What You Need to Know About Heartbleed

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Heartbleed in the last week. On April 7th, information about the OpenSSL vulnerability CVE-2014-0160, a.k.a. “Heartbleed”, became publicly available. I’m going to explain now what Heartbleed is, and what you need to know about Heartbleed as a real estate professional and a general user of the Internet.

The Heartbleed vulnerability affects OpenSSL, the encryption technology that powers and protects some 60% of the Internet. Even if that makes no sense to you, and you have never given it a single thought, I can promise you that you interact with OpenSSL on a daily basis, if you use the Internet. If you have two minutes and want a quick and very easy-to-understand lesson on OpenSSL and Heartbleed, watch this Mashable video: What is the Heartbleed Encryption Bug?

While we at Properties Online are confident none of our services and tools have been compromised or maliciously accessed due to Heartbleed, as we do not use OpenSSL, we find this an excellent lesson in Internet safety and a good reminder that passwords should be updated often.

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” says heartbleed.com.

While your Properties Online user accounts remain unaffected by Heartbleed, you are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly through many of the other websites and web services you use on a regular basis. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. “Many online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Not sure where to start? Check out Mashable’s HeartBleed Hit List for the passwords you need to change RIGHT NOW. You can also visit CNET for a list of sites that have been patched against Heartbleed.

So, just a quick recap and reminder: Your Properties Online accounts and passwords are SAFE. They were not compromised by Heartbleed. But changing and resetting our online passwords is a time-consuming task we all put off a little too long. We urge you to take this web crisis for the helpful reminder it is and do some password housekeeping.

–All the best from the team at Properties Online

By Jess Maria

Jessica Maria is an avid business and lifestyle writer on subjects ranging from technology to real estate to immigration. Her work has appeared in magazines in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the UAE. She lives in California’s wine country, with her husband and two young sons.

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