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Internet security experts are scrambling to patch an alarming encryption vulnerability that has exposed millions of passwords and personal information, including credit-card numbers, email accounts and a wide range of online commerce.

How big of a deal is this?

Some reports suggest as many as two-thirds of the sites on the Internet are using OpenSSL, the encryption code that we now know is flawed and vulnerable to so-called Heartbleed attacks.
It’s been a few days, anything new to worry about?

Initially, security experts focused on web sites using OpenSSL. We now know many digital products – including some with difficult to patch firmware – are also vulnerable, including:

  • Antivirus software
  • Email servers
  • Security firewalls
  • Routers and network switches
  • Some PCs
  • Android Version 4.11 (Jelly Bean)
  • Even the security-conscious Tor network

In those cases the hardware and software firms need to introduce patches.

What websites should I be worried about?

The Canada Revenue Agency website is shut down, and not expected to be open again until at least the weekend. The CRA says this move was precautionary, because there is no evidence of a security breach.

Canadian banks, airlines and online retailers such as Amazon.ca, Wal-Mart and Indigo Books all said they weren’t affected by the bug.

The online news site Mashable has an extensive list of other affected sites. They suggest you should immediately change your password if you use:

  • Facebook
  • Gmail (or other Google services)
  • Tumblr
  • Yahoo mail
  • GoDaddy
  • Intuit (TuboTax)
  • Dropbox
  • LastPass
  • OkCupid
  • Soundcloud

Wondering about a site a site not on this list? The Web developer resource Github has been testing sites, here’s a working list of the vulnerable, not vulnerable and no SSL sites: Heartbleed-Masstest. The caveat for this information is that there is no central “is my Internet broken” government agency that can verify these checks; Github’s community of volunteers appears to be our best resource but maybe think of it more like Wikipedia than a peer-reviewed journal.

There are also a few services, such as filippo.io/Heartbleed, that let you test a website yourself. We recommend doing this for any lesser-known site you use regularly.

When should I change my passwords?

It may sound like a good idea to just update every one you have, but it won’t do you any good to change a password on a site that hasn’t updated its OpenSSL yet: The new password will be vulnerable too.

As Toronto-based password-managing site 1Password says “The time to change passwords is after sites patch vulnerability *and* update certificates.”

How can I make my passwords safer?

The smartest thing to do at this point is diversify your passwords, so that if someone hacks your OKCupid account they can’t get into Google with the same password. My rule of thumb is that no site that connects to my credit card shares a password with any other site I use. We just started a series on how to live a more secure digital life and here’s some totally crucial password advice from Technology reporter Omar El Akkad:

Most people use terrible passwords. There are a number of reasons for this. One is the sheer variety of password-enabled devices we have to deal with every day (how many people still have the default “1234” as the password on their vehicle’s Bluetooth connection?). Another is the fault of certain products and web sites that either don’t care what sort of password you choose, or force you to jump through a bunch of hoops that result in the creation of a convoluted password you end up forgetting a week later. As Randall Munroe notes, the most important determinant of password strength is entropy. Basically, the more stuff there is to guess, the better the password. So choose a long password. And if you don’t think you can remember multiple passwords and don’t want to use a password manager, at least memorize a strong password and use it exclusively for your most important digital transaction. The last thing you want is your banking login compromised because someone hacked into a gaming forum you frequent and stole your password.

Is this a virus?

No. A virus is a piece of malicious code that seeks to infect your computer systems. Heartbleed appears to be a mistake, a flaw in the encryption code that many websites use to protect passwords they ask you to use to log in, as well as other information.

How long has this been going on?

According to the researchers who found the problem – and let’s be clear, this is a gaping hole that words like “flaw, bug and vulnerability” barely describe – the bad code was introduced two years ago. To quote Codenomicon (who found and named Heartbleed): The affected code is called OpenSSL and “is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet.”

Can you geek out for a moment, how does this work?

The term “Heartbleed” was coined by Finnish security researchers working in California. The vulnerability affects encryption technology called OpenSSL and could allow hackers to decipher encrypted data without website owners or users knowing any information theft had occurred.

Let me quote the Globe and Mail’s ops boss Steve Mickeler (Team Lead, Web Operations): “The flaw allows the attacker to access 64kb chunks of memory at a time and can often be used to retrieve the private keys, allowing the attacker to decrypt the SSL session and discover usernames and passwords. It can also be used to perform a man-in-the-middle attack by spoofing the site the user is going to since they now have access to the SSL keys and the client would not deem anything to be suspicious.”

