Responsibly (Heart)Bleeding

By Mike Rothman

Yeah, we hit on the Heartbleed vulnerability in this week’s FireStarter, but I wanted to call attention to how Akamai handled the vulnerability. They first came out with an announcement that their networks (and their customers) were safe because their systems were already patched. Big network service providers tend to get an early heads-up when stuff like this happens, so they can get a head start on patching.

They were also very candid about whether they have proof of compromise:

Do you have any evidence of a data breach?

No. And unfortunately, this isn’t “No, we have evidence that there was no breach of data;” rather, “we have no evidence at all.” We doubt many people do – and this leaves data holders in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what, if any, data breaches might have happened. Sites using Akamai were not measurably safer – or less safe – than sites not using Akamai.

So kudos are due Akamai for explaining the issue in understandable terms, discussing their home-grown way of issuing and dealing with certs, discussing the potential vulnerability window before they started patching, and owning up to the fact that they (like everyone else) have no idea what (if anything) was compromised.

Then they assured customers they were protected. Unless they weren’t. Over the weekend a researcher pointed out a bug in Akamai’s patch. Ruh Roh. But again, to Akamai’s credit, they came clean. They posted an update explaining the specifics of the buggy patch and why they were still exposed. Then they made it clear that all the certs will be re-issued – just to be sure.

As a result, we have begun the process of rotating all customer SSL keys/certificates. Some of these certificates will quickly rotate; some require extra validation with the certificate authorities and may take longer.

It is okay to be wrong. As long as an organization works diligently to make it right, and they keep customers updated and in the loop. Preferably without requiring an NDA to figure out what’s going on…

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It’s fine they admitted they were wrong, but unfortunately, Akamai also delayed key rotation for customers that did not trust their original assessment and were asking for proactive key replacement days before their protections were proven insecure. Their overall handling of this, especially given their early notice, was spectacularly bad.

By Akamai Customer

Agreed. a bit of bumpy road pre-disclosure (why only a few groups etc pp, you guys covered that in the firestarter), but responsible handling from akamai along the way. maybe I’m too optimistic but it seems to be happening more often than it used to.

By Marco Tietz

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