wiki:openssl_vulnerability_2008-05

Version 6 (modified by alfredo, 12 years ago) (diff)

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OpenSSL Vulnerability Discovered

Date: 2008-05-14

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Dear May First/People Link members,

We are sending this message to all members due to an unusual security problem.

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This week, a security problem was discovered in the Debian operating system used by May First/People Link servers and announced within the Debian community (which is world-wide). This problem creates a "vulnerability", a potential "hold" in the server's security system which can be exploited by someone to get into the system and do damage or get information from it.

No one has done this to us yet and we are in the process of updating all of servers to ensure that they are not vulnerable. As a result of these updates, some users may experience error messages that you did not see before.

Who is affected?

The only members who will be affected are members that:

  • Use Secure FTP or secure shell (ssh) to connect to either malcolm.mayfirst.org or mandela.mayfirst.org (viewsic.mayfirst.org and chavez.mayfirst.org are not affected).
  • Use our offsite backup system

Secure Shell/Secure FTP users

If you use Secure FTP or secure shell, you will get a message indicating that the host key has changed along the lines of:

WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED!

Please see our host key changed help file to avoid getting that message in the future.

If you are using our offsite backup system - you will also get the host key changed error - but it will happen during your automated backup process, causing your automated backup to fail until you follow the directions and import the proper new host key.

Keep in mind that this does not affect your information or any of the functionality you have on our servers. We have not been compromised. We're just in touch because you may see this message and become concerned.

More Information

Host keys are random bits of text that are unique to every server. The randomness of the keys allows us to have a secure, encrypted connection between you and the server. Due to a bug in the software used to generate our host keys, they were not generated in a way that was random enough: the range of bits used to create the keys was limited to a guessable number. This means that, with the proper program and lots of time, a hacker could "guess" the key. Not likely but possible and possible is good enough for us. To fix the problem, we had to re-generate all the affected keys and that's what's causing that error.

Please see the Debian wiki page for a full explanation of the security problem.