technology used for secure browsing on Web sites beginning with HTTPS, and lets attackers intercept secure SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) communications between computers using what’s known as a man-in-the-middle attack.
Although the flaw can only be exploited under certain circumstances, it could be used to hack into servers in shared hosting environments, mail servers, databases, and many other secure applications, according to Chris Paget, a security researcher who has studied the issue.
“It’s a protocol-level flaw.” said Paget, the chief technology officer with a security consultancy called H4rdw4re. “There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s going to have to get fixed on this one: Web browsers, Web servers, Web load balancers, Web accelerators, mail servers, SQL Servers, ODBC drivers, peer-to-peer protocols.”
Although an attacker would first need to hack into the victim’s network to launch the man-in-the-middle attack, the results would then be devastating — especially if used in a targeted attack to gain access to a database or a mail server, Paget said.