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Monday, 31 October 2022 07:32

UK sec guru plays down hype over new OpenSSL vulnerability Featured

Kevin Beaumont says people are being asked to patch a flaw for which a patch has yet to be issued.ssued. Kevin Beaumont says people are being asked to patch a flaw for which a patch has yet to be issued.ssued. Supplied

British security researcher Kevin Beaumont has played down the hype over a recent announcement about a critical flaw in the open-source cryptographic library OpenSSL from Red Hat Linux. The advisory is due on 1 November.

Mark Cox, vice-president of security at the Apache Software Foundation, tweeted on 26 October that an OpenSSL 3.0.7 update would fix a critical CVE due to be announced on 1 November, adding that it did not affect versions before 3.0.

This led to American tech site ZDNet putting the hype machine in overdrive, with Steven Vaughan-Nicholls penning an article where the standfirst read: "We don't have the details yet, but we can safely say that come Nov. 1, everyone — and I mean everyone — will need to patch OpenSSL 3.x."

He wrote: "It's likely to be abused to disclose server memory contents, and potentially reveal user details, and could be easily exploited remotely to compromise server private keys or execute code execute remotely. In other words, pretty much everything you don't want happening on your production systems."

But in a tweet thread, Beaumont, an individual who has acquired a reputation as a level-headed technologist, pointed to a post by security which said only 1.5% of OpenSSL instances were affected.

The company's post said, "[Of the OpenSSL instances] 98.5% are older, unaffected versions... A quick review of Linux distributions shows that only new versions like Ubuntu 22 and RHEL 9 include OpenSSL v3 in their package managers. This information supports the relatively low prevalence of the vulnerable versions."

Beaumont said: "The sad thing about the OpenSSL vuln is it's an open source project... yet I just had a member of the press offer to tell me about the vuln if I sign an NDA from a security vendor and agree to an embargo so I could comment on it. Uh, no. Stop monetising fear, vendors."

He advised security people to keep an eye on the page for the Node.js library. "Doesn't Redhat ship with OpenSSL 3? Yes, in Redhat Enterprise Linux 9 from May 2022. I doubt you've deployed it in production," he wrote.

"Doesn't new Node.js use OpenSSL 3? Yes. Almost all the vulns don't apply."

Beaumont said: "I should probably blog about this one day, but to help contextualise - for orgs like Google and Cloudflare, SSL stacks are their life blood.

"They have billion=dollar cyber budgets. They deal with every nation state 24/7. You.. probably haven’t finished migrating off Win2008."

Over the years, OpenSSL has experienced a number of critical and serious vulnerabilities but none worse than the one dubbed Heartbleed which was made public in 2014. It had been introduced into the code upstream in December 2011. When exploited, it leaks the contents of memory from server to client and vice versa.

This led the founder of the OpenBSD operating system, Theo de Raadt, to fork the code into something he called LibreSSL and start cleaning up the bugs.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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