As many as 30,000 Web sites that thought they had patched the Heartbleed vulnerability are actually no better off now than they were previously -- and some may even be worse off, according to a report by Internet services company Netcraft. Many of the vulnerable sites scanned by Netcraft have yet to take any action in regard to the Heartbleed issue.
Heartbleed, a vulnerability in some OpenSSL installations, was discovered in April. Immediately after the bug was announced, SSL certificates and keys were replaced but in many instances, they were replaced with compromised keys. According to the report, 57 percent of sites have not revoked SSL certificates or issued safe ones, leaving thousands and possibly millions of people at risk.
Not Any Better
The majority of sites that Netcraft looked at are simply not better off now than they were in April when Heartbleed was made public. Most sites have decided to avoid updating OpenSSL and issuing new certificates while other sites have simply not revoked the compromised keys, leaving security up to individual users.
An estimated 5 percent of vulnerable servers were apparently under the control of administrators who did not understand how to actually fix the Heartbleed vulnerability. In those instances, 30,000 Web sites revoked certificates and issued new ones. Unfortunately, the updated certificates were still based on compromised keys, leaving the sites and their users at risk.
Rob Graham, CEO of Errate Security, published a report Thursday that backed up Netcraft's findings. Graham, who performed a scan of Web sites shortly after Heartbleed was announced, found that 615,268 servers were vulnerable. After weeks of patching, that figure now stands at 318,239.
Making Sites Vulnerable
The Web sites that are perhaps in the worst shape following Heartbleed are those that actually increased their vulnerabilities because they overreacted. Vivaldi software developer Yngve Nysaeter Pettersen has found that around 20 percent of servers that are currently vulnerable were not in the same situation in early April.
Pettersen said that because the media covered Heartbleed so intensively, administrators in charge of secure servers may have been spooked into changing their OpenSSL versions to other vulnerable versions.
"One possibility is that all the media attention led concerned system administrators into believing their system was unsecure," Pettersen said. "This, perhaps combined with administrative pressure and a need to ‘do something,' led them to upgrade an unaffected server to a newer, but still buggy version of the system, perhaps because the system variant had not yet been officially patched."
Based on his own scans, which began on April 11, Pettersen has found that although half of the vulnerable servers were patched shortly after Heartbleed was announced, the rest have not been fixed. Given the massive numbers of servers that are still at risk and those that have become vulnerable, the effects of Heartbleed will continue to be felt for some time.