There’s nothing like a good widespread internet security scare to make you feel alive. That said, few Internet security scares come much bigger than the charmingly-named Heartbleed, which has left the panic peddlers of the interwebz smashing their hardware like they’re in some cyber nuclear holocaust, and urging others to take heed and follow suit.
In typical fashion, information has been abundant and contradictory, but, in layman’s terms, what do you really need to know about Heartbleed to make sure you survive the next few days/weeks before the internet overlords patch it all up and you can move on with your life?
These five things, to be precise:
1. What is Heartbleed?
Heartbleed is, simply put, a bug. Unfortunately, it’s a bug that lives in a piece of security software called OpenSSL, that virtually every single secure website in the whole cyber universe uses. See that little padlock in the address bar of your browser? Yeah, that’s OpenSSL.
2. What is Heartbleed going to do? Am I going to die?
Because OpenSSL is basically responsible for ensuring the secure transit of information between a user (you) and the server, its prime objective is to prevent nasty third parties from coming in and accessing said information (for example, passwords and such) for morally dubious, at best, reasons.
Basically, Heartbleed means that there’s a little hole in this whole process, giving cyber criminals potential access to this information while it’s in transit. Here’s a nice comic to explain it for you.
One day, you will die, yes, but it’s unlikely to be related to Heartbleed, unless of course, your heart actually is bleeding. You should probably get that seen to.
3. Is it coming after me?
How many sites do you use with that little padlock? Lots? Yeah, it’s coming after you.
4. Changing all my passwords is a massive pain. It’s taken me this long to remember them all. Do I really need to change them?
Sorry, mate. You are going to have to change all those passwords, but hang on: HOLD THE PRESS! Not yet, you hasty creature. A simple “Heartbleed” Google search will yield a whole host of respected media outlets telling you to change your passwords, not change your passwords, withdraw your life savings and bury them in the garden etc. etc. Here’s what you should do: firstly, try to avoid using any sites that have been hit by Heartbleed UNTIL internet overlords have fixed the problem. Don’t change your passwords until this has happened, because your new ones will be just as at risk as your existing ones, and let’s be honest, your imagination is probably limited at best and nobody wants to resort to using “password123” as their password because they’ve exhausted the limits of their password imagination.
Make sure your password is well hard. Here’s a Guardian article to help you with that.
5. Is everything going to be alright?
Yes, everything is going to be alright. Just follow this advice, and pay attention to sites’ updates about fixing the bug, which shouldn’t take too long, because, let’s be honest, they’re probably all having massive fits right now. Get outside – view nature’s cyberworld and put some real clothes on, for goodness’ sake.
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