The critical, widespread Heartbleed bug
No matter how hard you try to stay safe, some aspects of securing your online data are completely out of your hands. That fact was made painfully obvious on Monday, when the Internet got caught with its collective pants down thanks to a critical vulnerability affecting a fundamental tool for secure online communications.
Called , the bug has been in the wild for more than two years now. It allows attackers to exploit a critical programming flaw in OpenSSL—an open source implementation of the SSL/TLS encryption protocol.
When exploited, the flaw leaks data from a server's memory, which could include SSL site keys, usernames and passwords, and even personal user data such as email, instant messages, and files, according to Finland-based Codenomicon, the security firm that first uncovered Heartbleed in concert with a Google researcher.
That's bad. Real bad, though it's important to note that Heartbleed only affects OpenSSL and not the security protocol itself.
But due to OpenSSL's popularity with website administrators, the potential number of affected websites is huge. Security and Internet research firm Netcraft estimates that Heartbleed affects around half a million "."
Yahoo has already said it was hit by the Heartbleed bug and is advising users to update their passwords ASAP.
"On the scale of 1 to 10, this [Heartbleed] is an 11," respected security expert said on his blog.
Yes, this bug is pretty serious and almost certainly affects at least one of your online accounts. But now that we've got the scary stuff out of the way, let's talk about some of the practical measures you need to know about.