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The next Heartbleed: 5 security vulnerabilities to watch

John Brandon | June 10, 2014
By and large, the major websites hit by Heartbleed have recovered. So have the bad guys, who are undoubtedly plotting their next move. Here, security experts offer their take on five large-scale, Heartbleed-level vulnerabilities for which CIOs should prepare.

IT executives know one thing about security: Be prepared. Over the past few months, many large companies had to deal with the Heartbleed virus, which is capable of stealing logins and passwords on Internet servers.

But what comes next? asked security companies, consultants and IT experts to discuss other potential flaws that are ripe for exploit. These five should catch your attention.

1. Apache: Hitting 'Heartbeat' of the Internet
Several analysts mentioned a threat related to the Apache server, essentially the heartbeat of the Internet. (Apache servers control how Web addressing works.) " Apache has massive market penetration, runs across a variety of OS platforms and is also maintained by the open source community," says security analyst Troy Hunt. "A previously undisclosed flaw, such as a local file inclusion risk, could enable an attacker to pull arbitrary files from the system."

2. Programming Backdoors: Easy Access for Admins - and Hackers
When developers create software that runs at a retail store or as a custom app for the marketing team, they sometimes leave a "backdoor" method to authenticate without using the proper login system. Hackers could exploit this, says Vince Berk, the CEO of FlowTraq, a network security company. While programmers leave the door open for testing the app, they might not realize how a hacker could gain access to the entire network.

3. Amazon Web Services: Could Single Sign-on Pose a Problem?
You don't hear about this one as a threat, but Tom Smith, the vice president of business development and strategy at CloudEntr, a cloud security company, says AWS is a prime target because it's so widely used.

As companies start embracing the " social login" technique to authenticate users with an account at a service such as Facebook, AWS becomes even more susceptible. Smith says hackers who gain access using social login could potentially tap into the underlying infrastructure as well.

4. RAM Scraping: Steal Data at Point of De-encryption
One of the great challenges of IT is that, to protect a storage medium or service, companies use encryption. However, at some point - to gain entry, say, or process a transaction - data must be unencrypted, usually to RAM.

Dave Frymier, CISO of Unisys, says a hacker could "scrape" RAM to steal the data as it sits in an unencrypted state. (That's what happened to Target.) "This RAM scraping issue is one of the reasons we don't see greater adoption of public cloud computing in regulated industries," he says.

5. PHP: Popularity Could Be Its Downfall
Yes, Heartbleed attacked the OpenSSL library that accounts for about 60 percent of all Web servers. However, PHP is an even great target, as it's used on 80 percent of today's servers. What's more, the server-side scripting language is easy to use for new Web programmers who might not be thinking about security.


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