As security expert Raymond Vankrimpen explains in our story about the CRA shutdown: “The Heartbleed vulnerability occurs when OpenSSL is used in combination with a communication protocol called the RFC6520 heartbeat. Such “heartbeats” help a remote user remain in touch after connecting with a website server …

“A small chunk of the server’s memory content, about 64 kilobytes of memory, can leak out with each heartbeat.

“While 64 kilobytes doesn’t represent a large amount of memory content, it is large enough to hold a password or an encryption key, allowing an unscrupulous user to return to exploit the server further.”

For an excellent illustration of how this works, check this cartoon from xkcd.

It’s also important to note that 64kb is not the limit of leaked information, a potential attacker could collect many “heartbeats” of data.

Again, for even more information, including info on how to fix your site, check Codenomicon’s specialty site: Heartbleed.com.

One piece of good news? The password you use on The Globe and Mail’s website is not vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug (we use a different security protocol, and in places that use OpenSSL we used the older, not broken, version).

Whose fault is this?

Well, it’s hard not to blame this on the OpenSSL Software Foundation and the developers who maintain this code. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are only four staffers to maintain the open-source libraries, and only one is full time.

“There’s no question more effectively applied manpower would be a good thing,” said Steve Marquess, 59 years old, who is the president of the foundation. “Formal code audits would be a good thing.” Indeed.

What does the guy who made the mistake have to say?

Robin Seggelmann, the German software developer who wrote the bad line of code spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“I was working on improving OpenSSL and submitted numerous bug fixes and added new features…In one of the new features, unfortunately, I missed validating a variable containing a length.”

After he submitted the code, a reviewer “apparently also didn’t notice the missing validation,”  Seggelmann said, “so the error made its way from the development branch into the released version.”

Dr Seggelmann said the error he introduced was “quite trivial,” but acknowledged that its impact was “severe.”





Thank you, Shane Dingman, The Globe and Mail

Cryptolocker’s  Virus Fresh Legs

When the CryptoLocker ransomware virus first appeared in September, few IT experts expected it to stick around for so long. But in 2014, the ransomware, which generally appears as a .ZIP, .PDF, or .EXE file attached to an unfamiliar email, is still infecting computers at an alarming rate, according to a Dell Secure Works analysis. A University of Kent survey released in March revealed that 1 in 30 users have been hit by the virus — and 40% of those had paid the ransom.Once CryptoLocker infects a machine, it encrypts all accessible files and attempts to extract hundreds or even thousands of dollars in payment to de-encrypt them. .Many IT service providers admitted that computer users who didn’t have sufficient backup and disaster recovery systems like RCSTechnology Solutions, LLC probably would have to “pay up” to recover their CryptoLocker Virus affected files. But security officials deplored the practice, saying it would only encourage Bitcoin’s continued use as ransom. “If even a few victims pay, then the cybercriminals will think they have got a viable business model and keep infecting people and asking for ransoms,” Dmitri Bestuzhev, a spokesman for anti-virus behemoth Kaspersky, told The Guardian in 2013. “If nobody pays, they will stop these campaigns.”For now, here are 5 steps to avoid CryptoLocker  Virus infection:• Implement regular, remote backups and a sound disaster recovery plan• Never open ANY attachment from ANY sender you don’t recognize

• Validate ANY link in ANY unfamiliar email before clicking by hovering over it and looking for legitimate IP addresses, not long strings of unrelated characters

• Ensure that solid firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam, and malware programs are in place

• Have a trusted IT professional assess the security of your systems

CryptoLocker is one of the most devastating viruses to appear in recent years. If you want to enjoy unparalleled levels of protection, RCS Technology Solutions, LLC and put our backup, disaster recovery, system monitoring, and encryption tools to work for you.

Use antivirus software

Install anti-virus software on all of your desktops and servers, and ensure they are kept up to date. Because new viruses can spread extremely quickly, it is important to have an updating infrastructure in place which can update all the computers in your company seamlessly, frequently, and at short notice.RCS Technology Solutions, solutions can be automatically updated, ensuring the latest virus and spyware protection is in place against the latest threats even when your office is unmanned.

Run a consolidated email filtering solution at your email gateway as well to protect your business from the threats of email-borne viruses, spam and spyware.  RCS Technology Solutions, Solutions checks all email traffic passing through your email server, providing an extra layer of protection against mass-mailing worms and viruses at the gateway.

And don’t forget to protect your laptop computers and desktop computers used by home workers. Ensure they are running up-to-date virus protection as viruses, worms and spyware can easily use these devices to enter your business. RCS Technology Solutions, can easily ensure that your laptop and remote workforce are automatically updated with the latest virus protection every time they connect to the internet or your network.

