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The Significance of Heartbleed – And What it Means for Everyone

Doesn’t it seem like every other day there’s another reminder of the threat of cybercrime, and the need for better cybersecurity? This applies to everything from government agencies a municipal communications networks to the consumer websites we all use every day.

Virus

By Berishafjolla (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most recent threats—and most widely talked about and concerning—was Heartbleed. It was not only one of these many reminders that our information isn’t always secure and that we all need to be aware of the fact that we are vulnerable, but it was significant for several other reasons as well.

One of those reasons was that Heartbleed truly affected everyone. Basically, Heartbleed existed for at least two years and was in essence a shortcoming in OpenSSL, which protects about 90% of online communications. What does this mean? The majority of servers, services, and applications were probably breached.

Another reason this was such a significant cyber threat was that when it was discovered, it still hadn’t been fixed. Just because the public and the people in charge became aware of it, didn’t mean it just went away. It’s not like catching a crook and putting him in jail. They discovered the crime but the crook was still out there. What’s more—when the public became aware of Heartbleed, so did hackers, who began using the vulnerability to their advantage.

Yet another reason this one is so significant? It’s been described as relatively mundane in its technicality. There have been and could be more complex and sophisticated errors, which makes everyone ask, “if this one was so bad and so widespread, how bad could the next one be?”

Of course, as with anything else, consumers and businesses have to go on operating as usual and living their lives, just with caution. Change passwords regularly and remain aware and vigilant of the threats that exist in this cyber-dominant world in which we now live.

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