Set your filtering

Consider filtering potentially malicious emails at the email gateway as this can provide a level of pro-active protection against new threats.

You could:

  • Block file types that are often virus carriers
    These include EXE, COM, PIF, SCR, VBS, SHS, CHM and BAT file types. It is unlikely that your organization will ever need to receive files of these types from the outside world.
  • Block any file with more than one file type extension
    Some viruses attempt to disguise their true executable nature by using “double extensions”. Files such as LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.VBS or ANNAKOURNIKOVA.JPG.VBS may appear to be ASCII text or a harmless graphic to the inexperienced.
  • Ensure all executable code sent to your organization is checked and approved
    Ensure that all executable s received from the outside world via email goes directly to your IT department or, in the case of small businesses, your IT person, for checking and approval.This serves two purposes. First, your IT department (or person) can confirm not only that it is virus-free, but also properly licensed, unlikely to conflict with existing software applications, and is suitable (for instance, not pornographic). Second, IT will always know what software is installed on which computers.

Protect the gateway and remote users with firewalls

Computers connected to the outside world should be properly protected from internet threats via firewalls. Laptops and remote home workers should be included; they will also need firewall protection and might not be able to take advantage of a central firewall inside your business.

Stay up-to-date with software patches

Many software vendors issue advisories on security issues. For instance, Microsoft runs a mailing list which warns of security loopholes and issues found in Microsoft’s software and advises on patches which are available for protection. IT should subscribe to such mailing lists, and act upon the advisories as appropriate. When a new security hole is found in an application or operating system, and a patch is available, organizations should have an infrastructure for testing the patch works properly and rolling that patch out across their user base. Some vendors may provide automatic patch updating for home users, and such systems may be appropriate for updating your mobile workforce and remote homeworkers with the latest security fixes.

Back up your data regularly

Make regular backups of important work and data, and check that the backups were successful. You should also find a safe place to store your back-ups, perhaps even off-site in case of fire.

Disable booting from floppy disks

Although they are not as commonly encountered as they used to be, boot sector viruses can still affect computers and yet can be easily countered. Change the CMOS bootup sequence on PCs so that rather than booting from drive A: if you leave a floppy in your machine, you boot by default from drive C: instead. This should stop all pure boot sector viruses (like Form, CMOS4, AntiCMOS, Monkey, etc) from infecting you. Should you need to boot from a floppy disk the CMOS can easily be switched back.

Introduce an anti-virus policy

Produce a policy for safe computing and distribute it to all staff. Make sure every employee has read and understood the policy, and that they know who to speak to, if they have any questions.

Such a policy could include:

  • A ban on downloading executables and documents directly from the internet.
  • A ban on running unsolicited executables/documents/spreadsheets within the organization.
  • A ban on playing computer games or using screensavers which did not come with the operating system.
  • An IT checking and approval system for executable s that arrive via email from the outside world.

It could also ask staff to do the following:

  • Save all Word documents as RTF (Rich Text Format) files as DOC files can harbor macro viruses.
  • Treat with suspicion any newly arrived email that they weren’t expecting.
  • Forward any virus warnings or hoaxes directly to IT (and no-one else) to confirm whether they are genuine or not.
  • Staff should inform IT immediately if they think their computer has been infected with a virus.


Microsoft’s popular Security Essentials anti-virus software has failed to gain the latest certificate from the AV-TEST institute. In antimalware testing against a range of products, AV-TEST failed to certify AhnLab V3 Internet Security 8.0, Microsoft Security Essentials 4.1, and PC Tools Internet Security 2012 out of a total of 25 different vendors. Microsoft’s own anti-virus software failed to adequately protect against 0-day malware attacks, scoring an average of 71 percent vs. the industry average of 92 percent.

Full story and link below, what are you using? Contact us we can help.


Hackers Increasingly Going After Small Business

Hackers are focusing more on small businesses than ever before, with more than a third of targeted attacks aimed at companies with fewer than 250 employees. Full Article from August 7th, 2010.


We are Security+ Certified, We call help both Businesses and Residential computers/laptop/printers/networks-LAN and WiFi.

Please contact us if you are effected, wonder if you are effected, or want to ensure you are not infected.

Anti-malware move could cut off Internet service to thousands

Up to 300,000 computers in the world, including up to about 80,000 in the U.S., that are infected with malware known as Alureon may lose Internet access Monday when the FBI shuts down a temporary system that has provided connectivity for those systems since malware-spreading sites were taken down. An informational campaign about the connectivity issue is said to have greatly reduced the number of infected PCs in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal/The Associated Press (7/5), Reuters (7/5)